Inferno / Swedish Cracking Crew
Added on August 18th, 2005 (6850 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Henrik and I was born in 1972 in a small west-coast town called Varberg (Sweden). I'm currently situated in Malmö – I moved down from Stockholm in the summer of 2004 – and I work in Copenhagen as a Product Manager for an e-business company called IBX (owned by Investor/Ericsson/SEB). However, I still find time to travel, hang out with friends/wife, and upgrade my Hi-Fi/home cinema equipment.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
Inferno. I was actually looking for a different name, and one night I came up with something I liked but forgot it the next morning. Inferno sounded cool enough though, so it stuck with me.
What group(s) were you in?
Swedish Cracking Crew (SCC).
What roles have you fulfilled?
Primarily swapper, but I also experimented a little with graphics for our demos and cracks.
How long were you active for?
I believe 1983-1986, and most intensively during 1985.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
We inherited a VIC 20 from our uncle and used it for playing games. In the beginning I believe we thought the C64 was too advanced! However, there weren't that many games to play on the VIC 20, so we moved over to the C64 pretty soon. While my brother Covenant started to learn programming (honestly, I never got hold of it), I started swapping. We came up with the name Swedish Cracking Crew some time in 1984 over a pizza in our basement. In the beginning, I traded only with other C64 nerds in my city, but I borrowed a Zzap!64 and a Computer and Video Games magazine from our friend Zzap and placed adds about swapping games. I received about 100 answers from all over the world! I think I sent parcels all over the world almost every day for at least 1,5 years, and I don't want to see the accumulated stamp bill even though we used a lot of tricks to fool the Swedish postal office! We were able to act as a node in a global network and got a lot of things really fast since not everyone knew one another at that time.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Well, we hardly played anything except for a few platform games like Alligata Blagger and Jumpman Jr. So a typical day would be checking the mailbox, tearing apart packages, checking the stuff on the disks, copying and then sending it on. Occasionally, we got our hands on originals that my brother Covenant cracked, and I would create some logos etc. The most fun part was probably writing scrolltexts together with Zzap. We argued quite often about who we should greet first. :)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
No, not really. At that time there weren't that many cartridges like Dolphin Dos etc. That stuff came later. I don't remember the names of the graphical programs we used, but it was very simple stuff including a lot of standard software from Commodore.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
Probably the speed with which we received new games and programs. We acted as a node between guys that worked in different game shops all over Europe, and we were able to get new released games and cracks within a few days. Also, not many groups were able to create demos in Sweden at that time (even though I blush looking at the quality of our stuff today :)).
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Unfortunately, I have forgotten most of the names but I remember 1001 Crew, Irata, Dynamic Duo, and Softrunner. I also had a good contact in the States... Perhaps the name was Eagle Soft or something similar. I didn't really see these guys as heroes, but more as useful contacts since they provided games fast. However, I really liked the game designer Antony Crowther for his graphics and Martin Galway for his music. Among the teams we'd heard of before SCC was started were 1701, WASP, Cream Crackers and a few others, so I guess they should have credit for being the real pioneers in the C64 area.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
I'm quite hard to impress, but during our active days Sodan came up with border sprites which was a cool thing. Also, believe it or not, the first couple of times we saw a scroll with rotating colour bars behind it was really cool. Another thing that comes to mind is the demo from Star Frontiers that had a 3D moving grid (Star Wars style) and a guy running on top of it. Child's play today, but really nice back then. And not to forget: audio sampling which was awesome the first times I heard it.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Not that many. The only one that was really fun was Danish Gold's party in Odense. I had almost stopped swapping at that time, but I was still quite young and got the opportunity to hang out with the older guys and drink some Danish beer! We were on the same train as Triad and possibly WCC/Fairlight and shared some laughs on the way. We also visited Arvika, Furulund, Eskilstuna, and Karlstad at one time or another, but I believe that might have been during the Amiga days.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
I think the scene (at least at that time) was very similar to what the graffiti scene has always been about (though I consider graffiti to be on the same cultural level as cigarette buts, dog shit and empty beer cans). It's about making cool things that are enjoyed and appreciated by a specific respected community, and also getting your name known. The goal for most swappers, musicians, artists and programmers was to get respect among their peers. This could be done by being the fastest swapper, the smartest programmer, the best graphician or the most talented musician.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Many. Coming home and unpacking our first C64 after driving 500 km to get it, and then playing Hexpert, Frogger and Blockman the first night was magic! Getting tons of mail after my adds in Zzap!64 and Computer and Video Games was an eye-opener to the swapper world. I also really liked when we cracked Rambo and Hyper Sports. The music was absolutely great and it was a lot of fun to just watch the loading process! The first samples I heard gave me goose bumps the first 100 times! In the end, the disaster meeting with Triad and WCC was, actually, a lot of fun.
