The recent unfortunate events surrounding SAC were not only a surprise for me and a disappointment, but also caused me to stand back for a little and reflect on what happened over the past 16 years when a friend of mine and me started the group 16+ years ago. I did not plan to write as much in detail about stuff as I ended up eventually, but what is new? Hehe. Yes, this tale is written in a personal narrative and describes things the way I experienced them and remember today. This means that it is probably full of errors and bias’ that I might or might not was aware of.
How it Started
I co-founded SAC in December 1994 together with Hetero, whom I had just met in person for the first time a couple weeks earlier. I discussed with him the lack of a German art group and also the lack of an art group that has closer ties to the Warez scene. At that time the requests that I received just for NFO file logos and designs increased significantly. Instead of sitting around and just whining about those facts, we decided to start something. He and I knew some other local artists who were “independent” at the time. We asked them if they would join a local art group and that’s how it all started. The name for the group was my idea. I wanted a name that can be abbreviated to 3 letters that also sound cool. 3 Letters, because of the possible use as a file extension (EG. ICE used to do it for their ANSIS)
▄ ■ █ ▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▀██▄▄ ▀ ▄▄▄▄ ▄ ▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ ▄ ▄ ▄▄▀ ▄▄▄████████████▄▄▄▄ ▄ ▀██ ▄▄▄████████▀▀▀▀▄▄▄▄██████▀▀▀▄ ▄ ▄▀██████▀▀▀▀▀▀▀██████▓█████▄▄▄▄▄▄▄████▓████▀▀▀▄▄▄▓▓███████▀▀ ██▄███▀ ▀▀▀▀▀█▓████████▓▓██▀▀▀▄▄████▓▓██████▀▀ ░░░ ▀█▄████▄▄▄██████▓█████▀▀▀ ▀▀▓▓█▓▓█▀▀▀▀▀███████▓████▀▀ ▀▀ ▀ ▀▀█████████▓██▀▀▀ ▄ ▀▒▀ ▄ ▄ ▄ ▀▀▀█████ ░░░ ▀████▓█▀ ░░░ ██▀ █▀ ▄░ ▀▓██ ░ ██▓▓▀ ░░ █▓█ ▄ ▄ ▀▓█▄ ░ ▄ ▀ ▀▀ ▀▀▀ ▄██▓▒ ▀▀▀ ▀▀ ▀ ▀▓█ ▄ ▀ ░ ▀ ▀▀ ▒▓█▄▄ ▀ ▀▀ ▀▄▀ ▀█▄▄ ▄▄▄████▓▒ ░ ▄ ▀██▄▄ ▄█▀ ▄ ░░ ▒▓████▄▄▄ ▄▄█▀ ▀█████████▓▒ ░ ▄ ▄ ▀██▄ ▄██ ▓██ ░░ ▒▓█████████▀ ░░ ░░ ▀██████▓▒ ░ ■ ▄▓█▄ ▀█▄ █ ░ ▓██ ░ ▒▓████ █▀ ░░ ░░ ▀████▓▒ ░░▄ ▓██ █ ░ ▓██ ░ ▄■ ▒▀█▀▀█▀▄▄ ▄ ▄ ░░ ▀███▓▒ ░ ▄ ▓██ ░ ▓██ ░ ▄ ▒▓███▀ █ ░░ ▀██▓▒ ░ ▓ ▄ ▓██▀▄ █ ░ ▓████▄ █ ▒▓██▀ ▄ ░░ ▀███▄▄██ ▄ ▄████▄██ ░ ▓███▀ ▓█▄▄▓██▀ ░░ HETERO ░░ ▀▀██▀ ▀▀ ▀███▀ ░ ▓██▀ ▀██▀▀ ░░ · ··SAC! ░ ░ ░ ▓█▀ ░░ ▄▀ ░░ ■ ─ ── ──── ────────────────────────────────────────────────────── ──── ── ─ · ·· S· U P ·E R I· O··R A R T · C R E A ·T I· O· N S ·· · ─ ── ──── ────────────────────────────────────────────────────── ──── ── ─ ▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄ ▄▄ ▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄ ██ ▄ ██ ██ ▄▄█▀ ██ ▄▄▄ ██ ▄▄██ ██ ▄ ██ ██ ██▄▄█▀ ██ ▄ ██ ██ ▄▄▄▄ ██▄ ██ ██ ██ ██ ██ ▀▀▀ ██ ██ ██ ▀█▄▄▄ ██ ██ ██ ██ ▀█▄▄▄██ ▀█▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ ██████████████████ ██ ██ ▄█▀▀█▄ ██ ▄ ▄ ▀▀██▀▀ ██████████████████████ ██████████████████ ██ ██ ██ ██ ██ ▀█▀█▀ ██ ████████████████████████ ██████████████████▌▐█ █▌ ██ ██ ██ ▀█▀█▀ ██ ████████████████████████ ███████████████████ ▀██▀ ▀█▄▄█▀ ▀█▄▄ ▄▄▄▄ ▄▄██▄▄ ██████████████████████ ▀███████████████████▄▄▄▄██▄▄▄▄▄▄█▄▄▄▄▄██████▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄█████████████████████▀
Members of the First Hour, First Pack
The first members were Toxic Trancer, a musician, Dream Design, a gifted pixel artist active primarily on the Commodore Amiga for a group called Remedy at the time, Kaethe, a local female ANSI artist and Wife of the sysop of a local pirate board called “Mystery”, Hetero as Coder and ASCII/ANSI/Pixel Artist and me, as ANSI/ASCII/VGA Artist and Sysop of the World HQ for the group. I had started my own BBS in Spring that year.
