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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]

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The “Western Games” Deal

Today, we bring you something very, very special from Skylab/The Movers’ treasure chest. These two scans testify to an astonishing and unique symbiosis between 1980s’ crackers and software companies. It was by no means unusual that computer kids assumed double roles as crackers and game developers, or that suppliers leaked stuff out of game dev studios. It was also not unheard of that game publishers leaked (broken) versions of games to cracking groups in order to mess with them. The case here, however, is totally different: A game company shares their product with the C64 elite in order to pacify it and to gain some time in order to raise sales figures.

The story behind the deal goes as follows: 1 One of the programmers at Magic Bytes was a former scener and a friend of the guys in Radwar, one of the most famous C64 groups at that time. Together, they convinced the heads of Micro-Partner, Magic Bytes’ parent company, to conduct an unusual experiment – a “legal” crack, to be spread among the C64 elite only. The bosses gave in, and soon a floppy disk reached Radwar’s closest and most trusted contacts, like The Movers in our example, alongside with a letter. It announced a special treat for the recepients – a pre-release version of a brand new game. However, they were strictly advised not to spread, sell, or recrack it, under threat of Radwar cutting all ties with them otherwise. Every group received a unique (or, as one would say now: watermarked) version, an additional pressure factor not to breach Radwar‘s confidence. The contacts were presented with an enticing perspective: “If the contract will work good with ‘Western Games’ we’ll get all new MICRO PARTNER productions a long time before they’ll be released.” 

So, how did this “contract” make sense for the company? Effectively, they killed several birds with one stone. Firstly, they secured Radwar’s technical expertise in code and copy protection optimisation, which began to be valued by several game companies at that time. Secondly, Radwar‘s closest circle of contacts coincided with the C64 cracking elite of that time. Thus, having the pre-release spread by Radwar meant keeping that elite from actually cracking and spreading the game. And, thirdly, with the elite not bothering to crack the title, and with minor groups struggling with the copy protection after the game hit the stores, the company could win several weeks to sell originals – weeks that mattered a lot in the fast-paced home computer games market. At least according to MWS/Radwar, the deal helped Micro-Partner to sell twice as many units as they normally used to. Moreover, the scheme was so successful that it was repeated by Radwar at least once more in 1988, this time with Bozuma, a Rainbow Arts title.

While the digital contents were preserved a while ago by CSDb, we present you for the first time with the actual physical appearance of this “special release”, as it landed into the elite groups’ post boxes. As usual, you can download the high quality scans and view the metadata at our archive at scene.org.

Notes:

  1. The following narrative is derived from an interview by Gleb J. Albert with MWS/Radwar, 25 October 2015
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The Movers Collection, Part 3

UZH Magazin, the research magazine of the University of Zurich, just published a detailed report about the research project behind Got Papers?. This is a good opportunity to end the hiatus and to bring you the third instalment of the New Balance Bochum / The Movers letter collection, supplied by Skylab & General Zoff. Once again, here are some intriguing scene letters from a fascinating time, when sceners began to move from C64 to Amiga, struggling with the new machine’s specifications; when teenage crackers doubled as game developers; when teenage magazine editors doubled as suppliers; when not only disks, but all sorts of objects, including complete computers, were exchanged through the scene’s postal networks; when contacts and friendships were forged on a phone conference and immediately continued on paper; in short, when the social network known as “the scene” was new and messy, being held together by  communication channels both “old” and “new”. Enjoy the letters, and expect more soon.

• Cracking Force Berlin/Flash Cracking Group (Germany) to Skylab, 15 November 1986 [metadata]
• Florian/Warriors of Darkness (Germany) to Skylab, ~1988-1989 [metadata]
• General Zoff to Tiamat (draft), ~1988 [metadata]
• Just Ice/Ikari (UK) to Skylab, ~1988 [metadata]
• Laurent/Megaforce (France) to Skylab, ~1988 [metadata]
• Mog/Scouse Cracking Group (UK) to Skylab, 1987 [metadata]
• Pink Panther/The Infiltrators (Denmark) to Skylab, 1986 [metadata]
• Strider/Fairlight (Sweden) to Skylab, 1988 [metadata]
• TFF/Starlight Strikers (Denmark) to General Zoff, 11 July 1986 [metadata]
• The Softteam (Denmark) to The Movers, 11 March 1987 [metadata]
• Tiamat to General Zoff, ~1988 [metadata]
• Vindicator/Delta Force (UK) to Skylab, 1987 [metadata]
• Zzap/Swedish Cracking Crew (Sweden) to General Zoff, ~1987-1988 [metadata]
• Zzap/Swedish Cracking Crew (Sweden) to Skylab, 4 August 1987 [metadata]

(NB: If the scans in the gallery below are too small for you, you can download the high-resolution versions at the “metadata” links above.)