Any cool stories to share with us?
Well, there is a few... The trip to WCC's meeting in Gothenburg together with Ixion, 3D and Arrow from Triad in 1987 was interesting. We were not invited but asked by Ixion to tag along to surprise WCC. It was actually a lot of fun meeting Sir Galahad, Mr. Pinge and a few others from WCC. We hung out, looked at demos and went out to eat and watch a movie (Labyrinth). I remember that the arcade game Gauntlet was new and we spent quite some money on playing it. The only problem at the meeting was that both SCC and Triad thought that certain people from WCC's Kalmar-section had a crappy attitude. Shortly said, they weren't very social (quite boring actually) and didn't let us use any of the computers they had brought along. The result was a fast hack the same night by 3D (Triad) where both Triad and SCC racked down on WCC. The theme was that they called themselves West Coast Crackers while actually having members from e.g. Gothenburg, Falsterbo, and Kalmar. It was a joke really but it wasn't received like one. :) I don't think the anti demos or the angry scrolltexts that followed were that serious and I guess both sides mostly thought it was fun to be a little destructive. I hardly swapped anymore at that time and most of my contacts were severed, so the "fight" with WCC is actually one of the last memories I have of the C64.
It was nice to have the 1001 Crew on a visit sometime in 1986/87. It was more or less a surprise visit one autumn (Zzap knew though) and I think we sat down to have tea and eat something strange that our mum cooked for us. The guys from Holland were all 1.90+ and I might have been 1.60 at the age of 14/15, so I felt really small.
I think Sir Galahad of WCC was cool and despite our quarrel during the WCC meeting in Gothenburg, we got along quite nicely. It was great fun to receive the original to PSI-5 Trading Company from him, which they weren't able to crack, and then see Covenant manage to do it. At least, that is my selective memory. :) I also got the Youngblood original from Galahad in 1986/87 and lost it. But I found it again in the mid 90's, and so if Galahad wants it back, I have it!
I received a mail from a guy in the Arabic country of Quatar in 1985. He wanted to swap games, and that was quite interesting! At another time, I met with a guy from Berlin (CFB) in Varberg and we had only communicated though standard mail and never mentioned age or personal things about each other. We decided to meet as he was travelling through. When we met in 1985, he was probably a bit over 20 and I was 13. I think that surprised him quite a bit! It was a lot of fun though and we still shared a lot of interests like games, movies and politics.
Finally, our mum hid the power supply cable almost every day for a couple of months to force Covenant to do his homework. I was offered about 80 SEK (9 EUR) per screen if I made the graphics to an adventure game by the Swedish games company American Action. That was about 30 Swedish crowns per hour which is less than children get walking their neighbours' dog!
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
No, unfortunately. Well, I meet my brother every now and then, and occasionally Zzap if I go out for a beer in Varberg, but that was a couple of years ago. I received a phone call from Arrow of Triad about seven years ago but I have forgotten what it was about! :)
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I think we got it in 1984. We sold it together with perhaps 500 disks in 1988 to some guy in Varberg. I haven't made any research on its whereabouts since. We also sold a C128 to someone who a lot later on called to complain that the disk drive didn't work, but we dodged that one. :)
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Difficult question since the C64 was not state-of-the-art when it came. However, it was easy to use and the scene/community around it was blooming. I believe that the distribution of cracks, rips, demos etc. contributed to the success of the C64. It was very easy to use and its openness made it possible for programmers and graphicians to continually find new ways of extending the borders of what was possible. That is the definition of a nice toy!
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Unfortunately, it's not very likely being without the hardware and all. Though, if I was invited to some kind of joint demo I could try to draw some sprites or a background! :) I still like to paint and I have some stuff in tempera, acrylic and oil at home.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
I hope that all the people we were in contact with have been successful with whatever they've been doing since! It's great to see that the scene is still thriving even though I don't think people back then saw it as a coherent community like people do today. It would be nice to say hello to some old friends like Honey of 1001, Eric Boucher in Paris, Irata, CFB, Yip and Pure-Byte, Softrunner, Ixion of Triad, Dynamic Duo and others. Great initiative to dig up all these old stories!
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