Interviews



Interview with Lotus

Published in Vandalism News #54
Performed by ZZAP69


Interview with Lotus of Ancients conducted by ZZAP69 on June 5th 2010.

Lotus of Ancients is that hardware freak I've got to know more and more during the last few years. One of those fun loving and crazy Danes we've seen at the parties lately. Always in a good mood and brings a lot of beer to the attendants. However, not too many know a lot of his background and the times Lotus himself wants to describe as the best time of his life. I met Lotus in Denmark early this summer and felt the urge of making an interview with him for this magazine.



Z)
Welcome to Vandalism News! Tell us who you are today and what you do in real life?

L)
Hi. My name is Henrik Alexandersen. My everyday work is as an IT Systems Engineer at a large Danish company, where I've been employed in various departments over the past 20 years.


Z)
What about the old days? When did you get started?

L)
It all began in Africa... Well, for me it started Christmas 1985 in Denmark, when my parents gave me a Commodore 64 with datasette and a few tape games. Later I got a Philips CM8833 monitor, 1541C floppy drive and a Final Cartridge. This became the kick off to my days as demo coder.


Z)
How did you first get in contact with the scene?

L)
I don't recall.


Z)
Which releases are you most pleased with?

L)
I'm getting a little embarrassed every time I watch our old releases. So many things should have been done differently. But the latest Oregon  releases are closest to the goal.



Z)
You're working pretty much with C64 hardware I figured. Please tell us a little more.

L)
I'm quite lazy I guess, but when I spend time with the beloved Commodore computers it's mainly as a repair technician. Over the past years I have repaired quite a few C64/128/C16/Plus4/vIC20 and associated peripherals. Since 2004 I've been working on a diagnostic cartridge, assisting the repair process. I'm planning to make the next version publicly available.


Z)
Please tell us a little more about this diagnostic cartridge!

L)
Very little has to go wrong before the C64 won't "turn on". And without advanced measuring equipment and extensive experience it can be hard to diagnose a "dead" C64. My cartridge tries to de-complicate these situations. Many "dead" C64s only have a minor fault, but the C64 boot process (kernal ROM code) relies on almost everything to be fully functional. My cartridge attempts to bypass the normal start-up code, and allows steady-state measuring of chip select lines and also includes a full RAM test. After fixing the low-level faults, allowing the C64 to turn on normally, it can test external connections etc. But it's a work in progress. Test modules are written as I need them.


Z)
You have been around in the scene since the 80's. What do you think are the largest differences between now and then?

L)
I was only active in the scene for a short while from 1988 to 1989. Back then the world was big, distributing demos was left to the mail man and fraud with stamps was cutting edge. Today the internet has brought the scene together and revolutionized release distribution and knowledge exchange, thanks to projects like CSDB. I'm amazed by the demo evolution that is still taking place. Sceners are still finding new ways to exploit the old platform.


Z)
So you don't miss the old days?

L)
Yes! Best time of my life. Too bad I didn't appreciate it more while it lasted. Those days were uncomplicated. You had close to no obligations and could spend all weekend coding and finishing a demo. At some point in 1988 we released a small demo every 1-2 weeks. Today a lot of time is spent planning, which in my opinion takes some of the fun out of it. But it's a necessary step to improve the quality of the end product.



Z)
What happened to you in 1989?

L)
I faded away from the scene around 1989/1990 when I started my IT education. I purchased my first PC (16 MHz 386SX) and I guess it was quite exciting learning the new platform - not that it was usable for demos since every PC was different. I kept my C128, 1541, floppies and Final Cartridge but sold my breadbox, datasette and a pile of tapes stuffed with games.


Z)
What happened to you in 2004?

L)
Occasionally over the years I dusted off my old C128 and coded a scroller etc, just to verify that I hadn't lost all of my coding skills. Also I had a few repair workshops with my co-worker (Devia) where we fixed some old faulty C64s. We both had friends from the C64 scene, and in 2004 we assembled the old team members for a small meeting we called C64 Revival Party 1. For some of us this was the comeback to the scene. We attended X'2004 later that year and have attended most of the close/large parties ever since. In 2005 we formed the group Ancients. My main functions today are Hardware Guru and Boozer (which btw needs to be made an official scener function on CSDB :p). Coding has been reduced to whatever is needed for hardware debugging, so my old unfinished demo part from 1989 will probably never be finished.


Z)
What is your favourite demo?

L)
I'm not closely following the C64 demo releases, so I'm not really sure. I've seen a lot of awesome demo releases, but they don’t stick as well in memory as demos in the golden days.


