A Bunch of Lost “Illegals”

Our quest for lost issues of the legendary papermag “Illegal” continues – and we just got a big step closer towards “catching ’em all”. Thanks to AVH/Radwar, here are issues #28, #32, #34, #35, and #38 (the last one). Stemming from between 1988 and 1991, the magazine’s phase of highest influence in the C64 cracking scene, these issues feature graphics by Hobbit/Fairlight and, inbetween a lot of silly nonsense, a wealth of materials and information on the scene. Click on the links at the issue numbers to download the scan PDFs.



Crackers and the Transnational Late-Cold War Black Market

While going through the letter archives of Honey/1001 and Skylab & General Zoff/The Movers, I stumbled upon two letters that stood out from the rest – not because the authors were particularly “elite” or because they revealed some spectacular secrets, but because they were sent from late-socialist Yugoslavia.

• Dragoslav V. (Yugoslavia) to 1001 Crew (The Netherlands), 15 December 1986 [metadata]
• Tigersoft (Yugoslavia) to New Balance Bochum (Germany), 3 February 1987 [metadata]

These artefacts from a long gone past point to a less-known aspect of the early cracking scene that ought to be explored in depth: The transnational connections between cracking groups in the “centres” and semi-commercial software piracy in the “periphery”. Until the late 1980s, the major home computer brands were marketed almost exclusively in “Western” countries – yet there was a growing number of computer users both in the socialist camp and in other world regions such as Southern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, where people were able to obtain home computers through the black market or through travelling friends and relatives.

In order to be of any use, the machines had to be “fed” with software – and that’s where small-scale grey area entrepreneurship came in. Due to the almost complete lack of computer-related copyright laws, black market software peddlers were able to operate almost unrestricted, selling disks on street markets (like the famous computer bazaars in Poland) or even running small shops (like in Greece and many Latin American countries). Obviously, the disks they sold were mostly releases by European and US cracking groups, arriving through the twisted paths of 1980s software exchange. Often the programs still carried the original crack intros, and sometimes the black market entrepreneurs would make and add intros of their own – resorting to cracktro aesthetics, yet advetizing their shops or market stalls. It is thanks to these activities that the cracking- and in the long run the demoscene was able to develop in countries outside the West European and North American centres of the software industry: people who bought software copies complete with crack intros started wondering what they were, how to make them, and eventually became productive sceners themselves.

The more enterprising “commercial pirates” did not just wait until a cracked game would fall into their hands. They actively pursued contacts to cracking groups and tried to negotiate a steady supply of cracked software – like the two Yugoslav pirates whose letters you can see above. They did not assume the role of humble petitioners, but acted as self-confident experts who knew exactly what they wanted (“no freez frame, no icepick” [sic]). Serving quality cracks to the local computer users, they – nolens volens – became the pioneers of the world-wide triumphant march of the home computer.

The exact circumstances of these transnational software exchange practices are, just like many aspects of early home computing, still to be explored. Were you a black market software dealer in the 1980s in regions outside the US and (North-)Western Europe? Or were you a member of a cracking group in the “West” who was on the other end of such contacts? Then please get in touch!

Gleb J. Albert

Further reading on 1980s black market software exchange outside the “West”

AJ, and Nafcom. The Peruvian Scene. Scene World Podcast, 13 December 2014.
Grussu, Alessandro. Spectrumpedia. Roma: UniversItalia, 2012.
Lekkas, Theodoros. “Legal Pirate Ltd. Home Computing Cultures in Early 1980s Greece”. In Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes, ed. by Gerard Alberts and Ruth Oldenziel, 73–103. London: Springer, 2014.
Lord Lotek. “Ein schöner Traum. Interview mit Hades6510”. Lotek64, no. 7 (2003): 3–4.
Marisca Alvarez, Eduardo. “Developing Game Worlds. Gaming, Technology, and Innovation in Peru”. MA thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014.
Švelch, Jaroslav. “Selling Games by the Kilo. Using Oral History to Reconstruct Informal Economies of Computer Game Distribution in the Post-Communist Environment”. In Game\\Play\\Society. Contributions to Contemporary Computer Game Studies, ed. by Christian Swertz and Michael Wagner, 265–76. München: kopaed, 2010.
the woz. “La escena cracker en Argentina”. Retrocomputación, 4 September 2009.
Wasiak, Patryk. “Playing and Copying. Social Practices of Home Computer Users in Poland During the 1980s”. In Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes, ed. by Gerard Alberts and Ruth Oldenziel, 129–50. London: Springer, 2014.
Wasiak, Patryk. “The East is Coming! The Demoscene in Eastern Europe”. Rhizome, 21 May 2010.

