Grendel / Byterapers
Added on November 27th, 2004 (11267 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Jukka Kauppinen and the full "artistic" name is Jukka O. Kauppinen. That is how I sign my works and writings. My way of life is filled with books, writings and writing – I've turned into a journalist, I think much in the way as I've always dreamed, though still largely by accident and coincidences. A big part of that is the demo scene which has had quite a huge effect on my life. I've wondered lately what I would have been if I never stumbled into the demo scene. I might have actually finished or even started studies, maybe tried to go to the university to get a real education on journalism or some other profession. Alas, things didn't turn out that way. The scene took a major part of my life, and at times, larger than school. That had both good and bad effects. I've been all around, met so many people, grown a new kind of self-confidence, made many contacts and friends and learned many things that have been most useful in my working life.
And what am I? Earlier I used to say that I have three very different personalities. There is Jukka, a normal fella, homeboy and mother's youngest. There is Grendel, the famous freak. And there is Jukka O., the journalist. The different personalities are still there except they are much more mixed these days and actually – yes, really – Grendel is my nickname in real life too. My mother and relatives call me by my given name and all others, girlfriend included, call me Grendel.
Then the boring details: I turned 34 years old (July 2004) and I live in Tampere. I was born in Iisalmi, the same place where Byterapers was born. While the old Byterapers crew was based in Iisalmi, a whole lot of the Byterapers members these days live in Tampere. Makes you feel right at home.
My life is much too busy because I do the journalist thing as a freelancer. I run a media company which is good except when looking at the paycheck. Running your own business means long days and a small paycheck, but you're relatively free as well. Being employed by somebody else is a rather mixed experience. In one company it may be great and in another it may be hell. I’ve experienced both. I worked for a Finnish publisher called Euromedia as Editor-in-chief for the Finnish version of PC Format in 2002. It was great! I re-built the magazine from the beginning, created a great network of writers and so on but the owner was a bloody two faced fuckhead. We, the employees, started checking his exploits and found many things about his background, and he had a lot of various problems with his ways of running business in the past and finally quit the job. It was fun actually. All his journalistic staff quit within three months and he had to quit a whole bunch of magazines.
What else do I do? The demo scene has always been a big thing for me. I haven't got so much time for it though. Aviation is an interest of mine. I always fancied it, especially old warplanes. During the last years I've fulfilled a number of dreams in that field, too. I don't fly planes myself, but I'm doing great in the simulator. I'm one of the founders of Finnish Virtual Pilots Association which concentrates on historical flying online. We're part of the Finnish professional flying scene. We also do a lot of historical research. I lead the history team and we've been accepted as members of the Finnish Professional Military History Researchers' Association. Personally my greatest satisfaction and achievement comes from the fact that the Finnish war pilots – the old gents between 80-90 years old – think us as their grandsons, welcome me to their meetings and are always ready when I want to interview them. It is an honor. See www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/ for more.
Other stuff is of course books, good comics, science fiction and history books. I don’t watch TV that much, but when I do, it’s either fun animations, SciFi movies/series and horror movies. Examples of what I like is: The Simpsons, Futurama, Red Dwarf, Babylon 5, Jeremiah, movies by Hayao Miyazaki, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Men from the Ministry, Jackass, old Disney animations, Roughnecks, The Fast Show, and Monty Python. I'm totally into British comedy but I also love some of the weirdest Finnish stuff.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I’m not telling you what my first handle was. There are some old friends who still remember it and they've sworn not to say it to anybody. A Norwegian guy, to whom I sent my C64 archives, knows it too but I swore to make him suffer if he tells it to someone. That leaves us with Grendel.
What group(s) were you in?
Easy. Just one, ever. Byterapers. From 1986.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I was never able to do something creative. My thing has always been on the organising and handling side. I ran the group pretty fine in the active days. I made the group grow from four guys in a little town to an international group which was and still is well known around the world. I did resource managing too, arranged lots of parties and I guess I was also the PR clown. In addition, I swapped a lot, and at one point I had 150 contacts. That was in the days of C64 disk swapping.
How long were you active for?
From 1986 to 1989 on the C64, on Amiga from 1990 to 1994. I've also done PC stuff after that, but in a much smaller scale.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Progressive development. I first met these cool local guys who knew how to code. I was trading by mail, even using cassettes at times, and we learned about things like making intros and about demo- and cracking groups. There wasn't any existing scene in Finland at the time, so we and other small groups slowly learned to know each other. Finnish Gold arranged the first demo party in December 1987 and the Finnish scene slowly took shape.
Those were very interesting years. We were doing something nobody had ever done before, learning new things, making new friends, rivalries and so on. The first years (1986-87) were amazing when I now think back. It sure was great when I got cool new contacts and we got greetings from big groups. The mailtrading thing surely was something special. I wonder how I managed to write thousands of long letters to my contacts. Only when I was on the top of my swapping career, I had to resort to printed notes/letters as I had way too many contacts to write everyone.
One funny thing is that I was quite a friendly person back then. I still am of course, but I think I was almost unusual in the way that I never frown at guys who wanted to swap with me but didn’t have name in the demo scene. There were quite a lot of people who I supported. In fact, I've heard a lot of stories during the later years. A guy came up to me and said: "You sent me a disk of cool games in 198x when I had nothing to send to you. I sent that stuff to other people and that got me many new contacts." Another guy told me that he sent me a tape and got his tape plus a disk back (without the common "no tape lamers" note). The disk had all the latest releases and that helped him to kick-start his own group. It seems I accelerated many groups and people this way. :) Some of those people later became members of Byterapers or formed their own demo group, some of which have been the best in Finland.
