Interviews



Interview with Polonus

Published in Vandalism News #40
Performed by Jazzcat



J)
Greetings Pawel, for those who might not know you until now, could you please give the readers a short introduction about yourself.


P)
Hi everyone :)
My name is Pawel Soltysinski, I'm 34 years old now, born and living in Poland. I'm a former C64 coder, now I run a Public Relations department in a privately owned company.

Hobbies: photography, computer graphics, bicycle riding, board games of go and MahJongg.



J)
Could you please tell us how you got into the C64 scene? When did it all begin?

P)
At first you need to realize, how strange it was to understand such abstract like a scene in 1986-1988 whilst living in Poland. Those were the years of ZX Spectrum in the schools and houses. Quite a few guys were owning a C64 - a dream machine in those days. The scene was virtually non-existent in Poland. The only source of software was people who bought C64 and other computers abroad and brought them back to Poland with software. We had some demos, 1-3 years old, and such lag time kept us unaware of what is going on in other countries. Our first contact was Glerc of Science 451 - we had his old demo. I decided to pack some of my early demos and send them to him. He replied to us and I was simply knocked out by the quality of the fresh demos he sent.


J)
When speaking about the old times of Quartet and Science 451, can you tell us more about what happened and the demos being released back then?

P)
My first computer we was the C= Plus 4 - the only one I could afford at that time. My friend asked his father to buy him a C64 during some foreign trip. The father was misleaded by the Commodore logo and bought a C+4 instead. (ED – amazing coincidence!!! My first was a Plus 4 and my father also mistook it for a C64 when he got it for me!! :)) That's why I was able to afford it - it was cheap because it was not a C64. So, I had a nice looking computer, no software, just the user manual and 'monitor' commands available on a Basic level. That's when I started to learn machine language by typing in some examples from imported German periodic 64'er. I made quite a lot of software for the C+4/C16 under the handle "J@rry" handle.

When my skills increased, I met some new friends, who were already trying to crack games on the C64. I was presented by an offer of 'crack the game and we'll let you join us' and knowing a lot about the C+4, I cracked the tape-loader on C64 quite easily. And joined a nameless group - we called it Quartet (there were 4 of us) the same evening. I soon sold my C+4, saved some more money and bought a second-hand C64.When almost everyone in Quartet left to the Amiga, I left the group and joined  Science 451.



J)
Anything from the past you remember that was quite funny, shocking or impressive, that you could share with the readers?

P)
It is somehow funny when I recall it. Most of my work was done by using the built-in monitor from Final Cartridge and the Commodore Datasette. I got my 1541 at the same time as I was leaving Science 451. To be honest, the 1541 floppy drive was donated to me by Commodore Poland. Products like Voicetracker or $50 packer (and most of the demos) were made without the 1541 - I simply used to record it on tape, visit my friends with a floppy drive and checked if it worked etc. Nowadays it seems funny or even crazy, even to me. :)


J)
There were some unreleased routines by you that were sitting around since the days of S451. Can we expect them to be released under the Padua label?

P)
To do good demos you need 3 things: A) an idea, B) an idea how to convert it into computer software, C) patience – especially when dealing with time-critical display code. Since I am very impatience I couldn't stand the C) thing. That's why I liked more to code utilities and the like. Most of my unreleased routines are unfinished utilities - I don't expect my friends in Padua to find anything interesting in my old demo routines.



J)
What do you think is important for demos on a C64... their design? their technical aspect? maybe a demo should be based on a theme? In what way can a demo get the best results?


P)
I have my very personal opinion about it. You can do a successful demo two ways: A) by a killer idea and implementation or, B) by smooth design. We are inside smoothly designed things every day - good design, easy to recognize themes, predefined expectations - it is all what we live in. Doing a smoothly designed demo is going that way - polished product instead of killer ideas. A polished demo is like a nice-looking secretary, a killer idea is like a clever, wise secretary you like to rely on. I prefer ideas and I liked Horizon demos.


J)
You have been involved in numerous productions. What demo routine do you consider your best and is there any particular routine you would like to see in a demo?

