cxt: Hi ggn, please let me introduce you to those who might not know you yet - I
guess that's the minority of our readers, but who cares - your real name is
George Nakos and you seem to be one of the few remaining Atari sceners in
Greece. Your name also appears quite often in conjunction with KUA Software
Productions. What else can you tell the world about you and this mysterious
ggn: Hi Cyclone, yeah go ahead and start off with a question that will surely
send the readers to sleep ;). Ok, so let me explain what that silly three-letter
acronym means. (And don't forget to get a pillow ready!)
Waaaaay back in the ancient times of 1997 when I was starting at the University
of Patras, Mechanical & Aeronautics Department ( http://www.mead.upatras.gr/ )
like all the good boys I made some friends quickly. Such restless spirits as we
were, we were making fun of every professor and every person in general that we
thought that was being (or behaving) silly. Soon I got them in the mood of
making nicknames for everything. Thus we could make fun of everyone, even in his
face without him knowing :). Now, I won't even think of going through the
trouble of explaining, but it was my idea that we nicknamed a certain professor
as 'Katsimitros'. So, that's "K" already.
cxt: Damn it seems this is going to take a while, I knew I shouldn't have asked
ggn: Well I told you so :). As we were to find out in the course of a few months
after we started at University, there is so much free time for some students
that they would do anything to help pass the time. A popular way to spend time
(and avoid classes) was and is to organise political gatherings. In all schools
in all Greek Universities there is always a strong fight between communist and
right wing parties (which have the most members). The first gathering we
attended was fun, and we "learned" some stuff about our future as engineers and
our rights, etc., etc. After 2 or 3 we got pretty bored, as the fight between
communists and right wing reminded of the stuff real political parties did. So,
just for fun, a friend of mine expressed the idea of us going to speak as a
political party. "But how should we name it?" I asked. After some really weird
proposals, I came up with the weirdest, which predominated all: "Katsimitros
Ueber Alles" (after a song by the Dead Kennedys!)
As a matter of fact, we never did go to speak and write down that silly name,
but we kept it anyway just to confuse people. The only thing we did as a
political party was to make extremely silly vote sheets for the elections (most
of them were mine anyway).
Soon we started deviating for the political party and made other divisions:
Software productions, Music compiling division, Threatening division (!),
Graphics arts, Statistical division etc. etc. As I was doing most of the code
anyway, I slapped in the "software productions" in all my stuff!
cxt: Of course you are talking about the very first single of the Dead Kennedy's
called "California ueber alles" with was released in the late 70s. You were
listening to punk?
ggn: No, but some of my friends did and at high school lots of people listened
to Dead Kennedy's.
cxt: Are you aware of any other active Atari sceners in Greece?
ggn: Well, that depends on how broad your definition of "scener" is. If by
"scener" you also include people who hang at forums having a retro blast (or
just using Ataris), then you can look in www.atari-forum.com. There are some
guys there (never met them personally though). I've met one guy 3-4 years ago
who claimed that he had a friend that was a "good Falcon coder" and he could do
"wicked stuff", but I never got to meet him (or hear from him). Finally, I know
for a fact that Earx/Evolution has some contacts with a Greek Falcon coder, but,
alas I don't know that guy either (do you see a pattern here? ;)
cxt: I remember reading about some guys called Michel and Ilias as members of
KUA Software Productions, on other occasions these were also called lamers :).
Are these other members of KUA Software Productions still active or is it a one
person crew now?
ggn: The full line up of KUA was:
- GGN (me :)
- Michel (Michalis)
- Ilias (No handle)
- The President (Yannis)
- Dark (Yannis)
- Isan (AKA The Dragon!) (Yannis – yes, we had 3 Yannis ;)
- Dr. Death (Vagelis)
- DJ Panitis (Panagiotis)
- Antons (Antonis)
However only me and The President knew anything about coding, later Michel did
some coding (but don't expect anything optimal from them), Isan drawed (by hand)
some excellent gfx (but he never drew anything for me, the bastard :), and the
rest were only good friends. After about one year, we all sort of drifted apart
... (that's another story, as everybody's nick is ...)
So, as you can read above, it was only me to begin with. I could never dream of
making those guys interested in demo making. (They didn't even want to own a
computer – although a few years later everyone did :)
cxt: What else can you tell us about you? I mean stuff like: What's your job?
