Wanderer / Diskmasters,
Canadian Pirating Federation,
The Rat Pack,
Rage For Order,
Fucked Beyond Repair,
Added on February 28th, 2006 (8035 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Mike, I'm in my late 30's and was born in Ontario, Canada. I live in a small town on the outskirts of Sudbury named Chelmsford. We are about four hours North of Toronto. I lead an organization that works with youth who have learning and behavioural challenges. My interests are outdoors activities, working out, programming, movies and visiting old abandonment's.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
My first handle was Satan. I spelled it "-=Satan=-" because there were a few other people using this handle. I began releasing modifications for C-Net BBS and was credited in the earlier versions of the Bulletin Board software.
In 1988 I made a decision to change my handle to Wanderer. It was not easy because I had built up a name for myself under Satan. The transition occurred as I was writing a demo named Powerdrive for the group Rampar. I felt that the name Satan was not very original, and being Catholic, it was also sometimes embarrassing when people spoke about my work. Picture the odd looks you'd receive if you were sitting at a coffee shop and a friend of a friend said to you, "I have so much of your stuff, Satan" something like that.
What group(s) were you in?
Oh my, this will be a tall order:
1) Diskmasters : A local cracking group, as most people started out in)
2) CPF : Canadian Pirating Federation (we released one Electronic Arts game)
3) TRP : The Rat Pack
4) Time League : My first real 'scene' group. I worked on a few demos and one crack.
5) The Survivors (86-87) : Boba Fette phoned me around Christmas, 1986, and told me that in the new year of 1987 that he was forming a new group. He would be leaving FBR to accomplish this. I didn't think that I would ever hear from him again but sure enough he phoned me in January 1987. I was not ready to be coding at the same level as other sceners but BF told me that he believed I would get better. I did.
6) Public Enemy (summer 1988)
7) Rampar (early 1988 to 1989) : The remaining members of The Survivors joined when Boba Fette went Amiga
8) Rage For Order (summer of 1989)
9) Fantasy (late 1989 - 1990)
10) FBR (late 1989, short time)
11) Evil (1990 to early 1991 when I left the scene)
12) Storm (early 1992 when I was talked into returning to the scene)
What roles have you fulfilled?
I was a coder, which involved making intros, demos and utilities. This work was at my own pace and of my own design. Sometimes I would make an intro/demo based on an idea that Boba Fette or Kid Quick (Rampar) had; more often than not it would be entirely up to my own creative designs. I also cracked, NTSC fixed and trained games but this work was minimal.
How long were you active for?
I was active from 1986 until 1992 (seven years) and returned in 2005.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I became interested in the scene after watching intros on games. I was fascinated by the visual effects. I would load games up to watch the intros. My friend would load up a game and slap the spacebar immediately whereas I would ask him to let me watch the intro. My brother was the first one in the family to learn 6502 assembly language. I would be fascinated with what he could write and slowly began to follow in his footsteps. I began by learning to print text on the screen. I then progressed to rough scrollers and simple sprite animations. Within a year I was releasing 'music rip' packages and demos with locally drawn pictures and smooth scrollers.
After Boba Fette introduced me to the true 'scene' the rest as they say is history. With it came a voice mailboxe of my own, conference calls, "elite" bulletin boards (I hate the word 'elite' because it means nothing in the real world) and contact with other sceners. I was able to download whatever I wanted from 'scene' bulletin boards. More importantly I had a network of other programmers to keep in contact with and to share ideas.
Some of the conferences involved talking with Nik, Pal and Just Ice of Ikari. Other people I spoke to were Kenneth of Across, Mason of Unicess, Jeff Smart (who HASN'T spoken with Jeff), The Last Dragon, Mandrake, and the list goes on and on.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I would attend school and come home to program whatever project I was currently engulfed in. I always had something on the go whether it was a demo, utility or an intro. I couldn't be in a state of rest. :)
Shortly after putting my address into my demos; I began receiving mail from around the world. It began in small trickles from Germany, Switzerland and soon ended up in receiving disks almost weekly from every imaginable country. I kept all of my letters and they were enough to fill a garbage bag. I couldn't possibly write to everybody so I chose select groups to trade with. One pleasant fellow I traded with was Mr. Wax of FBI Crew (aka Chromance). It wouldn't be until years later that I could truly appreciate the importance of mail trading if you lived in Europe. After a few trades, Mr. Wax ended up trading with my brother because I didn't have much time to dedicate to this. Sadly, Mr. Wax died in a car accident. I was saddened to hear this; he was one of the 'good guys' in the scene.
In the later years I would phone out to see what other groups were releasing as well as grab any new demos or utilities. I should all that I was never a game player. I would always prefer to view a demo or utility instead of playing a game. My joystick was only used for graphics programs. :)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
It must have been quite rough before the advent of modern utilities such as crunchers and linkers. As a programmer I certainly had the capacity to invent techniques. I wouldn't say that I made any special techniques, more like effects. I did something called DYCL, an X/Y splitter, and 25 scrollers (previously never before done on NTSC according to programmers on the Krak House BBS). I found it difficult to come up with new routines that were never before designed.
As for tools, I didn't create any tools to help myself but I did create a few for the scene. I made a music ripper that would automatically scan for, and save, music from many formats. There was a program that would password-protect your software (Soft Protect) and a utility named Lamer Killer. Lamer Killer would protect your game by encoding it and preventing anybody from placing an intro on top of it (ex. An American group might use it to prevent their import from being intro'd by a local lamer group). I have never found that utility since leaving the scene. If you happen across it, let me know, as I'd love to have it back. I also lived out every programmers dream to write a cruncher. It did a poor job and I never used it but my goal was just to be able to create one. :)
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
There are a few accomplishments that I am considerably proud of. The first is taking the dream that I once had, from looking at intros and demos, and turning it into a reality. I went from an unknown person to being known around the world (1987-89). At one point I was voted the #1 programmer according to Mamba magazine. I'm proud of that as well.
