Snorre Narum / The Falcons,
Added on March 22nd, 2023 (642 views)
Hello Snorre! It's great to be able to talk to you about the old days. Please tell us something about yourself.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
I got my first handle when I was at an exchange programme in Biloxi, Mississippi when I was 14 or 15. The host I was staying with took me to a local computer meet-up, and for some reason, that sparked the idea that a handle would come in handy. A commercial running on the local TV stations at the time showed a character called Ice Cream Jones selling ice cream cones, and it had a catchy tune, so I thought that was as good a handle as any. Later, I shortened it to IC Jones or just ICJ. Later still, I started using Znorro as a play on words with Zorro the Avenger and my name.
What group(s) were you in?
The first group I was in was founded mainly by some kids in my street, and it was called The Falcons. I think the name was heavily inspired by Eagle Soft Incorporated and other bird-named crews. I might have the time frame wrong here, but I think we were The Falcons for a couple of years, but then as we gained more experience, we joined forces with another local crew called the Coca Cola Cracking Crew and together created Full Force. This was named after a hip hop crew of the same name who were popular in the 1980s. Eventually, some of us joined forces with the remaining members of Shape.
What roles have you fulfilled?
I was a coder, and a part-time swapper. My attempts to draw and compose music were quickly and rightfully rejected by the other members. :)
How long were you active for?
I must admit that my recollection of the time frames of that part of my life is a little blurry. It feels like it was many years, but looking at CSDb, we only issued releases for a couple of years. I got my first C64 when I was around 14, I think, and I took an Amiga with me when I went to university. By that time, I wasn't spending much time coding demos anymore.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
My neighbour Sventy's dad travelled to the US and brought back a C64 with a tape deck, before it was available in Norway. It was an instant hit with us kids, and we spent a good chunk of our spare time waiting for Donkey Kong to load (15 minutes). I remember us using BASIC to create silly adventure games. We also typed in pages of source code from magazines, hoping we would create something great, but I can't remember any time when we weren't disappointed by the results.
By the time we started middle school, the number of us who had a C64 had grown, and we got in touch with Stormbringer and Mix Master who had some contacts in Oslo. From there, we started swapping and trading and slowly getting into demo coding.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I used to deliver newspapers early in the morning, to make money for computer equipment. If I had a demo part or something I was working on, I sometimes took an hour or so between delivering the papers and going to school to do some coding. If I didn't finish the coding, I would be thinking about it the whole day at school and would rush home afterwards to finish it. That feeling of having solved a problem in my head but still needing to get it down is something I occasionally still get today. I'm sure I must have spent a lot of time playing games as well. Maybe I've just convinced myself I did a lot of coding, but that is how I remember it.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I wouldn't say I invented anything, but I do remember doing a lot of soldering inside the C64. We made these switches to swap between PAL and NTSC mode, for soft-resetting and hard-resetting the machine, etc. I think we also tried to fit the housing with a fan that drew power from the main board, so we could have a cool breeze while coding. Probably the most useful thing we made was a parallel cable for connecting two C64s so that the assembler was on one machine and the code was transferred to the other machine. That way, we still had most of the memory available while coding. I didn't invent any of these things, though, it was all just stuff we picked up from the scene.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
As I have been coding all my life, the code I wrote as a teenager now seems pretty crap in retrospect. :) I do remember the epiphany of realising I didn't have to rotate all the content of my scrolltext in memory, because you could just move the pointer and transfer the next 28 characters to 0400. *sigh*
I once wrote a DYCP that covered the whole screen, borders and all, but it was choppy and too fast and I never quite managed to do it right.
Coding aside, what I think back on most fondly is the fact that we as kids managed to figure out the inner workings of the computer without any adult influence. The community we created and the interests and passion we shared is something I'm often reminded of, and it's something I don't see in my own kids as they grow up. I like to think that what we had in the C64 community was quite unique.
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
Apart from the people I knew personally, it was the music composers who made the greatest impression on me. Rob Hubbard, Tim Follin, Martin Galway, Jeroen Tel, etc. The music they managed to make with the resources they had available is just mind-blowing.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
The first thing that springs to mind is the Action Replay cartridge. It made a coder's life so much easier and allowed us to investigate the inner workings of the C64. I started out with The Final Cartridge, but as soon as I switched to AR, I never looked back. There was one piece of code, which was very silly but I thought was insanely cool at the time, which made the 1541 disk drive spin at different speeds, such that the spinner motor actually played a short tune.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
I think the copy-parties were a big part of what attracted me to the scene. The timeline is again a bit foggy here, but I think the first big party we went to was the Stjørdal party held in 1988 by Razor 1911, Cartel and Abnormal. At the time, you needed an invitation to get into the parties, but we knew a couple of the members of Rawhead and they sent us invites. That experience opened up a whole new world to us.
