Zarch / Lynsoft Cracking,
Added on February 21st, 2019 (2229 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
Away from the scene, my name is Henrik Matzen. I was born in 1975 in a small town called Rødekro in the south of Denmark, about 30 km from the German border. In my childhood years, the place had less than 7000 people. During the years I was active on the scene, when I was a teenager, people rarely used my real name, except for people outside in the "real world" around me... I guess that was the case for most of us. It was quite cool and subversive to use our nicknames. :) Nowadays, my primary residence is in one of the most scenic spots in Denmark, Silkeborg, where I live around 60% of the year, and the remaining 40% I live in Taipei, Taiwan (yeah, Commodore also had a factory there). I work in the IT industry as a business development manager, which in my case means that I work for and am funded by a few select Taiwanese manufacturers, though I am officially employed by the Swedish distributor and cable/accessories manufacturer Deltaco, which operates in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Baltics. My day-to-day place of work is usually my home office either in Denmark or in Taiwan. I am also a professional photographer and have a small company called Firstlapse, together with a cofounding partner, which specialises in time-lapse photography. I am fortunate that my hobbies and interests also inform the work I do – computers and photography are basically my life, in and out of work. I still love my old Commodore computers, which are connected up ready in my little home "museum" consisting of not only my C64, but also a bunch of Amigas!
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I was quite young when I got my beloved breadbin C64 (which, yes, I still have today, though I've had to replace a few components over the years and put heatsinks on all the chips to keep them cool). I was about 10 years old and had just got my C64 and a datasette, and I came up with the name Lynsoft Cracking. Not that I was able to crack anything, I just thought it sounded cool, and I provided cracked games for the masses. :) I think I came up with the name because LYN means something like a flash of lightning, something incredibly fast, and I was somehow lucky enough to have some good connections right from the start, thanks to the kids of some of my dad's work colleagues, who lived in a bigger city further away, so I had some good-quality games from day one, and it spread like wildfire in our small town that I was the one who had the latest stuff, and I quickly became known as Lynsoft in the playground, which was pretty cool at the time. Nobody ever beat me up, I was always protected by the older guys because they were getting their games supplies from me.
A few years later, once I understood more English, I decided Lynsoft was not quite cool enough and I needed a cooler name. One day, I was flipping through the pages of a dictionary and came across the name Sarge. I knew there was already someone using that name, so I tried a bit of wordplay and came up with Zarch. I thought it was unique and that nobody was using it. It was not until many, many years later, I got a phone call from another Zarch (who was in Bones), and he was not happy about me using the same name. We had a lively discussion on the phone about who was "first", but neither of us was willing to change our nickname, and we never did. Some time around 1999, I remember I wanted to create an email address with zarch@..., and the ISP in question did not have an option for checking if a name was taken, so I just sent an empty test mail to see if it was taken – and got a reply back from Zarch/Bones! He just wrote: "I thought we talked about this already". :)
Anyway, going back to the 1980s, I had this nickname Zarch, and I wanted to create a group because I'd started to get contacts via addresses I found in intros and demos. For a short time, I went with the group name Science 551, which was really lame as it was obviously a copy of the more famous Science 451. Some friends from school had become members, and it was probably the three of us who thought it was totally fine to use this name, so off we went, playing with demos and intro makers and freezing some games with my new Expert Cartridge. :) It did not last long, as I was not really happy with the situation, so naturally, my two fellow members got the boot and Danish Science was born, simply because I was Danish and I still wanted to keep Science in the name. Around that time, some more active members joined, such as Inzaine (who later left and joined Dixie, which then became Faction and later ended up as X-Factor), Snicker from Norway (who came from Errors and Shape and left the scene after Danish Science), Slime from Sweden (ex-Redline 2000, ex-Flash Inc.), Exotic from Germany, Bass from Belgium, Axor from Denmark, Floyd from Norway, etc.
What group(s) were you in?
