Monthly Archives: December 2015

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Swapper Stationeries

Swappers did not just stick floppy disks into envelopes – they also had to put up with a lot of paperwork. Before the era of online communciation, building up trust and keeping social networks intact meant writing paper letters to your contacts. For sceners who communicated a lot through postal channels, it was an obvious choice to print own stationeries / letterheads for higher recognition value and a professional appearance. The task of writing letters, however, could become a time management problem for “mega swappers“, who sent out dozens of envelopes every day. Thus they printed standard blanks where they just needed to tick boxes. The options available on these fill-out forms, ranging from dead serious to rather humorous, served to evaluate the contacts’ previous sendings’ quality, to communicate requests for further software exchanges, and to get messages across. For today’s update, Goat, Lance, Se7en, and Thorion provided us with samples of such swapper stationeries and blanks, which were common in the late 1980s and early 1990s all over the global scene – from Denmark to Australia, from Germany to Hungary.

Danish Science letter blank, 1989 [metadata]
Faces stationery, 1991 [metadata]
Level 99 (TLI) stationery, 1989 [metadata]
Rock’n Role stationery, 1991 [metadata]
Stardom letter blank, 1989 [metadata]
Syllinor/Chromance stationery, 1991 [metadata]
The Force letter blank, 1989 [metadata]
Thorion/Targets letter blank, early 1990s [metadata]

NB: If the images in the gallery below appear too small to figure out the details, you can always download high-quality scans at the “metadata” links above!

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Merry Christmas From “Got Papers?”… and Pete & Jamie!

The first year of Got Papers? is coming to an end, and it’s time to thank all contributors to this project. A staggering 431 items have been scanned, categorised, and uploaded since the launch in April, and about three times the amount of artifacts is still waiting to be processed – which will hopefully happen quicker than before, not only due to our volunteers, but also thanks to Gargaj/Conspiracy, who just developed a metadata processing tool for us as an early Christmas present. The credit for the overwhelming amount of materials must go to 49 contributors from all over Europe – sceners who have searched in their basements, wardrobes, and attics for long-forgotten materials and made an effort to share them with us. Thank you!

2016 will be an exciting year for the project – most importantly because we have just received an absolutely stunning donation. Skylab & General Zoff, two C64 pirate veterans from the 1980s, mostly known for their group The Movers, gave us their complete archive for scanning – over 500 pages of intro sketches, stickers, sourcecode snippets, software lists, scrolltext drafts, paper magazines, and, most importantly, hundreds of private letters from sceners all over the world, received by these two teenagers between 1986 and 1989. To provide a sneak preview into these materials, we give you today a Christmas card [metadata] sent over 25 years ago to Zoff & Skylab by another 1980s cracking and swapping duo – Pete & Jamie a.k.a. Thor & Zeus of the legendary British C64 group Teesside Cracking Service. So, we only need to repeat what they wrote back then: “Have a great time at christmas & new year guyz!” (and “girlz”, we may add).  See you in 2016!

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Mixed Demoparty Materials

Today’s update features paper materials from late-1990s/early-2000s demoparties from Fzool‘s collection, including a rare tUM’99 votesheet drawn by C64 paper graphics legend Zapotek, and an Evoke 2000 flyer by Noize of Kolor.

0a000h 2003 visitors brochure [metadata]
Ambience 2000 poster [metadata]
Buenzli 2003 flyer [metadata]
Computer’s Hell 2000 invitation [metadata]
Evoke 1999 flyer [metadata]
Evoke 1999 poster [metadata]
Evoke 2000 flyer [metadata]
Mekka^Symposium 1998 visitor survey [metadata]
Mekka^Symposium 1998 votesheet [metadata]
tUM 1999 flyer [metadata]
tUM 1999 votesheet [metadata]
tUM 1999 votesheet (master copy) [metadata]

The scans have been processed by Irokos.

