The Navigator
Added on July 3rd, 2009 (6022 views)

Tell us something about yourself.
I was born on September 3rd, 1969 in Quebec City, Canada. I am a company owner doing electronic hardware for the digital movie/broadcast industry. Electronic design has always been my thing. The beginning of this career started off with the C64. Even if I was just 11 years old when we got it, that really got me into the field. My interests are everything that involves risk, scuba diving, helicopter piloting, etc. I enjoy watching movies, and I am actually residing in Los Angeles since my products are for the movie industry. I think it makes perfect sense to be here, don’t you? ;O)

What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I named myself The Navigator. It is really not clear how and when I decided to get that name. Actually, I am wondering if I did not have another nick before...

What group(s) were you in?
Even if I managed to deal with a lot of peeps to get games in and out, I never really was a part of any organisation. I was pretty isolated in Canada. Don’t forget that I started off with the C64 when it came out, we paid $700 Canadian for it and we had actually waited to get it. If I remember well, this was in 1981, so it was way before groups of any kind.

What roles have you fulfilled?
I was a pure breed hacker. I knew assembly language. Before any interesting games came out, there wasn't much to do with the C64 than learn about the machine itself. Commodore came out with the one inch thick programmer manual at some point, and I can tell you that I knew that book inside out! At the same time, I was kind of interested in the hardware part of it and that was going to help me in my hacker endeavour later on when things got dicey.

How long were you active for?
We got the Commodore in 1981/82 and I left probably around 1987/88 when the Amiga became more popular. Obviously, the learning of hacking has been progressive and it went along with the complexity of the protection used in games at the time.

Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
We had just moved into a new place and my parents thought it would be cool to keep my brother and I busy with something. They got us the C64. At first, it was really intriguing but we didn't have any tools to create anything with. We started off with The Great BASIC language! There was really nothing interesting you could do with that language (I mean fast and attractive), but my brother and I came up with this game we coded one weekend named The Prince of the Red Crepuscule of the Death. I can tell you that we had a lot more fun with the title than with the game itself.

While the availability of the mainstream game was still sparse, me and my bro were spending lot of time to key in those magazine games one byte at a time. After spending lot of hours to get them in, we realised that they weren't worth shit! My brother then got involved with a college group and this is how we started receiving mainstream games. Personally, I was never a gamer at heart so my thing was to hack (copy) them.

Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
Not much different from what a day in front of a computer looks today. It was a lot more captivating back then though. The challenge. It was always about the challenge. I could spend hours trying to find a bug or this new way of breaking the protection on games, and yet I barely played them. Actually, very few got my attention. Generally, the Epyx games were really cool - like Jumpman. I was fascinated of how some of them were technically very advanced for their time. Nothing seemed to stop these guys to come up with fancy stuff. I wish it would be the same today. What if somebody could harness a 3GHz processor the way these guys harnessed a 1MHz processor, it would be totally off the hook!

Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Yes, as I mentioned before, Commodore got me started on the programming side of electronics, but it mostly enabled my hardware side even more. Hardware always got me a lot more interested than software. I still do both, but nothing is more fun than debugging a board. It's always the software guys fault! ;o)

When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
Maybe I should say for the record that I am not proud of the hacking/cracking I did in the past. This was not right. But you know, I had an awesome time doing it and I am proud of the fact that I learned a lot of things which is impacting my life today. At the end of my reign, me and my bro came up with this thing. We were cracking the games so we could copy them, but then we protected them again with our own stuff and we came up with this back track thing where we would put our boot loader on track 40 or more (I don’t remember for sure). So at first, we were messing up the disk drive head and then we would go fetch our stuff on the back tracks, then start the whole thing. Unfortunatly, not all disk drives were OK with that. ;o)

Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Again, we were quite isolated from this arena, so no scene heroes, sorry.

What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
Without any hesitation, Charles Leborgne's Fast Track. This thing rocked so much it was insane! The 21 Second Backup was totally awesome too! Software wise, I would say the guys who programmed Ballblazer did an awesome work!

Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Nope. Sorry, I wish I would have something to say here.

In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
No clue.

What were the particular highlights for you?
I have to admit the demo days came late for me. I remember at the end that 70 percent of the games came hacked with intros attached to them, and honestly, I was never a fan. I was kind of old fashioned when it came to delivering games. I thought that their original unprotected state was the best, no fancy stuff added. However, some were really cool and I remember thinking: "Why aren't these guys writing games?", because many times the intros were better than the actual game. My question remains unanswered as of today. As far as I'm concerned, the highlights were when the market was totally dedicated to the C64 and we had company likes Epyx, Broderbund, and Synapse coming up with quality games. After that era, the game market changed and the quality of the games diminished. Focus went on with the Amiga and the damn freaking PC (PoS).

Any cool stories to share with us?
I am too old now. :o) I don’t remember specific events, but I do remember that I spent countless hours in front of the computer, and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Not really.

When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
We went through about three or four C64's in all those years plus about the same amount of 1541's. Unfortunately, I didn't keep one. My brother did, but he got rid of everything a couple of years ago since he wasn't able to read any disks back (after 20 years, I guess it's normal for media to forget). I do once in a while start the emulator and it reminds me of how that computer was so much fun.

Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
I think it was because of the time it came about, the possibility of the machine for the time, the fact that everybody had one... It was a worldwide phenomena and it remains a phenomena today. Just me answering this questionnaire prove that to be true. 25 years later, people is still interested in the machine. Do you see that with Apple or Amiga? Even with a broad fanbase, I don’t think they could come close to the C64 fans!

When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
You are talking to the wrong woman. Talk to Jeri Ellsworth about that. ;o)

Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Since I didn't know any people to get in contact with, I guess I don’t have much to say here. I think I pretty said it all in the other sections of the questionnaire. It was very cool to answer these questions and I would like to thank Andreas for his enthusiasm for this great computer which is the C64!

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