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Alive 10
Interview with CIH

Fake crew Dildo Fatwa has been turning in consistantly good results, not to 
mention a lot of laughs, in Atari demo contensts over the past few years. Crew 
members Charcoal (kod), Ferlease (gfx) and Pongo (ziq) have themselves been 
interviewed in the May 2003 edition of Alive...

..But Atari demosceners have more than a good idea that the real villian of the 
piece is none other than Alive/Maggie Team member CiH, if not they do now!

Including all his written material, CiH is probably the most prolific disk 
magazine journalist on the Atari scene, with his well researched, knowledgable 
comments - not to mention rapier wit ;)

CiH's real name is 'Christopher Ian Holland', the small 'i' being a stylisation 
of his of devising, as he puts it - "CIH' as all capitals is too brutal looking, 
like a 1970's-built piss and graffiti covered concrete shopping precinct, which 
is now looking firmly past its best!"

After the continued good performance of Dildo Fatwa at the 2005 Outline party, 
Alive decided to turn to the tables on CiH and extracted some revealing 

> Hi CiH! So, how does it feel to be the other side of the interviewer's 
> desk for once?

Hi Gwem, this is not actually the first time I've done this. I seem to remember
I spent a whole evening filling out a very detailed questionnaire from the late
and legendary ST-News, there's a couple of other old diskmags which also contain
the thoughts of Chairman Chris. You'll have to go and search for them. I even
interviewed myself for the 10th anniversary issue of Maggie. This was an idea
which came quite naturally to me, as I'm pretty sure I was hearing voices in my
head a lot of the time back then. (The pressure, the pressure!) ;-)

> Kicking off with some easy/standard stuff. Tell us about yourself - 
> your job in the 'real world', your scene history, age and Atari setup.

My job in the real world is incredibly dull for outsiders, which is in garage
equipment trying to put right the woes of Kwikfit et al, with our dedicated team
of engineers. Some people might remember an earlier version of me working in
insurance. To that, I say, "company takeover", "redundancy", and "time to look
for something else". (grin!) At my present employment, a so-so salary is
lightened by good collegues and an easygoing relaxed office culture. Also it is
relatively easy to get the time off that you want, (Easter springs to mind for
some reason.)

My scene history is quite well documented already. I owned computers before
Atari, such as the Sinclair ZX81 with the mighty wobbly 16k ram-pack, and the
rare but interesting Elan Enterprise. I also dabbled with BBC Micro's when I had
access to these in higher education, and a reasonable amount of passing
acquaintance with the more famous 8-bit computers of that time too.

I even tinkered with a bit of programming with the Enterprise, in a spirit of
"Ooh let's see what this does!?" but never in a systematic way that might have
led to interesting career options. I started on the long Atari road in April
1987, with my first ST, and never really looked back from there. A casual
interest in demo watching and collecting grew to a more active scene role in
June 1990, with the purchase of my STe and the first issue of Maggie. I

tarted to write for the second issue the day after I read it, and the rest you
can kind of work out from there.

Age, I'm now in the fortysomething stream. I was going to avoid this question,
but Seb blew my cover with the scene birthday article a couple of issues ago!
Thanks French goatee-bearded dude, I owe you one!

Atari setup, (rubs hands, at last the willy-waving question.) I start with the
"humblest" machine, which is the STe that I mentioned in the last question. It
is a standard machine, in fact the only standard unmodded Atari that I've got,
although it does have the full 4 megabytes worth of memory. It has one of the
early TOS 1.6's, with the wonderful medium resolution booting bug. It has also
had its DMA chip yanked and replaced with a hard drive friendly one. Not that
this is a sales pitch for me selling this machine mind! It will be fifteen years
old in June :-)

The next machine is my CT2 boosted Falcon. This used to belong to Floppyshop's
Steve Delaney, and was rehoused in a Desktopper case by him. The CT2 replaced
another accelerator, the much earlier PowerUp to 32mhz overclocking kit. This
machine includes 14mb ST-ram, plus 64mb EDO fastram, a 68882 FPU, and a
miniscule 360mb internal IDE, which I've got to get right inside the piggin'
case sometime to replace, as it is a tad old. Desktopper cases are a sod to
perform routine maintenance on the insides with, you have to dismantle them
right down. The majority of repairers and upgraders used to hate them with a
passion. Rodolphe Czuba isn't stupid when he insists that people send the
motherboard only to him for repair work ;-)

Since the CT60 has been running, this machine tends to get less use, and is
there mainly to run RGB or 14 meg only stuff. It is also there as an emergency
backup in case of problems with the CT60, such as when that machine suffered
heatstroke last summer. It is still in with a shout sometimes, and it's likely
to be the testbed for future software experiments deemed too risky to try on the
CT60 first.