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C64 Covers as Naïve Art

When I visited C64 scener Goat/Laxity to pick up his C64 disk covers collection for scanning, there was one pile that he didn’t want to pass on at first. “Why one would want to preserve such primitive disk covers?”, he objected. Still, I took the covers with me, and here they are. While there had been some amazingly skillful disk covers in the previous updates, the ones presented today are admittedly not on par with them. Nevertheless, they are important to get a picture of the C64 scene beyond its “elite”. For every top swapper with loads of contacts and “0-day stuff”, there were hundreds of kids swapping with a few contacts only, dabbling in PD software and old cracks, and yet seeing themselves as part of the same scene community as the “elite”. Obviously, they wanted to have their own disk covers, like the “big ones”. Sometimes, these covers are the only product they left behind. Their somewhat clumsy designs do not need to be judged on terms of “lack of skills” – these covers can be seen as examples of naïve art, compensating the lack of adherence to any aesthetic rules with a lively will for self-expression. In fact, some of these coves look surprisingly up-to-date, and could just as well be a product of post-modern hipster aesthetics.

Accept disk cover by Greenhorn, 1993 [metadata]
• Two Acme disk covers by Hanni, 1995 [metadata1] [metadata2]
Creatures disk cover by Franco, 1992 [metadata]
Crossdome disk cover by Madrom, 1995 [metadata]
Digital Art disk cover by Xonix, 1994 [metadata]
Dinomania disk cover by Greenhorn, 1993 [metadata]
• Disk cover by JJ, 1996 [metadata]
Error 2000 disk cover by S.U.C.K., 1996 [metadata]
Logiker disk cover by Logiker, 1993 [metadata]
Nasti Boy disk cover by Nasti Boy, 1994 [metadata]
Plutonium disk cover by Greenhorn, 1993 [metadata]
Reiners Public Domain disk cover, 1994 [metadata]
Secret Lab Productions disk cover by Cosmo, 1990s [metadata]
Tiger-Crew disk cover by Greenhorn, 1990s [metadata]
Tiger-Crew disk cover by Greenhorn & Logiker, 1993 [metadata]
Tiger-Crew disk cover by Little John, 1990s [metadata]
Tiger-Disk #29 disk cover, 1996 [metadata]
World D-Sign disk cover by Fan-TC, 1994 [metadata]

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Ancient C64/Amiga Pirate Materials #2

Here is the second batch of materials provided by an anonymous contributor (click here for the first instalment). Once again, you can browse through the paper relics of the very dawn of the home computer cracking & demo cultures – fragile traces of long forgotten individuals and groups as well as of those who came to be considered as scene legends later on. Among the more unusual scans from this update is the disk cover done by the early Amiga group Warfalcons. Even though Amiga floppy disks did not technicaly need paper sleeves, Warfalcons still made a batch of these – just like the usual ones on the C64, but in 3,5″ size.  Another remarkable artifact is a letter from a Belgian Amiga swapper around 1986 – typewritten on his father’s busines card. Another example of how much early digital subcultures had to rely on analogue techniques.

• Letter from CCC/Firesoft Inc. (Belgium) to undisclosed recepient, around 1986 [metadata]
Cleveland Distribution Service sticker, mid-1980s [metadata]
Commando Frontier sticker, between 1987 and 1989 [metadata]
Dominators business card, between 1986 and 1989 [metadata]
D.S. Compware sticker sheet, between 1986 and 1987 [metadata]
Italian Spreading Service sticker, mid-1980s [metadata]
Plutonium Crackers sticker sheet, around 1986 [metadata]
Soldiers Against Protection sticker, between 1986 and 1988 [metadata]
Stars promo card, 1986 [metadata]
• The Fall Guys business card, 1987 [metadata]
The Light Circle rubber stamp, between 1986 and 1988 [metadata]
The Organized Crime sticker, between 1987 and 1988 [metadata]
The Orgasmatron Crew sticker sheet, 1987 [metadata]
The Warriors 1881 sticker, between 1986 and 1988 [metadata]
The Wizards sticker, around 1987 [metadata]
• Unknown cartoon cutout, mid-1980s [metadata]
Warfalcons disk cover, around 1987-1988 [metadata]

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Mixed Bag of Parties

Here is a mixed bag of demoparty-related scans accumulated over the past months. The materials range from 1992 to 2004 – a time span during which the demoscene evolved into what it is nowadays. Contributors for this update are Craid, Exocet, Goat, Ile, and Titus.

