Tech / Triton Technology,
Added on July 28th, 2009 (6180 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Allan Pichler, I'm 36 years old, and I was born October 10th 1972 in Denmark. For the past many years, I have been dividing my time 50/50 between Denmark and San Francisco to facilitate both career and family, but travelling to Europe every month was too much, so in the fall of 2006, I moved here permanently, and I chose San Francisco for two reasons: 1) Lots of cutting edge technology and interesting work, and 2) When I grew up in Denmark, it seemed like it was summer in San Francisco most of the year, and I doubt that I'll ever get tired of summer in November?!?!?
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I stayed with Tech, my original one until the bitter end. Oddly enough, I can't remember the origins, but it's most likely something related to Tech & Zoro, T & Z. I'm afraid that's as close as I can get, but I'm sure the readers will understand. It was a long time ago and I'm getting old. :)
What group(s) were you in?
I joined Triton Technology a few months before the group decided to devote all resources on making demos and leaving the swapping and cracking sections behind. After the decision was made, Dosman (later Einstein) coded the last TT demo called The Funeral, which became quite popular although it wasn't breaking any new technical ground. It was more the end of the TT era, and Upfront was born. Many sceners didn't realize that we just changed the group name. Just recently, almost 20 years after the fact, I stumbled upon a forum post from someone who never realized that.
What roles have you fulfilled?
Primarily coder, but I also did a little graphics. I'm by no means an artist, but I created decent sprite charsets and simple 8x8 pixel typefaces from time to time.
How long were you active for?
The first computer my family got was in 1983, but I wasn't active until the end of 1986. We released the last Upfront demo in 1991, but I never really stopped coding, and to this day, it is my bread and butter. I'm focusing on Adobe's development tools such as ColdFusion, JRun, Flex, ActionScript, and AIR.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
Being apart of the scene was one of the best things in my life! It all started with me, Trinity (Jens) and another friend from school called Joe. Trinity ended up being a member of The Dominators and subsequently Triangle until we finally gave him a probationary membership. Trinity and Joe met Tim who was a little older than us. He showed them some really cool stuff he had done. After some time, the stories started to crumble, and we eventually met Zoro who was the real master behind all the cool things Tim claimed as his. Tim stopped hanging out with us after we rewarded his actions with the nick name "Taber Tim" (Danish for Loser Tim). I never understood why he took that so personal. :)
Joe moved, and Zoro, Trinity and I started hanging out together. Particularly Zoro and I developed a good friendship where he came up with marvellous ideas that he then explained to me. That relationship later turned out to be invaluable for my career and I can assure anyone that I consider his friendship as an enormous gift, one for which I'm very grateful. I have to admit that I have no idea how Zoro hooked up with Dosman and Nike (later Einstein and Eleanor), but one day Zoro had joined Triton Technology, and some time later I joined too.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I was bored from the first day I went to school. Even good Danish schools in the late 70's didn't have advance placement classes and such, so I was pretty much just doing my own thing. By the end of first grade, I had worked my way through the books that were supposed to last up to fourth grade. That lasted until we got the first computer into our house. It had the right amount of challenges for my temper, so I just started spending more and more time in front of it. A typical day would start like in any other middle class family; breakfast with my parents and sibblings before it was time to catch the bus to school. Unfortunately, I was always struck by "bad luck" and tripped on my way to the bus. My jeans got dirty or I got hurt, so I had to go home again. I listened to mom bitch for 10-15 minutes, and then got in front of the computer. Most days, I sat there pretty much until my parents demanded my attention or it was time for bed, whichever came first. That and numerous phone calls to group members discussing new ideas. :)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I'd probably say that when Zoro and I came up with our multiplication routine marked a special corner. A late night, we realized that a multiplication on the 6502 could be accomplished with a simple addition using static 10 bit log()/exp() tables in this fashion: x = exp (log( a ) + log( b)). If I remember correctly, that took our routine from around 100 CPU cycles to 32. I'm getting too old to remember the 6502 Programmer's Reference Guide by heart. :)
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I have gone back and forth on this question a number of times, and after careful consideration, I'd have to say learning Assembler was my biggest accomplishment. Today, developers have the ability to find tutorials, ask questions in forums and search Google for help. We never had any of those in the mid 80's, so it left us with one solution: trial and error. It's a lengthy process, but one that gave us a deep understanding of what goes on behind the curtains and a foundation that I'm thrilled to possess today.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
My group mates Einstein and Zoro had an amazing talent in terms of coming up with disruptive ways of accomplishing new and ground breaking demo parts. Einstein had a spirit and determination that just couldn't be crushed no matter what. Zoro was really amazing in terms of math and logic, and the main reason I have become the coder I am is largely due to the many sessions in Zoro's basement burning the midnight oil.
