Jeff Smart / Bojesoft,
German Spreading Service,
Scouse Cracking Group,
Added on January 16th, 2013 (3445 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My full name is Andreas Pyrchalla. I was born on 16th January 1970 in Bottrop, Germany and still live there today. I've been working at a local bank for over 20 years now. I work in the marketing department, responsible for the homepage, press-related stuff, graphic design for adverts and so on. I'm also head of the Works Council. Interests? Quite a few! I've been publishing stories for the magazine and homepage of my favourite football club FC Schalke 04 for over 21 years. Otherwise, the usual suspects such as music, movies, books, Playstation 3 – and of course my little daughter.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I loved this comic called Clever and Smart [in German; called "Mort & Phil" in both the English and original Spanish version], in which two pretty dumb secret agents always make a real mess of things. Once, I was reading it in school and I laughed so hard I was sent out by the teacher to calm down. While outside the classroom, I was still laughing. Anyway, I don't really know why I chose Jeff Smart instead of the other guy (Fred Clever), but I did and it stuck.
What group(s) were you in?
Right. The first one was a group in the Bottrop area called Bojesoft. 'Bo' was from Bottrop and 'je' from Jeff Smart. I subsequently joined German Spreading Service, Triad, Scouse Cracking Group and Elite.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I was a jack of all trades and master of none. The one thing I did that did work out quite well was publishing a fanzine called Illegal. I don't really know why, but when I read in some computer magazine about a program called Newsroom that would enable you to make your own newspaper, I was immediately fascinated by the idea of doing one myself. It wasn't easy to get hold of Newsroom, as none of my friends (and back then, that meant local friends) showed any interest in it. I remember it took quite a long time to get hold of it, and when I did, I was shocked at how complicated it was. I forget how many nights I spent on it, but by the end, I had compiled a single page which had eight squares with game reviews, and of course it was all in German. Printing this one page took about 15 minutes on that old C64 printing device. What I do remember pretty well was that I was thinking about a name for the magazine and wrote down a few ideas on a sheet of paper, like Copy 2000 and Pirate News, but Illegal became the obvious choice. The first issue was released in 1986, and as I say, featured precisely one page. I had no programs like Word or Paint or anything like that back then.
I printed about ten copies and distributed it amongst my friends. What I really wanted was to make it on a regular basis, so I set myself a deadline for the next issue. As my number of contacts grew, I started going to a local copy shop and copying the magazine which was faster than printing it myself. It was then that I got the offer to join GSS from Heilbronn, after we had become good friends. They had the idea of publishing the magazine under their name, which was fine with me because the circulation would increase. Looking back at the growth of the magazine now, 20 years later, I must say it was a slow process. But the more contacts I got, the more the magazine grew. Pretty soon, it became clear that I had to start putting some English-language content into the mag, and by the end, English was the only language I was using.
Some notable things about Illegal magazine:
A lot of the covers were drawn by my old friend Hobbit. He was amazingly talented and also drew comics and designed disc covers.
The monthly Venlo meeting in Holland was often my deadline for publishing a new issue of Illegal. Quite often, I would work all Friday night on the new issue and then go to the local copy shop to make hundreds of copies before we headed for Holland, folding them in the car as we drove to Venlo.
I didn't have to pay the entrance fee at Venlo. I just dropped some magazines off at the entrance.
Though I priced the mag at 2 DM (German marks) a copy, I didn't make a big profit out of it. I used to give it away free to all my contacts, or someone would shout me a beer in Venlo instead. :)
Later, some really crazy dude from Austria offered to make and send me 1000 copies of it for free. And he did for four months in a row before it ended!
I made an issue for the PCS 88 and 89 in London.
Mad All/Commando Frontiers regularly contributed a lot of stories for Illegal, as did many others from time to time.
The Top Cracking Group list was actually voted on and not made up. Everyone could vote, other than for themselves.
My dad used to work for the German Post Office. By that time, they had also acquired the monopoly on telephone calls in Germany, so I could call for free all day from my dad's office. That's how I got hold of all the stories and votes.
In all, there were 38 or 39 issues. I had planned to produce one for a Radwar party some years later, but in the end, I was way too far away to be able to come up with interesting and relevant stories.
