Cracker's Map: Australia & New Zealand

Welcome back to another segment of Cracker's Map, will take our journey to across the sunburnt lands of Australia and New Zealand. Firstly I will discuss the main groups (in terms of releases) and then following with trivia on some of the other crews involved.

The Australian/New Zealand scene I liken to a bull in a fine-china shop and a small shop at that. In the early days and especially the early nineties, it has had massive soap operas; war, turmoil, group deaths/births and people jumping around from group to group fighting each other with ego and teenage flair - in the meantime the poor C64 is sitting in the corner looking on innocently. It reminds me of a small village, segregated from the main city (in our case the distance between our colleagues in the European and US/Canadian scenes). The scene down under was extremely closed off; we had only our own wares to send out to the Europeans, as by the time we got their wares they were too old to send back to Europe as 0-day (damn the post!). Some people were lucky though, those that traded on the boards and leeched the hot stuff, but generally speaking we traded with each other only, with very few exceptions.

Reflecting on the scene that was, that closed network of groups in AUS/NZ, there was a lot of groups and a lot of sceners. Many groups were born, released only a few quick things and then disappeared again; very few stood the test of time and released a large amount of wares with a stable membership. This changed in the mid-nineties with the borders opening to allow our scene to integrate with the European market and as a result most of the Aussie-only groups died off. There is of course welcomed exceptions to this, but generally speaking, we are an international scene now, not a local one like before.

This article will give you an overview of the cracking scene from 'down under'. Disclaimer: notice missing detail? something wrong or want to leave some feedback? Send me a mail.

The thunder from down under!
There isn't a better way to start than to look at one of the oldest groups that made the largest impact back in the early years. We head back to the early eighties, long before PC and Amiga scenes were dreamt of.

Founded in August 1983 by Pirasoft (Joe), based in Adelaide, the group did some of the earliest hacks and imports.

The group later released not only on C64 but also Amiga. I remember some confusion with other guys making fake ACS releases (there was only one real ACS).

Prominent members included Pirasoft and Cybatron. Joining later was the Collector - all from Adelaide, South Australia.
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We will dominate and make ourselves known!
Founded in 1995 by Jazzcat, Vengeance and Majesty. Onslaught has easily released the most amount of cracks for an Australian group. Even more importantly is that they have done over 300 "first releases" out of their 400+ cracks. An international group but with a large Australian base, they were one of the last big release groups to make it into the scene.

Due to their attitude and push into the existing warez-market in the mid-nineties, they had quite a few competitive battles with leading European groups such as Avantgarde and Alpha Flight 1970, this eventuated into a Federation Against Onslaught. This war was largely conducted through releases and BBS ragging. This warez-war included a battle of magazines with Onslaught's Vandalism News and Jazzcat's own Domination mags fighting the likes of Relax and Propaganda.

Some of [O]'s big releases were the ones that no-one else could NTSC fix, such as Fred's In Trouble, Centric, Speedy Slug, Sword of Honour and Cannon Craze. They also stirred some trouble with their fake group Urine, which bug-fixed big group's releases (e.g. Samber by AFL, of which the original was supplied by Derbyshire Ram, who was in AFL at the time!).

The group had some important Australian sceners such as Vengeance, Jazzcat, Jolz, Morbid (later DJB), Insane and The Big Hacker amongst others. Most members were from Tasmania, a little island below the "main land" of Australia. Probably the most important trivia is that the crew is still alive and releasing actively.

(Disclaimer: difficult to write this entry objectively due to my participation, but what the heck, check the releases)
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One of the most famous groups in the Australian scene. Originally formed from the Tour de Future + Reflex  co-op, they renamed to Tera to due to wanting a shorter name. This took place between June and September 1989 and the name was inspired by a graffiti piece in Sydney, but had strong connotations of Australia (which was originally named Terra Australis).

The group was founded by matt', xlr8, Boss and Bullet, but soon other guys joined such as Hex-Hacker and Snoop of TSS6802, Mistic/TDF and Kilenemy/QCF.

