Bizzmo / Relax Designs,
Masters of Reality,
Added on June 5th, 2005 (6155 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My real name is Doug Roberts. I'm originally from Surrey, but I now live with my wife and seven month old boy in Bristol. As well as being interested in the current C64 scene and watching my son grow up far too quickly, I'm also interested in astronomy – a hobby that the UK weather doesn't really do anything to enhance!
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
Right from my early Compunet days I've used the handle Bizzmo. Not entirely sure where it came from, but it was written on my excercise book by a classmate in a tediously boring chemistry lesson.
What group(s) were you in?
There were a number of Compunet "groups" such as Relax Designs, Masters of Reality etc., but after that I was a member of Genesis Project and briefly Crest.
What roles have you fulfilled?
Artist and part time coder! I was the world's worst swapper as anyone who ever sent me anything will know! (Sorry to everyone who sent me discs and material to convert to bitmaps!)
How long were you active for?
From 1986 until 1992 I think, but it all seems so long ago it's hard to remember exact dates.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I'm sure this is the same for a lot of people, but everything really began once I got my Compunet Modem. This really opened my eyes to what other people were doing. Compunet opened my eyes to the fact that there was more to the C64 than just games.
I started designing Compunet Banners for people in the CBM extended character set, then went on to regularly post demo reviews. This was pretty expensive as downloading all those demos to review at 1200/75 was exceptionally painful. I got into painting bitmap graphics after buying myself a Neos mouse. Using a joystick to paint with has never felt natural. Of course, once I started with the bitmap graphics, I then got interested in doing something more and that's when my interest in coding came from. I hired a book from the local library and never looked back...
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Not very exciting! I don't know how many hours I spent in front of the computer! I'd have a TV on beside me, normally half watching a video. As soon as I got in from school/college/job I'd turn on the C64. Even if I wasn't actually doing anything I'd have a demo playing in the background! There would be the usual cries of "are you still on the bloody computer" from my dad. Weekends were different. I'd often meet up with Falcon (James) who lived just up the road and mess about looking at demos, playing games etc. and generally being unproductive!
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
No, I'd leave that to Falcon. When it came to doing anything a little more useful or functional he was definitely better at it than I was.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I'm not sure. I look at most of the stuff I did and cringe! And even if I'm not cringing, I'm looking at all the things about it that I could (or should) have done differently/better. It's hard to think of anything particular that I'm most proud of. I think if anything it has to be the fact that I actually finished something! (Although the picture of Winona Ryder I did for my Paraside'91 demo did come out rather well I thought!)
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
The first pictures I saw that really blew me away were pictures by Dokk and Mantronix that I saw on Compunet. It was these pictures that really inspired me to start playing with pixels. After that it was really anyone who actually produced anything. Once I'd started coding and producing graphics I realised just how much time and effort went into producing even a relatively small interesting demo.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
For me, it must be all the amazing techniques that have been developed to push graphics on the C64 well beyond what was intended. When I look at some of the art being produced now, using FLI, Super-Hires FLI, Super Hires Interlace FLI etc, my jaw drops in awe.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I regularly attended the PC(W)Show at Earls Court, London and the Commodore show at the Hammersmith Novotel again in London. The Compunet stand used to act as a meeting place although I remember battling through the sweaty crowds wasn't a pleasant experience!
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
Well looking back at some old demos now, it seems that it was all about writing the longest list of greets in a scroller! It would have been nice to have collaborated more with people. My experience of the scene in the UK was of a relatively insular place with not enough communication with the rest of the scene in Europe. I'm not sure why that was, but it's a shame that the opportunity to work closer on other projects never arose. The only sceners I regularly spoke to (in any form or another) was Deek and Falcon who lived locally.
What were the particular highlights for you?
The highlight of the year always used to be the PC show at Earls Court in London. It was always a good laugh to meet up with all the other Compunet users as well as everyone else who turned up from all around Europe. I always found it incredibly difficult to remember who I'd met though. I'm sure this can't have been anything to do with the weak over priced lager!
Any cool stories to share with us?
I remember one delightful day when I sat down at my desk, powered-on the good old C64 and started busily drawing when I slowly became aware of a smell which must have come directly from Satan's arse! It was intense, my eyes were watering and I had absolutely no idea what it was. In fact, just the thought of having to go and find out what was causing the smell struck fear into my heart. But there are something you have to do, and a good five minutes later, under my desk, tangled in the myriad of cables I found the cause. Sitting directly on the C64 power supply was huge, curly, Mr Whippy of a cat turd – the removal of which is just too disgusting to go into here. Something I have nightmares about even now!
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Yes! Drax, Hein, Deek, Falcon and a whole bunch of people that I didn't know then, that I've met since my return, especially everyone on #lemon64 and #c64!
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got my C64 after upgrading from a VIC20. I don't remember the exact date, but it must have been around 1985. I remember lusting after a friends when he upgraded from his ZX81. Yes, I do still have the C64. In fact it's recently come down from the loft and I can confirm that it's in full working order. Unfortunately not all of my discs were as lucky. After all that time in the less than ideal conditions a number of them are totally unreadable. And as always, they were the ones that looked really interesting!
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
I'm not sure about the hardware, but I guess you have to put yourself back then and compare it to what was around at the time. I think it was more about what was going on at the time. The C64 came along with enough capability to unleash a lot of creativity so you could say that the C64 was a very inspirational machine.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Well, I'm sure there will be something. Since my return to the scene, I've been excited at the number of people still active which has given me a lot of inspiration. I've been dabbling with all kinds of things recently and even trying my hand at a little coding. It's slowly coming back to me, but I can see that I've forgotten much more than I remember! I'm not going to give any timescales as anyone who knows me will know that deadlines are not something I deal with very well.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Well, first of all I'd have to apologise for being incredibly slack and not replying to mails/letters etc. in the past! Something that I hope I'm better at now! I'd like to say a big thank-you to everyone who sent me demos. I've put a whole load of my old stuff online, and there's more stuff to come. www.dougroberts.co.uk/bizzmo
back to the list of available interviews