Ironfist / The Delta Force,
Laser Cracking Service,
Public Enemy #1,
Electric Boys Entertainment Software
Added on February 1st, 2011 (5696 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Sussex in 1970. I'm currently living in Margate, Kent. I spent much of my twenties living the rock'n'roll lifestyle, and I have worked in IT all of my life since then. Most people will remember me from “Electric Boys Entertainment Software”, my Commodore hardware/software business.
After that, I started a web development company called Satachi which then progressed into a web hosting company, which was fairly successful and lasted about 16 years.
I am currently a freelance Web/IT consultant and website designer. My website is www.michaels.me.uk. I am married with four kids.
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?
I was a swapper, cracker, coder, equaliser 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.
When I was 14 or 15, I was in Boots (a pharmacy that also sells computer games) with my next-door neighbour, looking at C64 games, when we met Steve Williams. We got chatting and he told us all about his pirate software collection, so we went back to his house to check it out. We became friends after that, and I got interested in programming, got myself an Expert Cartridge and started to learn to code 6502. From there on, I started making demos, and The Delta Force was born on Compunet.
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?
Scene-wise, 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 wasting it cracking games.
I did singlehandedly bring all the CMD hardware to the UK, albeit a bit late. The only real claim to fame I have from the early days is that I created the loader/intro for IK+.
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 The Mean Team in the Compunet days, and then the likes of Booze Design, Black Mail and Censor Design later on. Censor Design demos still amaze me now.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
The aforementioned no-borders trick. Whoever discovered the $D011 hardware scrolling trick that made games like Heavenbound and Mayhem in Monsterland possible was a genius! This was the coolest invention, resulting in the C64 really doing things that shouldn't have been possible with games and demos. I always thought FLI and iFLI was pretty amazing, too.
There is also a ton of stuff in demos that is super cool but which I do not know the names of.
Some of the most recent games released during the retro revival over the last few years are amazing. The quality of the graphics in particular has improved and now matches the quality of GFX you used to get in demos. Some prime examples are Bear Essentials, Sam’s Journey, The Isle of the Cursed Prophet, Fix-It Felix Jnr, The Shadow Over Hawksmill and numerous others.
My wife bought me a C64 Mini last Christmas, so I may actually even play some of them. Or maybe I will dig out my C128-D and play them on real hardware if it still works.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I used to go to the Commodore shows back in the early days, and groups of us sometimes used to meet up for piss-ups. There were a few entertaining visits to strip clubs with boys without brains. :)
I never went to copy-parties. I don't think I was quite nerdy enough for that, plus they were always in other countries and I was not brave enough for that.
I met most people for the first time ever at the Commodore shows, mostly Compunet guys. I remember some names, like Snake+Stack, A-Team, Psycho, Andy Riding (New Bencor Bros), Ian and Mic, JCB and The Mean Team, Bod, boys without brains and probably many others.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
The crack scene was all about 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. As BBSs became popular, it was just the precursor to the Internet and social media. There was no shortage of arguments and warring on the BBSs. At least we had the excuse that we are kids… The adults of today are far worse, lol.
What were the particular highlights for you?
The Commodore shows were really my best memories. Getting to see all the latest hardware and software, meet the publishers and programmers of famous games and all the guys from Compunet. Meeting all those keyboard heroes and taking them down a peg or two was highly entertaining. And who can forget the excitement whenever you got a new package of disks in the post? Those were fun times, I would like to go back and relive those days for sure. The 1980s were in many ways the best years of my life.
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. If I recall, when we did meet, I challenged him to kick my ass, but he was a typical nerdy little wimp, so he declined. Instead, 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 also recall, at an early Commodore show in the days of Compunet, I met Ian and Mic when they were being chased by some guy threatening to beat them up, I have no idea why. For some reason, they chose to come and hide behind me for protection – again, not sure why, perhaps it was the commando haircut that made me look intimidating, lol, but I spent the rest of the show being their bodyguard and keeping the bully away from them. Never spoke to them ever again after that.
There was also this one time, I was in a local computer store with some friends, one of whom I later learned was a kleptomaniac. I was looking at a new 1541-II and saying how much I wanted it, but of course I couldn’t afford 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 left standing there speechless! I left it in a plastic bag hidden in some bushes for several days, in the rain. Amazingly, it still worked, and that was my first 1541-II. One day, I got really drunk and brought some guy I'd met at the pub back to my place for more beers; I passed out, and he stole all my Commodore stuff, including that 1541-II.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I chat to The Dark Angel and Steve occasionally on Facebook/Skype/Messenger, but that's about it.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got my first one in 1984 or 1985. It was my third computer. I had started with a ZX81, then I got a Dragon 32 which was very disappointing, especially when my neighbour then got a C64.
I still have a C128D and a 1571 monitor knocking around somewhere, but they haven't been turned on for quite a few 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! :) Although, I must say I am very interested in the new Mega65 and the Commander X16, I am tempted to get one of these and do some coding. I was also rather tempted by the Turbo Chameleon.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Zenith rules, losers!!!!!!! Seriously, though, if anyone from the old days wants to get in touch, then feel free to do so, you can contact me via my website www.michaels.me.uk.
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