Mark II / Crackman
Added on March 27th, 2012 (5851 views)

Tell us something about yourself.
Full name: Darius Zendeh. Age: 48. Birthplace and date: Stuttgart, Germany, 14.11.1963. I reside in Würzburg (Bavaria) and work as a programmer (SAP, Delphi, C#, XML, HTML, Java, Webkit, CSS and iOS devices) in the healthcare business. My interests are watching original US series and movies.

What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
Mark II. My second name is Mark and Mark II was the legendary computer built at Harvard University.

What group(s) were you in?
On the C64: Crackman ("Crew" came later). I was one of the founders. The other 'man' called himself AMA, which was the short form of his real name, Alf Maier. His name really is Alf and he was at least as chaotic as the television Alf! On the Amiga: Quadlite with Major Rom and 09.

What roles have you fulfilled?
I was mainly the artist and the musician, but I did some coding too. The others were the real magicians though. Alf was a real coding god on the C64, but sadly he became an alcoholic and I lost all contact with him in 1996. He was drinking his brains away.

How long were you active for?
I was active maybe between 1980 and 1990.

Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
My first home computer was the VIC-20. In those years, I would trade games at the mall or via regular mail. There was no such thing as BBSes, e-mail or the Internet. I began coding in BASIC. Then came the C64. By chance, I got in contact with Alf who lived in the same housing complex as I did. We traded games and I realised that he always had the newest games and he cracked them in no time. As far as I can remember, he already called himself Crackman and he asked me to join him. I learned quite a lot from him like machine code language and many C64 specific tricks. He wrote several of the Fast Kernels and speedy disk routines, and he cracked anything when others couldn't. He ripped the music routine out of M.U.L.E. and I was able to write some music with it. Later, CPL joined, who had immense connections all over. In 1986, I bought an Amiga and later I got in contact with Major Rom who lived nearby. We funded Quadlite. I still am in contact with him and we chat occasionally. 09 lived in the same town as Major Rom and is also a gifted programmer. He now owns a gaming company.

Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I really was addicted to computing, so I spent most of my free time in front of the computer swapping and formatting disks, copying and playing games, hacking into games etc. Later came the commercial days when I wrote a music program on the Amiga. Actually, 09 did most of the programming for that one. I began programming in Assembly for the Intel 386 and 486 and did several games and wrote music.

Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
Not really. The hard work was done by the other members. I had the opportunity to write sound routines and a neat editor for the Sega Mega Drive. That was during my last days in the scene.

When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
Coding, writing music and challenging my fellow hackers to manage the impossible.

Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Alf was my one and only hero who literally knew every bit of the C64 and the 1541. It was just amazing to see him perform magic with the system. Major Rom really is a nerd and also a person that immediately just understands any hardware you throw at him.

What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
The Fast Loader (EPROM) and FCopy v3.0.

Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Every now and then.

In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It was about which group that did the best and fastest cracking. There were crackers like us who cracked games and utilities. We made sure the cracked program would work one hundred percent before spreading it. At first, we saw no value in putting intros in front of the games. Instead, we immortalised ourselves by changing a sentence in the game. Others like Section 8 would get their hands on our cracks and put their own intro on it, so we decided to do some intro coding ourselves.

What were the particular highlights for you?
I remember as if it was yesterday when I put together the music for my first intro with the spinning CRM logo and the Axel F music.

I remember driving a long way just to pick up our Acorn Archimedes computers. Major Rom and me were one of the few people who picked the machine up and began programming for it. We would also buy the newest gaming consoles directly in Japan. Many games were in Japanese and it was fun to try to find out what the figures on screen meant.

I also remember driving from Germany to London to attend a computer show. There we met Jeff Minter from Llamasoft who gave me an autograph. I still have it lying around!

Any cool stories to share with us?
Crackman became a legend after he cracked the so-called uncrackable FCopy v3.0. He cracked it because the programmer was so sure about his copy protection. In those days, every 'important' cracking group got a copy of a program if they promised not to crack it. We were not given a copy because we were apparently not as important as other cracking groups. Well, with that crack, they were told otherwise.

Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Not really. I try to go to the Radwar parties, but I have managed to participate in just one.

When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I bought it when it came out in 1982, but sadly I don’t own one anymore.

Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
Absolutely, it's a legend. No other computer had a greater impact than the C64! Many gaming companies are founded by former crackers and hackers. Everyone should read the book On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore.

When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Hehe, never. I have become rusty in my adulthood. I am having fun programming databases and other apps (but no games or music) for the iOS devices.

Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
I had great fun with the C64 and hope to meet some of you in the future.

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