Lynsoft Cracking, Science 551, Danish Science and Knickers.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I've been a swapper, organiser and graphic designer. I did some simple reset/loader cracking, always for single-file games because multi-load games were too complicated for me to master, I simply lacked the coding skills to understand what was going on :D
How long were you active for?
Probably from around 1985 to 1991. I was still semi-active from 1991 to 1996, but real life caught up and left me with no time: I started a computer shop with a relative of mine, who I later found out had also been active on the C64 scene back in the day and had been good friends with Danish Dream Line and others.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I think it all started from me being able to get new games pretty fast. This was a time when most games had no intros, and if they had, they were probably by Sodan/ACE, Danish Crackers, Dynamic Duo, German Cracking Service, etc. The intros fascinated me, and I was completely stoked when they later turned into short single-file demos. Everyone around me was buying games and had no interest in this at all, so I was pretty much left alone to enjoy trying to read the English and understand the scrolltexts, and of course enjoy the magic of the SID! I wanted to be like that and be a part of that, so I slowly started to find contacts, at first through the contacts section in ZZAP!64, then later also by digging out addresses in scrolltexts or sometimes hidden in the code, so I had to find them using my Final Cartridge 2 monitor. Suddenly, I had a growing number of contacts all over the world and my tiny little group, Danish Science, had members in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Belgium.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
In the morning, before school, I would usually load up some intros with good SID tunes, to make me feel great and kickstart my day. I did not listen to much "real" mainstream music at all in my youth, SID tunes were my life. I was certain that it was not that I didn't understand life, but that everyone else didn't understand this kind of life. :) During the school day, I would spend most of my breaks collecting disks and money from my "customers" who bought the latest games from me in the playground. Some had subscriptions and pre-paid me the money so they would always get the latest stuff straight away. During class, I would often secretly reply to contacts of mine who sent me long handwritten letters. I recall that Shogun/Pride (later Knickers) in particular was always drawing amazing artwork and creating small cartoons, and his letters were often six to ten pages long. His drawing skills were amazing – and still are today! :) After school, I would go to the post office and pick up the day's mail at my "poste restante" address. Usually, there would be a bag full of mail from my contacts, and I would go home and start the day's most important job: replying to letters, while copying disks. I only had one disk drive, so I usually spent my time writing reply letters to my contacts (or trying to do homework, although that wasn't very important to me...) while copying disks. Later on, I started to use MasterCopy+ to copy disks, which was lightning-fast compared to Nova Copy which I had been using prior to that. It was almost more stressful, in that it was so much faster than before that it was hard to do something else in the time between flipping the source/destination disks. Once all the shipments were ready, it was time to pack up all the envelopes ready for shipping before the postman emptied the local post box. Sometimes, I didn't make it there on time, so I had to grab my bicycle to ride to the post office, which had a later deadline. "No delay!" – "Stamps back!" – of course. :)
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
This was not invented by me, but around 1990 or 1991 – Danish Science had just a few members, as most had left for the Amiga or just disappeared off the scene – I met this amazing guy at a local Amiga event, Wiz, who happened to live not too far from me and who could code! He's the guy I wish I had met many years earlier. We started spending most weekends together, making demos and stuff on both the C64 and Amiga. Around that time, Wiz made his own cable and software on both the Amiga and C64 side so that I could draw fonts and logos in Deluxe Paint on the Amiga and he could then transfer it to the C64. At the time, I had never seen or heard of anyone else doing this. Unfortunately, this work was never released until 2004 when I backed up all my disks and stumbled across it again and decided to upload it to CSDb as a preview. By then, of course, it was very outdated. Wiz also used the Amiga to do rotating pre-calculations for a circle-scroller which he could then transfer to the C64.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
If I was asked this question in 1992, I could probably name something I was actually proud of, but in retrospect, it is hard to think of something worthy. Probably, though, it's the things I did together with Wiz and our coder Slime, who was from Sweden, specifically the demos Lost Dreams and Cute and Cuddly. They were at least up to the standard of the time, and the sort of thing I really wish we had released more of earlier.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
