Sir Alec / Alf in 1853, Unit 5
Added on January 10th, 2004 (7449 views)

Tell us something about yourself.
Martin Samuelsson, 31, living and working in Linköping, Sweden.

What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
My handle was Sir Alec. The story behind it is quite simple: I think Palle had an Action Replay cartridge, and the included sprite editor had a sprite in it, a skull, called sir Alec. Since then, that skull has been the source of most of my later handles or nicknames.

What group(s) were you in?
To me, it felt like one group all along. Somewhere back in 1987 or so, a couple of guys with an interest in computers got together and started toying around. Palle, a friend of my friend Fader Konungen, soon joined the group, and through him came Nexu and a couple of other guys. This group was called ALF, sometimes with the addition of "in 1853", for some odd reason. I'm pretty sure ALF released, kind of, its very first demo on January 1st, 1988. It was in glorious BASIC and featured scrollers! Anyway, we shortly foraged into machine code, and did some mind blowing stuff. Static images with music and a smooth scroller, just like every beginner in the world. With time, we improved our skills and released lots of great stuff. We always took pride in doing things just a little bit different and not always in the same genre as the mainstream stuff. Eventually, Nexu was contacted by one of his swapper friends in Finland, and got involved in this idea about merging five demo groups into one. After some negotiating, Unit 5 was born.

What roles have you fulfilled?
I was mainly a coder and a electronics magician.

How long were you active for?
That would be about 1987 to 1991, give or take.

Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Those were interesting times. I learnt lots of stuff and made a couple of good friends. I think I've rambled enough about the when and how part. :) Boy, those Mr. Z rasters were cool, by the way.

Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
In the U5 days, there was much planning, coding and generally fooling around, toying with ideas and trying out new techniques. One thing I remember is days of coding with the The Final Cartridge III machine code monitor while the demo was running. You learnt pretty quickly not to touch the wrong addresses, or you'd spend the next ten minutes figuring out which part of the memory that was overwritten when you crashed the demo.

Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
There was this graphics converter that converted Amiga ILBM images into C64 bitmaps. We used it to create a couple of spinning logos, animated in DPaint, for one demo. I think Dae did the actual coding on that tool. The same demo also included a D.Y.P.P. scroll (I'm sure D.Y.P.P. has changed meaning since then) that I think I made a font mangling tool for. Small, often crucial, write-once-use-once tools, but they did make life easier. That demo part was later nicked and used in an anti-U5 demo. I'm not sure who did that.

When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
We did things our way by gathering inspiration from others and not stealing things outright. That's a cool attitude, I think. Nexu once did a part that wasn't special in any way; a plain music-scroller-graphics part. Until you saw that the Platoon graphics in the background was subtly animated. Most people probably didn't even notice it, but that wasn't the main point. That part was created for the entertainment of those that actually did notice.

Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
I'm not much of a worshipper. There were guys I was impressed by, but no heroes per se.

What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
I'd say Contiki. That Adam Dunkels guy is insane.

Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I remember going to two. The first was hosted by Horizon and some other group. It was fun, and I didn't get many minutes of sleep that weekend. We did manage to crank out a demo, though we were kind of pressed for time. That party was my first real encounter with Dae.

In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
To me, it was about improving my coding skills, realizing cool ideas and make good demos. I never was in it for the fame.

What were the particular highlights for you?
There were many of those. Getting back a copy of Par Avion that had travelled around the world was a kick. But guess if it'd been signed by anyone? At all? Bah.

Any cool stories to share with us?
I'm not sure Palle would let me tell you any.

Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Very few, but sometimes I run into people I had no idea were active back then. That's always a surprise.

When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
In 1987, I think. I have a few, but they were pretty flaky to begin with, and now they're all dead. It's a pity. I still have my TFC III and an Expert Cartridge. The companion disk, in a special version, deprotected by Dae, just might be readable. Oh, the memories. That disk had a copy protection that prevented the company that sold me the cartridge from copying it. After some time, they sent me their master disk, just to get rid of me.

Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Yes, it really was all that special, and then time caught up with it. The same goes for the Amiga, and for... Hm, I'm not sure there are any more examples.

When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
You'll know when you see it.

Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Just a thought in general. Yesterday's computers weren't better than today's, but they were a lot more fun to handle, and perhaps that's what counts.

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