Skyie / The Jedi Knights,
The Technocrats Worldwide,
Added on May 28th, 2014 (2841 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Bonny Lindberg and I'm 44 years old. I live in Åstorp outside Helsingborg in the south of Sweden. I currently work as an IT Solution Area Designer for the Windows infrastructure platform at a large international retail company. My duties are to make sure that our Windows infrastructure platform is life-cycled and managed in a standardised way. We have about 80,000 Windows clients and about 5,000 Windows servers worldwide. This is a great job for me, as I have the opportunity to work in both high and low company echelons: one day, I'll be presenting future strategies to top management, and the next, I'll be getting my hands dirty with PowerShell coding in our development lab.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
As I have been a true Star Wars fan since I saw the first film in the cinema in 1977, there could not be any name other than Luke Skywalker as my handle. I kept that through the first two groups I was in, but when I joined Triad, I thought I should reinvent myself with a shorter name, so I shortened Luke Skywalker to just Skyie. Nowadays, I usually use Hawxeye or just Hawx as my alias when I play games. If you have been playing WoW, you might have seen me, as I was guild master for a guild with 600+ members called AoA (Angels of Azeroth). I stopped playing that when my first child arrived in 2007.
What group(s) were you in?
I was in The Jedi Knights (TJK), The Technocrats Worldwide (TTW) and Triad.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I started off as a swapper, as most people did back in the day, then I started to get into coding. Initially, it was just basic stuff on the VIC-20, but when I got my hands on the Commodore C64, I started to get into assembler coding instead.
How long were you active for?
I was only active for a few years and left the scene in 1988 after the release of the Amiga, if I recall correctly. The reason that Cozmo and I left the scene was that when we moved over to the Amiga, many of the things that took a lot of skill on the C64 were so easy to do on the Amiga using the co-processor that it just wasn't that challenging anymore and so we kind of gave up on it. Also, pretty ladies and beer started to become more interesting... ;)
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
It all started when I bought my VIC-20. Then, when the C64 was released, it turned gaming into an unimaginable new graphical experience! It was quite expensive at the time, but I finally managed to buy a used one at a good price. Initially, myself and some friends started a group called The Jedi Knights (TJK), which was purely a swapping group at first, though we then started to make some demos. Over time, we joined forces with some other swappers and coders and formed a group called The Technocrats Worldwide (TTW). I was about 17 when I started to do coding. In 1987, I was contacted by Ixion of Triad. This contact was initiated by my swapper friend Mr Pinge, who was in Relax at the time and was also about to join. At the time, Triad were only focused on cracking games but wanted to broaden their range by entering the demo scene, hence they were in need of some demo makers. The recruitment process was initiated via phone conferences using hacked American phone cards. This impressed us, as it showed that Triad had good contacts globally. It was also kind of cool to have a phone conference with Triad members and their American hacker friends, whose names I unfortunately can't recall. Anyway, Cozmo and I were duly recruited into Triad to make demos.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
While I was a swapper, the C64 part of my day typically started when I came home from school and checked the mail for new deliveries. If there were any treasures waiting in the letterbox, I would spend a couple of hours trying the stuff out and copying it to redistribute to others. When I started to get into coding, swapping ceded its priority to gaming. There were then a lot of late nights/early mornings spent coding. At weekends, Cozmo and I usually worked around the clock to finish our latest creations.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Well, Cozmo and I were sat out in the deep forests of Småland doing our coding and didn't initially have much contact with the outside world. This meant that we did all our coding in pure machine code, using the Assembler Monitor in the Final Cartridge. Later on, when we went to our first copy-party, we discovered that there were assembler editors available which you could use to compile your code using variables and names instead of hard-coded addresses in memory. This was quite a funny discovery to make, but then we said "what the heck, let's stay hard-core and stick with non-compiled assembler code". One benefit of non-compiled code was that we were able to do things which you couldn't do with compiled code. We did lots of tricks with code altering itself. We would typically use it in loops, such as when you wanted an LDA instruction in the first loop, which you could then reuse for STA just by using XOR on bit 6 of the LDA/STA instruction address in memory, to alter it from LDA to STA. We put this in as a bit of a laugh, to confuse others. It was also a good way of marking your code. We never saw anyone else use this specific technique, so when we saw it, we knew that someone had ripped our code.