Not only did they impress with some good cracks and imports, they released some big demo productions and were actively showing up at some of the events during those early days, such as the TEC-Illegal Party (1989) and The Force Australia party held in Adelaide (1989).

Originally most members came from Sydney, particularly Cabramatta, but as the group grew, international members were inducted such as Slide/AFL/Tristar, Dense/Hysteric and Jace/White Knights.

Apart from the fame they created through their demos and cracks, another big thing was the release of some tools, specifically, the ones coded by matt'. These tools were used by many people all over the world, "Notemaker" and "Stubby-Noter" was huge and can be found when sifting through most people's collections. The RLE world-record was broken with their packer Beeftrucker at $56 bytes (during its time the closest was Oneway's Zipper at $58 bytes).

They were also one of the earlier hack/phreak groups, having boards such as Pizza Hut and The Jungle and members such as matt' and Snoop wreaking havoc on Australia's old 008 and 0014 toll-free systems. The group finished with an unreleased demo called "Gangsta" in 1992 (originally coded in late 1990).
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The biggest and oldest name to come out of New Zealand was Nukebusters Cracking Crew. Founded by Porsche and Ghost way back in 1985. The group name was thought of by Ghost who at the time wanted a name that was symbolic of New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy.

In 1988 the group also concentrated on the Amiga, which Porsche now looks back on as a big mistake. In 1989 Nukebusters became the New Zealand division of ACU (Australian Crackers United), the largest and best group to come from Australia (Amiga).

In 1989 a German division was created but died some months later due to a communication breakdown. Founding member Porsche travelled a lot in 1990, going to the Silents/Red Sector party in Denmark and meeting up with other C64 legends like Derbyshire Ram (England). After the six month holiday Porsche quit the scene and the group died.

They are remembered for founding the New Zealand scene, some quality cracks and imports and being the first kiwis to be trading zero day wares (which gave them frequent greets from guys like Mr. Z and Janitor).
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A choice of a new generation
The Force was founded way back in 1982 by one of Australia's first sceners, Colwyn. (which seems about right when I've seen old spread disks from Collector/The Force from around 1983 and Colwyn's first release in 1982 was a tape game "Pakacuda"). Originally importing to Australia only, they got cracking in around 1987 and then expanded into the demo and magazine markets also. But are probably more remembered as the biggest importers to our country, largely thanks to the Collector. They started as a separate group to The Force Israel, as in 1982 there was no The Force Israel! (who started much later in 1986).

As the OZ section became popular, the Jewish crew took note and asked the Australians to join and Colwyn said yes (around the same time The Force Italy joined). They organised The Force Adelaide party, which was the biggest event during that time, with guys from Tera coming over from Sydney. It was held in a local school hall and went for two days. The group later took in a Tasmanian section, which was Vengeance, Psycho and Insane (the latter two known under the one handle Tektronix). The Vandalism News magazine was released under The Force label during 1992. Later they took in Cure, who released his mag Hi-Five News under The Force label too. Also not to forget the mag from Colwyn, Ziggy & Tektronix called Codemag!

Over the years the group had some turmoil with another Australian legend Tera. This was short lived but was big enough to inspire demos from both sides to fight a war with wares (in classic style). They had a short-lived cracking cooperation with another Aussie crew called Creation, only around 5 cracks or so were released in 1991. After this a couple of releases came out in cooperation with Faces.

Other prominent members that should be mentioned were Wraith, Ziggy and Doctor Detroit (now known as conjuror). After ten years in the scene the Australian division ceased activities in 1992 (releasing their 10 year demo in 1992 was a big deal back then!). The last active members were the Tasmanian guys who formed the Bodycount crew, which in turn closed the book on the history of The Force Australia from a cracking perspective.
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We eat typewriters
Based originally in Western Australia and founded by Anthrax in December 1989. Joining early was Heavyweight who helped organise and code. In early 1990 a New Zealand division sprung up with the first member being Retaliatior which peaked with around 5 kiwi members including The Hegg who became the leader of Chrome NZ. Also in 1990 they had a short-lived coop with The Vandals (who later joined into Mystic).