P)
I was not a good demo programmer. Frankly, I cannot recall too many routines I could be proud of when considering demos. I wish I would have done a better version of my Core Wars game for the C64.


J)
You created the Voicetracker for C64. What inspired you to create this utility?

P)
I was inspired by not having a disk drive. Due to this, I wasn't able to use any Assembler and I used to code with the monitor. Coding in the monitor leaves you in the cold when it comes to producing coherent code. I made my own monitor from scratch and some half-baked assembler/disassembler to deal with these problems when working with tape. For example, I was writing code in the monitor, then run my 'assembler' to semi-automatically relocate my routines from various places in memory to one block of code. To change something in the code I needed to reload it from tape, change and run 'assembler' again. When some tapes were unreliable, I did 'disassembler' to 'explode' my code into memory. During that time someone gave me a short new-player presentation demo. When playing it had around 7 rasterlines max. Impressing. Unfortunately, there were no credits of the authors of this routine. I was so interested in this 'fast' player I used my 'disassembler' on it. When I figured out how it worked and how it stores/uses the music data, I added some more sequencing ability and 'assembled' it back. Writing music notes in the monitor wasn't fun at all, so I spent two days coding the first version of Voicetracker. So I had a ripped/modified player, editor for it and no knowledge about who was the original author.

3 years later (!) someone said to me the USA Dutch Team editor using this routine. Funny, I liked my own editor more. :)

I would like to apologize to the USA Dutch Team members for using their player, I hope they can forgive me.



J)
Which musicians do you respect and for what reasons?

P)
Rob Hubbard, Maniacs of Noise and others who did their own music routines.



J)
Your handle, does it hold a special meaning?

P)
Yes, it means a Polish citizen who lives outside of Poland. The meaning doesn't match my situation at all and I always wanted to change handle to 'something more reasonable', but never did. Laziness...


J)
The C64 scene is still alive. Wares are still released. Even new people are still arriving. What are your comments on this?

P)
Cool. But I want these people to do more productive things. I believe anything you do should be helping someone else.


J)
If anything could be changed or improved. What should it be?

P)
I am not sure - the scene lives on its own.


J)
What do you think of disk magazines past and present?

P)
Programming on the C64 was/is an icon of a good programmer's mind. You have very little resources to use and nothing to waste. And great things to be done in that way. Considering the fact there are a lot of people born in the "Windows everywhere" times, it is good to introduce them to 'vintage programming', to it's unique beauty.


J)
Are you a friend of the C64 hype that appeared when the (PC) C64-emulators started appearing or do you think that all those 'newbies' spoil the good old C64? What is your opinion about emulation?

P)
If emulation is done well, I think it is okay. On the other hand, I love my good old C64. That's it, I can open my desk drawer and take a look at my old friend, counting countless hours I spent on it, feel the keyboard under my fingers with some keys polished to a mirror-shine state. I love it.



J)
Ever had any wars or disliking towards some group or person in the scene?

P)
No, I don't have any enemies that I know of. I like people. :)


J)
Ever work on any games on the C64 or other computer-platforms?

P)
There were some attempts with friends but never finished. Some graphics, some sound, pieces of routines, tools to make game designing easier - but no finished projects.


J)
What do you think about cracker groups who are doing new versions of oldie-games? Do you like having brushed-up and bug-fixed versions of games or you don't care about it?

P)
Cool idea :) What about additional levels - mod packs?


J)
What are your views on the internet?

P)
Internet is something what should always be there. I am glad my children will grow up with it.


J)
What are your activities these days?

P)
I'm working in Public Relations, some media productions etc. Become a great fan of Macintosh computers and am the proud owner of them. Used to play a game of go - ancient Chinese/Japanese game this triggers your mind like nothing else.


J)
To end this interview, here is some space to send any greetings to anyone you know...

P)
Greetings to all former Quartet members, all Padua members (especially to Frank, God bless you), Science 451 and to all I never met but always admired - Horizon, Maniacs of Noise, Origo and many others.


J)
Any final words?

P)
Make friends. Tell your girlfriend or wife you love them. Consider buying Macintosh.

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