The foremost member of my family, is my original Falcon, with a CT60
accelerator. This is still in the original case, with some extra cooling, in the
form of a nice silent 120mm fan, mounted on top of the casing. My CT60 is a
66.7mhz rev 1 job, 4mb ST-ram, and a 256mb SDram to finish it off nicely. I am
intending to add the EtherNat and Supervidel when these become available, and
getting broadband access, and including this machine on it, are firmly on my
things to do list for this year! Also, that nice man Rodolphe Czuba is getting
some more rev 6 100mhz capable '060's in, and yes, my name is own for one. This
machine tends to be the main one in constant use. This is a minor miracle, as up
to the CT60 install, it had a persistent Nemesis-induced(?) keyboard fault, and
was in a semi-derelict state. I have nothing but praise for Stimpy for getting
it running, and doing a good install on the CT60 too.

As you are musically inclined Gareth, you might be interested to know that this
Falcon was purchased in April '93 from the Brixton Exchange Mart, a famous music
store. It was one of the very first production machines to come into the UK, and
was one of their first batch of three. Typically for Atari extended delivery
times, it had been on back-order since February ;-)

Of miscellaneous interest, I have had another Falcon pass through my hands. This
was intended to be the home of the CT60, but my original Falcon's success in
taking the board rendered it surplus to current requirements. It was rehomed
with Felice, when his original Falcon went down. There is also a very tatty STFM
of mine which is in the hands of Mr Pink. This had a funky black repaint job on
the case, which fooled at least one person at a local computer club, "Yes, Atari
did do a limited edition in black." ;-) I'm not in a hurry for it back! I also
remember having a Jaguar for a brief time too.

If there is a rare Atari that I'd love to own, it would be an ST-Book, which
seemed to be quite a smart laptop design for its day. Two things mitigate
against that, 1. Extreme rarity, and 2. Likely expense, due to 1. - Ah well, we
can dream!

> The Atari scene community is of course international. What do you see 
> as the main differences between British demoscene productions and 
> attitude, compared to that of other regions, for example: Holland, 
> France, Germany and Scandanavia. Do you think this changed over the years?

Has there been any recent British demoscene productions? Mind you, there was the
RG stuff at EIL 3, and Damo did that cool intro for Chosneck, so I hope there is
some more to come. It looks like you seem to be getting more active in that
direction too?! Atari coding, it's not merely a passion, it's an addiction! ;-)

Looking back historically, I'd say that the main British contribution is to add
a particular sense of humour to their work. The Lost Boys definitely did, where
else would you get a demo title "Ooh Wot a Scorcher!"? Of course the UK has
thrown up some outstanding talents. I remember Steve 'Tat' Tattersall very well.
Interestingly, as I write, there seems to be an attempted revival of a UK scene
in the wider community, with something released called a "Pubtro". That you
might say would be a typical UK approach to the subject. It would never take
itself over-seriously and tends to wear its sense of fun out in the open.

> Do you sometimes regret today's less active UK scene?

Yes, but I'm not surprised. The UK scene had a much earlier and greater exposure
to large commercial entertainment software developers, who tended to spot and
pillage talent early, and that severly hampered the growth of anything more
freeform and artistic here. Those people that came through before succumbing to
the siren calls of paid employment did very well. Some of those are still trying
to hang on in there? (Mr Pink??)

> Its an open secret that you're the main force behind the current fake 
> demo crew of choice on Atari 16/32, Dildo Fatwa. Are the prods 
> completely self produced, or are some other guys working on it with you?

There *is* someone else. I'm not going to tell who that person is, as they are
quite well respected in the scene at large, and I don't wish to blow their
credibility. Anyone who has studied my past movements can probably work it out
for themselves. I might add, that in case any names do reach the public domain,
that they are not in any way responsible for any content from any of the Dildo
Fatwa productions, so there!

> Do you feel proud of what Dildo Fatwa achieved on the scene so far?

Surprised mainly, oh, it's been four releases so far. How did we get this far?
They also seem to be doing the job of a good fake crew, that is to polarise
opinions. Some people love them, others a bit less so. A good illustration was
the fifth Alternative Party, where the "Hilary Rosen at" demo
received the most laughter and audience reaction in an otherwise dull demo
competition, but the entry was disqualified by the organisers ;-) Ah well....

> As an open supporter of Czuba accelerators, will you be expanding the 
> Dildo productions to use the capabilities of the CT60 accelerator? 
> Will 160 column art now be a reality?

That would be nice! We're not ruling out anything. Just need to have a word with
a certain person now ;-) Watch this space, but don't hold your breath!

> Pardon the pun, but where next with Dildo?

That question sounds like an opening sentence in a really bad porno movie?

Well there is something in the works for Outline '05, which you all will be
'enjoying' by then, particularly people called Baggio and Evil (!) After that,
there are a couple of vague ideas floating around, I'm trying to do something
slightly 'different' from before, but no definite plans. I tend to have a pool
of things I'd like to do constantly lurking in the background, then a sharp and
definite idea for a pisstake comes along and gets shoved onto the front burner.
I'm shure weel bee bak!

> ...but what about rumors of Dildo Fatwa leaving Atari for the thriving 
> Linux scene true? Will you be releasing the source code to such 
> hardware pushing productions as Bud Teh Chud in ASCII Minor? Are you 
> an open source hippy?