Whilst the group mostly did imports to Australia, in 1991 they did some of their own cracks through their member Devastator (later known as Quetzal). They are mostly remembered for their demo releases, their last of which was as recent as 2011. In fact, their members are now not only from WA but also in Sydney and Adelaide.

Other big members are The WCA (West Coast Assassin), Orrey (organiser), Style (organiser) and Einstein (who later renamed to Erky).
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Founded by Sweet Tooth/ex-Ozone+Celtic (aka Stooth) in 1990. This group managed not only cracks but also some imports, magazines and demos. Some early members joining were Vengeance, Psycho and Insane. Some internal rumours were spread that the group died, so most members left and joined Oxygen and then Bronx (Australian division). Sweet Tooth contacted Vengeance and said that Mystic was not dead so most of the guys rebuilt/rejoined the group. Eventually Stooth got caught by the post and quit the scene leaving Vengeance in control of the group.

The first four issues of Vandalism News came out under the Mystic label in 1991. The group also had a six month cracking cooperation with TDU (The Digital Underground) that was quite successful. There were several large wars involving Mystic, one of the most famous was against a scener called Jadetiger. Mystic started a federation against him including groups Chrome, The Force and TDU.

The group died in 1992 when Vengeance and the other guys quit and took Vandalism News with them. Some of the other important guys to mention were Steve (swapper), Atmos (graphician), Heavyweight (swapper) and Maxell (coder). The group had members mainly in Australia, but also divisions in New Zealand, Denmark, Germany and Holland.
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Founded by Vengeance in 1993, this group was built from the ashes of Rebels Australian division, with basically the same line-up but with more of a focus on demo production through key members Insane, Xerez (later Upbeat) Shades and Grize.

On the cracking front they released some of the bigger releases during the time, such as Mayhem in Monsterland and Fred's Back II. Shazam was also responsible for several first releases through their mysterious original supplier called Thrain (which was Jazzcat, who was in Alpha Flight during the time). Founding member Vengeance left together with Morbid to join Success but Vengeance remained in the group under not only one, but two fake handles; Thorin and Matt.

The group managed to release four mega demos and around 50 cracks, as well as several tools and two issues of Vandalism News.

By 1995 things had slowed down for them, with a split between brothers Shades and Grize (the latter leaving Shazam to start his own group called Darkside). The group eventually folded with most members leaving the sinking ship to form Onslaught.

Shazam was possibly the last all-Australian cracking group who participated actively.
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Originally named Optima, the group was founded by Cruze in late 1992. It was built up from the ashes of Pulsar Australia taking in most old members including people like Streethawk, Talent and Max Mix. The guys in Lithium were one of the most active Australian groups during the nineties, with heaps of cracks, demos and their magazines Epic and Form. The group expanded to Australia's cross-Tasman Sea neighbour, New Zealand. The kiwi-section helped with some cracks and also the short-lived magazine Cult.

Their cracks usually featured extremely small intros, which enabled them, together with some packing skills, to make it frequently into the top sections of the old Gamers Guide magazine by Triad. Members Fade and Druid left Lithium in late 1993 and started a group called Rave, which eventually had a very active cracking cooperation with Lithium. This cooperation lasted until Rave died in 1995.

Whilst the group have not officially been declared dead, it can be said that their last releases were in 1996-1997. Maybe they will release again some day? Cruze has told me he plans to convert his disk collection, which I know is quite an extensive pack, no doubt containing many missing releases from this group and the Australian scene in general (come on Richard).
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Another mid-nineties group that was quite active for a short period. Paralax was founded in 1992 and also had an Amiga section. Founding member was Pink Panther, also joining were Devastator/ex-Justice (later known as Quetzal) and Erratic/ex-Orbital and Anthrax.

This crew mainly produced cracks, largely thanks to Quetzal. They also were in cooperation for a period with another Aussie group called TSR (The Second Ring). Cracks were very well spread through mega swappers Pink Panther, Rustler and Erratic. These three guys also helped import some Euro releases quite quickly into Australia under the PLX label.