Atari Party Stuff

The Atari scene was largely absent from “Got Papers” until now – but luckily, Atari scene archivist Lotek Style provided us with some demoparty and meeting invitations, flyers and tickets from the 1990s, including some rare ones. A particularly interesting tradition of Atari parties seems to be the translation of the invitations into multiple language, demonstrated by the rather awkward German flyers in this batch. Hopefully we can present more Atari stuff soon!

• Animal Mine Convention 2 (1995) invitation [metadata]
• Atari Hody 2001 invitation (German) [metadata]
• Fried Bits 1995 invitation booklet [metadata]
• Gigafun 1996 ticket [metadata]
• Gigafun 1997 flyer (German) [metadata]
• Gigafun 1997 invitation booklet [metadata]
• Gigafun 1997 ticket [metadata]
• JEM 1998 invitation booklet [metadata]
• Kindergeburtstag 2000 invitation [metadata]
• Nordic Atari Show 1995 invitation (German) [metadata]
• QuaST (Orneta) 1997 invitation (unofficial English) [metadata]
• Siliconvention 1997 newspaper article [metadata]


C64 Stickers & Votesheets from Cupid’s Collection

A while ago, in proper mail swapping fashion, we received a few thick envelopes from London full of scene artefacts. The sender was Cupid, a prolific C64 graphics artist and diskmagazine editor active in the 1990s, and nowadays a sought-after IT professional. Today, we present you with some stickers and votesheets from his collection.

Active sticker, 1990s [metadata]
Avantgarde sticker sheets, 1990s [metadata]
AvantgART sticker design, 1990s [metadata]
Cupid/F4CG sticker design, 1990s [metadata]
Hitmen sticker, 1996 [metadata]
Sinister of Extacy sticker, 1994 [metadata]
Controversial votesheet, 1994 [metadata]
Extacy Land votesheet, 1993 [metadata]
Narcotic votesheet, 1993 [metadata]
Outdoor votesheet, 1994 [metadata]
Skyhigh votesheet, 1993-1994 [metadata]
The Link votesheet, 1992-1993 [metadata]
The Tribune votesheets, 1993 [metadata] and 1994 [metadata]


Illegal #21

Thanks to the preservation efforts of AVH/Radwar, we present another lost issue of the legendary Illegal magazine. Issue 21, released in September 1987, is mostly written in German and features news and gossip from the C64 cracking scene alongside with game reviews. Due to the fact that the scanned original consists of unnumbered A4 sheets folded in half, we cannot be certain that the order of the pages is correct. Also, the copy quality is rather bad, but it’s probably the only copy left.

Enjoy this 29-year-old piece of scene history! You can download the PDF and the metadata sheet here.


Honey/1001 Collection Pt. 2

After presenting you the first batch from the Honey/1001 Crew collection a while ago, here is the second instalment. The letters stem from the period between 1986 and 1987, when many of the C64 crackers and groups that later should become legendary were in their infancy, yet Honey was already a star due to his legendary stunt of breaking the screen border and the subsequent media attention. Among the letters’ authors are names like Mr. Pinge/Relax (later of Triad), Irata/Red Sector Inc., and The Mercenary Cracker aka Charles Deenen.