Almost the entire crew planned to go together to The Party 1994 demo party in Herning, Denmark, so we thought that this is a good place and time to release our very first art pack and introduce us to the world.
It was clear pretty early on that I was taking on the main responsibilities for managing the group. This made not just sense, because I also happened to run the WHQ of the group, but also because I seemed to have the required skills for this kind of job, which I performed for other groups beyond SAC also throughout my active scene years.
What SAC Was Not
We did not want to be German or European answer to the major US art groups like ACiD, iCE and the countless others which emulated the leading groups pretty much. We were focused on the pirate scene, which means that our recruitment efforts happened naturally among folks who were also active in Warez release groups. We also did not want to pressure ourselves to crank out an art pack release every month. We did not intend to compete with all those other groups. However, without some plan or goals, you won’t get anything done. So we decided to release quarterly packs with a fix release date, to have always the next goal in sight, but at the same time don’t pressure any of us too much to produce stuff for the packs. It should be possible for anybody who is even only somewhat active to get something done within 3 months, right? That was the thought.
Artists were working pretty much independent and took requests by themselves and also decided if they want to take a job or not. Only some projects required closer collaboration between multiple members, such as crack intro productions for the various release groups where somebody of us was a member of or had some buddies who called in a favor. There were attempts to establish some sort of centralized “requests” taking and distribution system that passes down art requests to available artists with the required skills, but they never went anywhere.
SAC remained a relative democratic structured group that provided an outlet for pirate sceners with artistic talents to publish and promote their art work produced. This was especially beneficial for young and still unknown artists as an efficient method to get their name out. With the increasing popularity and fame of SAC as an art group in its own right, applications increased. Even more so once we did the jump into the internet and opened the #SAC IRC channel on the EFNet. The move into the Internet also transformed the group from a mainly local group with its largest member base in Berlin, Germany with some artists here and there in Germany to become a truly international group. The artwork produced before that was already international, but the members in the group itself were not.
Dealing with Applications to Join the Group
In the past most SAC members became part of the group, because somebody in the group noticed them and their work and asked them, if they would like to join. Nobody was doing this all on his own of course. Typically mails were sent on my BBS to the other members and sample artwork was uploaded to show the rest of the clique what they think. That was not a problem while we were only a few guys. It became one, when the group suddenly expanded quickly and at the same time applications of artists seeking us out exploded.
Not every new member was really that much interested in things like thinking about another artist and if he would be a good fit for the group. So decisions about some applications were not made for a long time, because we were waiting for the opinion of several l SAC members about a particular artist, which they never expressed. So a voting system was establish, where every member in SAC was able to cast his vote, his YAH or NAY to any artist application, if the member chooses to make use of this right. If nobody voted for a new applicant for some weeks anymore, the polls were closed and counted. Every vote counted equal, including mine and Hetero’s.
This system also became increasingly difficult, because it required members to call my BBS in Berlin frequently or some member had to try to catch a member of the group on IRC and send him the latest applications to cast votes. Blue Boxing and Calling Cards were pretty much dead and long distance calls by members to the WHQ an unacceptable burden. And with all things that grow bigger beyond a certain point, keeping everybody together becomes also impossible. It also becomes the time when parasites take advantage of the group, trying to join making promises and coming up with grandiose ideas, but never actually doing something, including not producing any art work. For the first time members had to be kicked out of the group, rather than leave it, almost always because the member left the scene or got into other projects that SAC wasn’t able to support at the time (e.g. Some of the musicians left to produce “real music” when MP3s just appeared but not wide spread and okay to include in an art package. Any pack over 2 MB was considered “large” back then.