Where do you live in Greece? (In case a scener is lost in Greece and needs
lodging for the night :) Stuff like that ...
ggn: I live in Peristeri, Athens. For two months now, after I got off the Navy,
I'm working at Metron LTD ( http://www.metronco.gr ) and I'm currently working
on communicating with flow computers (
et.aspx ) from PCs, as to provide with customers the ability to have remote
control over them. It's interesting because I'll have the chance to see my
programs control large oil installations (I just hope they won't blow up ;)
cxt: Ok I guess our readers are snoring now, so lets get back to the really
important facts in life :) What was your first computer and when did you
ggn: It was an Atari 800XL (great machine). I bought it on 23/12/1988 (or 1987,
I can't remember exactly). Great machine, although I had to sell it in 1991 for
space/money reasons. I can always buy one now!
cxt: Since you were born in 1977 you were 10 at that time. Did you start coding
right away or were you busy with other tasks like gaming first?
ggn: First let me describe a bit the situation with computers in Greece at that
time. Well, there's not much to describe actually, most people knew computers
only from movies. Nobody actually owned one. If you went around asking kids of
my age, you would be lucky to find 1 in 50 to actually own a home computer. They
were rather expensive too, so people were rather sceptic about forking out a
large amount of cash just to buy a machine in which people played games only.
Buying a computer was actually my brother's idea (he's the brains of the
family). He managed convincing my parents that we would put it to good use, and
as we both had good grades in school they went ahead and bought us one for
Christmas. We actually went for Atari by accident: When we got to the store to
buy a computer, the only name we knew of was "Spectrum", which was a popular
choice amongst Greeks (that's why we're all considered lamers ;). At the last
minute the guy who was at the computer department (the store was a 7-storey
complex that had all sorts of stuff, mostly clothes, computers were in the "toy"
section) convinced us to buy Atari, as Atari Greece was offering some tapes on
learning programming BASIC. (Come to think of it, those tapes were pretty
innovative for their time! You loaded the "lesson" program, and then when you
ran it the program turned on the tape and you had this interactive program that
was synced to the tape via various "beep" noises from the tape! That had to be
my first multimedia experience!) That sounded intriguing, so we went Atari with
a cassette player (no floppy drive – too expensive!) and a green/black monitor
(again, colour was too expensive)!
Also, along with the computer we bought a game. It was called "Donkey Kong Jr".
When we got home we immediately started setting the machine up and playing
Donkey Kong Jr, when we figured out the loading instructions (Press Start +
Option and turn on machine. At the "beep" press return :) Soon we got tired of
the game, and we started reading the manual and playing the aforementioned tape.
In a couple of days we were writing our own little programs and had lots of fun.
Although we knew how to program (a bit), we couldn't save our staff at first,
because we couldn't find the CSAVE instruction of Atari BASIC :).
So, as you see (if you hadn't gone to sleep yet), me and my brother started
coding from day one, with pauses when we actually got more games (it's a golden
rule for me: Once the fun stops, creativity comes along).
cxt: Hey no slashing on the Spectrum :) it was my first machine you know :). I
guess you "exchanged" the XL for a ST somewhat later. I remember it completely
kept me from coding at first, since there was no build-in programming language
and ST Basic was just crap. I felt like the ST degrades one to a plain user,
since you couldn't type commands right into the machine but click around with
the mouse instead. It took some time until I discovered some really usable
development software for it. What were your experiences and impressions when you
changed to the ST?
ggn: So-so. The GEM desktop had a big impact for me (especially the graf_growbox
/ movebox / shrinkbox routines!), ST BASIC was crap. I missed a bit the ability
to have an interpreter ready when I boot the machine, but soon I found stuff to
do with it, as I started buying ST User and its coverdisks, which were worth
their weight in gold for me then, as I couldn't find any software. After about 6
months a guy I knew at Atari Greece made me a copy of GFA BASIC (yes, I admit it
:( ), and more importantly, its manual. That gave me an enormous thrust, I
learned stuff constantly and ideas kept popping up. After about one year from
then ST User did a 6-part article about 3D and included GenST with it. It was
shit, but I had an assembler at hand!
So, to summarise a bit: I didn't regret switching from my 800XL to STE (although
I missed the DLI and the hardware sprites ;) My course was similar to yours,
meaning that it took me a while to get hold of cool software. And no, I didn't
sell my 800XL to buy the ST. I had both machines for about a year, then my
parents forced me to sell it because of the space it occupied :(BTW Spectrum
cxt: Ok if you insist on it. Just make sure you don't meet Nexus 6 or me at a
scene event :). Hmmm, and while we are talking of things that suck, as far as I
remember the Greek government banned all video games from public places in
summer 2002. What happened to that law? Did the EU force them to withdraw the
law yet or is it still in charge?
ggn: As far as I know the law is still in effect (although I'm not too informed
on political news), because no bar/club/amusement park has arcade machines. Net
cafes started popping up again though.
cxt: How did the law affect peoples life in Greece?
ggn: Well, the whole thing with this law started with the fruit machines and
internet cafes. I think that before the law came into existence, a
store/bar/etc. had to get a special permit to have fruit machines (why? Because
it's considered gambling I guess? Dunno). Then some shows on TV (you know, the
ones that do "shocking" "reports" showed some scenes where some bar owners had
some "special" arcade machines that converted to fruit machines at the touch of
a dip switch (so when the authorities came to check, they would hit that "panic"
dip switch and the machine would change back to being a duff game). Also, some
net cafes did something like that with online casino (I guess) and as the state
was unable to control the situation (because they're all a bunch of dipsticks),
they banned arcade machines and net cafes altogether, spoiling the fun for us
At the time some of people that deserved it were hurt financially, but a lot of
innocent were forced to close, as they only had an honest arcade store. Great.
