Scorpion / Ziplers,
Added on October 2nd, 2010 (4328 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Antti Kangas and I'm 37 years old. I was born in Oulu, Finland on January 23, 1973. Nowadays, I live in Oulunsalo (about 10 km from Oulu). I have been working at Nokia since 1997. Today my duties are related to the LTE technology R&D. My interests – unsurprisingly – are related to computer programming, internet/WEB technologies, demos, games (PC, PS3, etc.), TV, movies and music in various forms, and a bit of exercise to balance.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
My handle was Scorpion, which I chose when I started in the scene back around 1988. I don't remember where it came from – probably just a word that first popped into my mind. In addition, I've used my own name in some groups/projects.
What group(s) were you in?
Ziplers (1988-1989), Contex (1989-1990), Artline Designs (1990->). Also, I was a member of Origo Dreamline and The Sharks but unfortunately with very little to no activity.
What roles have you fulfilled?
My main interest was always with coding (demos and music player), but I’ve also done some music and artwork for our demos.
How long were you active for?
I got into the scene in 1988 and quit at some point in 1990. I returned to do some improvements to my music player and a few quick tunes for the Assembly 1995 invitation together with The Sharks.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Some three or so years before joining the C64 scene, I had other computers; first a VIC20, then a Spectravideo 728 MSX, and later a Spectravideo 738 MSX. Around 1987, I got a C64. I already had started to code BASIC on the VIC20 and MS BASIC plus some machine code on the MSX machines. Therefore, it didn't take me long to get something going on the C64 and join the scene.
I first joined the Ziplers. I can't remember how I got to know the group; from some demo I suppose. I unfortunately only managed to do one demo for the group.
I then found out that Contex was looking for new talent and most importantly, Contex HQ (meaning Flex and Apollyon) was located in Oulunsalo, which was very near to where I lived. I contacted Flex and after some discussions, I joined Contex. That was the start of an excellent time in the scene where we made quite a few nice – or at least we thought so – demos. Our goal was to have a decent experience in code, graphics, music (including the amazing digi-pieces from Cycleburner), and overall design. I think we managed rather well, and our demos, starting with Expander, were well received. During the time in Contex, I had lots of fun, including attending two parties (see below for more details). Unfortunately, Contex came to and end in 1990 which was way too early in my opinion.
After Contex, I did some work for Artline Designs, although I really didn’t manage to release anything for the group apart from making some music (most of which were never released) and several improvements to the music player. I also joined Origo Dreamline by request, but de facto didn’t manage to produce anything for them. There were several reasons to this. I was studying in high school at the time and it meant longer days at school and somewhat more homework. I therefore had less free time to spend in front of the computer. Also, hanging out with the guys and other typical hobbies of an adolescent male also took its toll.
A few years later, after meeting Mysdee/The Sharks, I joined them and in 1995 produced two tunes for the Assembly 1995 invitation. After that, I've only occasionally looked at C64 stuff, mostly via an emulator on the PC, but unfortunately not contributing myself.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Apart from sitting in front of the computer, I went to school, played ice hockey, and hung out with friends. Some days, when I was actively coding on demo effects or on the music player, I even wrote some assembly code on paper at school during some less interesting classes and tried it out later at home. In fact, I came up with rather good and working ideas when not in front of the machine. I spent quite a few hours hacking away and didn’t get much sleep, but I guess at that age it's pretty much the same for everyone. ;-)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Unfortunately, I can't claim to have invented any new techniques as such. However, I did code my own music player routine which I considered to be a rather good compromise between sound quality, available effects, used memory footprint and – most importantly for a coder – rastertime. As I never had the time or energy to create a tracker or editor for the music routine, it was rather cumbersome to use. I'm sure Antti Hannula (a.k.a. Flex) is painfully aware of this as he has done the majority of his music with the different versions of the player. ;-)
In addition to the music player, I created a sound ripper that I used to see exactly how the sounds for bass, melodies, drums, arpeggios, etc., were done in other players. In practise, the tool searched for all accesses to the SID chip made by the players and recorded the values (per channel) for later investigation. This was very useful in getting ideas for our own sounds as well as making sure the player had the capability to produce all the latest tricks and gimmicks (such as combined bass drum and bass or arpeggio sound in a single channel).