We also went to the Rawhead, Bros and Suppliers party in Spydeberg in 1989, as well as a couple of Gatherings and the 1992 Light/Phenomena party in Alingsås. We even arranged our own party in Bergen in 1990, which wasn't a huge success but a great experience nonetheless. :)
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
At the time, I thought it was all about playing games and figuring out how great stuff was made on the C64, but in retrospect, I think of it more as a place where many of us were able to fit in and enjoy a great sense of community where we looked after one another. I didn't think much about it at the time, but looking back, I realise that we were a bunch of very different kids with very different skills and challenges, who just had this one thing in common. The stereotypical picture of the computer kid as an introverted nerd who excels in maths and is crap at sports doesn't actually fit with many of the guys I grew up with.
What were the particular highlights for you?
The first thing that comes to mind was the time when I first completed Defender of the Crown. :) The most fun I ever had was probably when we made anti-demos (demos made to look as bad as possible). We made a series of anti-demos called Pimplefiser, mocking the brilliant Pimple Squeezer demos by Rawhead, and I remember having a blast doing that.
Any fun stories to share with us?
I don't know what I can tell without embarrassing (or incriminating) others! :) We were once on our way back home, I think from a trip to visit Megastyle in Brønnøysund. We were on a plane from Trondheim to Bergen and the plane was full, so we had seats dotted all over the plane. We arrived in Bergen and I was waiting for our luggage when Stormbringer's mum asked if I had seen him, which I hadn't since Trondheim, so she asked the flight attendants to page him. Even then he didn't show up, so a flight attendant had to go and look for him on the plane. He was still there, asleep in his seat. The thing was, this plane was only stopping off in Bergen before continuing to Stavanger with most of the passengers. He was lucky to not end up in the wrong city. Stormbringer always was a sound sleeper.
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
Occasionally, but not enough. Facebook is great, though, and I'm always happy when some of the old guys pop up in my stream. Espen Skog is still an active C64 and Amiga enthusiast, and we keep in touch. I try to visit Stormbringer and Mix Master when I'm in Bergen. Every now and then, I bump into Omega Supreme (of The Shadows and Panoramic Designs). Sventy and I are in the same business, so I have bumped into him a couple of times. Stian André Olsen (of SilverHawk BBS) and I worked together a few years and played floorball on the same team, but that's a long time ago now. :) I wish I was better at keeping in touch, because I am really nostalgic and love to reminisce about old times.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I've had a think about this, but I'm not quite sure. I remember we bought it second-hand from a relative, and I must have been around 14 or 15, so probably 1987 or 1988. I don't have it anymore. I think I gave most of my stuff to Omega Supreme or Espen. Luckily, we have emulators, and I'm impressed with how good they are. I once counted up all the computers I had before I bought my first PC, and I think it was twelve C64s and eight Amigas, so I'm glad I didn't keep all of that. What I kept the longest was a suitcase full of 5¼ disks, but now that is gone too.
Why was/is the C64 such a great machine?
The fact that you could turn it on within a few seconds and start coding really lowered the threshold for starting to learn programming. While there are some great web-based programming environments out there today, and scripting can also be cool, it's not the same as the instant flashing cursor inviting you to start typing and see what happens. Of course, the pirated software also probably appealed to teenagers with no steady income. I also liked that you had access to all the hardware directly in memory, no drivers or OS abstraction layer. That made it very easy to see the effects of your program.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
Don't hold your breath waiting for a new demo part! :) I have seen what the guys are making today, and I will never be able to compete with that. It totally blows my mind, and anything I made would just be embarrassing by comparison. A few months ago, I did have a session at work teaching my colleagues at Ensō to code a C64 raster bar in assembly using an emulator, and I think they enjoyed it. Should I do a follow-up session on coding a scroll text? Or maybe some sprite magic? :) I always loved tech techs, so maybe I'll do that.
We're reached the end of the interview. Thanks again! Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
I think it's very cool that all you enthusiasts keep the C64 scene alive to this day. It was a part of my life that I remember very fondly. When I recruit people for my company today, I'm always looking for the kind of passion and enthusiasm that I learned and witnessed on the scene, and that might be the most important skill that I learned from being part of it all. I hope to see some of you again soon, and much more frequently than I have in recent years.
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