Interviews



Interview with Jeff Smart

Published in Recollection #1
Performed by Jazzcat



ILLEGAL - the word brings back memories of cracking, phreaking and copy-parties, but it is also the name of one of the most famous paper magazines in our scene.

Introducing a former member of groups like Elite, German Spreading Service International 2100 (GSS 2100), Scouse Cracking Group (SCG) and Triad.



R)
Most people would remember you from the days of Elite, SCG and Triad, through the magazine 'Illegal', but for those who don't, could you please introduce yourself.

J)
Well most of guys dealing with a commodore would know me as dickhead or drunken asshole. Some others might recall that handle Jeff Smart, I once came up after reading some comics called Clever & Smart. That comic is about two really stupid secret agents and back in school I got thrown out for reading it and laughing too loud.


R)
When did you first join the scene and what happened during those early times?

J)
Yeah, joining the scene. Would you name it by getting your first copied game on a data-tape? Or is joining the scene the first copy-party? I don't know, I would probably hit on the first point. You know it, no money for such expensive games and a friend gets from a friend and so on... and then it was the pure greediness to get games faster than your friends and to achieve that you just had to come up with something. First founding some group (Bojesoft was the name of my first group, based of BO for BOris Becker (some other friend) and JE for JEff Smart). Then making some really ugly intro. Then getting some originals from you local software store. Putting the copy protection away and your intro on. Well that worked for the time when the ambition was low, but then routine bites hard. There had to be something that would open the doors for a larger amount of contacts, a larger amount of swap partners, a larger amount of people knowing and, of course, a larger amount of lagers, as I started drinking by that time...



R)
January 6th, 1986 - a special date for you. Illegal, was a big hit under the labels of GSS, Triad and Elite. Please tell the readers about it and why do you think people found it and still find it so special?

J)
Like I just said, I thought I had to come up with something special as I was too stupid to keep in pace with the protections used on the games. Then I always fancied the idea of making an own magazine. The first reason was to slag off the games I didn't like and to praise the ones I did, so basically just a usual computer-games magazine. I read about "Newsroom" the other day, some program that would provide you with everything you need to make an own newspaper. I think it really took a couple of weeks to get hold of that program as buying was no option and nobody else really care a single drop of beer about it. Unfortunately copied games always meant that there was no instruction available. And as it turned out, Newsroom was quite hard to conquer. So some more weeks passed by and when the issue of "ILLEGAL" got printed (and a single page took about 10 minutes to print by that time) it just had one single page with game reviews and was completely in German. Anyway, I made some 10 copies and spread it among my friends. As time passed by I used to hand it out to almost everyone and was quite surprised everyone liked it. My friends also put it in the packages to come up with new swapping contacts. And yeah, it somehow worked and went pretty well. When I later joined GSS (German Spreading Service) they asked me if I could also come up with some pages in English, because they had foreign contacts. My English is not that perfect but I gave a shot anyway and within a few months the magazine was completely done in English. Also the contents changed a lot. I started to gather information about all the other group as well as rumours and just I used to do with games I did a Top Ten of the cracking groups. That really went pretty popular as I came in contact with people I never though I would (Eaglesoft, Triad, Ikari, Fairlight, Hotline to name but a few ). Also people were pretty keen in being on top of the list so you know... joining Triad at that time might be considered a mistake after all. The most important group members of Triad were about to quit and the name was so known that it lead to something which was, in the end, not really unexpected...


R)
May 18th, 1989 - another special date for you, please tell everyone what happened.

J)
Expect the unexpected. Yeah well, I somehow how it would come. As I got some contact from Austria who asked if he could copy me 1000 Illegal's for free every month ( !!! ) and he really did and the magazine got some very huge circulation my name got infamous in certain parts. Well May 18th, about 7 in the morning the bell rang and my first thoughts about the postman bringing some express packages were totally wrong. In fact three policemen came up and looked through all my stuff. Well in the end, to cut it short, they took about 1,200 disks and all my hardcore... eh, sorry, I meant hardWARE of course. The charges were put up and I faced the court in November where my strategy was saying I got disks in exchange for a copy of the magazine as the owning of copied games was not against the law. Naturally the judge didn't believe a single word I said and I had to come up to court again on May 18th 1990, exactly a year after the bust-up. Well surprisingly this time everything went well and all charges were dropped as they had no evidence I spread copied games.