I think many of my heroes were the SID masters, such as Reyn Ouwehand, Ben Daglish – RIP :( – Rob Hubbard, JCH, Johannes Bjerregaard, Maniacs of Noise, 20CC, Rock/Finnish Gold, Link, Drax, etc. They really kept my spirits high and made me feel amazing. Other heroes were of course not just the individuals but also some of the big groups, in terms of both cracking and demo-making, such as The Papillons, Dominators, Ikari, 1001 Crew, Horizon, Science 451, Black Mail, Abnormal, Impulse, etc.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
I remember when I saw 1001 Crew and Sodan opening the sideborder for the first time, that completely blew my mind. Although even now, when I see how the groups of today keep pushing the limits, guys like Bonzai, Censor Design, Arsenic, Genesis Project, Fairlight, etc. are still blowing my mind.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I was invited to quite a few, but unfortunately I only made it to a few very local ones. Later, in my Amiga years, I joined The Party when it was still a pure demo/scene event. At that time (1995, I think), the C64 was still in the demo competition, and the German guys in Reflex rocked with Mathematica. I also met them there, and they interviewed me for their disk mag. The CeBIT tradeshow also came much earlier when I was doing real business. I am sad to say that I never got to experience a hyped Commodore booth at CeBIT. I only saw it at a local Commodore fair in Aarhus, Denmark, when the Amiga 3000 was just being released, it was amazing. Mostly I did those weekend meetings where a good contact would come over and stay for the weekend. We never slept much, but just sat in front my C64 exploring, coding, cracking or watching demos.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
It was about pushing the limits, learning real-life stuff (I am convinced that a lot of my basic knowledge in business originates from those early days), friendships, sharing our love of the C64 (including the scene wars which were less loving). It was something magical, and it was like being a member of a secret underground society which not everyone else would understand or be a part of. It was unique.
What were the particular highlights for you?
I think the first demo which still stands out as a highlight for me was Dutch Breeze by Black Mail. It was so well-polished for the time, FLI graphics, amazing soundtrack, well designed. I will always remember the moment I loaded it for the first time. I also remember the 801/ Cazzoni demo and some demos by Ian & Mic as marking the very beginning when I started to really enjoy demos.
Any cool stories to share with us?
One day, I was preparing the day's shipments to my contacts and I was in a hurry. I was late for catching the daily deadline at the post box, and as we all know, delays get you a bad rep very fast, so you had to be fast, no delays, or you were officially lame! Somehow, the glue on my stamps was not completely dry, so the post office found that many of my letters were stuck together when they were sorting them. I was reported to the police. The police contacted my parents directly, as I was just 13 or 14 years old at the time. From that moment, I was totally done with "Stamps back!", and for a long time, my letters were inspected (and therefore delayed) because they were checking carefully to see if I had been using glue on my stamps. I lost a load of contacts because of that, since they thought I was sloppy and a late-sender. I remember the police told me they knew that the content on the disks was probably illegal, but they couldn't prove it. Naturally, I denied this and said they were demos (as if they would even know what that was back then). At the time, the police were still using typewriters and had no IT knowledge at all, so I got a gentle warning and was told that they had instructed the local post office to destroy any letters of mine with modified stamps on them, and of course they sent a written warning to all the people I was sending to, since they had their addresses from my envelopes.
A few weeks later at school, I suddenly saw a police car in the playground from my classroom window. I was sure they were coming to pick me up, because of the stamp incident. I sneaked out of school, ran home, and hid all my disks inside my parents' sofa. I called my mom to get her to tell the school I had felt sick and had had to go home, something I had never done before. I found out the next day that the police had only been there to show some kids what the inside of a police car looks like. :) I was clearly very paranoid at that time.
My disk drive was really suffering from copying all these disks. In the last few years I was active, I think my few remaining contacts were getting annoyed that my disks were always corrupt. I had no idea why, as they worked in my drive, until I realised my drive was about to die. When I finally decided to get a new 1541-II, it was almost the end of my swapping activities anyway.