• Acrise & Excess Party 1996 invitation [metadata]
• Bizarre 1999 badge [metadata]
• Evoke 2000 votedisk [metadata]
• Scene Event 2002 badge [metadata]
• Scene Event 2004 badge [metadata]
• SILIConvention 1997 flyer [metadata]
• SILIConvention 1997 brochure [metadata]
• Sun’n’Fun Conference 1992 newspaper article [metadata]
• Sun’n’Fun Conference 1993 invitation [metadata]
• Symposium 1996 invitation [metadata]
• The Gathering 1996 invitation [metadata]
• The Party 2000 brochure [metadata]
• The Party 2000 prize money envelope [metadata]
• The Party 2000 writsband [metadata]
• TRSI Easter Conference 1992 invitation [metadata]
• Warf Meeting 2 (1997) invitation [metadata]
• X 1995 invitation [metadata]

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C64 Swap Letters (Dr. Science Collection)

Today we give you some scans from the private collection of Dr. Science/Atlantis, a Swiss coder and cracker who was a member of the legendary Computer Freaks Association in the late 1980s and is still active in the C64 scene. Apart from some neat disk covers and CFA’s official greeting list, the probably most exciting part of this installment are the letters Dr. Science received from fellow sceners in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The letters are exemplary for the global networks built by the scene already back then – even this small sample includes correspondents from countries such as Australia, Finland, and Norway. Furthermore, the letter from Snap demonstrates how group members conducted collaborative work on demo productions before email and IRC. Expect more scans from Dr. Science’s collection in the near future!

Peter Venkman/Mega Industries business card, early 1990s [metadata]
Fairlight disk cover by Hobbit, 1990 [metadata]
Trance disk cover by Twist, 1993 [metadata]
X-Factor disk cover by Brady, 1990 (unfolded scan) [metadata]
Computer Freaks Association greeting list, 1990 [metadata]

Letters:

• Agemixer to Dr. Science, 15 June 1995 [metadata]
• Boss to Dr. Science, 19 December 1989 [metadata]
• Cruze to Dr. Science, 19 February 1992 [metadata]
• Fake to Dr. Science, early 1990s [metadata]
• Snap to Dr. Science, December 1993 [metadata]

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Marty/Radwar’s House Search

It’s hard for contemporary demosceners to imagine, but back in the 1980s, when much of the scene‘s activity evolved around pirated games, and the separation between “illegal” and “legal” scenes was far from complete, 1 sceners were always conscious of the potential for unwanted contact with the police – at least in countries like Germany, where software pirates became a target for law enforcement as early as in the mid-1980s. Even those who defined themselves as “legal guys” were not completely safe from an unpleasant encounter with the police: Copyparties, potential targets for police raids, were attended by demo coders just as much as by crackers and swappers; a contact address of a musician or an intro programmer in a scrolltext could be easily mistaken by law enforcement for that of a “dangerous” pirate; and, after all, who didn’t own at least a few cracked games? Nearly everyone knew someone who was “busted” but, of course, every scener was convinced that they would not be the next. As an Amiga BBS veteran put it recently: “It was like being on the surface of the Moon: Sometimes a meteorid strikes here and there, but one still feels safe.” 2 Some sceners managed to stay “unbusted” during their whole career, even while being knee-deep in the “illegal business” – but many didn’t.

Since proceedings in the 1980s against alleged and real software pirates took place in a very recent past, it’s not really possible to explore the events from the perspective of law enforcement through archival work. However, some veterans kept the documents that were handed to them in the course of investigations. We are highly indebted to Marty of the (in)famous C64 cracking group Radwar Enterprises 1941 for providing us with documents from the investigation against him in late 1989.

