Tron / The Car,
Wiseguy Industries 2015 Inc.
Added on December 8th, 2007 (5715 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Name: Erwin Beekveld. Born: 08-05-1969 in Poortugaal-Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Residence: Hoogvliet (Rotterdam), The Netherlands. Job: freelance IT. Interests: music, photography, computers, philosophy, and science.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I only used one handle if it involved computers: Tron. I of course got it from the forgotten Walt Disney movie with the same name. Around the same time I got my first (and only) C64, the family bought our first VHS. Illegally copied movies soon found their way to the bulky machine, one of which was Tron. Computer graphics started to pop up here and there, but Tron was a movie that was heavily relying on it. And even though we only had a Nth generation copy of the movie, and the quality was way beyond bad, I was baffled by the beautiful never-before-seen art and the music by Wendy Carlos. Tron was a hero for me. He killed the bad guy, got the girl and saved the entire mainframe! Now, how much cooler can one get in the eyes of a computer nerd? Tron was also an abbreviation of TRace ON. A BASIC programming language command to help debug code. So it became Tron, and I never felt the need to change it. Music wise, I'm also known as Creekfield, Confessant, Erwin Beekveld, or the "Hobbit guy".
What group(s) were you in?
The Car, Trant and WiseGuy Industries 2015. I just kinda ended up in these groups by simply hanging around.
What roles have you fulfilled?
Not many really. I just made sure I had some useless things to type for the scrolltexts. Some of my tunes that I happen to have lying around were also used.
How long were you active for?
Hmm... From 1984 when I got my C64 until it died on me for the last time after numerous repairs in 1989-ish. I was so disappointed that I destroyed the PCB and sold the components to whomever was interested. The SID, which was the bestest sounding chip I had ever heard (it was my 3rd btw), went to A0D. I can remember wanting to have a C64 again after a year or two, but I couldn't be satisfied with an average SID. So, before I was to go out and buy myself another breadbin, I asked A0D if I could buy the SID back for a generous amount of money and provide him with another. His answer was a short and definite no. Can't say I can blame him. So that was the end of my C64 days.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Strangely, back then I never considered myself part of a scene because it didn't seem like a scene to me. It certainly wasn't a conscious decision to "enter a scene". It was simply doing what I liked to do. I never fitted in anywhere else. All the interests that my fellow school attendees had just seemed so superficial to me. Especially the girls. The civilisation around the C64 didn't care about brand of clothes, shiny mopeds or the latest chart hit. It was about having fun. It was a different world, although I didn't think about it that way then. Looking back, I reckon it enlarged the cavity between me and "normal" world. Normal values didn't apply. There were times when we played on the C64 weeks on end until we fell asleep. It was always a surprise when I woke up to see if it was light or dark outside. I had no clue, and I really didn't care.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I would wake up and try to comprehend where I was, what I was doing there before I fell asleep and if it was dark or light outside. Was anyone awake and working on the C64? No? Turn it on and do... things. Strange that I can't really tell what I would do on a C64 on an average day. Just... things. Playing, making music, poking the SID, sifting trough someone else's floppies, or load up a demo to listen to the SID music.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Erm... I did make a little proggy to help me to learn German words. Only got straight A's after that.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I wrote a program specifically to mix two samples of a snare drum and a shot gun to get the most massive snare drum sound ever.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Galway of course, for his delicate filter usage. Hubbard too for groundbreaking SID techniques. But I always had a weak spot for Jeff Minter and his cattle fetish. Yes it's weird that a person can be so obsessed with sheep, llamas and camels that he actually makes games about them. But the games were fun and had a consistent factor. I like people who can be fanatic about the simplest of things.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Well, I'm not even embarrassed to say that it's definitely the Noise Phase by... me! Although it wasn't very hard to do, I managed to get two oscillators to produce the same random noise and slightly shifting them out of phase. This makes that distinct sound of a jet flying over at low altitude. It only worked if the noise/random generator was not used after power-up, but it did work and sounded great! I used the effect in one of my tracks called Hawaiian Punch. To my knowledge, no one else ever used the technique. Next to that, speech recognition on the C64.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Only a couple of times. I got plenty of software from my friends, and I never felt the need to get the newest of the newest on copy-parties. I never went to meetings as I wasn't in contact with anyone else but my direct surroundings. And tradeshows... Yes! All that nice new hardware gave me a hard-on without even owning the stuff.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
Prestige, competition, acknowledgement and fun. Why would any one spend dozens of hours programming a demo and spread it without making a single dime? My distilled view of people involved in demo making is that they, like anyone else, seek acknowledgement. "Look! See what I made?" It's healthy to work on something that will get you the satisfaction of people actually liking/appreciating it. Some teens tagged on walls while others showed off by becoming good skaters. We made demos. Over time, just like graffiti, it grew into a form of art risen from a subculture. And since our tool - the C64 - didn't change over time, we literally had decades to master the techniques, many of which we first had to discover/invent ourselves. And during that period it evolved into this almost iconic, instantly recognisable 8-bit demo art which can only be appreciated by the in-crowd who know about the limitations and see the effort that has gone into the making. We showed the world what we were capable of, and it felt damn good.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Speech recognition on the C64
Martin Galways' "samples"
Fast loader for tape
Fast loader for disk
Parallel data transfer to the disk drive
The most useless invention on the C64: the mouse
Any cool stories to share with us?