Z)
Who are/were your role models?

L)
Rob Hubbard for excellent SID music. There are too many great coders out there to mention names, but I'd like to thank Jens Schoenfeld and others for keeping the scene up to date on the hardware front.


Z)
You are a collector too, right?

L)
Well, not fanatically. I'm parting with boxed computers/drives/games/cartridges etc to give them a better home with a more dedicated collector. But I still have 60+ C64/128/16/116/Plus4/VIC20 computers and 25+ 1541/1551/1571/1581 floppy drives in varying functional conditions. But I'm in the fixing business, so I will be able to fix most of them, should the need arise.


Z)
What are the most precious treasures of your collection?

L)
Hehe, I don't think there’s any treasure hidden in my collection, but my 1581 floppy drives and Commodore 116 computers are probably the rarest items. I'm too cheap to get real pearls like the PET64, C64GS and C65/C64DX :-D



Z)
Please, tell us a little about the groups you have been in!

L)
After spending most of 1987 learning assembler and doing small coding experiments a few friends and myself (most from the
same city) formed the group Crackforce. Probably a poor choice of name, since we weren't cracking anything. We didn't have any music skills so we had to "borrow" all music used in our releases. Also on the graphics front we had some shortcomings. In 1989 we felt that we'd improved our skills enough to re-invent ourselves as the newly formed group Oregon, with the addition of two part time graphicians from Sweden. We coded our own SID player and our member Luxor  began composing tunes. None of them ever made it into any releases though. Along the way we also spent a short while in the groups Danish Underground Crackers, 2000AD, Bonzai and maybe more. I don't really recall.


Z)
Which parties did you attend to/organise and can you tell us what you remember of them?

L)
I only attended 3 parties back in the golden days. My first party was the Hexagon Copy Party in Hillerd, Denmark in 1988. I recall that Luxor/Crackforce dropped his monitor on the ground while carrying our stuff from the train station to the party location just outside the town. I think the carrying handle broke, and the casing cracked open on impact. We were afraid that it didn't survive the accident, but luckily it did. I brought a few floppies with a source code for the demo we planned on releasing at the party. When we arrived I realised that a juice box had leaked in my backpack and all the floppies were soaked. I almost shit myself! The concept of backups hadn't come to my attention I guess. I managed to save my source by cutting open the floppy and washing the magnetic disc inside, then giving it a fresh housing. On the way home we ended up on the wrong train. What a disaster. Murphy was definitely with us all the way.

The second party was the  2000AD Party  held in Esbjerg, Denmark in 1989, which was organized by the Oregon members living in Esbjerg, but a few months before the party we joined 2000AD, hence the party name. The last party was the Dominators/Upfront/Trilogy Party  held in Randers, Denmark in 1989. We were sitting next to Cheyens. I remember that we traded my CIA timer DYSP routine for better SID chip for Luxor's C64.



Z)
Are you better on making backups today?

L)
Yes I am. I make regular backups of all my unique data.


Z)
What is your handle story?

L)
Well, there's no deeper meaning behind the handle. I just liked the sound of it. That's all.


Z)
What was the difference between Oregon and Oregon Designs?

L)
Oregon was terminated when most of us joined 2000AD. I don't recall the reason, but we left 2000AD shortly after the 2000AD Party and apparently went on to Bonzai for short while. We then formed Oregon Designs, kinda an Oregon v2 with higher quality standards. We put a lot of effort into demo coding, graphics and music composing, but nothing was ever released. This was around the time I started my education. I still hope to some day release a few of the things we started in Oregon Designs. Too much time was spent to just throw it all away.


Z)
Do you have any contact with the 2000AD members or Oregon members today? And if yes, what have they done the past 20 years?

L)
I'm in regular contact with my old friend Creon who was with us in the Crackforce days. He's a project manager at a small IT
security company. Luxor, who was with me all the way through Crackforce, Oregon, 2000AD, Bonzai and Oregon Designs, is
project manager for a software development team at a large Danish company. I haven't seen Luxor for years. Work, family and geographical distances makes it difficult to stay in touch. None of them (still) share the same love for the C64. We all moved on, only I came back.



Z)
Any words for the scene?

L)
I only have one comment: Keep up the good work everyone! Personally I'm too lazy (or busy with other stuff) to get much done, so it warms to see that others still have the drive to get things done...


Z)
Thanks for the interview Henrik, I think we're all looking forward to see that demo from 1989 you never released... yet. :)

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