We’re back with some materials that remind you of the materiality of “warez trading” in the 1980s. In these envelopes from The Movers‘ collection, floppy disks with the newest C64 and Amiga cracks and demos travelled around Europe between 1986 and 1988. Most people reused them and ultimately threw them away, but luckily these guys didn’t. There’s a whole box of them in our office now, and here’s just a small selection – featuring sendings from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland. As usual, you can download the high quality scans and metadata from the archive, or view the pictures in the gallery below.
In previous updates, we treated you to letters from the scene‘s top protagonists. But what about the countless average guys whom these “elites” would usually have considered “lamers”, but who were, in fact, the backbone of the formers’ popularity – by spreading their products and making their names “big” in the first place? The voices of these bystanders and “rank and file” sceners are a blank spot in scene preservation, as they often left no traces in terms of releases. Luckily, with the letter collection of Thorion (a.k.a. Thomas or Smily), we can make a step towards closing this gap. In the letters exchange between him and his Amiga penpals around 1990, one gets a glimpse of teenage computer fans swapping PD software and demos (and the occasional “Raubi”, as in “pirate copy”), following the developments of the scene, teaching each other scene-related skills, and occasionally making it to the ranks of the “elites” (like Thorion himself, who would do a brief stunt as graphics artist in TRSI in 1992 before quitting the Amiga world altogether).
You can download the scans of these 32 (German-language) letters, complete with metadata, here – or view them in the gallery below.
And as a bonus, the collection includes a document from a different fringe of the scene – namely pirate groups who would branch out into the “real” shadow economy, selling software and hardware for hard cash. The detailed advert from the Amiga group Vision Factory, offering all sorts of illicit computer products, can be downloaded here. According to a long-time VF member, this operation was maintained by two members from Northern Germany, without any coordination with the group leadership (and without sharing any of the profits)…
After a break, we can present you another instalment of the vast New Balance Bochum / The Movers collection. This time it’s not just letters, but also party invitations, stickers, and other artefacts from the European 1980s C64 / Amiga cracking scene. There are highly interesting materials among these papers, such as shopping lists for originals in London; a contemporary memberlist of Elite (which was kept secret at the time); an early circular letter from Fairlight; Venlo party tickets; and much more… You can find detailed information on many of the documents, including details provided by Skylab, in the metadata sheets.
• Letter from Digital Marketing to betatesters of COP SHOCKER, 30 Jan 1989 [scan/metadata]
• Address sticker by Executor/Damage Inc., ~1987 [scan/metadata]
• Circular letter from Fairlight to all Amiga contacts, 1988 [scan/metadata]
• Letter (draft) from General Zoff/Elite (Germany) to Thor & Zeus/Teesside Cracking Service (UK), 1989 [scan/metadata]
• Holly/FAME disk cover, 1980s [scan/metadata]
• Letter from Laffen/Raw Deal Inc. (Norway) to Skylab/The Movers (Germany), 1987 [scan/metadata]
• List of London software shops, compiled by Skylab, ~1986 [scan/metadata]
• The Movers and the Stormtrooper Atari sticker sheet, 1987 [scan/metadata]
• Newsroom disk, 1980s [scan/metadata]
• Scouse Cracking Group disk protection cardboard, 1980s [scan/metadata]
• The Organized Crime Copyparty 1987 invitation [scan/metadata]
• The Orgasmatron Crew sticker sheet, 1987 [scan/metadata]
• Triad & Fairlight Copyparty 1987 invitation [scan/metadata]
• Venlo Party April 1989 ticket [scan/metadata]
• Venlo Party December 1991 ticket [scan/metadata]
• Letter from Zeke Wolf/Triad (Sweden) to Skylab/The Movers (Germany), 1987 [scan/metadata]
Finally, here is part 3 from the vast collection of letters kindly given to us by Honey of 1001 Crew. They stem from 1986-1988, the heyday of C64 the cracking scene, and among the authors you can find prominent figures such as Weetibix/Scouse Cracking Group and Ixion/Triad. The letters allow a glimpse into the inner workings of the international C64 cracking circuit, full of high passion about greeting lists, flame wars, stolen trade secrets, and, last not least, friendship across borders. Enjoy, and expect more very soon!