Membership Levels in a Democracy?!
It became somewhat the rule that somebody who wants to explore other things for any reason, knowing that he cannot contribute to the group with it at the same time, would come forward and “retire’” from the active membership in SAC. Nobody saw any benefit of having a bloated up membership list, if only a fraction of those members would actually be represented by at least one piece of art in SAC pack release every quarter. Several of the members who retired, decided one day that they want to become active again and joined the group with full member status restored. I do not remember any case where somebody was rejected who retired himself from the group previously. To deal with those flaky kind of members who joined and then stopped doing anything without retiring on their own, something had to be done. The answer was to introduce some sort of hierarchy to the group, which was not a chain of command like hierarchy, but a way to express seniority and amount of contribution to the group. New members joined as “trial members”. After a pack or two, the trial was over, if the artist contributed to the art packs during this time. After even longer active membership, the status changed to “senior member”. Trial members saw a much larger fluctuation and were in many cases also just the type of members that were kicked out versus left by themselves.
The Scene Changed
At the end of 1997 things changed. The Internet changed the scene a lot, for the better and unfortunately also for the worse. A lot of idiots and jerks seemed to got access to what used to be a relatively small and easy to keep track of bunch of folks who were bound by common motivations, interests and goals and for the most part also similar ethics and universally accepted rules of conduct.
I was not so happy anymore and did not like the direction where things seemed to be heading at that time. Towards the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998, I started to quit member and even leader ship and senior positions in various release groups, some of which I helped founding and growing myself. I left Dynasty, Backlash and Razor 1911. I still continued with SAC and also Peanuts (the former SAC PPE section), focusing more on the demo scene and the development of free tools for other sysops. A slow retreat from the pirate scene was underway and plans were made to move my pirate BBS from the underground to the light of day. I had already purchased licenses for the BBS software months earlier when suddenly in 1997, the Berlin State Police raided my place and I got busted. I was trying to find the paperwork from this, but it must be buried somewhere and I don’t remember when exactly the bust happened. Sorry. I will update this post when I figure it out. I wrote about the experience of the bust itself on my web site, if you would like to learn more about it.
I got eventually fined in 1998, but already got my personal PC back since it had virtually no pirated software on it and was also not used for the BBS, which was the reason for my bust. Since I already bought a new PC shortly after my other ones were seized, I had two computers again, also ISDN cards and a modem, licensed BBS software and OS/2 Warp operating system to re-launch my BBS now as public demo scene board right from the get go. But it was already late 1998. I was drafted into the German army in January 1998, out of a full paid job, on only of a fraction of my jobs income and not covering any of my expenses to run the BBS. Every day I was in the army to serve my mandatory military service, I lost money. At the same time callers dried up for any BBS anywhere in the world. The Internet had already won, even if some sysops did not want it to be true and tried hard to keep their BBS alive. I shut it down one day and cannot even remember on what day that actually happened.
Meanwhile I was fighting a “cold war” with the German Army. I also got my court appointment because of my BBS while I was in the army. I got a fine and the BBS hardware that the police seized was kept as punishment for what I did. It wasn’t illegal when I started with this stuff, became somewhat not okay, but ignored later, to become illegal eventually with the BSA and other entities trying to fight back and make examples of as many of the pirates as they could. German laws shielded me from this at that time, fortunately. The court noticed the complete lack of selfish and financial motives for what I was doing and decided that it would not be of the states interest to make me to a criminal with all its far reaching consequences. I ended up with the equivalent of a very expensive speeding ticket and community work in form of a monetary donation to a charity of my own choosing.
This also meant that the software companies could not come after me because of it. Something that some of my American buddies were not so lucky with, unfortunately.
I was working after I finished military service for a couple months as a business consultant in a different city and living in hotels 5 out of 7 days of the week. I knew already when I started with this project that I would leave the company and Germany altogether when my current assignment will be over. I made that a condition for taking the offer of the foreign company, that I will not abandon a limited term project where it would be very hard to replace me, if I just leave them behind. In March 1999 the project was done and I flew in April 1999, one day after my 25th birthday to Switzerland.
On the Road
There I lived only for a year. I knew that from the start, because the position they hired me originally for was in the United States. The time in Switzerland was primarily for the company to test me and to check if I am the right guy for the job and also gave them time to get the required work visa for me to move to the United States. The main office in Switzerland was in St. Gallen. I only rented a studio there, nothing big and put most of my stuff that I did not want and could take to Switzerland into storage in Germany. I also ended up living 5 days out of 7 in a hotel at the other end of Switzerland in Basel to work on a lucrative assignment for the Pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann La Roche. It became increasingly hard for me to do any serious management of Superior Art Creations. That things did not work too well is clearly visible at the release dates of SAC packs at the time. The quarterly release date was missed ever more frequent.
