Ian & Mic / Horison Developments,
Ian & Mic,
Teeside Cracking Service,
Added on February 15th, 2007 (10566 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Ian and Mike Jones, born Billericay, Essex, England 9-12-1971. We are both living in different parts of Essex now from where we commute by train to London every day. Mike: I am working in the Canary Wharf business district of London, and I am working as a Business Analyst in IT for a Global Investment Bank based in London. Since quitting programming about three years ago, I now plan, design and document system requirements for developers. Ian: I am currently working in the city of London for the Royal Bank of Scotland as a Application Developer. I also run my own on-line business selling Canvas prints.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
The handle was really the shortening of our real names so that in the early days of the Commodore 64, only seven sprites were needed out of the eight to display the name. Obviously, Ian can not be shortened any further but Michael became Mic, hence the name Ian & Mic.
What group(s) were you in?
Horison Developments, Ian & Mic, UK Team, Teeside Cracking Service, Relax, Triad, and Reptilia Design.
What roles have you fulfilled?
How long were you active for?
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Our interest in computers started about 1984 when our older brother bought a Sinclair ZX81. We used to spend hours and hours typing in programs written in Basic from various computer magazines to see what they did. The programs were often very basic Games that did not always work or even save properly to tape, and would sometimes fail to re-load before they have even been run. The ZX81 had this horrible membrane keyboard. The ZX81 that we owned also had a dodgy power cable that could full out at any time after hours of entering thousands of lines of code containing endless lines of data.
The next machine that we bought was a Commodore Vic 20 where we started to write our own programs and games in Basic. I think we probably wrote about 20 games that we gave to our local friends to play. Over the next two years, we replaced theVic 20 with a Commodore 128 that had a C64 mode, and a machine code monitor built in. We bought the C128 on the very weekend it first arrived in the shops with the game Kickstart by Mastertronic. That was such an addictive game that fuelled our desire to want to know more on how machine code worked. We made it our ultimate goal to learn machine code as soon as possible.
The built in machine code monitor allowed us to learn quickly how games were written in machine code as you could intercept any C64 game to view the actual code in mid-flight. This is how we basically started to learn Machine Code by looking at existing code and then reading Machine Language books to cross reference the commands.
About the same time, we started attending a weekly computer club that had only just recently opened in a local college specializing in Information Technology. It was one of the first colleges to open specializing in this new field of IT. At the computer club, we were introduced to people who were connected to the Compunet network via their C64's and a dial-up modem. This was actually one of the first computer networks available where users shared information, programs, blogs, and chatted in chatrooms with each other. The network was mainly accessed by users located in the United Kingdom, but could be accessed by anyone in any part of the world if they were willing to pay the expensive phone bill. The Compunet network was almost certainly a forerunner of the Internet as we know it today. We believe that Compunet played a major role in the creating of the first demo-writing groups. It was a real showcase of early talent.
These early groups wrote simple demos and uploaded them for other users to freely download and to cast votes and comments. Over time these demos became more impressive and extremely competitive, with groups trying desperately to out-perform each other. Users on Compunet would cast votes on each demo uploaded from one to nine. The demos which received the most votes of nine, would appear at the top of a download leaderboard thus creating fame for that group.
We both desperately wanted to become part of that scene, so we set to work on creating demos that would hopefully catch the eye of the thousands of users on Compunet to download and vote nines. One of the first set of demos that we uploaded to Compunet was called the Light Concert demos. These demos contained lots of flashing disco lights made out of lots sprites flashing in rhythm to the music. After uploading the first demo, which had about 20 lights, another Compunet Demo group called The Mean Team uploaded their version of a Light Concert style demo, which had even more sprites, including the side borders. This started a friendly rivalry between The Mean Team and us to create the demo with the most disco lights flashing in time with the music on the screen at once. I think our last demo had over 60 lights including both borders. The friendly competition between our two groups created a lot of interest in our demos and sent them to the top of the Compunet leaderboard. After this, we decided to create demos that would be more unique and different. At around this time, an old school-friend called Rob Whitaker joined us to provide all the nice graphics and animations to our demos. After the initial fame from the Light Concert demos, all our following demos and utilities were heavily downloaded, and were then shared with C64 users beyond the Compunet system and around the world.
It was traditional for any Compunet user to always greet fellow users in their demos and thus the scroller with the greetings was born. It seemed the more people you would greet in your demo, the more online votes you would receive, so the bigger the greetings list, the better. If you forgot to greet somebody, then almost certainly they would vote your demo a one out of nine, which would badly affect the leaderboard rating on Compunet.
For us, demo writing was an exciting way to explore the machines' capabilities and to build a routine library for future developments. When we reached the age of 15, we had already had two computer games published (Scout by Virgin Mastertronic and Radius by Players), which earned us enough money to start a games development company when we left school called WOW Software. It is funny thinking back now, but just before we left school, we had to have separate interviews with the schools careers officer to advise us on possible careers to take. We both had mentioned separately that computer programming was our ambition. The response was very surprising as back in those days nobody took programming to be a serious career, and we were advised to think about doing something else instead of programming. Hell no! That would never happen now!
