This post falls into the category “old personal history of mine”. I thought that write once more about how I experienced things, especially because I grew up behind the Iron Curtain in the former communist part of Germany, the DDR or GDR (German Democratic Republic).
People always ask me how it was like, so here is a story that describes one aspect of it, a very specific one though. Not everybody will be able to relate to it, but if you know what computer demos and crack intros are and interested to hear more about it, stick around.
Computer Tales from the Former East Germany
Back in 1987, two years before the Wall fell in Berlin, when my dad was allowed to take the Commodore 128D computer (with monitor and 9 needles printer) home to be able to use it for work there, I thought that this was the happiest moment in my life.
I always wanted to have a computer since I got exposed to one for the first time in either 1985 or 1986 (That first computer wasn’t a Commodore, it was actually an Atari 800 XL with Datasette tape without any turbo load hardware tweak). There was no Internet and also no tech support to call, because that support did not extend to the area of the former East German state at that time.
The only thing to go on was the user handbook that came with the computer.
My dad gave me one empty floppy disc (remember, the C128D had a floppy drive build-in) for me to use, which was a awful nice thing to do for him, considering that it was incredibly hard to buy those in the former GDR. The black market price for one 5 1/4 inch double density floppy disk ranged between the equivalent of $100-$200.
First on my mind were of course computer games. I was 13, so what else would you expect. Well, I didn’t know anybody else who had a C128D or C128 computer or heard of anybody who got one and the C128/D computers were different from the Commodore 64. You did not get the familiar blue screen with light blue borders and font when you booted the machine up.
So there were at first only two pieces of software that I could use. 1) The “Star writer” software that my father used for work and 2) the build in C128 BASIC interpreter to run C128 BASIC code (which I did not have yet).
A text processor is fascinating for about a day or two and then gets awful boring so I decided to see if I could do something more interesting with that build in BASIC compiler. Luckily for me, the user manual contained the list plus a brief description of the available basic commands.
I thought to myself, If I don’t have a game to run on the machine, then I will change that by writing my own. Well, it was a bit more complicated than I thought, but I made good progress to the point were I experimented with the advanced BASIC features such as Sprites and drawing functions.
In a stroke of luck, one of my class mates heard/read somewhere that the C128D is supposed to be 100% Commodore 64 compatible and that it could be switched to the C64 mode with the command “go64″ (or was it “go c64″?!, something like that). I couldn’t wait until school was over and my abilities to concentrate on what my teachers said was out the window that afternoon.
Back home I tried it and it did not work. What? That cannot be, my C128D was not one without that compatibility I told myself and tried it once more, using different variations of the command with different spellings until the screen flashed and the familiar blue C64 screen appeared with the text “**** COMMODORE 64 BASIC ****, 64K RAM SYSTEM 38911 BASIC BYTES FREE, READY. followed by a blinking Cursor. Hooray! Getting Software was now relatively easy. It only took a friend with a C64, his Datasette (nobody else who I knew had a floppy drive), cassettes with games and to figure out how to transfer a program from the cassette on to my floppy disk.
The first 3 things were relatively easy to get, 4 was a small hurdle I guess, but I did it and cannot remember how it worked, so it might not have been such a big challenge after all. I think I was not able to transfer all games that I wanted, but I could be wrong, because maybe I was able to copy it, but not able to play it. You have to know that the C128D from my dad’s work did not come with a game joystick (dough). There was also no way for me to get one elsewhere. I did not have the financial resources to buy one for East German Money (which would have cost probably 100 or 1000 times my monthly allowance) and as every other East German citizen, I was short on West German money (Valuta) as well. So… NO Joystick.
I remember playing Pole Position, Amidar (or Omidar), Hero, Little Computer People, some ugly Pinball game where I forgot the name and some other games that I cannot remember. There was a Submarine (U-Boot) game that my dad loved to play, but I cannot remember its name to find something like it on the PC for him. No, it was not a simulation game like Silent Service. It was an arcade game. If you got an idea what it could have been, let me know. I’d appreciate it.
Anyhow, I remember that I was not able to play on this computer my all-time favorite 8 bit computer game, which is International Karate (the original), bummer, but nothing is perfect, right?!
The First Demo that I Recognized as What It Was
A friend left me for a few days the datasette and a bunch of cassettes that I could check out what I want to copy on to my floppy, which suddenly became very small and somewhat limiting.
I did copy a program called “Shade”, which did not serve any apparent purpose, but looked good and had a fabulous sound unlike anything that I heard before on any computer. It got lost and it took me over 20 years to find out exactly what that program was (It took me only about 10 years to find out what the music was and who created it).
The program was the Demo/Intro called “Shade” by the group “Newlook” for the Commodore 64 (C64) from 1987
It uses the song “Shades” by Chris Huelsbeck (download MP3 version) which won the open music contest by the German computer magazine/software publisher Markt & Technik in 1986 and launched his career of becoming, next to other musicians such as Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish or Martin Galway, one of the most popular and successful musician on the Commodore 64 Home Computer.