Some of my demos were considerably poor. I believed in releasing everything I wrote, even if it wasn't quite perfected. For this, there were some comments from other programmers that I should have worked longer on the program. On the other hand there were also quality releases.
I'm especially proud of the PowerDrive series, my Relentless demo, Lamer Killer, and being the first person on NTSC to take the preview of Cybernoid and turn it into a playable game. I have never been able to find that release nor do I remember what group I was in at the time. My early Survivor intros show a young and inexperienced programmer while the later intros (eg. Fantasy) show a more experienced veteran. I am proud of the Fantasy intros.
I am also proud that I remained out of the scene wars. As verbal fighting on bulletin boards escalated and conference calls were made, I listened on the phone but refused to become involved. To me there was no sense in exchanging verbal insults because of a computer. I got along with most everybody that I encountered.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
El Cid of UCF for his Fallout demo. That demo was remarkable for it's time and still is. 1001's ESCOS routine. I also looked up to FBR when I first began programming, as most of their programmers were an inspiration to me while others were not.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
I have seen so many effects and demos that this is difficult to say. I was quite impressed when Di-Sector was released. The fastest copier around, no drive LED, and it only allowed you to make three copies of the original disk. Di-Sector would later be named Fast Hack 'Em. I suppose the side border scrolling would be up there. I can remember the first time that I saw it I hadn't learned how to program yet and exclaimed, "That's impossible". I would have been lost if not for ECA linker. :)
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
No. Travel in North America is different than it is in Europe. It is much more costly over here. I have never met any other sceners. I did attend local copy parties though.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It's funny that you ask this. When I look at pictures of sceners found on other web pages, I laugh and think to myself that they are just kids with glasses with names like "Mr. Sex". I don't know how much sex any of them were getting but I don't think it was all that much. I then realize that at the time, I was also a 'kid' and it reminds me of just how long ago all this took place.
The scene was about young kids learning how to be creative on a Commodore 64. Some found their way through programming, others as graphic artists, and musicians. It was able human beings from all around the world learning how to find their creative ways with a competitive nature. Scene wars, crank phone calls, war demos to name just a few results of people taking competition too personally.
When I look at pictures from copy-parties and competitions I am saddened to have never attended such an event. I would have enjoyed being part of the comradery, and travelling to such beautiful countries in Europe.
Compare the kids of the scene in the 80's to the kids of today. Back then we actually learned something about programming whereas today kids are content to rot their minds on Playstation all day.
There were also some unwritten rules in the scene, some of which I didn't quite agree with. There was a game released called Blast Ball. I took our imported version and added a trainer to it. Boba Fette later told me that this was a 'no-no'. To me it didn't make sense that you couldn't release one version and then go on to release a better version afterwards. Clearly this is the case today.
Another unwritten rule was that of 'first release'. If a European group released a game before our European group did, we were not able to upload it to the boards. For example, let's pretend that Triad put out a version of Gauntlet and it made its way to BBS's in North America. Thirty minutes later Ikari gave us their version. We wouldn't be able to upload it because another group had beat us. Again, compare this to today's scene where people have the ability to CHOOSE what group's version they want. Different groups mean different quality, different trainers and filesizes. Back in the 80's you had to take the first version uploaded even though Europeans clearly mail-traded their own versions.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Joining The Survivors was a highlight. Seeing my name as the #1 NTSC programmer in Mamba was certainly a highlight. I don't feel I was ever in a #1 position but that's what voters at the time said.
Any cool stories to share with us?
There was one time when Mitch of Eagle Soft left a voice message on our VMB. His exact words were (in an exaggerated husky voice), "Anyone can crack using Kracker Jax (software)". We had beaten Mitch to a release of an original Electronic Arts game.
Another time members of Public Enemy were on a telephone conference and suddenly we heard someone come onto the line and announce, "This is AT&T security". I have never heard so many people hang up in such a hurry. In another Public Enemy conference we had another American group on line (Mayhem?) and proceeded to cut them up with "your momma" jokes. I kept silent because it just seemed to be a waste of time, these phone wars.
I can recall a time where my youngest brother was caught playing Stroker. My mother told me if she found any more of "that kind of software" being played, that we'd lose our C64.
I was able to work my way into North Eastern Crackers (NEC). That was a proud day indeed and I had many visions of my intros being used on their cracks. However I was a little too used to my freedom and released Wanderful (demo) without running it through Horizon first. I later found out from their sysop that he removed me from their group. Say what you will about me, but how many people do you know have been in NEC. :)
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Oh definitely. The internet has broken down all barriers of communication. There are few of my old friends left. I see it as mostly a new generation.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I began on the Vic-20 and later on, our family purchased a C64 at a bargain sale around 1985. We went through a few 64's in our time and at one point had two 64's, a PET computer and two large 4040 drives. I don't remember what happened to our final 64.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
I think that it set a milestone in the computer era. For one thing it will never again be repeated. Thousands of games released by young aspiring programmers, coding demos into the dead of the night, and meeting new people to trade with.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
In about four days from now. Might I add that my productions are not cracks of other peoples games. Imagine that, people actually writing their own stuff on a 64 in the year 2006.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
It was a wonderful time and I made so many friends and have such good memories of that time. It saddens me that so many people that I met have just vanished. I may come across as having strong opinions at times, and some may be quick to cast an insult at what I have done on the 64. This will never take away from the fact that I was part of the scene in its prime and forever will be.
back to the list of available interviews