Panther / Chaos,
Added on December 1st, 2003 (6464 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My full name is Bernd Buchegger. I was born in Graz which is the capital of Styria in Austria on the 30th January 1973 around 4 o'clock in the morning. I studied applied computer science at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria and finished my studies in the year 2000. I am still living in Klagenfurt because it's a really marvellous place. I am also running my own small IT company since the firm I have been working the last six years became a classical victim of the famous eCommerce bubble in February this year. My personal interests cover a rather wide range of activities spanning music (I am playing guitar, blues harp and didgeridoo sometimes in a semi-professional band), martial arts (I am graded second dan nihon jujutsu), sports (like skating, snowboarding, running, volleyball, cycling, swimming, kayaking, etc.) and arts (I used to do some graffiti years ago). Regarding my interests I would call myself a generalist with specialization on IT technology.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
It all started with Panther because I admired that animal so much when I was young. You know, it's kind of dark, smooth, miraculous and dangerous and I think I tried to identify myself with that at that time ;). Even the colour of my car (a Ford Puma! ;)) is panther-black-metallic. But I never really tended to that sort of gothic style wearing black clothes all year long although my vocational light tan sometimes would have greatly enhanced that look. ;)
What group(s) were you in?
Less groups than most people in the scene here in I guess. I started in a small group called Chaos situated in Graz, Austria. Mainly lamers (measured by their skills at that time) but nice guys who gave me a chance to jump into the wonderful C64 business. I started to code my first demos at that time and had my first autodidactic lessons in drawing some logos. I think I always had some sort of good feeling concerning style and design and even my first steps in the demo coding world were accompanied with the fine spirit of artistic work. This may sound a bit arrogant but I still feel slightly astonished when I see the things I created at that time when we all were young boys.
My contact to Cosmos people evolved rather shortly afterwards starting with Chris from the Amiga section of Cosmos. He introduced me to Hannes Sommer (McSprite) and Arnold Blueml (Icon) who represented the coding section of Cosmos. You should know that the whole Cosmos group was close to breaking apart and therefore we formed Cosmos Designs and sacrificed our spare time to code some cool demos, paint some great graphics and produce some fine games for the Commodore 64.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I used to swap a bit like most of the people did but my main tasks and interests were always coding and painting. Since I was attending a school in Graz and because I had my computer at home, I only worked during weekends. Amazing how much time I spent on my good old Commodore machine (a C128 by the way). I think I have been very lucky to meet the right people at the right time which prevented my young existence from being completely isolated behind my computer! ;)
How long were you active for?
An interesting question. Must have been around 1987 and 1993 I presume. I have not recorded my activities at that time.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Everything started in an arcade hall in Graz. Me and my friends were hanging around there after an excessive McDonalds orgy nearby. I noticed two guys playing R-Type on one of the arcade machines. Those two boys were teaming up really good and played at least for half an hour with only two coins! At the end I noticed that one guy was using a three letter sign (SSD) I knew from some copied C64 disks I got from friends. So I simply asked if he was the guy his handle was implying and he said yes. That's how I met Soft Spider from Cosmos. We talked a bit about the Austrian C64 scene and exchanged phone numbers. This was my first real hands on contact with the scene. Everything else I knew at that time came from reading the stuff on the discs I got from my friends and reading scene magazines but that was all virtual. I received an invitation to one of those typical copy parties that took place everywhere at that time. So I packed a whole bunch of empty disks hoping to get some stuff and joined the party. Some guys were looking at demos but most were copying like hell. Practically knowing none of these guys I just asked one of them if he would mind to copy some stuff for me and he kindly agreed. The guy was JR from Chaos, and like me, he was a newbie to the scene. But we had a great time copying and talking and since he was also situated in Graz we met each other afterwards and I agreed to join his newly formed group. The rest of the story has already been told some lines above. ;)
Being asked about those years I would summarize it as a very crazy and exciting time. Everything was so new and cool and interesting. The scene itself was very alive and had definitely left its childhood stage and risen to an almost professional level. Coding some simple effects did not impress anyone anymore and the common motivation to push the limits was high. I always found it very challenging being aware of my own limitations though trying hard to overcome them. The interesting social phenomenon was that being cool at that time was more defined by producing something extraordinary and not only by acting differently as it became trendy the following years. It was definitely not a "non-future" generation but a very visionary, highly-motivated and challenging environment that we called "the scene". Even the old picture of the socially isolated computer geek did not turn out to be the truth. Sure there were examples of socially poor or degenerated subjects within the computer scene but overall there was always some sort of rather intense contact on a very personal layer and rather complex social structures even some kind of pre-globalization effect that removed the borders in our minds similar to the job the Internet is fulfilling nowadays. Someone asks if the scene had some sort of educational impact? The answer is definitely yes!