 

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More Demoparty Artefacts

After a break, we are back with mixed 1990s demoparty materials, provided by Goat, Cupid, and leZone. More to come soon.

• Flag 1997 flyer [metadata]
• Remedy 1998 flyer [metadata]
• Symposium 1997 flyer [metadata]
• Symposium & Mekka 1997 flyer [metadata]
• The Party 1994 votedisk [metadata]
• The Party 1995 flyer [metadata]
• Tribute 1994 invitation brochure [metadata]
• Trilobite #1 by Nuance disk [metadata]
• unidentified C64 party flyer, 1996 [metadata]
• Zone 4 1998 invitation brochure [metadata]

 

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Introducing the Honey/1001 Collection

The launch of The Movers’ letter collection turned out to be a sort of honey pot for old sceners. Several 1980s veterans got in touch and promised to scan their old letters, too. The most amazing contribution so far came from Joost Honig a.k.a. Honey of 1001 Crew, who sent us over 1 GB worth of scans from his personal archive. Honey, active on the C64 since 1983, is a scene legend, and 1001 Crew (also known as “1001 & The Cracking Crew”) stood at the very roots of the demoscene. 1001 was not just about cracking games: Together with his groupmates, Honey was responsible for some of the crucial technical breakthroughs in C64 programming, such as sideborder and no-border sprites as early as 1986 – achievements recognised in contemporary commercial computer press as well as in recent literature 1 -, and the famous 1001 Card Cruncher in 1987. A detailed recent interview with Honey can be found here. The letters shed light onto a lesser-known realm of 1001 Crew’s activity – namely their transnational communication networks. Through their archive, one can slowly see 1001 moving from cracking games to making intros, demos and eventually (ironically) games.

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Honey of 1001 Crew, 1986

The first batch of letters presented here today stems from the “mixed” folder – letters from random sceners literally from all over the world trying to get in touch with the famous cracker – some with, some without success. (And those who succeeded establishing contact, couldn’t believe their luck: “Have you got any pictures of you or other members of 1001 crew? […] My friend whom I told you had answered my letters didn’t believe”, wrote one of Honey’s happy new penpals.) Honey jokingly characterised this genre as “begging letters”, and, indeed, most of the authors were begging the recepient for different favours: fresh games, the group’s latest demos, the famous 1001 Crew stickers, or, more generally, establishing a steady swapping relationship. One Finnish scener even sent Honey a long questionnaire (to which he never replied), apparently to use it for an article on the scene commissioned by the Finnish commercial computer magazine BITTI.

But the most wanted thing was, of course, the Card Cruncher. Working with an external cartridge, it was a powerful file compressor – a master weapon in the race for the smallest crack. As Honey recalls: “Having a smaller sized crack of a game than the competition stood for quality. First of all it meant you had a ‘clean’ crack, with no unnecessary bytes in the file. Making that even smaller with your own written packer made an even bigger impact, just like an impressive intro.” 2 The Card Cruncher was even more legendary as it was a strictly internal tool. Apart from the 1001 Crew, only a selected few group and individuals, such as Dynamic-Duo and Fax of New Stars, were entrusted with using it. So it is no wonder that many of the letter authors tried their luck to get his hands on it: “Please could you also send me your card cruncher software”; “please send me the compressor of the Dynamic-Duo we have talked about”; “I am after a really cool cruncher! Do you have one?” Naturally, Honey didn’t give in to any of these requests. However, the Card Cruncher leaked into the scene eventually: “It was stolen and spread by some Dutch guys. They visited one of our members, and when he was out of the room making tea, they loaded a disc with a program that saved the contents of the catridge.” 3

Enjoy this fascinating glimpse into the early C64 scene, and keep in mind that this is just a tiny portion of the 1001 archive. Today’s batch features letters from:

