Cracker's Map: Sweden
In this segment we will take our journey to Sweden, the proud cracking nation that has a rich history. Each group will have primary detail, in some cases directly from the people involved, as well as some interesting trivia dug up from the depths of time.
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One of the oldest cracking groups from Sweden is without a doubt 1701 CRACKWARE. Of course this makes them historically important despite not releasing a huge amount of wares. The group was founded by JoLo and D.J who were based in Sweden's second largest city Gothenburg which is situated along the southwest coast. The group's name was inspired by 1103 of JEDI and the Commodore 1701 monitor.
After a few cracks and awakening other groups in the Kingdom of Sweden, the group folded in 1986. JoLo, one of the founders, later formed his own company called 1701 Enterprises.
The Girls' Number One Since 1989!
Surfer describes the early beginnings and future of the crew: "Back in the good old days I (Surfer) was the leader of CFO, Crackforce Omega, when the group was activated once again by me and original member Stripe. He proved himself to be lame, with capital L, and I had to get rid of him. So, without any original members it was borderline stupid to still go under the famous name CFO.
So I was looking all over for a new name, BAD was suggested, but we probably would have had to take a lot of slag for that name, so we dished it. One day, on the way back home with my parents we stopped at a gas station. I was looking at sunglasses and saw this tag; it said "Active Polarized". At that moment I thought that Active sounded rather good so back at my HQ I did a really ugly logo, put it in an intro editor and wrote a scroll-text. Then I sent it off to Dexter. He wondered about the group, and I asked him what he thought about the name. He said it was cool, and I told him it was my latest idea for our name. So, we got the name Active and made it official on the first of May 1989. Injun was the main cracker, under a different name. Other original members were Banshee, Ziphoid, Dexter, The Ultimate Warrior and Surfer.
During the following years things went on without any big changes in the status, some were kicked, some joined... We kicked out a lot of high quality cracks during 1989-1990, but things went slower in 1991. The big change came in late 1991 when Trasher joined as a cracker. 1992 was a good year with lots of cracks from Trasher, Injun and Viper (the old Fairlight member), as well as our 3 years anniversary demo, coded by Dexter. The strong activity continued in 1993 when we also had our first few fixed first releases. We also got our first member outside Sweden, the Hungarian coder Artlace. In the beginning of 1994 Trasher joined the army where he stayed for 15 months and this meant a big activity drop. The scene also changed a lot during these years. With the big titles and firms disappearing much of the fun of cracking disappeared. However, we're still at it, for the old thrill's sake... When some of the elders like Dexter and Injun lost the fun and time for the C64, we added up with some new members among old friends… People like Trident, Wolverine, Artlace... Also an old scener from old Byterapers/The Zaints, known as Foxy."
Active were last active in the cracking scene back in 1997, however they surprised the cracking scene with a release in 2008 (after a 10 year coma).
The group is still around, mainly as a demo force.
Founded by Elric, Tycoon & Traz in March 1988. The group released mainly cracks, but also some demos too, between their active years of 1988 and 1989.
The group were quite well known and also disliked to the point of an anti group being created called FAAG (Federation Against Agile) with members like Fairlight, Horizon, Triad, XAKK, Oneway and Ikari. I chatted with Twoflower/Triad in detail regarding why this group was created against Agile:
"Some of the first "real" connections between the US board scene and the illegal European scene was made in 1987, where Swedish sceners (Triad and Relax) got supplied with calling cards from the US, in order to be able to upload their numerous releases with 300 bps modems. After the demise of Triad - when Mr. Z and Ixion more or less quit - there was a hole to fill and a new generation arose.
That generation was more or less summed up in Agile. Agile in 1988 was an established international group with both a demo- and a cracker-section. They knew the old guys of the scene and the legends held these guys under their wings. As an example - a lot of Agile's cracks during 1988 was rumoured to be made by Mr. Z under a fake-handle. As a part of this, they also inherited the overseas contacts. One of the major players here was the ex. TTW and Triad-member Elric.