- Video capture with enhanced sound (39 MB) or watch video online at Vimeo.com
- Video capture with original sound (26 MB)
He created the sound tracks for the games R-Type and The Great Giana Sisters, which are also in the Top 100 popular sound tracks on the Commodore 64 ever (Top 100 by http://www.hvsc.c64.org/)
This was the first “Demo” that I got exposed to and recognized as such. It was an independent piece of software, all by itself, like any game or software application that I (or my dad) had at that time.
But compared to games or software applications does this program not serve any practical purpose or function other than to just look at it and enjoy it for what it is. The school of the company where my school sent its students to for the in East Germany mandatory “PA” (Produktive Arbeit), “ESP” (Einfuehrung in die Sozialistische Production) and “TZ” (Technisches Zeichnen) education (and also offered voluntary classes in Computer Sciences, where I got to learn the programming language BASIC for the East German home computers KC-85 1 and KC-87, which looked identical and I don’t know what the difference was between them), got for themselves a Commodore 64 computer, which they only used in special occasions. At one of those occasions I brought a copy of this demo with me to show it to the teacher and to follow students, to demonstrate the capabilities of the machine, which was a difference like day and light, in graphics and sound, compared to the first versions of the East German KC computers.
I just started English classes so could not translate the scroller text. The English abilities of the teacher were obviously also limited, because not a single eye-bow was raised during the presentation of the show.
Reading the scroller today makes me smile, when I look back to this moment and what could have been the consequences, if the teacher would have been able to understand the text.
The good times were unfortunately much too short in my opinion. It only lasted for a few months when my dad had to take the computer back again to the office. Gosh, what I would have given for not loosing it… a leg, probably. I didn’t need a leg to use the computer. Makes sense, right?! Aehm… well, maybe not and sacrificing a leg of mine would also not have helped to get the computer back :(.
The First Cracktro that I Recognized at Was It Was
I don’t remember any Cracktros from the Atari 800 and would not place a bet for any money on the question if there were any at that time (1985-1989). In 1987 Commodores popped up everywhere. The Atari 800 was a lonely hero in my world in the years before, the only home computer that knew about and that it existed.
I was frequently at another friends home who owned a Commodore 64 (do you see a pattern emerging here? hehe) . Anyhow, he had a lot of games from the start where I never found out from where he got them himself. Games were not sold in East Germany, nor any other piece of software for any computer from a capitalist country. Every software, with the exception of any software that might have come with the computer hardware package itself, was a pirated copy and there was nothing anybody could have done about it.
I had copies of games for the Atari and later Commodore 65 myself, even though I did not own a computer myself. Well, my knowledge of the computers that I never had and the software that I DID had was helping me to make new friends easily, especially with folks who just got one for themselves from somewhere with no or only one-two pieces of software and no knowledge about what to do with it. I was able to help them and was able to use their computer for a limited time at least in return. I even got contacted in a few instances by somebody who got referred to me by somebody who I knew or also just know a another person that I knew, short strangers who I only knew little or not at all until that point. I was almost functioning like a BBS (my parents had the phone and people called to “download” some software from me and find some help for how to use their new precious piece of microelectronics.
But back to my friend that I mentioned before I spun a bit off topic, who was already my friend before he had a computer by the way (I mention that to avoid that some of you might started to get a wrong idea about me and how I was choosing my friends as a teenager hehe).
It was at his place during a normal computer gaming session, when I suddenly recognized my first crack intro by a pirate group as what it actually was, a program that did not came from the authors of the game itself, but somebody else who did something to the game that it was possible to do with it was every East German did without having a choice, making a copy of it for somebody else to use on his computer.
Also that there was rarely text at first then often in English, which I was just starting to learn made this recognition more complicated.
Anyhow. I have seen that crack intro already a hundred times or more before, but assumed it to be a part of the actual game. Which one was it? Okay, here it is…
It was the Crack Intro titled “Mini Putt” (Cracktro) by the release group Eagle Soft Incorporated (ESI) for the Commodore 64 (C64) from September 1987.
Credits for this intro marvel as far as I know them:
Code: don’t know yet
Eagle Image by: Scorpio (Carol) of Eagle Soft
Music (two songs were used interchangeably)
- Song “Future Knight” by Ben Daglish (download MP3 version)
- Song “R1D1″ by Antony Crowther (download MP3 version)
Video captures of the intro for download
- Video Capture with enhanced sound (19 MB) – AVI/XVID/MP3 or watch video online at Vimeo.com
- Video Capture with original sound (4.5 MB) – AVI/XVID/MP3
You can download the Demo by Newlook and the ESI Cracktro for the Commodore 64 (D64 and PRG format), the original C64 tunes by Chris Huelsbeck, Ben Daglish and Antony Crowther in SID format and converted to MP3, plus some images, in one convenient ZIP archive (only 17.8 MB) from my Mediafire.com file sharing account here.
Download C64 Disks, Executables, SID Music files and MP3 version of them, of the demo and intro that I talked about in one ZIP archive: C64-CCU-ESIIntro-HuelsbeckShades-D64s-SIDs-MP3s.zip
I hope that you enjoyed my not so short story
Carsten aka Roy/SAC