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Don't we all remember that so well? ;) In short words I often arrived at home on Saturday, switched on the machine, went through my mail hoping for new stuff, threw what ever caught my interest into the floppy drive, played around a bit and started coding or painting afterwards only interrupted by the screaming voice of my mother calling me to lunch or dinner for the third time. I also used to call my friends or contacts on the phone or being called by others that had my contact address. I always found it very amusing being called by someone from the scene you never met talking in English or sometimes even in French about the things of common interest. The weekends always appeared to be far too short and when my parents brought me back to school or when I was taking the train back to Graz, I sometimes felt really excited about finally coming back to my machine and continue my work. Later I took my computer to my school which slightly eased my addiction syndromes. ;)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Coding is always like that, for example if you were inventing an algorithm for yourself even when 100 people had already done the same. I still contemplate coding as a creative activity like a painter working with colours, brush and canvas. You have a set of tools, resources and possibilities and you choose the way how to combine them into a solution. I do not claim any routine my own personal intellectual property but what made the difference was always how you use the methods and tools that have been given to you. My time did not allow me to play with the whole range of possibilities available but I am rather content with what came out at the end of my tries.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
Definitely finishing my game Outrage which took me two whole years of developing time during which I have been greatly supported by Hannes Sommer who always insisted on doing it! It still amazes me when I look at the game these days because it brings back a lot of memories. You need to know that it has been lying in the box for a long time and Arny finally managed to convert the old disks to the PC. It was my first long-time project I finished. There is a even longer story to tell about the game but I am not going to tell it this time.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
I think there were a lot of really great guys out there in the C64 jungle that deserved to gain momentum. We should never forget that the scene was not driven by money. So many people did great work for no money at all just for the fame or sometimes just for fun. I don't want to list any names because so many people would have deserved a special honor medal during these days.
There are only two persons I would like to mention and their names are Hannes Sommer and Arnold Blueml. Hannes quit school for the sake for coding games on the Commodore 64 which was quite radical. I always found this step very courageous and at the end I understood that this was just an investment. Of course Hannes finished school later. But we all know the incredible amount of output of Hannes during this time and for all who do not have an imagination I highly recommend our Cosmos Dessigns homepage (http://members.chello.at/arnold.blueml) done by Arnold Blueml in this wonderful C64 retro style. Most people don't know that it was Arny who founded Cosmos Designs and he is the only one of us three that really made his obsession to his profession. He studied graphic design in Vienna and he is creating great computer animations at Rabcat (www.rabcat.com), a company he co-found.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
I always found the tweak to move the whole screen in horizontal direction which made full-screen graphic scrollers possible one of the greatest things ever done on the C64. It opened a wide range of possibilities and I found myself using this effect in my demos quite often. ;) I am sure nobody would have thought at the beginning that something like that could ever be possible on the Commodore 64. Well, there have been so many cool things that could be mentioned here. Incredible how much some people squeezed out of this little processor.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Sure. Everybody who didn't definitely missed something! Aren't these the most wonderful memories (beside some first girlfriend experiences)? ;)
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
I think my excerpt above should have already answered that question.
What were the particular highlights for you?
I remember a great party in Budapest. We already had a lot of fun during our travel (well not everything was exactly "funny" as Hannes will confirm ;) and we met some great people there. Every time we came to a party just for enjoying the show and meeting people without any stress to finish some demo stuff it turned out to be a great time together!
Any cool stories to share with us?
I remember a copy party in Weiz/Austria where nine people were sleeping in a small hotel room that was meant for only two people and one of the guys being slapped by the manager in the morning when he noticed what happened! ;) And the strip show at the Party in Innsbruck was very refreshing! ;)
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Sure especially with Arnold and Hannes although some years passed when everybody was following his own personal path.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
Everything started with an old ZX81 I unluckily killed within a week. In compensation, I got a VIC-20 with which I was starting to code my first basic programs and doing some charset manipulations. When I turned 16, I finally got a C-128 that accompanied my career until the end. Not to forget my good old final cartridge that served me well during those days.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Sure it was. It shaped our life at that time and played a great role during several years before we hit adulthood. No doubt it was special to us at that time no matter what others were thinking. Don't try to measure it with today's values. It was special because we made it special!
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
You can certainly expect something because my game Outrage has never been published and there are some negotiations going on at the moment. That's all I can tell at the moment! ;) So visit our homepage regularly!
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Do not forget that the old times are over and they never come back the way they have been. So start to see the new great picture and face the upcoming challenges that always formed the spice of life we all used to be so hopelessly addicted to! But still work to live, don't live to work! Peace and happiness to all of you my sisters and brothers!
back to the list of available interviews