• Aaron (country unknown), 17 June 1987 [metadata]
• Beast/Defjam^Shield (Sweden), 14 February 1987 [metadata] and ~1987-1988 [metadata]
• Carsten (Denmark), 17 December 1986 [metadata]
• Electro’39/Electronic Cracking Crew (Germany), ~1986-1987 [metadata]
• E$G/Italian Bad Boys (Italy), 25 August 1987 [metadata]
• F.B.S. (Germany), 1986 [metadata]
• Griffo/Binary Code Smashers (UK), ~1986-1987 [metadata]
• Jab/The Shadows (Norway), 6 September 1987 [metadata]
• Judge Death/2000 A.D. (country unknown), 1987 [metadata]
• Lauri (Finland), 14 November 1987 [metadata]
• Lloyd/The Austrian Union (Austria), ~1987-1988 [metadata]
• Microman/FBR (USA), 12 February 1987 [metadata]
• Øyvind (Norway), 4 October 1986 [metadata]
• Peter (New Zealand), 23 January 1988 [metadata]
• The Cousin/Soldiers Against Protection (Germany), ~1987-1988 [metadata]
• The Jester/Cleveland Software Society (UK), ~1987 [metadata]
• The Spider (Finland), 6 September 1987 [metadata]

(NB: If the scans in the gallery below are too small for you, you can download the high-resolution versions at the “metadata” links above.)

Notes:

  1. Tristan Donovan. Replay: The History of Video Games (East Sussex: Yellow Ant, 2010), 133; Daniel Botz. Kunst, Code und Maschine. Die Ästhetik der Computer-Demoszene (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011), 64-68.
  2. Mail from Honey/1001, 24 February 2015.
  3. Ibid.
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Mixed Demoscene Stuff

Here is a mixed bag of demoscene objects, provided by Ile/Aardbei and iks/Titan. There is some unusual and remarkable stuff among these, such as a whole pile of Scene Event 2001 organiser badges, or the actual disk of a PC musicdisk. Enjoy!

Bronx BBS sticker, 2005 [metadata]
Maximum Overdose 2006 sticker [metadata]
Novocaine group badge, 2001 [metadata]
Plural Bazz disk, 1999 [metadata]
Saturne 2005 invitation [metadata]
Scene Event 2001 organiser badges [metadata]
SF2K 2001 wristband [metadata]
Summer Encounter 1999 badge [metadata]
The Gathering 2001 ticket [metadata]
Titan table reservation sheet, 2000s [metadata]
Tristar business card, 2006 [metadata]
• T-shirt ad, 2006 [metadata]

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C64 Disk Covers from Hedning

Here we go with another contribution by Hedning/G*P: several C64 disk sleeves from the early to mid-1990s, plus a quite peculiar bonus – a chocolate wrapper produced by two C64 demo groups.

Atlantis & F4CG chocolate wrapper, 2014 [metadata]
Black Code Design disk cover by Big Boost, 1994 [metadata]
Black Duke disk cover, 1992 [metadata]
Booze Design disk cover by HCL, 1990s [metadata]
Coma Light 12 disk cover by Bizkid, 1994 [metadata]
F4CG disk cover by Flash, 1996 [metadata]
F4CG disk cover by FX, 1990s [metadata]
F4CG disk cover by Zapotek, 1995 [metadata]
Genesis Project disk cover by Tronic, 1990s [metadata]
Jazzgossen Prv. disk cover by Trident, 1997 [metadata]
Rock ‘n Role 21 disk cover by Kirk, 1996 [metadata]
Skyhigh 10 disk cover by Earthquake, 1994 [metadata]
Skyhigh 20 disk cover by Junkie, 1995 [metadata]
Triage disk cover by Chaotic, 1996 [metadata]
Visuality 3 disk cover by Mick, 1993 [metadata]
Warriors of Time disk cover by Brady, 1990 [metadata]
Wonderland 9 disk cover by Guran, 1991 [metadata]
X-Rated disk cover by The Beast, 1990s [metadata]

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Dr. Science Letter Collection Pt. 2

Here is the second portion of letters received and scanned by Swiss C64 scener Dr. Science/Atlantis (see here for the first one). Stemming from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, these letters mostly deal with internal group affairs and provide an insight into how demoscene groups conducted teamwork before the age of digital communication. Of course, there is also a small “scene drama” included: see the two letters of Culture, an Norwegian Atlantis member who boldly announced to quit the group after receiving no sendings from the Swiss headquarters, and then bitterly regretted the overhasty move after receiving a letter only a few days after his first announcement…