• Dirk/D.S. Compware (Germany) to Honey, ~1986-1987 [scan&metadata]
• Ixion/Triad (Sweden) to Honey, March 1987 [scan&metadata]
• Ixion/Triad (Sweden) to Honey, 1987 [scan&metadata]
• Jaws/Boys Without Brains (Netherlands) to Honey, October 1986 [scan&metadata]
• Jaws/Boys Without Brains (Netherlands) to Honey, 1986 [scan&metadata]
• Player =1=/Bencor Bros. (USA) to all contacts, 1986 [scan&metadata]
• Player =1=/Bencor Bros. (USA) to Honey, 1986 [scan&metadata]
• Player =1=/Bencor Bros. (USA) to Honey, 10 September 1987 [scan&metadata]
• Player =1=/Bencor Bros. (USA) to Honey, 1987 [scan&metadata]
• Raphael/D.S. Compware (Germany) to Honey, ~1986-1987 [scan&metadata]
• Weetibix/Scouse Cracking Group (UK) to Honey, 27 April 1987 [scan&metadata]
• Weetibix/Scouse Cracking Group (UK) to Honey, 1987 [scan&metadata]
• Weetibix/Scouse Cracking Group (UK) to Honey, 1988 [scan&metadata]
“…so keep the paper-letters!”, insisted Hungarian swapper Messerschmitt in a letter to his German penpal Gentleman (also known as Risk and Galahad). And, luckily, he did! We are happy to put online his small paper archive, containing Amiga scene materials from the period between 1994 and 1998. Apart from letters from all over Europe, there are some demoparty– and diskmagazine-related flyers and, most interestingly, a nice collection of Ami-Expo/World of Commodore/Computer trade fair tickets. These trade fairs, held in Cologne/Germany, were an important meeting point for sceners.
• Beeblebrox/Orion (Germany), 30 June 1994 [scan&metadata]
• Case78 (Germany), ~1995 [scan&metadata]
• cOcOOn/Vision (Germany), 1994 [scan&metadata]
• cOcOOn/Vision (Germany), 1994 (Post-It note) [scan&metadata]
• Drago/Insane (Finland), ~1994 [scan&metadata]
• Exumer/Sanity (Germany), ~1993-1995 [scan&metadata]
• Ghandy/Bonzai Bros. (Germany), ~1994 [scan&metadata]
• Kalikone/Dylem (Switzerland), ~1996 [scan&metadata]
• Karpow/Scoopex (Finland), 8 November 1995 [scan&metadata]
• Ledge/In-Sect (Denmark), 18 January 1998 [scan&metadata]
• Messerschmitt/Ram Jam (Hungary), ~1994 [scan&metadata]
• Messerschmitt/Ram Jam (Hungary), ~1993-1994 [scan&metadata]
• Reval/Pulse (Germany), ~1994 [scan&metadata]
• Sir Jinx/Neoplasia (Germany), 15 July 1994 [scan&metadata]
• Sir Jinx/Illusion (Germany), ~1994 [scan&metadata]
• The Trendy Dealer/Ram Jam (Italy), 31 August 1994 [scan&metadata]
• The Trendy Dealer/Ram Jam (Italy), 3 November 1994 [scan&metadata]
Party & diskmag stuff:
• Ami-Expo ’91 ticket [scan&metadata]
• Ami-Expo ’92 ticket [scan&metadata]
• World of Commodore ’93 ticket [scan&metadata]
• Computer ’94 ticket [scan&metadata]
• Computer ’95 ticket [scan&metadata]
• Computer ’96 ticket [scan&metadata]
• Compass diskmag flyer [scan&metadata]
• Dead End diskmag votesheet [scan&metadata]
• GASP 1995 invitation (international version) [scan&metadata]
• Nexus 1995 visitor badge [scan&metadata]
We are very happy to have another swapletters archive at our disposal. Austrian C64 scener AD/Alpha Flight sent us a large box filled with letters from back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was known as Rough, lived in Germany, and was members of illustrous groups such as Chromance, The Ancient Temple, and Hitmen. Today, we give you the first batch of this rich collection, reflecting the scope of Rough’s contacts and bearing some scene history gems – such as two letters by the legendary Hungarian scener Mr. Wax; a circular letter of a C64 coder offering his intro programming services for money; or the invitation letter to an obscure copyparty.
• Captain Freedom/Atrix (Belgium), ~1989-1990 [metadata]
• Exorcist/Saga-Time (Germany), 13 April 1990 [metadata]
• Jayce/Paradize (Sweden), early 1990s [metadata]
• Mad/Ironstyle (Germany), 18 October 1990 [metadata]
• Mr. Wax/Chromance (Hungary), early 1990s [metadata]
• Mr. Wax/Chromance (Hungary), 8 September 1994 [metadata]
• Painkiller/Chromance (Hungary), after May 1991 [metadata]
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.
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”
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]
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!
• 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]
• 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]
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]