Dave of Nosah from the UK also published a great magazine called Iguana. Despite the potential rivalry, we were good friends.
Some French dude from Transcom also did a magazine, but his English was pretty bad – and no, we were not good friends.
I once included a nude picture of MWS/Radwar in an issue!
If I remember correctly, there were no longer any game reviews in the last few issues.
I also recorded the Jeff Smart Radio Show to tape. I honestly can't remember what I put on the tape, so if anyone has a copy, please let me know.
How long were you active for?
I can't remember the exact date I started, but it must have been way back in 1984. The end, however, came very precisely for me on 18th May 1990, when the police called. In the end, all the charges were dropped, as they really didn't have much evidence. In hindsight, I would have to say I was lucky. Things would most probably have ended differently today.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I became quite fascinated with computer stuff, in particular with the idea of playing computer games. My neighbour came over with this C64 and had some games on his datasette. Apart from having to wait fifteen minutes to load a game, it was awesome! Choplifter, I think, was one of the first games I ever played. I was determined to also get a computer like that. As the months went by, my neighbour became, well, a bit of an arsehole. As in, he would call me and say "Hey, man, I got these new games. You can look at them, but I'm not giving them to you". So, in the end, I started looking around for other people who also had games but would swap, and it went on from there.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
14:00 – Quick lunch after returning from school
14:10 – Quickly dispatching homework
14:30 – Opening up all the packages I'd got, checking what was on the disks, then playing some games
16:00 – Walking out to a telephone box and using some weird AT&T calling card number some American dude gave me to call my friends for free
16:05 – Returning home because the calling card number wasn't valid anymore
16:10 – Calling friends to garner some news
18:00 – Having some friends over, playing games
20:00 – Writing a bit, programming a bit, gaming a bit
00:00 – Probably in bed
02:00 – Wake up again because that's when the telephone conference starts
02:02 – Arguing with parents
02:05 – Continuing the telephone conference
07:00 – Heading off to school
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Ehm... well, actually... not so much. In terms of producing Illegal, I later dropped Newsroom and just compiled it on my own. Remember, there was no word-processing program like Word or the like.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
You know there was that really mysterious entity called Eagle Soft? Every game from America was cracked by him/her/them, whoever they were – every single game! As time went by, and Eagle Soft was still there and my magazine had started spreading, I told every American I spoke to on the phone that I wanted to do an interview with that Mitch guy. One day, he actually called me and we had a nice chat and I did an interview with him. Some weeks later, I was mentioned in his greetings list! Silly thing really, but the word is he only made contact with very few guys back then.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Janitor from Triad. We exchanged some long letters (well, I guess the ones from me were pretty long), plus... this is the story of one of the Summer or Winter Games II, I can't remember exactly which one. At any rate, I got it, but three of the eight events didn't work. I was a huge fan of it, so Janitor told me to send him the disks and he'd see if he could fix it. Three days later, I received an express package with the events fixed... What a star!
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Ooops! Don't know. Nothing specific, I'm afraid.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Yes, I went to London in 1988 and 1989 for the main trade show in Europe, the Personal Computer Show. I went to some parties in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, and of course, the monthly Venlo meeting. I went around meeting a lot of people. I think there are only two people, both from England, whom I've never met personally but had close contact with, namely Ian of Fusion and Weetabix of the Scouse Cracking Group.
In Bonn (then the capital of Germany), there was a party organised I think by Fantasy Cracking Service. They had this cellar downstairs, and the rumour was that Beastie Boys (great crackers by that time) were working on cracking a game everybody was waiting for: Outrun. Nobody was allowed to enter. Now, I happened to know Robin from our many phone calls, so he let me in and we played Combat School for two hours before he went back to cracking Outrun.
In London, we once had almost everyone from Germany, Sweden, Holland, Belgium and England there. Some lads from England showed me around London the next day, and took me to strange places and record shops where I got hold of a lot of rare music albums. Funny story at McDonalds: we had just gone upstairs with our burgers when a German friend of ours said: "I need a fork, what's English for ‘fork'?" As he didn't know, I told him it was 'cunt', and we watched him go to the waitress and say: "I need a cunt, please". London was pretty cool. I got my driving licence in 1988, and we agreed that I would do some driving on the left side, so after the ferry, I took over. We arrived in London at noon and got stuck in traffic on Westminster Bridge. Well, I somehow got stuck in the middle of the road, and I got lots of angry looks from English motorists!