As Agile produced cracks and intros for US-groups, the calling-cards dropped in, but died quickly. The board scene was addictive, and the magic of doing imports and overseas trading grew for each month - cards came and went all too soon. But then came the big breakthrough.
Cred-a-Calc was a brilliant solution. While checking the similarities of calling card numbers, Karl XII discovered that the codes must be generated through an algorithm. After weeks or even months, he tested his theories and managed to solve all Agile's problems - Cred-a-calc was the perfect solution. No more problems with calling cards.
Months passed, nothing happened and more people got involved. New theories were tried - ordering stuff on generated or stolen cards to fake addresses was one of them. Expensive 2400 modems, computer equipment - you name it. This - and their bragging and feeling of invincibility - was the beginning of the end.
Articles about the "VISA-haervan" started to pop up in the Swedish #1 computer-mag, Datormagazin, with shocking regularity during late 1988 and 1989. It all went over the top when one of the "major hackers" behind this was convinced to present how they did it on Swedish television - the man behind this was Karl XII. Proud over his hacking and proud to be on TV he spilled the beans on prime time TV.
The police, who had been on their tracks, decided that enough was enough and cracked down on the people they already had been suspecting. Elric, Karl XII and Bacchus were arrested. Things really turned sour - Elric, who knew what he had been doing, made a deal and went public with everything in exchange for lighter punishment. Bacchus was pissed - amongst other things he released a demo called "Die Hard Agile!", directed towards Elric. Nothing too serious came out of it though - Bacchus was studying law by then and hired the best lawyer he could find and got away by telling that he had been a victim, swayed by the older Elric. Karl XII, who never bought anything using VISA's - only called with them - got away with a light sentence if I remember things correctly. That was the end of the Agile dominance in Swedish scene history, only to be replaced with Censor one year or two later."
A short time on the scene but the group stirred a storm. It also had many important members such as a lot of guys that would later create Censor and Active. They had Light as a sub-group for a short period before folding entirely in May 1989.
A rumour existed that all cracks by Agile stating "Hail Archimedes" between the intro and the game were cracks done by Janitor. I approached Janitor on the subject: "This sounds very unlikely to me, but its possible Zoltan had some involvement. I remember associating Karl XII with the Swedish youth subcultures that were beginning to flirt with fascist aesthetics in the late 80's, and while this may be an entirely unfair charge -- I certainly can't substantiate it -- I always thought of the guy with distaste."
In the Name of Satan, We'll Take What we Want
The group became a powerhouse in terms of demos and also in the cracking scene with some hot US import partnerships with the likes of North East Importers (NEI) and Exodus. They were also responsible for the legendary Sh0ck magazine.
It is hard for me to keep discussing cracks only here, as these guys simply ruled in other fields also. Anyway, the birth of the group was quite interesting, it all started when some of the members were in Triad, Bob explains: "We did probably 90% of Triad's productions at that time in cracks and demos etc. We even made ourselves our names, people started to know who we in Triad were. Especially at OUR DEMOS in Triad time, we even took a 2nd place at a party in Eskiltuna right after Horizon. We also started to make fast cracks. But fast cracks as you know that IS NOT Triad's policy, only SLOW and OLD cracks, hehe, well that was the most important thing to be first with a crack (FIRST RELEASES), I believe is the same even today. Jerry's main point was that he should control all cracks before they could be spread. That was a problem!"
Bob and Jerry's different styles clashed and as a result Bob was removed out of Triad, he took some of his friends with him and together they created Censor Design. Bob continues: "A winning team shouldn't be changed so we gathered together and made some hits. We started to make some real hot cracks. After releasing a bunch of titles and of course the spectacular Wonderland demo series, the group went on to make makes on the C64 such as Bouncy Balls and Autodestruct on the Playstation (under the name Neurostone).
These days they are scattered around the world a bit. Psycho now lives in Thailand and John (CRT) lives in Canada and the rest are around Europe.
* Redcuz was a fake member created by Dr. Cool and Euzkera; all cracking under this name was actually done by Psycho.
* Dr. Cool beat up Aaron/Fairlight at the Censor Party 1990 in Gothenburg.
