Ironfist / The Delta Force,
Laser Cracking Service,
Public Enemy #1,
Electric Boys Entertainment Software
Added on February 1st, 2011 (4387 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Russ Michaels, just turned 40, born in Sussex in 1970. I'm currently living and working in Margate, Kent, and I'm the director and founder of www.bluethunderinternet.com. I also run www.cfmldeveloper.com, www.cfsearch.com and my blog www.michaels.me.uk. I'm a workaholic and my job consumes most of my time, but outside of work, my time is devoted to my three children Austin Blade, Bret Maverick and Teyla Rayne.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
My only handle in the C64 days was Ironfist. This came from the comic book character of the same name. Like most geeks, I loved superhero comics.
What group(s) were you in?
My first ever group was The Delta Force which was a demo group on Compunet. I was about 15 at that time, so this was in 1985. My partner in crime was James McNiven (aka Chopper) who did all the artwork and who now works at www.kerb.co.uk (I believe he is a director).
After my Compunet time, I joined Laser Cracking Service with Steve Williams and some others whose names I forget. Then there was the infamous Zenith, again with Steve Williams who did most of the cracking. I did most of the intros, trainers, level skippers and stuff like that.
I also did a brief stint with Public Enemy #1; wrote a couple of intros and did a couple of cracks. I don't recall if this was before or after Zenith. I also helped out some American importers called NPN and ATC by writing them some intros and stuff. I used to spend many a late nights on their BBS's and chatting on the phone.
My best U.S. buddy back then was a chap many will remember called Anthony Di Sano (aka The Dark Angel) who was the main supplier of AT&T cards. I'm still in touch with him now on Facebook, so I've known him for like 22 years.
In the mid 90's, I started Electric Boys originally as a crack/demo group but which ended up becoming Electric Boys Entertainment Software (EBES). This was my first company through which I sold CMD hardware and imported games and also published a few games. Sadly, I left it a bit late in the game to start a C64 business and ended up going bankrupt. I felt bad about all the customers I let down and I tried my best to recompense as many as I could from my stock. During the time of EBES, Laser was resurrected for a while and we did a few re-releases of old classics with extra features and stuff. The new laser into I created is my favourite intro of all time. It was done in Terminator style, and you can see it here: http://www.docsnyderspage.de/_page/flash4.htm#laser. My second fave intro I made was my ATC intro, not sure why, but I just liked it. Take a look: http://www.docsnyderspage.de/_page/flash1.htm#atc.
What roles have you fulfilled?
Swapper, cracker, coder and beer getter.
How long were you active for?
Between 1985 and 1996, I reckon, on and off.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I was a 15 year old kid when I met Steve Williams in Boots (a store that sold computer games) one day hanging around the C64 section. We got chatting and he told me all about his pirate software collection, and so I went back to his house to check it out. We became friends after that, and I got interested in 6502 programming, got myself an Expert Cartridge and started to learn. From there on, I started making demos and The Delta Force was born.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
You're asking me to remember a bit much there! I was a teenage kid so I spent more time out than I did in front of my computer. My biggest memory was all the late night calls from Americans wanting to give me AT&T cards in exchange for imports. It used to drive my mother crazy!
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I don't think so. I was just an average coder and I couldn't really do any of that amazing shit that some coders did like tech-tech, FLD, hardware scrolling, and all the VIC-chip tricks. I had to learn that stuff by looking at other peoples' code. I think you do need to be rather amazing at math/physics to be able to do that kind of stuff.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I guess the fact that Zenith was the number one group for such a long time, and also for having the sense (albeit too late) to make some money out of my skills with EBES rather than just waste it cracking games.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
I was a big fan of 1001 Crew for their discovery of the no-borders trick. I loved the work of The Judges and Censor Design too, but I never really had any heroes.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Whoever discovered the $D011 hardware scrolling trick that made games like Heavenbound and Mayhem in Monsterland possible was a genius! This has to be the coolest invention that resulted in the C64 really doing things that shouldn't be possible with games and demos. I always thought FLI was pretty amazing too.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I used to go to the Commodore shows back in the early days and sometimes groups of us used to meet up for piss ups. I never went to copy-parties. I don't think I was quite nerdy enough for that. I met most people for the first time ever at the Commodore shows, mostly Compunet guys. Some names I remember are: Snake+Stack, A-Team, Psycho, Andy Riding (New Bencor Bros), Ian & Mic, JCB and The Mean Team, Bod, and probably many others.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
The crack scene was 'who could crack the games the fastest, get them the smallest and swap them the quickest.' I think it got pretty stupid in the end with people accusing each other of ripping and re-cracking and trying to be a bunch of keyboard heroes. The demo scene was more about just writing cool demos to entertain people and coming up with something new and original.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Nothing springs to mind I'm afraid.
Any cool stories to share with us?
I particularly remember meeting Megasnail/Nato at a Commodore show who had been slagging me off for ages and claiming he was going to kick my ass. When we finally met, the situation was rather different. If I recall, I made him get down on his knees and apologise in front of a lot of people so that I wouldn't kick his ass. It was very funny.
I recall at an early Commodore show in Compunet times that I met Ian & Mic when they were being chased by some guy threatening to beat them up, and for some reason they chose to come and hide behind me for protection. I spent the rest of the show as their bodyguard. :-) Perhaps you could ask them if they remember this.
Andy Riding also got his arse kicked a few times. He was a right mouthy shit who pissed everyone off and threatened everyone from the safety of his keyboard. Needless to say, anyone who wasn't quite as small and geeky as he expected had something to say to him. I seem to remember Claka from The Mean Team chasing him all around the venue whenever he saw him (he was a big black guy). Not sure if he ever caught him though. I and Steve/Zenith spent most of the time taking the piss out of Andy and punching him every time he opened his stupid mouth. If anyone was ever most likely to end up in prison for sex crimes or child molestation, it was definitely Andy. And I bet his ass has definitely been raped a few times by guys like Claka by now! :)
There was also a time I was in a computer store with some friends. I was looking at a 1541-II saying how much I wanted it. At that point, one of the girls just picked it up and ran out of the shop with it. The rest of us were speechless!
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I chat to The Dark Angel and Steve on Facebook/Skype/Messenger, but that's about it.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
Around 1985. I still have a C128D and a 1571 monitor, but they haven't been turned on for several years now. I also still have an Action Replay, an Expert Cartridge, and a couple of 1541 drives.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
I think it was. I used all the other popular home computers at the time; ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX, Dragon – but the C64 had better graphics and sound then all of them.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Perhaps when hell freezes over! :)
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Zenith rules!!!!!!! Seriously, if anyone wants to drop me a line and say hi, then feel free to do so.
back to the list of available interviews