Organizing and “Leading” a group is a lot of work. More work than most folks can imagine. Anybody who tried it will agree with me on this one. It is funny, I always got the feeling as if nothing would get done if it would not be for a few stupid idiots who try to get their buddies on track with a goal and focused, holding their hands, yell or grow gray hair until the next goal was finally reached, just to be replaced by the next one (e.g. next release). Taking on responsibilities on their own, planning and focusing on something specific, short term, but part of a larger picture, seems to be a trait that the majority of people apparently lack.
Handing Over Responsibility for the Group
I decided to do the only right thing that I could think of, which was handling over responsibility to somebody else. I did that while I was in Switzerland. The person I chose was Ferrex. I remained in the NFO file for a bit longer and also contributed to a pack with a few things once in a while. But in 2001 I asked to be removed from the active member list and officially retire. I had moved to the United States a year earlier. My company was in the Internet Business and we know what happened in 2001, starting already at the end of 2000. The DOT.COM crash of course. I was mentally prepared to pack up again to return to Germany because of another round of lay-offs that shock many businesses in the industry, including the company I worked for via a work-visa bound to my employment contract with this company.
The company had to think fast and act even faster to change focus and strategy in order to survive.
A Lot of Changes With Lasting Impact
The few people left to do the work had to put in over time, a lot. I learned a lot during this time, which also lead to me becoming self employed in 2007, leaving my former visa and green card sponsor in good terms, still maintaining personal contacts with its owners and management. The company is doing good today, which is good. I also got the time to do something else for myself again and was for the first time thinking about the old days of bulletin boards and text art again. windows 95 was replaced by Windows 98, which were both pretty much compatible still with the old fashioned MS DOS operating system. By the time I looked back again, Windows 2000 came and went and Windows XP and Windows 2003 Servers were the OS that dominated the PC market. Many of the old stuff did not even run on the machines anymore. MS DOS was virtually gone with some fragments of it left here and there. At was at this time when I started to worry about the legacy of SAC and my own work as ASCII/ANSI artist. Displaying an ANSI required already special software that did not come with the OS anymore.
Here are some posts and comments from the Time before I became involved with SAC again, starting with nice story that describes how the old stuff (scene, BBS, ANSI art) was ultimately responsible for other things that became relevant for my life, but had nothing to do with my scene past per se.
Feb, 11 2006 – How things happen such as this Blog
Launch of RoySAC.com
The old version of Cumbrowski.com had multiple subjects and content for each of those subjects grew, the family part, the professional part and the oldskool scene part. So I decided in 2006 to create three web sites out of the one to keep things separated. The result was the move from Cumbrowski.com to its own domain, just for the old scene stuff. May 21, 2006 – Site Cleanup and Re-Structure and a New Site launch
Aug 19, 2006 Move to RoySAC.com – Official Re-Launch of RoySAC.com
I had contact with “Idiana” (the girlfriend of Ferrex, not an active artist, but keeping things together and do Ferrex job) and was able to gather some more information. I even had a Wiki up for a short period of time to gather more information, but I remained the only contributor despite the promises that were made by others
to do something as well.
May 2007 – I got contacted by “Xeek” regarding the domain “SuperiorArtCreations.com”, which was just about to expire. Transferred the domain. He also sent me a ZIP with some Site Layout Ideas in a early stage
Expansion of SAC Section at RoySAC.com Began
To see how things progressed, check out the Web Archive (Unfortunately it only has data since 11-2007, but you can see the difference between the site in November compared to the expanded version a month later.
Aug 01, 2007 – Major Site Expansion and New SAC Section with Art Packs Page
Aug 31, 2007 – Welcome to the ASCII Art Videos
I started Capturing SAC Cracktros and Intros and made them available on YouTube mainly and some also at other video sharing web sites. I created a special account on YouTube called “sacreleases”. The account started out with SAC related content only, but was then expanded, since I only made little progress on the few remaining SAC productions that I was unable to capture on video.
I created special play lists for the SAC stuff though, to keep it separate from the other videos
Oct 15, 2007 – It Was Time Again For A Clean-Up
- Nov . 2007 – Snapshot at Web Archive before 1st major expansion
- Dec 2007 – Snapshot at Web Archive after 1st stage
Dec 3, 2007 – Web Archive After Phase 1 – SAC Updates and Site Content Additions
Getting the SAC Pack Content Online
Major Work began in December 2008. Multiple Posts 12-2008 and 01-2009
Dec 29, 2008 – Interesting SAC Art Packs Statistics, Figures and Downloads
Dec 39, 2008 – Interesting SAC Art Packs Statistics, Figures and Downloads – Part II
Jan 18, 2009 – First ASCII Art Piece of Mine in Ages
Before I had the stuff up on my website I already put up many of it on sites like Flickr, YouTube and others.