* Sensei and Taito are brothers.
Founded by PHS & Ale in 1983, Computerbrains Cracking Service is one of the oldest cracking groups in not only Sweden, but also the scene in general. They were active on the C64 between 1983 through to 1987 and on the Amiga from 1987 to 1993. They released quite a lot of cracks as well as self-made programs such as CCS-Mon (debugger cartridge). Their main and most active member PHS went on to develop the famous CCS64 emulator.
PHS writes: "The headquarters for Computerbrains in 1983 to 1986 was in Ale's father’s apartment in Karlstad in Sweden. Ale's father liked to drink a lot of alcohol and to look at pornographic movies. He often helped Ale when some angry lamers called and asked for their games, by screaming and swearing at them in Finnish. In this apartment also lived Ale's friends, 'The Animals'.
The animals were white albino rats with red eyes and pink tails, and lived together with up to 50 mates in a little cage. When they were too many, Ale often released some of them in a local supermarket, which were like a paradise for these little nice creatures. But the paradise didn't last long as old people got scared and they temporarily had to close the supermarket. When Ale got visitors he often used to throw some of the rats in the face of the visitor as soon as they entered the apartment. Especially Mr. Music was not very found of this little "practical joke".
We never cracked any game for getting some profit ourselves, we just wanted to get all the games ourselves. We were really like collectors, just collecting for the sake of it. Many people send us originals for cracking. At one instance we even succeeded to crack some games inside of the computer store!!! Ale and I (PHS) asked if they had some new games, and they gave them to us for playing on the computer in the store. We had brought with us our machine code monitor cartridge, some disks and also some blank disks :) . So we just went cracking and copying inside of the store... Sometimes the woman in the store asked us what we were doing, because she saw some machine code listings on the screen and wondered what was going on. We told her that we were investigating the quality of the code, of course we wouldn't like to buy games with bad code in it :) ... We didn't buy any games though; we left the store with asking when they would get a delivery of new games. It was really hard to keep back the laugh when we left...
Although we cracked a lot of games, probably about 1000, that wasn't the main contribution we did. As we were one of the first groups compressing games into one part, I (PHS) made a lot of compressor utilities with my own techniques. And as we needed some good cracking tools I also made a machine code monitor on cartridge called CCS-MON. The turbo-tape of this cartridge was also released separately, called PHS-Turbo, which had the nice feature that it usually stayed intact in the memory after playing a game, and could be restarted with SYS 321 after reset. I also did some emulation work already in 1986; I actually converted two games from VIC-20 using some kind of emulation framework. I and Ale also made a commercial game in 1985 called Time Zero, which was advanced for its time, it had digitized speech (my voice) and had the upper and lower borders removed - which must have been one of the first programs to do that - I just invented it myself by some coincidence."
Let the good times roll!
The group died in 1988 but was reactivated by Surfer and Stripe but died when Surfer founded Active 1st of May 1989.
Surfer: "Back in the good old days I (Surfer) was the leader of CFO, Crackforce Omega, when the group was activated once again by me and original member Stripe. He proved himself to be lame, with capital L, and I had to get rid of him. So, without any original members it was borderline stupid to still go under the famous name CFO."
The Delight of Eternal Might
Fairlight has survived the ages and hit nearly ever major computer format in one way or another since their inception. It has become a name that has earned respect and praise from both the pirating and demo scenes, achieving two decades of activity on multiple platforms.
The group have had many cracks over the years; together with Triad they hold the crown as the most famous cracking group from Sweden. Their most famous first release was the sequel to The Last Ninja. I discussed this further with Strider: "Last Ninja II was soon to be released and we were frequently checking with our store. The game was finally released so I so I ditched school and got on the bus to go home, and I called Gollum at the time and I asked him whether he could put it on disk if I gave him the tape version. As time was of the essence I had to get it to him quick so I found the train schedule. I took the bus down to the train station that was headed to Gollum's city. I gave the conductor some sort of incentive like chocolates or whatever so he would personally give the package to Gollum. The conductor agreed but those were different times when security wasn't such a focus. I would have taken the train myself though had the conductor not agreed as this was such a huge release. Gollum worked all night... and I stayed up out of sympathy as well to make sure he wouldn't fall asleep. I'd call him every hour or so and by the morning he had it on disk. Then he posted it to all his contacts."