R)
Reminds me of the editors of Phrack, they were also bugged by the police, do you know of many people who were busted back in the day?

J)
Ehm, not really to be honest. The people that I knew best haven't been busted and you just heard rumours about some people. And when you suddenly haven't heard from a guy in a long time, it was almost sure they got busted. As they stopped immediately any activity. So did I.


R)
Two years after the last issue of Illegal, you released 200 copies of one more edition, issue #38. What inspired you to release one more final issue?

J)
Ehm, yeah. I just felt that it couldn't end in that forced way. And I think there was some Radwar party going on and people had asked me to. Also I've always been thinking of what to write in some special final issue.



R)
You briefly returned with a new magazine called Paradise Island, how many issues were released and what happened with it?

J)
To be honest again, I really can't remember. Let it be two, three or four issues. I also can't really recall the ambition to do so because I remember myself not swapping or anything anymore. Also people throwing the c64s out on the streets and turning to the Amiga didn't make much for me as I always hated the Amiga. Well yeah, that very talented comic drawing dude, Hobbit, came up with the idea, I think. He did a lot of drawings for Illegal, too.


R)
Looking back to your cracking days, the times of cracking, boards, conferences and wars, what would you consider to be your highlights?

J)
There are really a couple of highlights. But the main highlight was to get to know so many different people. Of course the parties all around Europe were fantastic (London PCS 1988, the monthly Venlo gathering and some Ikari-Dominator-Party in Sweden for example). I loved the nightly telephone conferences as they were always big fun.


R)
What game-crack impressed you the most on C64?

J)
oooh.... quite a time, dude, quite a time. But I remember, I think it was Winter Games 2 which came up in a version not really working. I sent that not working version to Janitor, who was the main cracker for Triad for a couple of years and I really knew him well through a lot of letters ( I love to write, as you probably have already recognized ). And only a week later he sent the whole thing back not only with everything working but also trainers and stuff like that. I was highly impressed by that pal.



R)
Who were your best friends during your time in the C64 scene?

J)
Ahm, yeah. There were quite a few. Not in any particular order: Mr. Pinge and Janitor from Triad. Ian of Fusion. Strider of Fairlight. Nik / Ikari. Tri-Dos. Mad All from Commandofrontiers. Swyx of Triangle. And of course all the German friends like T'Kay, Hi-Tec, the Radwar and the Strike Force bunch.


R)
Which scene parties did you attend and what was your reaction to these scene-meetings back in the golden days of C64?

J)
Oh boy, I did a lot of the parties like I said. The monthly Venlo meeting were always fun as I released the new "Illegal" there and people went nuts. Also the foreign parties were great stuff. Meeting people, drinking a lot. London, I went there twice for the huge PCS Shows, were absolutely stunning. I just loved to meet the guys in person I've been talking to over the phone for a lot of years... ah, you know. What other reaction could there be??



R)
What words of advice from your experience in the old C64 scene could you give to new people still entering today?

J)
I can't really give any useful advice, dude. First the scene has totally changed nowadays. Just recall that it took you a complete night to download some 125k !!! Secondly, well, you can't be loved by everybody so just do your thing. Oh, that was some advice anyway.


R)
What are you doing presently in life?

J)
Besides being 34, married, listening to a lot music and attending a lot of concerts and still hoping that Schalke 04 will once win the German soccer championship. I've been working in a bank for over 15 years now. I work in the marketing department and got voted president of the workers' committee recently so there's a lot to do there.


R)
Have any greetings to any of those old pirates and their crews?

J)
Yeah. The dudes I mentioned above... I forgot someone really important: Weetibix from old Scouse Cracking Group. The most fun guy I've ever known back then. I would to die to get in contact with him again.


R)
Any final words?

J)
Cheers! Good luck with this issue!

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