The first page is the house search warrant from 6 November 1989, issued on “suspicion of illegal circulation of copyright-protected software”. The following two pages (the ones on blue paper) constitute the protocol of the house search, which took place some two months later; the second page confirms the confiscation of 1,157 (!) C64 floppy disks. However, as it was often the case, the criminal proceedings were ceased a mere month later, in January 1990, due to the classification of the accused as a “young offender”; the corresponding resolution (page 4) expresses hope that “in the future, [the accused] will abide by the law”.

Here is Marty’s story of the whole affair: 3

“In 1988, I was drafted into the army and thus sold everything from my C64 collection in order to buy a reliable car to drive to the barracks in. However, while I sold everything else – computer, disk drives, printer, books, magazines – I kept a part of my (rather large) collection of disks, about 2,000 of them. […] After getting rid of all my hardware, I also slightly distanced myself from the scene and only seldom got in touch with my Radwar mates. At that time, I had discovered the opposite sex, and that’s what preoccupied me more. […] Shortly before the house search took place, the father of my then-girlfriend brought me his C64 and a 1541II [disk drive] in order for me to upgrade his system with SpeedDOS. 4 The disks which I kept were safely stored in my granny’s attic. However, in order to do some testing, I brought them back to my parents’ place. Shortly before that, I incidentally bumped into MWS [/Radwar] and he gave me his latest releases. It must have been around 100 of his disks that were confiscated together with mine in the end. Having a computer at my fingers again, the scene virus began to set in…

After I had refurbished the computer, I had to give it back, but I still kept a 1541 (which I bought for test purposes) and the disk collection at home. Then the house search took place. Superintendent Dolenz took all disks with him and left me with the 1541, since I couldn’t do anything illegal with it. During the house search I got to know that there had been a bust in the Ruhr area during which my address was found in an address book. I assume that it was the house search at Jeff Smart’s place, since they indeed found his address book, 5 so I got caught up in that.

The criminal proceedings took their course, and I had to come to the police station and give a statement. The police must have noticed that MWS’s disks were encrypted with COP-SHOCKER, because they asked me for the “decryption sequence”, but I didn’t tell them anything because I didn’t want to incriminate myself. 6 However, they seemed to have forgotten about the encryption in the course of the proceedings, since I was never again asked about it. […] Anyway, the case went through the system for a few weeks, and, probably since they found only disks and no further evidence of any commercial business with cracked software, the criminal proceedings were ceased in the end. I even got some of the disks back, namely those protected with COP-SHOCKER and those which were empty or unreadable. I think I got around 300 disks back.”

You can download high quality scans of Marty’s documents here.

PS: Thanks to Syphus for late-night proofreading!

Notes:

  1. See most recently on this complex process:  Reunanen, Markku. „How Those Crackers Became Us Demosceners.“ WiderScreen, no. 1–2 (2014). http://widerscreen.fi/numerot/2014-1-2/crackers-became-us-demosceners/
  2. Interview with Hamster/TRSI, Saarbrücken/Germany, 4 April 2015.
  3. Mail from Marty/Radwar, 29 November 2015. Translation from the German, G.A.
  4. SpeedDOS was a “fastloader” hardware add-on for the C64, allowing quicker loading times for software. Intriguingly, it was developed in 1984 by two first-generation crackers, who sold the hardware commercially. See https://www.c64-wiki.de/index.php/SpeedDOS
  5. Jeff Smart was the editor of the C64 crackers’ magazine “Illegal” (see our previous post). His house search took place on 17 May 1989, during which the police found his address book hidden in a record sleeve (See http://csdb.dk/release/?id=123909).
  6. Cop-Shocker was an encryption tool for the C64, developed in 1989 by MWS/Radwar and commercially marketed through Digital Marketing, a software company/PD service MWS was involved with. The tool hid the disks’ filelist, making the disks appear empty. The program was immensely popular, and, ironicaly, there were other crackers who “cracked” it just like any other commercial piece of software. See http://csdb.dk/release/?id=67400