King Fisher / Zaints,
Added on February 10th, 2006 (7969 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Linus Walleij, born June 5, 1972, Ljungby, Sweden, living in Lund where I work for different companies.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
First I think it was Darth Vader in 1986 (cool yeah?), and that was at the time I drew a silly picture of Vader that later ended up in a Royalty demo. Quite obvious where that came from. Then it was King Fisher. Well, it's Captain Mr. King Fisher really, I still have no clue where it came from. "Fisher" may be from Carrie Fisher or from Bobby Fisher the chess champion, or maybe none of them. I had no idea that there was a bird and a brand of fishing-equipment named like this, really I didn't. But I thought it was cool when I found out. I have also been known as HTLV-3 of Lamex and the "Kung of MUST" and a few others I cannot remember right now.
What group(s) were you in?
It was The Zaints, Byterapers Inc., Mute 101, Royalty, Rebels and Triad in that order.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I coded and cracked. Nowadays I find biographies of myself on the Internet that get it all wrong and mail from stupid people that think I can hack into mainframes. Does every other "cracker" (which is a term that does not apply well to the thing that is called so nowadays) get stupid remarks like that? Anyway, that was what I did.
How long were you active for?
1986-1998? Don't know any end date, somehow I'm still active, just very slow. Very, very slow. Like you know veins now full of plastacine and everything real slomo. I will get more motion when I grow up. Oh no, wait, I already did. I will do more when I can stop to work and earn stupid money and take care of cute children.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Those were the days. I would attend school, fall asleep, code all night, and party with friends in the weekends. How could I have so much time on my own? I still miss it.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I didn't spend all days in front of a computer. Well, perhaps at some stage, or well, some days. I would just program, debug, loose code in crashes, curse, listen to Metallica, Front 242 and Bob Dylan, code more, read books, read magazines, code etc. In one period of my life I used a modem, but it broke. When I got my own apartment, I decided I wouldn't have a phone line and live real isolated for a while.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
No I was really bad at that. I would do every project from scratch in a machine-language monitor (today they call these debuggers, indicating that they really should not be used for real work), and a lot of time passed before I even used an assembler.
However, I made tape to disk transfer tools at some point, one that could copy level files saved with Cyberload. It was funny this Cyberload, most known for being used on the first Last Ninja, programmed by John Twiddy, who also created the Expert Cartridge. It was real complicated to get into, but no big deal once you spent the time required. The most complicated thing he did was to load code from say zeropage ($00c0 or so) through the top of the stack ($0100) and proceed until it would overwrite the return pointer of the routine currently executing with 01 01 01 01..., which made it jump to address $0102 and execute a second-stage loader there. This of course messed up the whole BASIC interpreter and even large parts of the ROM since these depended heavily of the lower zeropage addresses. This didn't bother Twiddy of course since he was using the machine without ROMs and could debug the thing using his own (probably modified) cartridge. But this made it very hard to modify that routine and exploit it to download levels to disk, so you sort of had to implement the entire thing again through reverse-engineering.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I don't know if there is anything to be particularly proud of. I'm more ashamed of not understanding things fast enough and learning computer architecture and assembly at such a slow pace.
Some people will probably say that Red Storm was a masterpiece. I did this demo with Che (Alfatech, then in Triad) and it worked out really well. Hans (TDM) did the music and there was graphics from every artist we had in Triad all over it. It was the Demo equivalent of a concept album like those Pink Floyd use to make. However, Red Storm was more about luck and chance, and it just happened. At one point I had to re-program one of Alfatech’s parts in a very weird way just to get it working with the trackloader. The loader assumed a main loop in the program so you could get out and move on to the next part. However Alfatech put in a
and if I tried to add something to get out of that loop, a counter, even a read off a zeropage, it would mess up the rasters, and everything started bugging. I ended up getting out of the part from the interrupt by issuing a few extra PLA:s and JMP off to the loader. It worked and looked smooth but took a long time of debugging before it started working.
People praise this demo for design but there was no conscious planning. I was watching U2 videos in the Zoo TV concept, these use the "cut-up"-technique invented by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, also called "media jamming" in some contexts. The idea is to cut and mold things together at random, and Red Storm is just like that.
The title comes from Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancey, an author who is technically prominent but whose characters are notoriously two-dimensional (a trait also characteristic of the so-admired Dan Brown), but I was impressed by his research into cold war strategy so it stuck, not for his abilities as an author but for this mental image of the beast in the east that the western hemisphere was so afraid of in the 1980’ies and early 1990’ies.
The demo has a dubious political nature: I always thought of it as a anti-communist demo using communist symbolism, but obviously not every viewer interpret it that way. These hammers and sickles were initially added by 801DC to Triad demos just to annoy Tony (Strider of Fairlight) who was a rightist of some sorts and hated the Swedish social democratic welfare-state which he though was sort of communist. When I later sent off some Illegal magazine copies to Strider long after his move to the US I couldn't resist putting a hammer and sickle on the envelope...
