Hex / Smalltown Boys,
Added on January 15th, 2013 (3072 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Cory Kin (also known as "Aung Kin Oo"). Age: 42+. Birth Place: Rangoon, Burma. Currently, I live and work in Virginia, USA. Current job: Solution architect for an international telecommunications software company called Openet. Interests include: computers, guitars, home recording, travelling, alternative music, golf, tennis, badminton, target shooting, and hanging out with my daughter Kaymar.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
Had way too many handles as a cracker and music ripper to list here (please refer to CSdb). I probably found comfort in hiding behind a multiple personality option than most crackers at the time. However, I eventually settled on Hex (named after a DC comic character by the same name) when Tob and me officially started as Pixel Developments on Compunet.
What group(s) were you in?
1985: Smalltown Boys 2020 – A cracking group that myself, Steve, and Jason (from Sheffield) had started because we were inspired and influenced by the legendary crackers at the time such as 1103, Jedi and Eagle Soft. It was at this time that I had figured out how to rip music drivers from games that we had cracked simply because sometimes, the music was better than the game itself. The group's name was inspired by a UK top ten Bronski Beat song by the same name.
1985: Curesoft – A music ripping side project that I had started from Smalltown Boys after being totally brain washed by the Cure and the Glove music. Best music rip was the Rambo music driver under another alias of Forest, as mentioned somewhere in an older Zzap!64 magazine.
1986: The Wolverines – A demo and music ripping group that myself and Gary Foreman (Yarg) initially formed just to have fun with the Compunet scene. As a group we collaborated with other Compunet folks at the time that included Stu Taylor, Dokk, Roxy, Blade, Jan, Spidey, and others that I can't seem to remember at this time. The group's name was adopted from the 1984 movie Red Dawn, the one with Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen.
1987: Pixel Developments – A demo group that Tob and myself formed in an attempt to release quality demos at Compunet and eventually awesome games. On a musical level, we collaborated with Matt Gray because we really liked his music when he was just starting out. The group's name was Tob's idea after I had failed to come up with anything that sounded serious or semi-professional. :)
What roles have you fulfilled?
Smalltown Boys, Curesoft: cracker, swapper, coder and organiser.
The Wolverines: coder, artist, organiser, and musician at some point when I played around with the same music composer tool that the Mighty Bogg had used early on.
Pixel Developments: coder, artist (when Tob was bored) and organiser.
How long were you active for?
1985-1989 and on and off up to 1990 in game development.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Like most folks, I started out as a swapper and then moved onto cracker as we were all curious as to how those legendary crackers such as Jedi broke commercial ware protection. In the UK, most of the games that we had cracked were either from tape or disk. We had great fun breaking protection code partially written with undefined op-codes because Gary had written a machine code monitor that could support those called GMON (it was like the famous ZOOM monitor but way better).
As for the transition from a cracker to a demo/game coder, it came about due to my time at Compunet really. You would make friends there on Partyline and would just want to get something out there to say "Hello!" to them. Also, it allowed me to showcase my music ripping and demo coding abilities.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I remember dropping out of school, had the longest hair (probably in an attempt to out-grow Mat's), and was in front of the computer five or seven days a week doing very long hours. My phone bill was epic!
From all of this, we managed to get a game, Indeflataball, and a half, Gem Quest, out of the door before packing it all in. Tob went onto Code Masters to start a professional career as a graphic artist and I went back to school for further studies after being disillusioned and realising that the video game industry wasn't really cut out for me.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I remember writing some data compression algorithms plus graphics and map editors for the games that we would later develop.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I wrote a lot of stuff (some good, bad, and ugly ones) but always had a soft spot for 'Press Space Bar 1 and 2'. These were minimalist, less is more type of demos, and if you pressed the space bar, you would get some very cool eight or sixteen sprite patterns. I remember Tim from Stoat & Tim hinting on Partyline that his next demo called Circlesque would be so much better than those, and he was right. ;-)
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Gary Foreman (Yarg): Probably way ahead of everyone (including me) at the time in terms of programming and where he wanted to take it. He wrote a lot of cool stuff such as GMON and a comprehensive graphics and level editor before leaving the scene for Hewson to develop Ranarama, Rainbow Islands and a couple more.
Tob: Toby definitely mentored and influenced me regarding art, graphics, and subconsciously introduced me on to 2000 AD comics (Judge Dredd, Halo Jones) and those popular culture graphic novels (Dark Knight, Watchmen) by Frank Miller and Alan Moore.
Mat (from Mat and Psy): A very talented graphic artist and coder all in one package that always had time whenever I would call him up for a chat about anything. He was always nice enough to mention me in the high scores of his games and give out a copy of the games that he had written when they got published. I think I returned the favour eventually in the "unfortunately" unreleased games; sorry it took an extremely long time Mat!
Tim (from Stoat & Tim): Always admired his demos and coding style. I met Tim at a copy-party outside of London once and I think he saved my life or something because I had no cash left on me; it was something along those lines. Also, for the being such a great person when he sent me all of the C64 stuff from the golden days on a CD which I still have today. I guess he was way ahead of me (per usual) in putting closure to all things C64. ;-)
Matt Gray: I remember promoting Matt's music whenever possible when he was starting out on Compunet. He was definitely bringing something new to the music scene at the time; you could sense it in the beats and the overall production style.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
I would have to say Compunet. It was a first of its kind and connected a lot of people from all over the Commodore world. I don't regret those times at all.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I have fond memories of the tradeshows in London (Hammersmith and Earl's Court) as we would meet up with our friends from Compunet and maybe go see a movie later on. I remember having a blast when we all went to see Aliens together. Everyone wanted to sit next to Jan just because she was spiritually a babe, and the coolest person on the 'net!
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It was a way to escape from reality, a social network as we know it today. I learnt so much about assembler programming from my peers than from say the machine code books that were available at the time. People were willing to promote, discuss and share creative ideas and make things happen. I remember exchanging source code or demo ideas with people just to get stuff moving.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Favourite Compunet demo has to be Circlesque by Stoat & Tim, just because Tim took it a lot further on the idea than anyone ever could.
Any cool stories to share with us?
After-tradeshow-hang-outs were always fun! The ones before were also fun as some of my friends would stay at my place and we would just talk crap all night and critique each other's work. Looking back, I think I should have listened more closely to Gary and followed in his footsteps! ;-)
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I recently got back in touch with Tob and Stu Taylor after all these years.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
It was an early birthday present from my parents when I was still at school. I recently bought a used C128 and disk drive from eBay in an attempt to salvage some of my legacy items for closure. I have about 200+ disks without labels to go through, when I can get my disk drive to work again, sigh. If all fails, I might have to contact Frank Gasking (GTW64) again for historic preservation tips.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
It was way ahead of its time, sold millions of units worldwide, and you could be so creative with it; providing that you knew assembly language as Commodore BASIC sucked. Also, it gave you access to Compunet which was a first network of its kind in the UK.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
The past is the past and I don't think I was that good at it anyhow hence why I left the scene to go back to school. However, I am very proud of the Compunet guys who stuck with it through thick and thin and eventually made it in the video games business. (You all should know who you are by the way. ;-))
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
If you've gotten this far in reading this interview, remembers me, and want to get in touch, I can be reached at CSdb (CK2), LinkedIn or Facebook; just do a search for "Cory Kin".
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