This technique was initially invented when we made a demo called A New Dimension. It was a multi-part demo which we uncompressed in the memory all at once, and you could loop through all the parts over and over again. Normally, in multi-part demos of the time, each part was uncompressed one after the other, and you could only watch the demo once and then you would need to reload it again, whereas our demo could be looped over and over again without having to be reloaded. Anyway, as we had the entire demo in memory, we were running out of memory space, so we then had to optimise the code using self-altering code, to gain the memory space for the last few bytes needed. Also, because we were working straight into memory with non-compiled code, we had to make routines to move code around in memory, when we were running out of space or if we needed to squeeze in some code at the beginning. Learning from our mistakes, we introduced lots of NOPs in our code during early development and then moved it together when we were done.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I think that would be the New Dimension demo which I made together with my close friend Cozmo as our first demo for Triad.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Well, my biggest hero at the time must have been Mr.Z. He came up with some cool things, like the famous Triad cruncher that made our releases very small in terms of disk space. That was a big advantage for Triad, as we usually managed to squeeze more games onto one floppy than our competitors. The turbo loader was another great thing made by Mr.Z, and let's not forget the trainers he invented for all of Triad's game releases, like disabling sprite collisions and infinite lives so as to be able to play through any game! Unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet him, as he left the scene about the same time as I joined Triad.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
First of all, I would say the bible a.k.a. Commodore 64 Programmers Reference Guide. This was the key to all the secrets of the C64. Then there was lots of cool stuff invented by creative young hackers. 1001 did lots of cool demos and were pioneers in pushing the limits of the time.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I wasn't a frequent visitor to copy-parties, but I did go to this one party in Alvesta hosted by The Silents, and I also attended the Triad/Fairlight party in Huddinge.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It was all about fame and glory, constantly trying to be the best group with the most/best releases. It was a bit like taking over the world, albeit only within your own little world.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Well, as a swapper, it was always the thrill of checking your mail every day and eagerly opening every envelope you got and loading the contents into your C64. As a coder, it was more about coming up with new cool tricks, and even the tiniest part of your code could make you proud. Ixion was very good at organising Triad, and as I was a coder, he made sure there was a constant flow of new stuff being sent to me. Unfortunately, I was not able to go through all the cool games I was sent while I was coding for Triad, but I was able to make all my close swapper friends utterly happy instead.
Any cool stories to share with us?
As there was no Internet at the time, all our distribution was by snail mail. One trick that was commonly used was to put sticky tape over the stamp on the envelopes. You could then easily remove the ink of the postmark from the stamp and re-use the envelope over and over again, just by changing the address on the envelope.
At the Triad/Fairlight party it was shown how important the hierarchy was within the scene was by the way party was organised. The top floor was restricted for Triad and Fairlight members only and only the very closest friends of them where allowed entrance. Then based on how highly valued you and your group was you were placed all the way down to the ground level were the lamers where located. I can't recall exactly who it was but I think it was 3D, which was a very exotic person, that just opened the door and screamed to a lamer to go and buy pizza for us in Triad. Me and Cozmo coming from small Älmhult in Småland looked surprised at each other and we looked even more surprised when the lamer came back with pizza 30 minutes later. The pizza was ripped from his hands and the lamer was not even allowed to entrance the floor that he probable was hoping for. This just showed how eager people at the scene where to reach the top.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I don't have any close contact to any of the ones that I was in contact with back in the days. Though I know Bepp that today an active Triad member.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I think I got my C64 in 1986 and unfortunately I don't have anyone laying around.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Yes, it was a great piece of equipment to explore!
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Sorry to let you down guys. But those days are long gone. The only thing I can give is this little piece if nostalgia of the times when the C64 was at its peak.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
I have been doing some travel in my job and it is amazing how big the scene really was. As I'm still into computers in my line of work and when talking to people in my age and things are getting nostalgic you tend to talk about old times and C64 as a topic. People remembers the group Triad among other Swedish C64 hacker groups and we, Swedes are actually world famous among old C64 users all over the world in countries like USA, Germany, France and Singapore as examples. So it doesn't matter where you go in the world there are old Commodore fans all over that still remembers what the Swedish hackers did back in the days. That's amazing!
Greetings to all past and present Triad members and all other C64 geeks out there! :)
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