Woodo and Gollum coded a crack intro for Fairlight which was used frequently. It featured the catchy main melody from the game 'Druid II' composed by David Hanlon. This intro, together with the one from Eagle Soft, is considered by some to be the most recognised crack intros in the C64 scene. The intro became one of the most famous on C64 and became an icon for the group with many variants of it being created over the ensuing years. In fact, it became so iconic that when people hear the intro tune, they tend to think of Fairlight rather than 'Druid II'. Some people still get goose bumps when watching this intro, even members of the group.
The group were known more for their mail cracks than first releases, however they did have NTSC trading partners were FBR and INC to the states. 1999 was the year that Fairlight's final crack on the C64 appeared, which was "Double+3" by Crossfire. This closed the door on Fairlight's decade long affair with cracking C64 games and renewed the attention towards the demo scene.
* The origin of Fairlight's anti-communist, Republican messages was inspired primarily by Strider's family history. Strider's family, immigrants from former communist Yugoslavia, were involved in a successful business in Sweden where he felt the country took more than their fair share in taxes. Hearing Ronald Reagan's message while growing up, a vocal message of anti-communism and pro-capitalism, it naturally resonated with Strider, and the US president became one of his top role models to this day.
* At a party in Denmark in 1989 a lamer tried to climb up on the "POTBT" (Platform Of The Best Together) and Strider told him:
How dare you meet us!" and kicked the lamer off the platform.
* Aaron was nicknamed "Doxie" because in the first two years of Fairlight contributed the "Docs" (documentation) files for the group's cracks.
* Strider, Richard and Aaron are brothers.
* Complete history of the group was published in Recollection Issue #3!
Founded in July 1987 by Getafix, The Beast, It, Saruman, J.O.L, DD Cool and Virgil. The group released around 100 cracks before at the end of July in 1988 the remaining members joined Fairlight. After three weeks Strider returned back to Sweden from the USA and noticed Black Shadow had allowed some Amiga guys to join, he did not like this so he decided to restart/reset Fairlight. The Front guys were asked to stay but decided to leave and start again too, with their new group Life.
Front were also a sub-group of the umbrella-corporation Riffs.
Founded by Getafix, It, Saruman, Audrey, Turbocracker 87 and Virgil in August 1988 on the ashes of their previous group Front.
One of the reasons for Life was the fact that quite a few groups during that time used the name "Front" somewhere in their name.
The group's first crack was Vindicator followed by Psycho Pigs done by their main crackers Saruman and It. Briefly had a war with Jetspeed (Fuzz).
Around 100 releases under this label before members moved on into other groups.
Fairlight's version sucks! Scratch it! Light's version rules! Save it!
* Had a cooperation with Agile. Had a cooperation with Fairlight that lasted 5 days!
Founded by Janitor and Mr. Pinge on the 22nd of April 1987, when West Coast Crackers died, it was divided into two groups, Relax and Fairlight. The group exploded onto the cracking stage with a whole pile of cracks from the now legendary cracker Janitor. Despite living only for a short time in the scene, they made a nice impact and were to become valuable part of scene history.
The group died in October 1987 when most members were absorbed into Triad.
Swedish Cracking Crew were one of the earlier Swedish groups founded in October 1984 by Inferno, Covenant and Zzap, they were quite important in Swedish cracking group history due to their large European contact network. The name came from a discussion the trio had whilst eating some pizza in Inferno and Covenant's cellar. They later left for the Amiga in 1988 and changed their name to Northern Lights.
* Covenant and Inferno are brothers. The group were at war with Triad and WCC (read more about this in the WCC section).