• Culture/Atlantis (Norway) to Dr. Science, late 1991 [metadata]
• Culture to Dr. Science, 3 January 1992 [metadata]
• Dan/CFA (Switzerland) to Dr. Science, 1987-1989 [metadata]
• Dr. Science to all contacts, late 1989 – early 1990 [metadata]
• Merlin/Atlantis (Norway) to Dr. Science, early 1990s [metadata]
• Mik (Finland) to Dr. Science, 31 August 1992 [metadata]
• Omega Supreme/The Shadows (Norway) to Dr. Science, early 1990s(?) [metadata]
• Rebel/Atlantis (Poland) to Dr. Science, 1994 or later [metadata]

NB: It turned out that I forgot to enable the comment function on the blog for the whole past year. No wonder that no one left any feedback! From this post onwards, there will be a (captcha-protected) comment field. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to say about the artefacts!

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The Movers Collection, Part 2

After the first instalment of The Movers‘ swap letter collection caused such a tremendous interest, we finally bring you the next batch. Once again, it’s a treasure trove, full of forgotten voices from the dawn of the C64 and Amiga scene. We learn about the hardships of switching computer platforms, about transatlantic software trade and crackers worrying about being “greeted” in intro scrolltexts, we read Strider/Fairlight complaining about “communist Sweden”, SCA sending out custom-made anti-virus software to protect their friends from their own SCA Virus (the infamous, first ever Amiga virus), and so on. A particularly emotional document is the letter by Dennis a.k.a. Turtle/Danish Gold, whom many of our readers knew and met at demoparties, and who sadly passed away in 2006. Here, we read his lines back in 1987, when he just got himself an IBM PC and was looking forward to the Danish Gold copyparty

• Action 2009 (Denmark) to The Movers, 22 May 1987 [metadata]
• Honey/1001 Crew (Netherlands) to Skylab, 1986-1987 [metadata]
• Honey/1001 Crew to The Movers, 1987 [metadata]
• Laffen/RDI (Norway) to Skylab, 1987 [metadata]
• Mr. Mister/RAD (USA) to The Movers, 21 June 1987 [metadata]
• Popeye (Denmark) to Skylab, 1988 [metadata]
• Popeye to The Movers, December 1987 [metadata]
• Popeye to The Movers, 1988 [metadata]
• STI/SCA (Switzerland) to Skylab, 1987 [metadata]
• STI/SCA (Switzerland) to Skylab, 1987 (another one) [metadata]
• Shockwave/Jazzcat (Norway) to Skylab, 1987 [metadata]
• Strider/Fairlight (Sweden) to Skylab, December 1987 [metadata]
• Strider/Fairlight to Skylab, 1987-1988 [metadata]
• ?/Trilogy (Netherlands) to The Movers, 1980s [metadata]
• Turtle/Danish Gold (Denmark) to Skylab, 1987 [metadata]

(NB: If the scans in the gallery below are too small for you, you can download the high-resolution versions at the “metadata” links above.)

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Illegal #20 & Paradise Island #1

At last year’s Radwar Party, a cozy get-together of old C64 and Amiga sceners, AVH/Radwar mentioned that he might have some old paper stuff somewhere. And indeed, a few months later he provided us with an excellent collection of 1980s papermags, many of which were previously considered lost. Today, we present the first two gems – both produce by legendary German C64 scener and papermag editor Jeff Smart. First, there is issue #20 of Illegal, one of the first cracking scene magazines (see our old post here). This issue, published around September 1987, was one of the last German-only numbers before Illegal turned into the international C64 zine. In this issue, one can still feel the original intention behind Illegal – to review games, but one can also find random scene news and gossip inside, as well as a brief report on the Danish Gold Copyparty 1987, a crucial event for the history of the C64 scene. The second scan is a papermag which has been surrounded by mystery for years and is a top item on our partner site mags.c64.org‘s “wanted list”. Paradise Island was a papermag produced by Jeff Smart somewhen between May 1989, when he was busted by the police, and 1991, when he released the final issue of Illegal. When I asked Jeff Smart about Paradise Island last year, he vaguely remembered having done something like that (and naming the mag after a t-shirt he wore back then), but could recall neither when it was released nor what was inside. Indeed, the contents are not particularly memorable – apart from the great cover by Hobbit/Fairlight, who later pursued a career as a professional comic artist.

Enjoy these two rarities, and keep in mind that it’s just about 1/10 of AVH’s collection. You can browse the mags in the gallery below, or download the high resolution scans here (Illegal) and here (Paradise Island).