The Champ / The Suppliers
Added on May 12th, 2015 (3462 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Kurt Lekanger, I'm 45 years old and live in Askim in Norway, about 60 kilometres south of Oslo. After I finished school, I started as a journalist for Norsk Datormagazin, a magazine for Commodore 64 and Amiga enthusiasts. I think this was sometime around 1989. Later on, I became a journalist at PC World Norway, where I stayed for 13 years, the last few of those as Chief Editor. I have also worked for: Microsoft (MSN.no); Dagens Næringsliv, the largest financial newspaper in Norway (DN.no); and as a freelancer. I'm now the chief editor of Tek.no, the largest technology web site in Norway (which now also incorporates Hardware.no, Amobil.no, Mobilen.no and Akam.no).
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I used the handle The Champ, though I can't remember how I came up with it. :-)
What group(s) were you in?
The only group I was part of was The Suppliers. This was a group I started myself in 1987/1988 together with a friend from high school, while I was still living with my parents.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I started as a swapper; I think this was a year or two before I started The Suppliers. I remember sending floppy disks all over the world, and the excitement every time a new package arrived from abroad. But I was also very interested in machine code programming, so I started writing demos; I even cracked a few games as well. :-) In 1989, I arranged a copy-party in Spydeberg, Norway together with Rawhead and Bros.
How long were you active for?
I'm not sure, but I got my Commodore 64 in 1985 or 1986, I think, and I must have been active until I started my military service in 1990.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
A friend of mine got a Commodore 64 for his birthday, and after playing with it for a few hours, I decided to sell all my hi-fi equipment to buy a C64 for myself. The first few years, I wasn't active in any groups, but then I met a new friend at high school with similar interests and soon started swapping disks with people all over the world. I can't remember how I got in touch with all these people, particularly as this was long before the Internet, but most likely it was through someone who knew someone who knew someone. :-)
This was a fantastic period in my life, and the Commodore 64 is the reason I got interested in computers and the reason I have the job I do today. I started writing articles about programming in machine code on the Commodore 64 for Norsk Datormagazin, and I've been a tech writer from that day on.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
My parents thought I spent way too much time in front of my C64. The first thing I did when I came home from school was to turn on the computer. Sometimes I would just play computer games, like Fort Apocalypse (one of my early favourites), The Great Giana Sisters, 1942 or Galaga. But I also liked coding, and I spent several hours every day coding demos. Sometimes I sat in front of the computer all night and went to school the next day without having slept at all.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I remember I made a few simple tools, like an editor for making "bouncing colour bars", simply called Color-Bar-Maker, and an editor for making big scrolling letters. I think the character editor was just a simple BASIC program.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I remember being very proud of mastering some of the more complicated techniques, like putting more than eight sprites on the screen simultaneously, putting sprites in the border, etc. Looking back, I'm also proud of starting up the Commodore Computer Club together with some friends. We even made a magazine which we sent out to several hundred people a few times a year. We secured some deals with a couple of firms who distributed games and C64 accessories, like joysticks, and sold their stuff through the magazine. The magazine was perhaps the reason I got my first journalism job at Norsk Datormagazin.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
I don't remember all their names now, there were a lot of very talented people, but I remember visiting Omega Supreme (Olav Mørkrid) of The Shadows. I was very impressed with his coding skills, and he actually later became one of the founders of Funcom. How cool is that?! :-)
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
The border effects were of course all very exciting, all that trying to achieve things that ought not to be possible. I also remember the first time I saw parallax scrolling, a very cool effect in which the background scrolled at a different speed to the foreground. This was something I then of course had to learn to do myself.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Yes, I arranged a copy-party in Spydeberg together with some other people, and I also went to some copy-parties in Sweden and another one just outside Trondheim in Norway.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It was about having fun together with people who had similar interests.
What were the particular highlights for you?
Some of my friends went to the Horizon+Jetspeed party at Enköping, Sweden in 1988. I had just got my driving licence, so I borrowed my parents' car and drove five hours to get to the party. The night before, I had been busy finishing one of my demos, The Big Bang.
Any cool stories to share with us?
I remember one particular copy-party in Stjørdal outside Trondheim in Norway. I had just started as a journalist at Norsk Datormagazin and was going on my first press fieldtrip to cover the event as a journalist. I had only just arrived at the party when the police suddenly showed up. One of the biggest distributors of computer games had called the police because of games being pirated at the party, but the police just walked around the premises, talked to a couple of the teenagers at the party, and then basically said "Have fun!" and left. It made a great story for the magazine. :-)
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
No, though I have talked to some of the old guys a few times.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got mine around 1985 or 1986. Unfortunately, I sold it a few years later, which I now regret. Sometimes I fire up an emulator on my Mac, just to play some of the old games, but of course, it's not the same. Perhaps I'll buy a "new" C64 from eBay or somewhere one day.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
One of the reasons that it became so special was that it was popular for so many years. People didn't buy a new computer every year or so, so you really learned everything there was to know about your C64 before you moved on to something else (I never bought an Amiga, for instance). Also, even though it was a simple and not very powerful computer, you could do quite amazing things on it.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Sadly, I don't think I have any time for that nowadays, but who knows? A while ago, I installed Kick Assembler and Sublime Text on my Mac, just to see if I could still remember 6510 machine code programming 25 years later. We'll see, perhaps one day I'll be back. :-)
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Have fun! :-)
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