Zip / Zip Cracking Factories, Shape
Added on August 20th, 2022 (593 views)

Hi Einar and welcome to the interview! Please introduce yourself to the audience.
My name is Einar Wedøe, I'm 55 years old, and I was born in Hamar, Norway on 2 September 1966. I now live in Gjøvik, Norway with my wife Elisabeth and work as an ICT co-ordinator at Fagskolen Innlandet (Vocational School of Innlandet). In my spare time, I do some computer programming, mostly in Python and PHP. I published my first novel two years ago and am close to finishing the next one.

What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
My handle was Zip. It was inspired by an ad for a joystick called Zip Stik. I have used the same handle since 1983. In the autumn of 1983, a friend and I decided to create a demo/cracking group. I was the only one of us who could program, so the name Zip Cracking Factories kind of came naturally, at least I considered it a good idea at the time.

What group(s) were you in?

What roles have you fulfilled?
At the very beginning, I just swapped disks for a while, but it was the coding that appealed to me. I continued swapping with a very few select people whom I liked, but gradually left the swapping to others. I have done some GFX and even made a (maybe) decent SID tune, but coding is my thing. I have coded lots of stuff, for all kinds of work, throughout my life. It all started with BASIC on the C64. I soon switched to 6502 assembly language, and from there to Turbo Pascal, 68000 Assembly, Python, PHP, Blitz BASIC, BlitzMax, Monkey, HTML, iOS, C++, Javascript and even E.

How long were you active for?
I was a very active coder on the C64 from 1983 until around 1991. I made my last SHAPE demo as late as 2001. That last demo was a PC demo featuring a lot of cool effects invented on the C64, using only actual C64 GFX. A real homage to the best computer of all time. I called it Nostalgia, and I still watch it from time to time.

Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
I was always fascinated by computers, even the extremely early ones. The whole concept appealed to me. I had a cousin who was a few years older than me, and he said I should get myself a C64 when Commodore almost halved the price in Norway in 1983. I played games on it for about a month, but quickly got more and more into programming BASIC. Very soon, BASIC became too slow for me, and Assembler was the next natural step. I purchased the book Using the 64 by Pete Gerrard and instantly fell in love with machine code. I read that book over and over again (I still have it now), and it changed my life. I was a coder, no doubt about that. As far as I can recall, I discovered the scene through crack intros, so that was the way ahead for me too. As I released increasingly better crack intros and demos and started putting my contact info in the code, other coders soon contacted me, and it snowballed from there.

Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer (in the 1980s/1990s, that is).
Having ADHD, I never slept much, usually no more than three to five hours a night. Also, having very few friends meant I had a lot of time for coding. I grew up on a small farm and usually did some farmwork after school, but the nights and early mornings were available for coding. I also often woke up in the middle of the night with the solution to some coding problem I had had before going to sleep. Some of my best stuff was done while the moon was up.

Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I'm pretty proud to say I believe Zip Cracking Factories made the first-ever mega demo. In my world, that's a demo that completely fills up all the available blocks on a C64 diskette. The demo was called The Big ZCF Demo and got a lot of attention at the time.

As far as I know, I also did the first-ever demo on an NTSC (American) C64, featuring a 100% working sideborder scroller, in 1987. I think I also did the first unexpanded sideborder scroller, as far back as in 1986. Daredevil and I developed a lot of tools for ourselves, but I don't think we released any of them. We also made a pretty good system for transferring C64 graphics to the Amiga using a parallel cable.

When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
I was very productive, and the things I mentioned in the previous answer are the ones I'm most proud of. I also made some nice appearances on the result lists of various demo-parties back then.

Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
The 1001 Crew, The Judges and Triad did very cool stuff back then. I loved the innovative stuff they did. Particularly talented coders I'd like to mention include FCS, Matcham, Unitrax, Solomon, Omega Supreme, Mr. Cursor and Bitbuster.

What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
SID music in general. The creations some people managed to squeeze out of the SID chip were just fantastic, absolutely amazing. That being said, it was the design flaws in the VIC chip that pretty much made the C64 the best computer ever. It challenged a whole generation to use their brains, figuring out how to make the C64 do things it was never designed for. As for the effects, I'm hugely impressed by routines featuring full-screen rotating 3D models. Lastly, the highest praise has to go to whoever first opened the upper and lower border, thereby starting the let's-make-the-VIC-do-more-and-more-impossible-stuff race.

Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
My first copy-party was Grendel's party in Iisalmi, Finland in 1988. I attended a lot of copy-parties and demo-parties in the following years. SHAPE held its own party (together with TRC) in Porsgrunn in 1989. Great memories.

In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
Back in the day, it was all about impressing others by making the C64 do impossible things. Nowadays, it is still that, but a lot of work is put into design, smooth transitions, timing the music to the action on the screen and finding extremely skilled ways of loading/calculating stuff in the background. Back then and even to this day, the demos are made first and foremost because it's fun and challenging to do them. It's a great way for strange geeks to bond, and earning the recognition of other groups is always nice.

What were the particular highlights for you?
You never forget your first demo-party. Grendel was the best possible host at Iisalmi in 1988. It was a fantastic party, out there in the Finnish woods. Our own party also rates very highly in my opinion. :) As recently as 2002, I attended Back in Time in London, which was an absolute highlight of my entire life. I had been invited by Guildhall Leisure Games and George Bray, as I had done some programming for them around that time. At the party, I met in person several of my heroes from the 1980s and 1990s. What a blast! I also went to Chris Abbott's 8-Bit Symphony concert in Hull in 2019. That was a night! I would not have missed it for anything. It was a fantastic experience, no question!

Any fun stories to share with us?
It was all fun (and very little games). On our way to the Grendel party, Daredevil and I messed up the map, signs and everything on the streets of Turku, driving the wrong way up the roads, sometimes on the wrong side of the road as well, or even on the pavements, before we got back on track. Shortly after, we were stopped by a policeman standing in the middle of the road with a giant red lamp. He was not pleased, but since we passed an alcohol test, he just lit up and pointed us in the right direction towards IIsalmi. He even waved at us as we drove away.

Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Yes, though only a few, and mostly through Facebook. I sometimes look folk up on social media, etc. to see what they're doing nowadays, but since I'm quite an introvert, I seldom visit any of them, with the exception of Daredevil, who I see every now and again, he lives just a few kilometres away from my house.

When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got my first one as a birthday present to myself on 2 September 1983. I still have it now, and it even still works. I have collected a few more over the years, so as to be sure of always having at least one in working order as I get older. I have about ten of them now, and just as many 1541 disk drives.

Why was/is the C64 such a great machine?
It was way ahead of its time and featured a fantastic sound chip. No-one else had anything like it at the time, certainly not at that low price, but it still had a proper keyboard and the VIC chip which let people do all those great impossible things.

When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
I'm not sure, the thought is always there in the back of my mind. One of these days…

Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making the younger years of my life so very much better and more interesting than they would have been without you.

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