We bring you the future
In 1988 the group rose to fame, mainly through its demo front but then it was announced at the Agile Party in May 1988 that the group was to split, most members left the group and formed a new group called Sphinx. Those staying were Rygar, Bilbo, H.O and Glerc. In 1989 the group got a reliable source of originals and started to release more cracks than ever before. They had valuable cracking members, the three main ones being Glerc, Bilbo and the Gnome, also H.O and Rygar helped with some of the cracks as well.
According to H.O, after some 200 releases, the group died after their final demo at the Horizon Easter Party in March 1991 (El Escaparate). Since then the group have emerged from time to time, particularly with two demos in 2005.
* S451 was a sub-group of Jewels for a few weeks.
* The Dutch demo group Focus started as a sub-group of S451 initially.
* Euzkera/Censor was a dual member in 1991 under the handle of Nitzer.
Founded by Axelf, Benny-Hill and Snokie in May 1987 upon the ashes of XL-Crackers and further expanded with some members from Pet Shop Boys (ex-The Explorers) during the summer of 1987. Their releases were very well-spread in Sweden, connected to what later became XAKK and many other groups.
In early 1988, most members decided to move on to the Amiga and slowly became what is The Silents of today. In February 1988, The Silents joined A.C.E (Actual Cracking Entertainment) as a separate subsection.
Dealer Quality Software
In late 1986 Arrow and Fred of COD were swapping intensively with guys all over the world. Typically they would receive 4-8 parcels a day with new stuff. Arrow got in touch with Skydive in 3001 and soon got to know they had a stable original supply.
3001 also knew Mr Z and the "old man" RND. Now these three gangs (3001, COD and Mr Z + RND) with three distinct functions (Originals, Spreading and Cracking) saw a possibility of forming an interdependent Triad. As a result Triad was founded on the 28th of July 1986 at 9:30PM by Arrow, Fred, Skydive, Ixion, Lucifer, RND and at last, but in no way least, Mr Z. On the 8th of August 1986, the heavy-metal lover Arrow and Fred spread a simple intro with a Swedish flag on top of the screen announcing the event. This was a time when a lot of groups had begun flourishing the Swedish scene, e.g. WASP (We Against Software Protection), CCS (Computerbrains Cracking Service) and SCC (Swedish Cracking Crew), and for some renegade crackers in the heart of Sweden it seemed natural to form a group as well. Ixion, bearing the name of the Greek overlord, was the coordinator pulling the strings, and naturally became the leader; it was also he that came up with the name "Triad".
Later that same year WASP split up and WCC (West Coast Crackers) was born.
Ixion: "The original goal for me was to beat Swedish Cracking Crew (SCC) to their grave since they were such obstinate creatures (especially Inferno and his brother Android). We were enemies until we finally met in person and discovered their fun humour."
Key members of Triad would have to be Ixion, Mr Z, 3D, Janitor, The Sarge, Jeff Smart, 801 DC, Jerry and King Fisher.
In 2010, the leader of Triad since 1988 - Jerry - passed away, Taper took the wheel of the pirate ship and now continues to guide it with a firm hand.
Together with Fairlight, they became the kings of Swedish cracking. Releasing many, many cracks and they still continue today as one of the last remaining cracking groups on the C64!
* Triad released the legendary Gamers Guide magazine that changed the face of the cracking scene - invented on the 15th of December 1989 by Injun Inc and realised in 1990, it was a innovative and fresh C64 disk magazine that stirred the C64 community. It was highly appreciated throughout the scene and managed 26 issues until finally being put on the shelf in 1995. "The Guide" was a magazine dealing with something many people would find very questionable: it reviewed cracked games for the C-64, thus encouraging the crackers to improve their cracks: make them better, shorter and add in more trainers (cheat options). Every now and then "The Guide" would make nasty remarks on cracks of low quality (e.g. if the game "crashed") and partly served as a media and public face for Triad. All issues of the magazine are available from http://mags.c64.org
* The difference between the "New" and "Old" Triad. From one point of view, there is one hell of a difference. At second sight, there is no difference at all. The "new" versus "old" controversy broke out in 1991 as Euzkera of Censor claimed "new" Triad was not one and the same as "old" Triad, mostly by referring to Mr Z as the bearer of the Triad tradition. However an important and valuable cracker, Mr Z was not the leader of "old" Triad. Once and for all: the so called "new" Triad has the good memory of Ixion himself, the original founder of Triad.