One day, I couldn't find my C64 or 1541 disk drive. That was really strange as the C64 was the centre of my social circle at the time. And it's not that small either! It's even more strange because my room was only 3*4.5 meters. How could I not find a complete C64 and disk drive in there? After a couple of days I found them behind my bed where I had put them to make room on the floor for something. I simply forgot.
Oh, of course! I remember being completely dumbstruck when I popped the disk drive lid open by hitting it with my finger nail and out pooped... a smartie. "Huh?!?" I had a smartie fight in my room the previous day and I had removed the top cover of the drive for some maintenance. I simply forgot.
I managed to completely shatter a Suzo Competition Pro joystick. My friends know that it's almost impossible to make Tron angry. But if it happens, like it did when they tried to distract me while I was playing an insanely difficult level of some game, no "press space for super bomb" comes close to the destructive force of Tron. When I was done slamming the supposedly indestructible Suzo to the television set, I had nothing more in my hand than a stick with some pieces of micro switch dangling on a couple of wires. They never forgot.
My C64 had, apart from the alternative kernal kindly provided by Mr. Mad, a wireless FM transmitter so I could tune in with any receiver or ghetto blaster.
I managed to "enhance" Druid's C64 with six extra switches and 13 extra leds. All of which had a function. He still has it.
The C64 caused a lot of radio interference. I used a radio to "listen" to my C64's internal workings. It helped me adjust the tape head of my datasette and I could determine if my C64 still was calculating or decrunching by listening to it's "static". Commodore-FM, I used to call it.
I've fried two SID-chips in my life. Both times it was because I used the same shitty audio cable without insulation. One would think that Tron would have replaced the five Dutch Guilder cable for a proper five Dutch Guilder cable in stead of continuing frying SID's that cost almost 90 Dutch Guilders. Tron is a stubborn person.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Of course. The foundation of my social circle was set back then. I still see the people I saw regularly then, and I consider them real friends. They have the same weirdness and "don't care about what the rest of the world thinks" attitude as I do. I feel comfortable and can share most anything with them. No matter how often or little I see them on a yearly basis, it feels good to know that they're there. And if I do see them, it's like nothing has changed over the years. And really, nothing has.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I had gotten my first C64 early 1984, I think. It was a stolen one and I didn't care about that at the time. The disk drive was newly bought after some years. After a great number of years it died on me, and a couple of repairs didn't extend it's life all that long. So I wrecked it and sold it in parts. I never owned a C64 after that (excluding recent developments, see below). The new doorstopper sounded absolutely shite so that wasn't an option, and second hand C64's were rare in them days.
Like so many, I made a switch to the Amiga. I own/owned a 500, a 2000 and a 1200, but none of them gave me the thrill that the C64 did. Sure, the graphics potential was way better than the C64 and being able to play 4 "high quality" samples simultaneously opened up music possibilities that we could only dream of before the Amiga. But the lack of warm analogue synthesis of the SID made it simply a game machine to me. As far a I was concerned, it had nothing to do with the Commodore I knew.
However, I recently bought a huge stack of C64's and hardware with Mr. Mad. Seventeen in total with an equal amount of hardware. We did this mainly because two of those seventeen C64's were SX-64's. Only some 7000 of these SX-64's were produced, compared to the 17 million of the regular C64. So, it's a pretty rare machine and I treasure it. There is an imaginary line around it. And anybody who dares to cross that line will lose a leg.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Well, Yes. And no. No, as the specs of the machine were usual for that time period. Maybe a little ahead when it first got released, but not much. What made it special was me, you and millions of other people using it as creatively as possible. And yes, as it had the SID chip. In the history of computers, I have never seen any other that had a sound chip with low-, band-, and high-pass filters in it. Ever! It is a feature one would only see in the more advanced synthesizers. If we talk about a unique capability of a home computer, this is it! And let's face it. The filters are what give the C64 it's distinctive sound (and the waveforms, and the variable pulse-width, and the proper envelope generators -- but let's not get into any geeky details right now).
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Well, I don't think so. It was fun and all, but the "prestige" factor on the C64 that I had in them days is gone. They're still making amazing things on the machine, but my field of prestige has moved away from creating on the C64 over the years.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
To anyone who thought I was crazy listening to SID's on my Walkman instead of the latest chart hits: "Pwn3d, motherf@^#ers!" *flipping the finger fanatically* Lamers... To anyone else reading this, maybe some Beekveld quotes:
"Nobody ever said that life is easy. But there is no point in making it more difficult than it already is."
"If you defend your point of view as fierce as the opposition, at least 50% of the time you will have it your way. Who wouldn't want to settle for that?"
"There are no problems, only solutions." (Kevin Flynn Walt Disney's Tron)
"Atari sux big time."
"They're Taking The Hobbits To Isengard!" (Legolas Greenleaf Lord Of The Rings)
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