• Col B. (UK) to Honey, ~1987 [metadata]
• Hacker/Future Projects 20550 (Netherlands) to Honey, 9 March 1987 [metadata]
• Heiko/Yeti Factories (Germany) to Honey, 11 March 1987 [metadata]
• Irata/Flash Cracking Group (Germany) to Honey, ~1986 [metadata]
• Irata/Red Sector Inc. (Germany) to Honey, ~1987 [metadata]
• Irata/Flash Cracking Group (Germany) to Steve/1001, 19 August 1986 [metadata]
• Mr. Pinge/Relax (Sweden) to Honey, July 1987 [metadata]
• Mr. Pinge/Relax (Sweden) to Honey, between April and July 1987 [metadata]
• PCW/The Lightforce (Germany) to Honey, 8 July 1987 [metadata]
• Skylab & General Zoff/New Balance Bochum (Germany) to Honey, 25 July 1986 [metadata]
• The Mercenary Cracker (Netherlands) to Honey, after 7 May 1986 [metadata]
• Yip/Purebyte (Finland) to Honey, 3 June 1986 [metadata]
• Yip/Purebyte (Finland) to Honey, 5 November 1986 [metadata]


Scene-Related Software Manuals

It’s no secret that crackers and demoscene coders produced their own tools – not just for internal purposes, but also for others to use, and even to buy. Today we bring you a selection of scene-related manuals that reached us during the past months.

Card Cruncher 3.0 (1987)

Card Cruncher, 1001 Crew’s legendary packer software, was already described in detail here. Honey, one of the authors, provided us with the original manual. If you got to see it back in 1987, you could consider yourself very lucky – as can be seen on the second page, only Robin/Dynamic Duo and Fax/New Stars were allowed to use the program apart from 1001 Crew. Now, 29 years later, you can read it. Get the high quality scans and the metadata sheet here.

TCB Tracker 1.0 (1990)

The TCB Tracker was a music software for the Atari ST written by An Cool of the Swedish Atari demogroup The Carebears. It was sold by MPH, a nowadays defunct software company from Norwich/UK. Robin B. provided us with a scan of the manual, and then we went on to ask An Cool whether we may put it online. Luckily, he is fine with it, so you can enjoy it 26 years after the program hit the stores. Get the full scan and the metadata sheet here.

Demo Designer (1988)

Demo Designer was one of the numerous commercially available “demomakers” in the late 1980s, which allowed less-skilled computer users to create their own demos and intros. A number of sceners were able to make some money by developing such software – most famously TCC Design, a subgroup of Red Sector Inc., who programmed the famous Data Becker DemoMaker for the Amiga. Demo Designer, a less-known C64 demomaker, was sold by Digital Marketing, a PD distributor and occasional software publisher run by entrepreneur Dieter Mückter and cracker/coder MWS/Radwar. Due to the latter’s vast network of scene contacts, the commercial software published by Digital Marketing was very often programmed by sceners. Demo Designer was coded by Joachim Fräder/X-Ample, it used music routines and tunes by F.A.M.E. and Maniacs of Noise, and, last not least, MWS himself was responsible for the copy protection. This copy of the manual, alongside the program disk, was sent by MWS as a preview to The Movers, who kindly provided this scan. Get the high quality scans and the metadata sheet here.

Floppy Disk VC 1541 manual

This is not a scene-produced manual, but one that many C64 sceners had studied at length. When I visited Jeff Smart, the legendary editor of Illegal, for an interview last year, he gave me this 1541 floppy drive manual as the only scene-related thing that he still had in his possession. He got it in 1985, when he was still fairly new to the C64, and scribbled funny/weird stuff over some of its pages. Get the full scan and the metadata sheet here.


Swedish 1980s C64 Stuff

Today, we give you some stickers, disk covers, and paper notes which hedning managed to secure from the collection of Zeta, a cracker, coder and musician who was active in the Swedish C64 scene in the late 1980s. Some well-known and some less-known names from the Scandinavian and international scene. Enjoy!