Also, I made some other small tools such as a "loop unroller" which enabled to quickly generate long segments of unrolled loop code for DYCP's, etc. Those were tedious tasks that one had to do in order to squeeze rastertime to a minimum, naturally at the expense of memory.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I'd have to say I was most proud of being a member of Contex which at the time was a rather popular and successful group, especially in the demo side of it. We had an excellent cracking section too, but I wasn’t involved in that at all. As far as my own accomplishments are concerned, I think I could say that I’m happy of the fact I could create decent code, graphics as well as music, i.e. versatility of it all. As far as coding is concerned, I'd say probably the music player was my best accomplishment.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Oh, there were lots and lots of them. Having dabbled with code, music and graphics, there were many sceners and people that created games that I looked up to. Some (in no order and by no means an exhaustive list) people that immediately pop into my mind are: Crossbow, Kjer, Cycleburner, Jeroen Tel, Charles Deenen, Johannes Bjerregaard, Rob Hubbard, Drax, MacMagix, and Laxity. As entire groups (also, there are way too many to mention all of them), I looked up to: Crest, Horizon, Origo, Black Mail, Beyond Force, Flash Inc., Light, and Finnish Gold (they were pioneers in the Finnish scene). There are many many more that I could mention.
Later on, I grew to appreciate Byterapers Inc. due to their long-lasting impact to the (Finnish in particular) scene, their versatility and also the more – ehrm – side-scene having-fun culture. ;-)
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
There were a lot of cool stuff and I really don't want to say which the single coolest thing that was invented on the C64 was. For me, the coolest thing was that the evolution of the routines, tools, effects and the efforts to mix them up in more and more enjoyable ways. I believe that one of the key things of the success of the C64 scene (in addition to e.g. that so many people had/could afford having the machine), was that people came up with new things all the time. The scene progressed and kept it interesting year after year. It was always exciting to have a new demo and see what new ideas the guys had come up with. During my most active period, I always had a nice little tingle in my stomach when coming home after school to see whether I had received new stuff or not. ;-)
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I was not able to attend as many parties as I wanted to, but I did manage to visit Contex mini-party in Oulunsalo, Finland (June 1989) as well as the Horizon party in Vårby near Stockholm, Sweden (April 1990).
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
Clearly, to me the coolest thing about the scene was that back then in the pre-Internet, pre-cheap flights and inexpensive cellular communications days, adolescent/teenage people could organize their hobby to a practically world-wide "scene" consisting of numerous groups with numerous people (in many cases living in different countries and even on different continents) who work together to create demos with code, graphics, music mixed in a creative melting pot to produce works of art.
All this is perfectly natural today, but I consider the C64 scene to be a great example of what creativity, enthusiasm, ambition and open-mindedness of young people that are excited about their capabilities and love for the C64 can achieve. I agree this sounds a bit pompous, but the more I think about this, the more I agree with it.
What were the particular highlights for you?
My scene highlight was the Contex years when I really developed as a coder, graphics designer and musician (with good support, examples and friendship from the group; Flex and Apollyon in particular). Looking back, I would mention the Horizon party in 1990 as single highlight. It was special for me to travel with the guys to Sweden and meet some other members of Contex I hadn't met before, as well as lot of sceners from other groups.
Any cool stories to share with us?
I'm afraid I don't really have any cool stories to tell. I pretty much stayed in the background ("salt mine" if you will ;-)), concentrating mostly on my own contributions. Well, if you insist, the Contex mini-party in Oulunsalo was a cool event. It was my first. It was held in an old school and we pulled some pranks on both the participants and the school building itself. It was cool to meet Grendel who had exquisite gear with him: a children's tricycle (which he also rode) and a small trident spear (which was dubbed "party-atrain" in Finnish). ;-)
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Unfortunately to a very limited amount, mostly via Facebook, etc. There are some scene people though that I meet from time to time. Related to this, I have many times thought that it would be good to know how many guys working for Nokia is or has been involved in the C64 or other machines such as the MSX, Amiga, and PC. I bet there are a lot of them!
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got my first C64 around 1987, and later in 1990, I bought another one from Apollyon/Contex if I remember correctly. And yes, I still have them both, one of which is in working condition (the other one is for spare parts ;-)). In fact, the two machines had a different version of the VIC-II chip, where the one I bought later produced smooth colour bars whereas my first one didn't. That was one of the reasons – and the cheap price – that I bought the second one.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
By today's standards, no. However, when put into contex(t) of its time, yes absolutely. And, even though the C64 itself was an incredibly versatile machine with a good feature set, I believe the scene as a whole was what made it special.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
We'll see. I'd say it's somewhat unlikely for me to find the time with loads of work and family consisting of me, my wife, my daughter and three dogs. But never say never. The most likely production from me would be composing tune(s) in my music player, but I don't suggest anyone to hold their breath in the meantime. ;-)
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Sure! It is/was really, really great being part of the scene with you all. I hope you are happy and have found a comfortable spot in life for yourselves. If you're into Facebook or LinkedIn, get in touch!
back to the list of available interviews