Max / Flat 3 Hackers
Added on February 10th, 2004 (8087 views)

Tell us something about yourself.
Name: Max Hall. Age: 33. Birthplace: Chesterfield, United Kingdom. Residence: Somewhere in the U.K. Job: Dance Music Producer and Remixer. Interests: Music technology, vinyl collection (my own - hehehe), tits, Stella Artois (be careful how much u have, btw), mountainbike-riding, electronic and acoustic music, great vocals.

What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
Max of the Flat 3 Hackers - Flat 3 Hackers came about by our founder and mentor Bubble. He had a flat in our town, and u guessed it, it was number three, hence the Flat 3 Hackers. This was in the 1980s when I was young! We used to sit all night hacking the music from games and then coding demos, to post all over the world the next day. Our favourite trick was to get the latest games and hack the music and release the demo before the game came out! Bub had contacts in the coding scene (commercial programmers) and we sometimes managed to get the finished code from the guys before release dates, hack the music, code the demo and have it back in post before the general public had the games. Also we knew someone in a computer shop who would "lend" us new releases to hack then take 'em back to the shop next day. (Phew, u would get shot nowadays!) At one point in the 1990s we were getting approx 20-30 jiffy bags of disks every day, it became a full time job! (I lived at the top of a hill at the time and the postman was well pissed off). All the disks contained mostly new demos that were available on Compunet (early Internet?). I can remember it really fascinated me that you could link up on the net and do demos like that, alas we didn't have the finances then (only 13-16 years old), and couldn't afford Compunet, so postal swapping was the way to go. :)

What group(s) were you in?
Flat 3 Hackers.

What roles have you fulfilled?
I was the coder and music ripper, Bub was the compiler and cruncher man and all round contact man. (The Boss) Roy (Ray of Flat Froy) just swapped and cracked games (Roy, hope u r OK, haven't seen u for years), Ade - the driest sense of humour on the planet, still miss the laughs, a guy called Hack (Tosser - didn't last long), and a good coder called Jaybird who joined towards the end of the C64. Trev - the cockney who also was as funny as f**k (general distributor) - Mr T - he was a great guy too, just was very interested in getting the new games, and especially flight simulators if I remember right. :) We also had a guy called Marker doing some graphics for us at points.

How long were you active for?
Good question, from about 1981 (ZX81) through to the Amiga in 1990 something. I really can't remember. The first game I programmed was in 1981 when I was 11 so we had a few years doing it. Got in to C64 assembler as soon as I got the C64 'cos a guy at school (my computer teacher Mr Branson) encouraged us to play and program the Commodore Pets then, with pokes etc. So that was a good start when we moved on to the C64.

Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
First time I saw a C64 was when I was listening to a lot of electronic music. I was at a mates and he played me some C64 music demos (early SID toonz), and played a game called Frantic Freddie. The sound blew me away! I'd never heard anything like it before, I needed a C64! Went from there, used to hang around computer shops talking about how good the C64 was, and met Bub - rest is history.

Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Migrane headaches and scratching heads. :) Usually went round "The Flat" in the early evenings then left about 5-6 a.m. in the mornings, sometimes later, just set a project and didn't go home 'till it was finished. I remember the great saying "Lets sit and play Last Ninja and hack every toon from the game and put it all in one demo" - three days later.

Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Yeah, I coded a utility that enabled you to move a sprite across the screen with a joystick. The program would remember the movements then export them to some other code I wrote to enable you to move lots of sprites in the same directions to incorporate in to the demos we coded. It even let you display up to 32 sprites on-screen including eight in the top and bottom borders. Another trick was to make sprites enlarge and go smaller using the simple VIC and raster trick (wobbling). Can't believe no one did it before.

When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
Being able to code and learn at that age. Couldn't do it now, most of the assembler language in my brain has been replaced by music technology.

Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Stoat and Tim - for being creative. Rob Hubbard - for the music. Too many to list really, all the good programmers.

What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Think it must have been the routine to allow sample playback as well as SID music. Dunno who did it first, but it was a breakthrough.

Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Yeah many and I met some good people. Still have a photo of me and Jeff Minter at a show in London!

In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
We viewed it as something completely new, we were blinded by the possibilities and the scene gave us an outlet to channel some creativity. It was all new and fascinating for a young teenage lad, and we were just having fun. It was either that or hang in the park all day and vandalise stuff (wasn't for me). It became a big part of life, the scene, the folx at school in to the C64 and the worldwide interest we managed to generate.

What were the particular highlights for you?
Fav demo was Future Shock - nothing amazing, just a scrolly, a nice pic and an awesome toon, but it made an impact! Also, the C64 music scene in general, especially all the usual, Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Ben Daglish (he lives near me and we have never met!) etc. The fact these people were making great sounding toonz on the humble SID chip, amazed me, it was such a new and fresh thing to be doing, and they sounded great. The highlight was that we thought it would never end, and I suppose in a way it is still alive on the Internet. I still get e-mails about the scene even now.

Any cool stories to share with us?
The C64 inspired me to go onto more music technology aspects and led me to produce my first record, so suppose that's pretty cool. :) We had so many laughs with the C64, I suppose all that was cool in a way. The best night was when we finished a coding session and went to the labour club across the road for a cheap pint. A famous labour MP was there and thanked us for supporting him. Cockney Trev piped up: "I vote conservative. I'm only here cos the f**king beer is cheap". Didn't we laugh! :)

Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Yes, still keep in touch with Chris Sorrell, Mr Rob Hubbard, Chris Abbott and a few more. In fact, I have just done a remix of One Man and His Droid for Mr Rob Hubbard, available to preview on my pages

When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I don't have my original C64 that I got in 1985, I sold it when the Amiga was big (big regrets). I managed to get an old battered C64c to play my old games on but sold all the floppies with all the code and demos on (biggest regrets). I only have a few tapes now. Boooo... So the C64 emulator and sites like C64hq and Lemon have rescued me!

Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?

When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Maybe, something close, maybe a few more C64 remixes in the future, working with Quadrasid plug-in on some of my music so the C64 is still in there somewhere. I booted Rockmonitor up the other day and thought "Oh my god where do I start" (I used to be able to use it). Would love to code a demo again and maybe write a C64 toon with the SID, but, time, money etc. Maybe one day. You never know.

Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Yes, thanks for the good times, all who were involved (u know who u r). Glad to see the C64 is still alive and well on the Internet. Massive shouts to BUB, Roy, Ade, MR-T, Trev, Hack, Jaybird, Marker, Eastenders Cracking Crew, Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Chris Abbott and all who are still supporting the C64 on the Internet. All the Back in Time crew and the folx doing the C64 remixes.

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