I did that with stuff that I processed throughout the year. I created Flickr Sets with converted ANSI/ASCII and VGA art from the packs as early as January 2009. I also uploaded converted content to my file share account at Mediafire.com where people could download the content in packages and collection format.
Side Project – The SAC All Time Member List. Decision Made to post what I had so far publicly in the hope that SAC members would respond and provide info on outstanding and open questions. I maintained the list via Google Docs and Spreadsheets and even gave several SAC members with whom I was able to get in touch with access to the document for collaborative editing. Nobody ever did a single edit.
Almost One Year of Work Bears Finally Fruits
1. Begin Oct 2009, Cracktro Browse
Oct 2, 2009 – SAC Crack Intros and BBS’tros Collection Finally Live on RoySAC.com
2. End Oct 2009 SAC Pack Browse (Some Long Weekends for the last stretch and get the packs finally up)
Oct 15, 2009 – SAC Art Packs Now Accessible Via Web Browser Online
I knew that a SAC channel was kept up on IRC and also spend a little bit time there now and then. Never for extended periods of time, because I wasted too much time on IRC already in the many years before. There was not much going on there, but somebody was always there, not a SAC member but somebody who was not a bot. That’s also the reason why I referred people time and again to the channel and also others like #ACID to try to find an active artist who is willing to take requests for artwork.
At the same time, i made myself accessible and reachable. A simple search in any of the major search engines for “Superior Art Creations”, “Roy/SAC” or even “ANSI Art” would have lead anybody who was looking for me or information about SAC right here and to all the stuff that I did over the years. I expanded my outreach beyond the steadily growing web site here at RoySAC.com even further with creating a MySpace page for Roy and a MySpace group dedicated to ANSI Art. I started a text art group on Google Groups, started a Facebook group for Superior Art Creations, a YouTube channel, Flickr collection and sets, Picasa Albums. I updated content at Pouet and made content available for backup at my file share account at Mediafire.com and on my web site.
The only place where I did not publish was on Warez FTP Servers and on IRC. While the FTP option was a problem due to the lack of access, it had just like IRC one major flaw, it only lasts for a very short period of time and is then gone for ever into oblivion and camping out there like a bum was out of the question, but I did not feel it necessary. Even the most reactionary scener from the old days could not forever ignore the developments and changes around him and stuck to only use the Internet Services FTP, IRC and EMAIL, ignoring the WEB entirely. One search in Google and everything would be right in their face. What they decide to do with it is a quite different story, but ignoring it was virtually impossible.
Whenever I encountered another former SAC member at any of those places or got contacted via my email address at GMX.DE, which was my scener email address since 1995 already and was continuously working with only a couple months interruption in 2009, I pointed to what I did and what I wanted to do, asking for their help and opinions. I also noted contact information in the non-public version of the SAC member list. Emails, Web Sites, Facebook Profiles, Phone Numbers, Real Names etc. Nothing happened suddenly and certainly not secretly either. At stake was the legacy of a group that I helped founding and growing for 7 years and a scene I was part of for 9 years of my life. I could not allow this to slip away into the darkness and become lost forever. I was not just talking about doing something, but went ahead and did it. How good of a job I did might be debatable, but out of the question should be the fact that doing something is indefinitely better than doing nothing at all.
During all this time I stated over and over again, that I consider the stuff I did for SAC on the Web to be only “preliminary” until a better solution is found, involving other SAC members to build a final and official legacy for the group together. It’s not about me, it’s about us. SAC is a result of a joint effort by over 100 individuals over a period of more than a decade of work and dedication and only another joined effort can secure the legacy of it eventually. I hope my efforts contribute to this effort, but they should not be the end of it.
I appreciate the work of others who are driven by very similar motives like Lord Scarlet of Sixteen Colors, Ben Garret of Defacto2.net, Jason Scott of Textfiles.com (and director of the BBS Documentary DVD), RaD Man of ACiD (Dark Domain DVD and public speaker about the subject), the folks at Blocktronics and the many others like them or supporting those efforts. See my links section for more scene preservation efforts and more.
I will continue with my efforts regardless of what happened and hope that others will also start helping to preserve a legacy that became part of the history for all of us and should be worth remembering, even after our deaths long time in the future.
Carsten aka Roy/SAC in 2010