It was in 1989 or so when I had 200+ contacts, huge postal expenses and spent most of my time copying. I got fed up with swapping at this point and just kept the 20 best friends and coolest traders. It later became a little bit more than that of course, but it eased my life immensely. I handed the rest of the contacts to other Byterapers swappers.
The next step was maybe in late 1989 or 1990 when my C64 disk drive broke down and I was completely broke. I had spent all my last pennies on a party trip to Denmark or Sweden and couldn't shell out a penny for repairing it, buying a new one or anything. That became the end of my C64 career. I turned to the Amiga instead as it at least worked and it offered new challenges and possibilities. One interesting conspiracy theory here is that I met a very nice lady in 1989 or 1990 and we soon moved in together. Some boozing partners and C64 conspiracy theory creators got the idea that I had to quit the C64 scene because she forced me to – which was total bullshit of course. Those guys never bothered to think about how active I was on the Amiga scene then, where I still went to parties and arranged our own ones. :)
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
In the early days, there were lots of demo watching, copying disks and writing letters, playing games and writing articles to scene magazines and real newspapers/magazines. While I was quite a freak, I also had my personal life which primarily included books and comics, friends, going out and other things. A typical day could also include Byterapers organising, getting the guys to code demos and find originals. I also enjoyed scrolltexts and I learned to use the monitor in The Final Cartridge 3 to read the scrollies directly from the memory.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
This is really not my business or area. I've never had any talent for coding and that kind of stuff. I took lessons in BASIC at school but skipped it because I couldn't get the hang of it. I was good at maths but programming has always been beyond my comprehension. The finest system I had was maybe the disk copier, which was installed to my hard drive by a Swedish Fairlight member. Hell, can't remember his name anymore, but he lived in Stockholm.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I helped new guys to get started by not turning them away, not even newbies or lamers. I often went to new groups at parties and chatted with them and offered encouragement if they in my eyes showed promise. That's what I've always believed in, positive encouragement. Just like today, when writing this, one guy came up to me and wondered why I didn't turn him down in 1988, even when he couldn't code shit. I had also kicked him from Byterapers but still kept in touch and invited him to parties. "Why didn't you just ignore me?", he asked. "Hell, I don't know. You're great guy and you got the right mentality even if you were one of the worst demo coders ever." Another thing I believed in, and still do, is friendships. Byterapers was based on that and it's one of the reasons why Byterapers still exists. It’s more a family than a group. Friendship was also a prime factor when trying to contact people and keeping in touch with them. Many contacts were more like friends and I still keep in touch with many of them, though I must admit I'm a lazy whore these days when it comes to writing letters or e-mails. I think I wrote my life quota of letters in 1986-89! Or maybe I was a better person back then.
Of course I must be proud of the whole Byterapers thing. It grew from nothing, made the top of the charts, were known worldwide and had "offices" in many countries. It is a family and a way of life that still exists today. It has given me so much and that is something I’m proud of.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Dunno. 1001 did great stuff early on. I loved what The Judges did and tried to contact them over and over again (and I think I succeeded too). The Electronic Knights were great fellas and I totally loved demos from The Banana because of the great music and the mind-blowing scrolltexts. I read them all! I still remember how The Banana was on a biking trip with school and had trouble biking back next day because he was still drunk. And of course the other scene heroes: Fairlight and Triad – the demo superstars. I also had the utmost respect for Finnish Gold and Beyond Force for their demos.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
If only I knew. Maybe F-15 Strike Eagle by Sid Meier. That game has literally affected my life and it pushed me into a new direction.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I was a party animal. :) I've been on dozens and dozens of copy-parties and used to visit lots of them in Sweden. I made lots of friends at the parties and had great fun. I was a regular so to speak. ;-) Djupfryst!
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
The friendship was in my opinion the most important thing, then came the competition spirit and the strive for creating new things. Having fun, meeting people and really being part of something almost secret.
What were the particular highlights for you?
One was definitely the first Byterapers party. It was a one week long party that nobody who was there ever will forget. Another moment was the Assembly party when our demo Extremes participated in the competition. I was just dumbfounded, watching the screen and asking: "is *this* really *our* demo". It’s always a unique feeling when I see one of our own productions on a big screen and the people yell and applaud.
Any cool stories to share with us?
Hundreds. At least some have been archived at www.byterapers.com.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Some. I got things to do 24 hours a day. I mostly see people at parties but it’s very rarely that I actively chat with them. It’s not arrogance but laziness combined with a full calendar.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got it in 1985 which was quite late compared to other old-timers. And yes, my first C64, the tape deck and the disk drive is still around. The disk drive is broken but I just can't throw it away as it has all those group-stickers on it. Emulators are easier to use and take less space when I want to check demos or play old games.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Not the machine itself, except in its small timeframe when it reigned as king. Rather it was the people and the scene that breathed life to an old machine and has kept it alive even today.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Sorry, no hope there. We aren't doing anything on any other platform either. As far as I know, some source code still exists and it might be possible to put together a demo or two for the next Assembly party, but I don't think it will ever happen.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
My contacts and so many other people have given me so much. In a way I miss the demo scene as it was such a unique thing for me and the other people that were apart of it. I had great and it was a good learning experience. I have absolutely no clue what and where I would be without my years in the scene. I cherish the memories and at times I laugh when thinking back at the friends and the sensational moments when we looked at a new cool demo for the first time. Thank you all for what I have received!
back to the list of available interviews