* Hidden meanings in the classic Triad intro? In case you wondered: Yes, there are. The classic intro with its 40x6 characters in one of 6 different combinations colours and a four-coloured, massive or striped scroll text below it, do hold a secret. The colour of the 40x6 logo type is a rank of the games quality in the eyes of the cracker who performed the act of liberating the game from its copy-protection. The rank goes on an ordinal scale from black to gold (black, grey, green, red, blue, gold). Red colour is for mediocre games, hence its regularity.
We Against Software Protection was founded by Ivanhoe and Saturn in early 1985 and was one of the pre-groups which was to later form the core of Fairlight.
Most of the early titles coming out were done by Ivanhoe. The group expanded in November with Sir Galahad, King Arthur, Lancelot and Bracy joining. With the core of the group in place, releases continued into 1986 and in this year the group recruited Oase as a trader.
Things got really serious when the group died in October 1986 when its members were absorbed by the up and coming West Coast Crackers.
West Coast Crackers (WCC) was founded on 19th September 1986 by Zeb, Mr. Pinge, Waco, HJ and Nobody. WCC was created by the members of Swedish Copy Masters (SCM) who renamed the group to WCC to honour the members coming from the West Coast of Sweden. The group rapidly expanded as a result of taking in some members of We Against Software Protection (WASP) on the 10th of October 1986. The new members included No.1, Sir Galahad, King Arthur and Lancelot. In the next few months WCC released quite a few cracks for titles such as Glider Rider, Judge Dredd, PSI Warrior II and Fist II, their very first crack was Soldier One. They showed the early signs of becoming a well-rounded group with the release of a number of demos also.
WCC organised a meeting called 'Hacker-party' in Gothenburg between the 19th and 23rd of December 1986. Members were present but also some of the members from SCC (Swedish Cracking Crew) and Triad turned up. There were some disruptions at the party that were caused by Inferno and Covenant of SCC and also Ixion and 3D of Triad. The members from SCC were uninvited to Zeb's flat (where the meeting was held). The first demo from WCC discussing this was entitled "Hi-Letter 3" and later discussed in Mr. Pinge's "WCC's Revenge". Basically SCC was accused of re-cracking, (i.e. Soldier One and Sigma 7), and lame behaviour during the meeting. Triad brought their so-called enemies to the party and released "Location Demo" which makes fun of the location of the members of WCC.
Inferno/SCC: "The only problem at the meeting was that both SCC and Triad thought that certain people from WCC's Kalmar-section had a crappy attitude. Shortly said, they weren't very social (quite boring actually) and didn't let us use any of the computers they had brought along. The result was a fast hack the same night by 3D (Triad) where both Triad and SCC ragged down on WCC. The theme was that they called themselves West Coast Crackers while actually having members from Gothenburg, Falsterbo, and Kalmar (for example, Kalmar is located in the South East). It was a joke really but it wasn't received like one.:)
I don't think the anti demos or the angry scroll text that followed were that serious and I guess both sides mostly thought it was fun to be a little destructive."
When WCC died in April 1987, two groups were founded from its ashes: Relax and Fairlight.
Founded by Knatter & Jolly Cracker in August 1986. The group was a demo force but also had a "XAKK Cracking Section" which released titles like Dragon Ninja, Last Ninja II, Caveman Ugh-Lympics, Armalyte and Robocop amongst others. The group became a bigger force in 1987 and 1988 with further recruitment. They had a long war against Mahoney/Triumph over name calling (check demos such as "Sleeping" and "No Sleep II").
The group officially died with their final release in May 1990 called "Bound to Be Best #2".
"XAKK", we said.
"Never heard of it", the guy replied.
"You will", we said and tried to look cool.
Knatter's homepage with his latest music recordings can be reached at http://www.fogelberg.com
* Knatter runs a record label where he produces music; coincidentally it is called XAKK Records.