Disk covers:
• 2000 Volt disk cover, 1988 [metadata]
• Four Danish Dream Line disk covers, 1988 [metadata cover 1, 2, 3, 4]
• Digital Crackers disk cover, 1988 [metadata]
• Flash disk cover, 1988 [metadata]
• Gilbert Turbo Cracker disk cover, 1988 [metadata]
• M.U.S.I.C. disk cover, 1988 [metadata]
• The Digital Force disk cover, 1988 [metadata]

• Spemu/Finnish Gold sticker, 1980s [metadata]
• Zargon sticker, 1980s [metadata]

• Creator/Strike Force (Germany) to Zeta, 1988 [metadata]
• Euratom (Germany) to Zeta, 1987 [metadata]
• Mr Lead/CPU (Sweden) to Zeta, 20 May 1988 [metadata]
• Mr Lead/CPU (Sweden) to Zeta, 9 June 1988 [metadata]
• Mr Lead/CPU (Sweden) to Zeta, 4 July 1988 [metadata]
• Nrj/New Aces (France) to Zeta, 1988 [metadata]
• Spirit/2000 Volt (Sweden) to Zeta, 1988 [metadata]


Vacation Special

Now that the summer holidays are beginning, here are some examples of a rather forgotten genre of swapletters – tourist postcards! 1980s’ sceners were mostly teenagers, so, besides chasing up originals to crack, doing fascinating things with computers, and travelling to the occasional copyparty, they also attended school, had arguments with their parents, and, of course, went on vacation. The fascinating samples provided by Honey, Skylab, and Lynx show that they did so with mixed feelings: One the one hand, they enjoyed the holidays, but on the one hand, they were anxious about missing out on latest scene news. So, even in such a fascinating place as Leningrad in 1988, one scener was more concerned with ongoing C64 game projects at home than with the perestroika mood around him. Another common trait was the fascination of teenage sceners with half-naked women – so keep in mind that some of the images are rather NSFW. But most importantly, these postcards testify to the strong sense of friendship within the scene: Despite the fierce competition, the protagonists found time to simply send regards to their contacts around the world, whereever they went.

This update includes following postcards:
• AVH/Radwar (Germany) to Honey/1001 (Netherlands), 19 April 1987, sent from London [metadata]
• Breeze/Antic (Australia) to Lynx/Hitmen (Germany), 26 December 1991, sent from the Maldives [metadata]
• Drago/The Movers (Germany) to Honey, ~1987, sent from Loutraki/Greece [metadata]
• Frankie/OGM (Germany) to Honey, 8 August 1987, sent from Barcelona [metadata]
• Frankie/OGM to Skylab/The Movers (Germany), August 1987, sent from Barcelona [metadata]
• Ixion/Triad (Sweden) to Honey, 19 June 1987, sent from Liverpool [metadata]
• Matcham/Network (Norway) to Honey, 14 August 1988, sent from Leningrad [metadata]
• Mega (?) to Lynx, 23 July 1991, sent from Riviera Romagnola/Italy [metadata]
• Sodan (Denmark) to Honey, 23 June 1987, sent from Ibiza [metadata]
• Strider/Fairlight (Sweden) to Honey, 19 June 1987, sent from Kassandria/Greece [metadata]
• unknown member of Radwar to Honey, 24 March 1988, sent from Dénia/Spain [metadata]


Commodore Tribune

In the mid-1990s, the C64 market was basically dead, yet there were enough enthusiastic users left who were coding demos and software, and were interested in exchange. With all big commercial magazine being defunct, some of these enthusiasts tried to set up their own C64 periodicals – like Eagleware International from the Netherlands, a small C64 PD company. Their photocopied paper magazine, Commodore Tribune, sold for 10 guilders and featured the latest news on the shrinking C64 software market as well as about the demoscene on the beloved hardware platform, alongside with a cover disk. Very little is known about the magazine which left almost no traces on the internet. Thanks to Goat (who also rescued the coverdisks and uploaded them to CSDb), we are able to present you with scans of the first (and only?) two issues from late 1996 and early 1997. The first issue features, among other things, a report on the C64 scene in Yugoslavia!

• Commodore Tribune #1 (November/December 1996) | [scan/metadata] | [cover disk]
• Commodore Tribune #2 (January/February 1997) | [scan/metadata] | [cover disk]