Who knows? Have you been crushing Lemsip tablets into your Panda-Pop bottle
again? This goes into the "see what happens" cupboard. That said, whatever
happens, there will always be a corner of Dildo Fatwa that is forever Atari!

> you've written for a lot of diskmags over the years, obviously maggie 
> and alive. what inspired you to write? is there a failed journalist 
> inside probably, i've always liked writing, you can kind of tell. its 
> a bit more structured and disciplined than the optimus blog on 

English always was one of my stronger subjects at school, so writing came fairly
easily to me. I didn't really have the urge to write a lot at the sort of age
where career paths are defined, I guess you can have too much of study and
formal exams? Before I got involved in Maggie, I did write bits and pieces, but
nothing very systematic. I spent quite a lot of time drawing piss-poor cartoons
in the margins of my work-notes, usually very self-contained in-jokes with no
outside meaning. So at least you can tell where the ascii stuff came from ;-)

It was starting to do stuff for Maggie in 1990 that threw the switch, and got me
being the super-prolific amateur journo that you know today.

There is a little bit of frustrated pro journalist, as I have tried on the odd
occasion to reach a wider audience with a chance of monetary reward, but it
seems to be bloody hard work getting the other people in the process to
communicate back effectively with you. It gets boring getting responses of "Wow
I'm busy, but yes I'll look at it for sure when I've got a bit more time!"

To break into the world of real grown-up journalism seems to take far more
energy than I've got. Lesson is kids, you really have to go for it when you are
young and tireless ;-) - One or two of the ex-Maggie Team actually made it.
Ripley, aka Mr Pink's half-sister, works for the Guardian website. Kudos to her,
I say!, ah yes. I mostly lurk. About ninety percent of the topics are rather
boring and navel-scrutinising. The other 'fun' ten percent usually involve some
sort of flame war ;-)

> You've had most 16/32 Ataris and accelerators, or at least seen them. 
> What do you consider to be the most important hardware innovation the 
> scene had so far? The STe, Falcon, CT60, something else?!

I would look at this in a chronological order. 1. The plain vanilla STFM,
without it, there would be no early scene at all. 2. The Falcon '030, which was
the really big paradigm shift for the mid-nineties, which pushed the overall
direction of the scene forward. 3. Quite possibly the CT60, which is doing now
what the Falcon did in 1993, to move activity and creative aspirations on to a
higher level of hardware.

The STe, TT, Mega STe and similar are all nice machines, but tend to be
sidelined when compared with the "big three" that are listed above. That said,
I'm all in favour of people pushing the limits on these sort of machines more
than has been the case so far :-)

> interesting that you consider ct60 to be as important as stfm and falcon.
> probably true...

Yes, mainly as it is pushing the scene on to the next level. No other Falcon
accelerator has gained as much acceptance. I think the breakthrough came with
the second batch being made, which meant that the majority of active Falcon
people had one. With the further batch of CT63, it's kind of hard to get away
from it ;-)

Now it will be nice to see some real killer productions in the coming months!

> Lets talk about your talent for the ASCII pixels, firstly what 
> software do you use for your art?

That is a really easy question. The Everest text editor serves my ascii doodling
needs very well. That's it! Next question please :-)

> What's your views on automated ASCII art generation software?

I've not encountered much of this, so I've no strong views. I get the feeling
that it would be limited and less satisfying, compared to doing it freehand. As
with anything else, code, music, proper graphics, you simply can't beat the
feeling of "Cool, I made that!" at the end of a good session!

> What about the famous ASCII art hate war between you and Lotekstyle/tSCc..
> What do you REALLY think of Lotekstyle's ASCII art?

Oh THAT ascii art hate war! And I thought it was the cool girls all along!
Maybe Lotek is using them as a front? ;-)

I like his art, I respect diversity in ascii-art, especially because of the
limited nature of the medium. I produce a particular cartoony style of stuff, he
does something different, closer to a proper 'scene style' perhaps. (Though I
tend to think that 'scene' ascii is often a little too logo-bound.)

> And now for the 'traditional' Alive magazine brain-storming session! 
> Heres those letters:

C - CT60 awaits the new wave of cool demos
I - Illness from alcohol is fun for a short while...
H - Hair, what every diskmag editor pulls out in handfuls when deadline is near.

I - Indigo, a very underrated colour ;-)
S - ST Soundchip makes nice noises.

D - Dead Hackers rock the joint!
I - I think there are too many letter 'i's in this brainstormer..
L - Leaving Atari? We're just getting started!
D - Drunk in Finland is fun ;-)
O - Outline '05 is the place to be!

F - Falcon '030 lives on!
A - Alive mag is also still alive!
T - Tramiel = Twat!
W - Work/life balance sucks for too many..
A - All your Atari's are belonging to Dildo Fatwa!

> Something final you want to say, greetz, message etc?

I'm going for cliched but good advice, "Never give up, always Atari!" Or for
those people who might have stopped for a while, "Never say never again!"

> Thanks for the interview CiH!

That's quite alright mate!

gwEm for Alive Diskmagazine, 2005-05-12

Alive 10