The group died in 1993 and moved to the Amiga fulltime and with most remaining C64 members joining their close friends in TSR.
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We do the best to impress the rest
TSR was established in March 1984 as a local group collection and swapping C64 programs. The group did not really enter the scene officially until 1992, with members like Incubus, Rustler, The Master and Uptonogood. The group were close friends with Paralax and together they tried to keep the Australian scene alive and well with cracks and magazines. They even split their cooperation "Paralax-TSR" to allow for better competition and more activity in the Australian/NZ scene. When Incubus and Rustler left the scene the leadership was handed to Uptonogood. The crew continued to release until it died in 1994. One of the last big Australian C64 parties was held in Doonside, NSW - "TSR Party 1993" organised by Giorgio Armani. Despite being in a Scout Hall, the party had over 30 C64 guys.
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Australian/New Zealand trivia

Did you know that...

* There were Australian divisions of a lot of European groups, such as Rebels, Offence, Triad, WOW, Success, TRC, Pulsar and of course the Warriors of Time.

* Deb/Battery was a cute female swapper that listened to metal music and worked as a nurse!

* HACK/PHREAK was big down under. I am not talking about "anyone can blue box" either. REAL H/P existed and unlike the Europeans, we did not have to rely on the Americans!

* DOMINATORS tried to start an Australian division by asking would-be members to pay - they were told to fuck off and Derbyshire Ram/Dominators did the same to his own group!

* Jazzcat worked for Telecom for around 11 years, he was involved in the H/P scene in the late eighties BEFORE using a C64 for the group-scene. "If you can't beat them join them" comes to mind, although Telecom was beaten many times, largely thanks to those curious young teenage minds...

* Fake handles were always massive in the Australian scene Vengeance is the master of fake nicknames (together with Moloch and Crossfire). He was Mario/Lithium (I was Luigi), Thorin/Shazam, Edwin/BCT, Matt/Rebels/Bad Karma, Deathwish/Zig Zag amongst others...

* In 1987 Deviet/WOT did something that changed the Australian programming scene fundamentally. Which was starting a Demo Of The Year project. It was a demo disk containing parts from OZ only. Work from Matt/TDF and Deviet/WOT stood out most.

* A lot of magazines existed in Australia, mostly based on the general scene and not purely the cracking + h/p scenes. Some of these made it to number one status, back in the day when other legendary productions were being issued. I cannot stay objective here and I cannot stray from the facts, some world number 1's were Vengeance's own VANDALISM NEWS and my own DOMINATION productions, both made from Tasmania, that little Island below the "main land".

* Melbourne Cracking Crew was an old import crew from around 1985. They brought in many of those early USA and European games to our isolated island. Members were Bit Mapper and Yun. Not much is known about these guys as a lot of their work, just like that of Warlock Importing Services, was in directories and screen-depack text only.

* When The Force Australia died in 1992 all members created a group called False Motion, nothing happened here, but what was planned was to make some games. Members left shortly with Ziggy and Colwyn going to PC and Psycho joining Bodycount. Air Design and Guy Shavitt were also involved.

* A scener called Matt hacked into the NASA system and another guy known as Dave was being chased for hacking into US government systems and also retrieving card-lists from a "System 75"...

* Do the sceners down under love AT&T and company alliance PBX? Yes they do...

* Did you know that Uptonogood/TSR's two sons were in the scene? They are Steve/TSR and Effj/TSR.

Other groups worth mentioning for their importing ability:

* COBRA/IKON VISUAL - importing, demo and mag creators. This crew was based in South Australia. Members that made a difference were Mad Hacker (now known as Munkey), Punk Executioner, Nigga and Hex-Hacker. They had a cool BBS called "Drop Zone".

* MAD AUSSIE DEALERS - This crew was based in Queensland, in the north east of Australia. Founded in 1987 by Jaguar, mainly a legal group but did a lot of importing.

* Another crew from up north was QUEENSLAND COPY FEDERATION. The pride of QLD was mainly a demo group but they also did some heavy importing through Rocky Kid.