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
The Dutch groups 1985-1987: 1001 Crew, USA-team, The Judges, Hotline. Plus the other people there: TMC (Charles Deenen), Jeroen Tel and so on. These guys created the Demo Scene. Well perhaps a few more people like Radwar, Yeti Factories, S0dan and the Dynamic Duo deserve some respect too. However, those guys, especially 1001 and The Judges, started the intense technical competition – my routine beats your routine – that grew into The Scene.
I do not know if this corresponds to what other people say about the birth of The Scene, but as far as I can tell, crack intros grew into demos at one particular place and at one particular time, and that was in Holland in 1986. I don't know at what time they started having parties in Venlo, perhaps not until 1987, but it all happened there.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
FLI (Flexible Line Interpretation). I cannot remember who invented this, just that Beyond Force (Finland) were the first to exploit it for doing "splits". This was in 1988, so everybody was trying to do as many rastersplits as possible, for example Finnish Gold’s Paranoia had nine splits, and FLI enabled 40 splits, later 80 splits if you thought twice. FLI was also the technique used to a large extent in Origo Dreamline’s Eldorado, which is in my opinion the best C64 demo ever made. It is so very, very C64. Absolutely nothing, anywhere, anytime, looks and sounds like this demo.
You could argue that the real idea used in FLI is actually White's FLD (Flexible Line Distance) routine, just twisted around, and there is some truth to this. All cool stuff came out of manipulating $d011 (and $d016 to lesser extent), but in my opinion, FLI was the coolest thing that ever came out of $d011, closely followed by hardware scrolling of bitmaps, sideborder sprites, and lower- and upperborder sprites.
In 1986 I would of course say that ESCOS (Extended Screen Construction Set) was the coolest routine. But looking back, FLI takes first place.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I went to so many I cannot remember them. My first was a party in Alvesta 1987, arranged by The Silents. I don't remember how I got to know of this, but I took the bus there and I ran into Grendel, Janitor (then in Relax), Kaktus & Mahoney, Xakk and all these cool guys. However I didn't know that until later. I was a disrespectful idiot who just got his C64.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It was that "my-routine-beats-your-routine" thing that started in Holland in 1986. It later grew into something much bigger, much different, but still with the same core.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Showing our demo Metal Generation on the big screen at the Horizon party in Vårby was quite fun. I also vaguely remember some meeting in Furulund in 1988 that was very, very crowded. This group called Uggadunk was destroying hardware and playing pornographic sounds out loud, people were watching Trail Mix by Soedesoft, and copying demos using nibbler programs (disk copy programs said to override protection schemes). I fell asleep on a keyboard at one time and on a concrete floor another time. But I felt great!
Any cool stories to share with us?
Didn't I just line up a few!? Hell. Here is a legend: in Alvesta 1988 (I didn't witness this myself, so could be myth) Janitor and Strider were arguing about who was the greatest, Triad or Fairlight. Tony (Strider) said (in Swedish): "du måste erkänna att Fairligt är störst!", to which Janitor replied: "menar du fysiskt...?" (this is untranslatable, sorry, but a real insult, since Strider was sort of overweight). Janitor had to run... Anyway perhaps Fairlight was the greatest and Strider is a real nice person when everything comes around.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I get mail, I reply. I actively mail Gunnar (Jerry/Triad) and I actively meet Skyflash/Oneway every now and then. TDM/Triad was and is still one of my best friends, and we keep in touch.
In Lund where I live, you naturally run into people like Kaktus, Mahoney and Moppe of Oneway, so we say hi. Strangely enough, I don't run into Yodelking, or it could be that I don't recognize him, though he lives here. Zizyphus of Oneway even works in this building where I am, but I’ve never said hi to him. How rude... I must do it immediately after finishing this letter.
Whenever there are meetings in Lund or Helsingborg I try to attend them, and there are still quite a few of them.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got it in 1987 but already had programming skills by lending machines from friends and acquaintances. My family couldn't afford to give me one so I had to deliver morning papers to save up for one. I still have this motherboard somewhere but don't know which one it is. However, I have collected something like 20 C64 machines "just in case" so I always have working hardware.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Yes. What if Commodore had won instead of IBM? Or if Commodore would have been what Apple was instead? I am currently reading On The Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore and a shiver runs down my spine when I think of how close it was.
From a programmers perspective, the hardware was very unique. Many other home computers had really boring hardware. Another thing was that the same hardware was available everywhere, you could rely on all users having the same setup. Nowadays I work a lot on Linux and the plethora of hardware (and especially defect hardware) in the PC-compatibles really mess things up - even if I don't believe in monopolies there are certain downsides to this. Apple exploited and still exploits their knowledge of the hardware to the maximum. This way they save LOTS of time.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
My children must be able to take care of themselves first. Say the year 2020 or so.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
You should tell everyone this: "think for yourself", and "don't be afraid". Good rules to live by always come in quotes like that. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law", "nothing is true, everything is permissible". Keep your imagination and childishness, don't grow old. Have fun, because we're all here to go.
back to the list of available interviews