Once, I got so drunk in Venlo that on the way back, they had to stop the car on the Autobahn so I could puke.
I also got very drunk in Denmark one time. This lad from Austria had brought some home-made liquor with him. There's like six or eight hours which I do not remember. The worst thing was, our driver got really sick and I had to drive us back the next day – for ten hours!
Also, I once broke the nose of this guy in Venlo. We had had an argument some time before, and when we met again, I just emulated Zinedane Zidane vis-à-vis Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. Well, the bastard had also said something bad about my sister, which is weird since I don't have a sister!
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
Basically, it was all about exchanging games for free, it's as simple as that. The way it developed itself – in hindsight, we were taking the first steps towards the things that came later. Just think back to spending the entire night sending games through a modem, just to acquire some 128K. Now, it's done in a blink of the eye.
What were the particular highlights for you?
The highlight par excellence was for me the Saturday which started with the monthly Venlo meeting, followed by attending a German TV show in Cologne with a lot of friends in the audience, and ending with the Radwar Party. Loads of guys from England and Holland were there with us. Unforgettable! Venlo started at 11:00, pretty outstanding since we had a lot of English lads there for the first time (Tri-Dos, Ikari, DCS, etc). We then headed straight to Cologne, where we'd been invited to be in the audience for a computer show called Highscore (it's on YouTube if you want to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCxz-V-WYTI). MWS of Radwar was being interviewed together with an infamous German lawyer. Every time MWS said something, the whole audience cheered, and I had to translate it all for Nik of Ikari as he didn't understand a word. After that, we had an minor accident with the car in the car park, before heading to Heinsberg where the Radwar party was held. The one thing I remember there is Tri-Dos vomiting all over the place, and me and Mr. Zeropage sleeping at some friends of MWS.
Any cool stories to share with us?
Ah, well, it was always very interesting to meet people, especially when you'd been conversing with them over the phone for a long time. I loved the telephone conferences! Once it started, you'd have some American calling you up almost every night, putting you on the conference line, and you'd call up and add anyone you liked, and as many as you liked. Fun times! Maybe you remember Strider/Fairlight's slogan "kill a commie for mommie"? I once told him that I had a friend whose father was working for the Communist Party. We called him, and Strider said in German: "Du alter Schweinehund!" I think I peed myself with laughter! The funniest guy on earth was Weetabix, especially with his Liverpudlian accent.
One day, we were heading about 14 hours up north to a copy-party in Sweden. No GPS back then! We arrived in a small village at around six in the morning and drove around for some time but had no hope of finding the meeting place. Just as we were on the verge of turning back, we saw two strange-looking guys in the street with a huge ghetto blaster. It was 801 DC and Mr. Pinge.
Years later, when I had my own home, I became fascinated with the idea of having English Sky TV, as I was keen on the X-Files, the Simpsons, Friends and of course English football. Craig of Fusion provided me with everything I needed.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I had no interest in keeping in touch with people after I quit, because I was concentrating on things other than computers (football and women :-)). Fifteen years later, I'm back in contact with almost everyone I really liked back then, even if it's just to hear what they're up to now. Janitor/Triad, Strider and Hobbit/Fairlight, Swyx/Triangle, Weetabix (who's in Australia now), Ian and Craig/Fusion, and MWS/Radwar to name but a few. I'm only missing Just Ice and Mr. Pinge, whom I still haven't been able to get hold of after all these years.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I guess I got it in 1984, and no, I don't have it anymore. I did get it back from the police at any rate, but then I gave it to some guy who collects C64 software and hardware. He was doing this C64 all-star thing here in Germany, and we met. So that's that.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Nah, not really! Or maybe it was. Thinking back, there were no mobiles, no Internet. Today it seems like we were living in the Jurassic era, but I think it's pretty cool to have been part of the dawning of the computer age.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Well, if Radwar organises some Ü50 Party (Ü50 as in the German "Über 50", i.e. an over-50s party), I could perhaps come up with another copy of Illegal.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Nice to see some of you are still around, all the best, take care, and Slainte – maybe sometime! If anyone wants to contact me to chat a bit about old times, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
back to the list of available interviews