Site Overlay

Out with the old, in with the new

Ghostlight Designs is no more…

I mentioned previously that I worked freelance for a couple of years. Well, the name I gave myself was Ghostlight Designs. People asked me where Ghostlight came from and I would usually mumble something about “geeky. Computer games. Eighties…” because it was a name I came up with when I was about 15 of which its origins I have never publicly shared. As ever, there is a story behind it…

Back in the 80s I was a slightly odd kid. Gangly, nervous, crap with girls (i.e. pretty much the same as now. Except for the gangly…). I liked Doodle Art and Spirograph, and making symmetric mosaics by colouring in the little squares on graph paper procured from school. I sat in my room for most of the time, reading about Star Wars, writing short stories and listening to Sky, the first band I was ever into. Instead of hanging around telephone boxes and acting like a nob, I used to spend time evenly between my two best friends at the time. Simon had a ZX Spectrum and we would play Jet Set Willy, Sabre Wulf and Atic Atac, whilst sat on a supremely uncomfortable wooden trunk in front of a tiny colour television. His mum would supply us with very strong coffee. We didn’t drink coffee at our house, so it made me feel sophisticated.

On Fridays, I would go to my other chum’s house (Colin, who I am proud to call my friend to this day) and he had a BBC Micro Model B, probably the coolest computer of the age. We would similarly while away the hours playing perhaps the greatest game of the 80s: Elite. Very very simplistic by today’s standards but an absolute behemoth at the time.

Simon would sometimes join us and we would take turns in playing an hour each. There were only two rules. First, if you were out in deep space at the end of the hour, your game was quit without saving. This got around the issue of coming back from deep space and getting caught in a dogfight, thus extending the hour’s play. Second, and most importantly, if you accidentally hit the Break key on the keyboard then you forfeited your turn. Didn’t matter if you were five minutes into the game or approaching the hour. This rule was introduced because the game had to be loaded from tape, which took about 15 minutes, and also because the Break key was placed at the most ridiculous place on the keyboard where it was very easy to press. Eventually, Colin got a disk drive, which cut down the load time to about 10 seconds and so this rule was relaxed.

As a result of playing Elite, and because we were all geeks, we ‘named’ our commanders and our ships. Colin’s character was Jed Zeglo, which I thought was an incredibly cool name. My character was called Cartalus Atrox, which is a misspelling of Crotalus atrox, the Latin name for the western diamondback rattlesnake (all ship models in Elite were names after snakes: Cobra, Viper, Mamba, etc.). The name of my ship was … drumroll … Ghostlight. It is a handle that I have used in various forms ever since.

Now I thought I’d just made up a cool new word by jamming two other words together in a random – and rare – act of teenage brilliance. It wasn’t until many years later, about 10 years ago, when I discovered that a Ghost Light is actually a thing. It’s a special light left on in a theatre overnight, to keep the ghosts company. I kinda like that! They’re a weird bunch those theatrical types. 

So Ghostlight Designs was the name I gave myself when I did freelance web design in the 00s. It hasn’t been used for years and I’d deleted its mailboxes long ago. My registrar wants a tenner to renew it this month and so I decided to cancel it instead. It’s a relic of a past life and symbolic of the obviousness that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing back then. But, it set my life on a certain path. Had I not experimented with freelancing then I would never have learned HTML, CSS, ASP, MySQL. I would never have ended up working in my last job for over 15 years, met some great people and learned about illustration and design for print. But, Ghostlight Designs is one of the last remaining vestiges of that old life, when I and the world were very different.

But, slightly more importantly, it saves me ten quid a year. So, y’know, swings & roundabouts…