This is not so much of a fun story, but around 1988 or 1989, there was this Danish guy who was a real pain in the ass. At the time, I didn't know who he really was or that I wasn't his only victim. He liked to stoke up wars and fake news, and as a result, some people suddenly started hating on me for no reason. He would call me up, pretending to be someone else like Tiger of NATO or Excel of Ikari, and make up stories that they wanted to join me or work/swap with me. Being a naïve young kid, I believed the stories at first. He would put ads in some of the newspapers that I was selling copied games, which was very common early on, but then anti-piracy groups started monitoring it. I would get loads of calls from people wanting to buy from me, but I always had to decline and pretend I didn't own a C64 as I was worried it could be a sting and the anti-theft people would try to bust me. This guy would call me (and therefore my parents) at 2am, 3am, 4am at night, using calling cards so we couldn't identify the number, and he would make strange sounds or simply wake everyone up with the ringing and then just hang up. He would do this several times throughout the night, and it went on for almost a year. It was a nightmare, especially for my parents, getting woken up almost every night. At the time, my granny was very sick and in hospital, so we couldn't just unplug the phone, in case the doctors needed to reach us. With the help of some scene friends, I found out the guy's real name and address and sent him a warning letter explaining what would happen if he did not stop immediately. It did then stop straight away, so that obviously worked. :) I later found out that I wasn't the only one chasing him, there were other guys who had serious issues with him and were putting out war demos and messages against him.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Although I am not a big fan of social media, I cannot deny that Facebook has enabled me to stay in touch with some folk. Most people don't regularly visit CSDb, so it's quite hard to track them down without using Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. But yes, I am still in contact with some of them today, and over the years, some old Danish Science members have even tracked me down to say "Hi". I don't meet up with them, but we usually exchange a few emails and/or messages here and there.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got mine in 1984, and it is not just lying around, it's still connected and READY to go. I've even upgraded it with an Ultimate cartridge. I've transferred all my C64 disks to D64 (although some were pretty bad, due to my knackered 1541 drive), so now I have them all on microSD and ready to go. :)
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
I think it was! The C64 bred an entire generation in which many of us became professionals within IT or related fields. Even modern-day EDM music has sections and elements of C64 tunes in it, and some even use the SID to generate those special sounds. It was the only computer that gave you that feeling of unity, not like the world of computers today where it's more like a commodity. The C64 had soul and triggered a really special emotion, and although people today will say "Commodore 64 graphics!" as a byword for really bad graphics, I know that deep down, this was for many perhaps their first encounter with something really cool, and if they saw the incredible graphics being made on the C64 today, they wouldn’t even use that phrase any more.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
I'm afraid that's not going to happen. I have definitely become a couch-scener, I just enjoy seeing the latest stuff still being released on the real thing, and them bumping it up onto a large screen and enjoying the cool sound coming out of some real nice speakers, somewhat louder than when I was a kid with my 10-inch black-and-white TV and its terrible mono speaker. I did get a 14-inch colour TV later, but my first one was a tiny black-and-white TV, which also meant I could not see orange, so in games like Aztec Challenge, I was constantly dying because I couldn't see the orange piranha fish in that level. It might be fun to participate in a simple demo one day, but since I am totally behind the times in terms of drawing, it would probably be a big effort for me to create any graphics worth seeing. The competition is fierce today with so many amazing artists out there! :)
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
To all you active sceners out there, keep doing what you're doing, it is simply amazing to see how you keep the scene alive and keep pushing the boundaries of our beloved C64. You all rock! To all my old fellow members and contacts who are still around, I hope life is good, and thank you for some of the best moments of my life! If I could turn back time, I would flash straight back to those teenage days in my room with my C64 and enjoy that ride again.
To Detch (formerly Unicess, Vector, Daniax), thanks for the amazing weekends we had back then, great memories!
To Wiz (Danish Science), I am still taking good care of your old C128!
To Slime (Danish Science), see you later alligator, or was it a hamster?
To Morpheus, thank you for everything you do for the C64 community, keeping the magic and the spirit alive!
... and thank you, Commodore, for creating the best computer for the masses ever! SYS64738
back to the list of available interviews