The money made from the early budget games published whilst we were still at school, was used to rent office space on a nearby business park to start developing games for publishers full time. The games that were developed were either original concepts designed by ourselves and submitted to the publishers for valuation. Or they were conversions to the C64 from other machines, for example the Spectrum, Amstrad or an arcade game conversion. Our software development company was in business for about three years, and in that time we had published about nine games in the shops. The same business was also selling mail order software through magazine advertising and was very profitable. After about three years, we decided to move on from games development because the industry was loosing its spark. Around this time, we also had a long court battle with a games publisher called The Edge (owned by Tim Langdell) who's only ambition in life was to rip off as many programmers, musicians and graphic artists in every way he could. He used every delay tactic known to man to resist payment, so we decided justice will prevail using legal aid and try to reclaim our earnings through the courts. We eventually won the court case with his company but we did not receive the money that was owed to us or the Maniacs of Noise for the music as he cowardly left for America. But we got some comfort that he ceased trading in the UK through our efforts, with their reputation in tatters. In those last months we would spend days and nights without sleep for weeks on end writing routines and games that had tight deadlines. There was no fun in games development anymore so it was the right time for us to move on.
The list of games and projects:
Radius (Interceptor Software/Players)
Scout (Virgin Mastertronic)
Starball (Softek International/The Edge)
Street Cred Football (C64 conversion from Amstrad/Spectrum - Players)
Street Cred Boxing (Players)
Assault Course (Players)
Solder Of Light (ACE/The Edge)
Subway Vigilante (Players)
Thunderbirds are go (magazine demo and trailer - Amiga (Grandslam))
Scout (Amiga, not published - Virgin Mastertronic)
Zynon (C64, not published)
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
During the mid-1980's, typical days and nights would be spent in front of two commodore 64's connected to normal television sets in our spare room of the house. None of the computers were connected to monitors like PC's today. During the weekends, we would typically spend days and nights in front of the machines without sleep, alternating between writing new demos and connecting to Compunet to check votes, latest downloads, and emails. You could only log onto Compunet for an hour or two at a time because the phone bill was very expensive then. Some demos would nearly take an hour to upload or download.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I know a lot of people may not agree with what I am about to say, but I thought the Demo Creator utility that we put together was very popular and gave hundreds of great artists who were connected to Compunet the ability to join in the demo culture of creating long scrolly messages and showcasing their pictures to the world. The downside was an explosion of demos being uploaded that were identical except for the picture-music-scrolly messages. But it did have a record amount of downloads for any program uploaded on there.
The period between 1989 and 1991 was probably the proudest moments because we were making money out of something we loved, games development. Ian was now working full time on mastering the Amiga and was creating a lot of good demos on this machine to ultimately progress onto games development. At this time, we were at our busiest as we were subcontracting a lot of work to other programmers, graphic artists (including Rob Whitaker), and musicians to try and complete all the contracts that we were under. We were also writing a weekly news column in a top UK weekly computer magazine called New Computer Express.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
It was actually a demo duo called Bob and Doug on Compunet that really impressed us with their demos that had slick graphics and cool music from Demon. Those early demos impressed us enough to try and create our own. I think in the latter days of the C64 demo scene, it was groups like The Judges and 1001 Crew that were breaking boundaries with cool new routines that seemed to defy what the machine could do. Those guys really impressed us. I don't think many people beat them when it came to being ground-breaking. I was also impressed by how quickly Jeroen Tel and Charles Deenen became top class musicians on the C64 with the Maniacs of Noise. These guys were good friends of ours who we met with quite frequently at the PCW shows in London. They also supplied a lot of the music to our games. We also had a lot of admiration for Martin Galway and Rob Hubbard who created some of the most mind blowing music we've ever heard on the C64. Mike: I still get goose bumps now if I hear some of those tunes.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Mike: I think the two coolest things ever invented on the C64 were the FLD routines and sprite-multiplexing. These routines lead to large amounts of data or sprites to be bounced around the screen and really helped to push the C64 into its own league. No other machine around at the time could produce games as stunning as the C64.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
We went to nearly every Commodore computer show in London's Hammersmith Novotel and most of the PCW shows. These were excellent places to meet people in the scene.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
In our opinion the scene was all about sharing ideas, meeting new people and feeling part of something really special. It was a very close community of like-minded people who were competitive and cutting edge. It was a special time and I don't think we will ever experience anything like it again.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Any cool stories to share with us?
Mike: I remember one year when the Maniacs of Noise came over to the PCW show in London, and that they stayed at my parent's house at the time. They must have been shocked to learn that their accommodation for the night was a tent in the garden. I can't remember how many people we had staying over, but it must have been a few to put a tent up in the garden. I hope it wasn't too cold for those guys. Another highlight was going to Eastbourne on the south coast of England during the summer to stay at Ash & Dave's place. We would co-write joint demos together on the C64 and Amiga and then go out to their local clubs for beers. I haven't seen or heard from those guys since leaving the scene in the early 1990's.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
We are not in contact with anyone from the scene anymore, life has moved on.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
Mike: I still have the Commodore 128 at my house but it doesn't work because of the power pack. I did buy a Commodore 64 from eBay a few years back for nostalgic reasons, but the SID-chip has blown on it. Ian still has the Amiga which was used eventually as a midi sequencer in his music studio. Ian: I got into the rave music scene creating various trance and club dance tracks that we released onto white label. We used the Amiga initially but moved onto the PC to use Cubase for more complex audio arrangements. If anybody is interested in listening to some of these tracks, I can forward them to you.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Yes of course, without a doubt. It was a Pandora’s Box, always so much to discover about the machines true potential and probably there are still things never discovered. We will always have fond memories of the C64 and the scene that followed it.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
We have no plans to write any new demos or games for the C64.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
We would like to say hi to Ash & Dave, The Gronk, Bod, Gary Gould, JCB and Claka (Mean Team), God & Sake, The JCS, Mr Ping, Charles Deenen, Jeroen Tel, Robert Whitaker, Snake and Stack, Thargoid, and all the other people I have missed that we worked closely with.
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