I do think that some coders weren't really appreciated for the stuff they developed, but among other talented people was Bitbuster/Rawhead, Kjer and Bagder/Horizon, TCD/Triangle, Chix/Triangle, and Asc/Upfront. In the music department it would have to be Jeroen Tel/Maniacs of Noise who is an amazing talent in sound design and composition.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
In my opinion the best thing that ever hit the scene in my time was Einstein's assembler that utilized the Amiga 500 as base of development, giving you pretty much the entire C64 memory to work with. It really sucked having to unload the assembler each time you wanted to test your work with memory intensive demo parts.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I went to six parties: Hexagon Copy Party, Ikari & Zargon Party, 2000 A.D. Party, Dominators/Upfront/Trilogy Party, and The Party in 1991. The one in Randers was probably the best one I attended, although I know that Triangle have a photo on their site of me sleeping on the floor in stars'n stripes sweat pants after some Triangle members emptied a trashcan on my head. I was completely blacked out from trying to finish our demo, so I didn't notice anything. As it turned out, it was all in vain; the demo was never completed, and the source code is unfortunately lost. The demo was called Too Drunk To Fuck and had quite a few really cool parts. I remember Einstein made a multiplexed D.Y.S.P. disk loader. Zoro and I recently talked about it with the intention to finish the demo if we could unearth the code, but lengthy searches yielded no results.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
I'm probably not getting any new friends on this one, but for my money, I'd say it was about bunch of fairly intelligent teenagers who all had some sort of confidence issue. I think that's why it got so competitive. We all wanted to show that we were able to come up with cool and innovative effects. The reality, as I recall it, was that the total amount of ground breaking effects that went beyond moving an additional five bobs and such was less than 100. So, with the crowd following and taking part of the demo scene, it was simply not possible for everyone to invent something.
What were the particular highlights for you?
I think the highlight was when I presented Mixer at the demo compo in Esbjerg in 1989. We won first place. I would also say that nothing could ever measure up to the actual knowledge I took with me from the scene.
Any cool stories to share with us?
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Yes, I actually keep in touch with our arch rivals in Triangle. Trinity who joined Upfront in the end, is a friend from elementary school and he lives about 20 miles from San Francisco. I see him on occasion and we chat frequently about work stuff, the good ol' demo days, growing up in Denmark, family, etc. Dr. Monikke from Triangle also lives here, so we have met a few late nights over coffee, discussing the ol' days. Other than that, I keep in close contact with Zoro (of course) and Swyx/Triangle. The one I talk to more than anyone is Jeroen Tel/Maniacs of Noise which I actually never got to know in the C64 days, but have subsequently gotten to have a close personal friendship with.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
My C64 is long gone... I think I gave my mom permission to trash the C64 floppies about five, six years ago. Shortly thereafter followed the Amiga disks, but I still have my supercharged A2000 somewhere in the attic. It's an Amiga 2000 with three hard drives, 24 BIT video card, 40 MHz 68040 CPU (I think), and one of those ridiculous 88 Mb removable drives that I no longer recall the name of.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Absolutely! The C64 was unique in terms of all the undocumented features found by the bright stars of the scene. I doubt that we'll ever see such a phenomenon again.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Sorry... That time has passed the Upfront crew by, although me and Zoro many times have considered it. It has just been too long and I'm sure the parts of Too Drunk To Fuck would be pretty boring stuff although I guess that some of it may still have nostalgic value.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Thank you all for making the scene into the magical place it was! It will forever be burned into my memory as some of the happiest days of my life.
back to the list of available interviews