The rest of the citizens (except of the gamers) aren't really interested in this
situation, they just expressed their opinions when the subject was on TV, and
after that they completely forgot about it. There have been no official or
organised complaints from any political party (or any party for that matter).
So, the situation remains, and Greece (once again) made complete asses of
themselves in a world wide scale. I really feel badly about this.
cxt: You have created some games and demos for our beloved sixteen bit machines.
If one googles around a bit one can easily find some prods like the "Maggie 28
Intro" (1999), the "Y2K Demo" (2000), a small game named "KUO Vadis" (2000)
which leads to the inevitable question: What are your top five games on the ST?
ggn: Ouch! That's a tough one! It really is! Couldn't we do top 100 games? Well,
anyway, in no special order, here are some great games that come off the top of
1. Interphase (Imageworks/The Assembly line, coded by Adrian Stevens)
2. Vroom (Lankhor, coded by Dan McRae, Jean-Luc Langlois and Christian Droin)
3. Another World (Delphine, coded by Eric Chachi)
4. Powermonger (Bullfrog, coded by Peter Molyneux and Glenn Corpes)
5. Lethal Xcess (Eclipse, coded by ... ummmm ... can't remember now, could it be
... Claus Frein and our esteemed editor, Heinz Rudolf? :)
cxt: So much for being polite :). Further productions from KUA Software
Productions are the "Alivetro" for Alive issue one (2000). Later you joined
forces with Evolution and made the "2 Days of Love and Happyness" (2003) a
contribution to the DHS 15k Competition. Lots of your productions feature the
Sierpinsky Triangles; some might even think you are obsessed with them. What can
you tell us about this affinity?
ggn: Well, I wouldn't call it an obsession. I just got lucky! Back in 1995 I was
darn bored: No new games, no ideas on what to code (well, I always had ideas but
I didn't feel like implementing them at that particular time frame), and
generally I was arsing around. So I loaded up GFA BASIC and coded a small 1-D
oscilloscope along the x-axis. To spice things up (and not clobber the display
entirely) I added the ability to copy the screen one pixel up-left. That
produced a nice effect, but (guess what) I got bored with that too. So I started
trying other modes of copy, as offered by RC_COPY. I started from mode 0 (all
zeros) and went upwards, until I hit number 6, XOR. When I tried that, the
screen started displaying what I initially thought was garbage! I thought I did
something bad, or that the machine was faulty :). Then I recognised the pattern
(in fact I read a book about fractals a couple of years back, and it explained
the Sierpinski triangle). That was the beginning!
So, because I liked the effect, I started toying around with it. In a couple of
weeks time I have created about 20 different effects, and I stockpiled them.
Because it is very easy (as I described above) to code a Sierpinski triangle
generator the way I described above, I used that a lot. Whenever I was in need
of an effect *boing* Sierpinski triangle effect!
Without this shortcut one needs too much horsepower to make such an effect in
real time. (Actually, if you freeze frame the effect you will observe that it is
a kind of interlaced triangle. I really haven't proven or got down to see
exactly how it's working, but I'm not really that interested).
cxt: Which Coding Tools did you use for your productions?
ggn: Well, I use Turbo Assembler when I'm in need of speed, GFA BASIC when I'm
not, Deluxe Paint and Crack Art for all gfx editing (I'm not a good graphic
artist). Depending on my mood, I use either Easyrider or Desert Drain for
disassembly (when I feel like debugging something that's not mine).
cxt: In the readme of the "2 Days of Love and Happyness" demo you write
something about TurboAss and that you wanted to sue the coders for not
implementing the possibility to change the palette in Bugaboo? :) What happened
to that lawsuit?
ggn: The lawyers say that we indeed have a strong case, and will proceed to
bring the matter to court. First proceedings will be at 15/12/2998, so stay
cxt: Well perhaps you should have tried "set col#=$RGB" :).
ggn: No we shouldn't 'coz we're after the money ;)
cxt: I see, and finally I am starting to realize how "silly" your votesheets
must have been :) In march 2005 you stroke back with "Psychobee" (4th place in
the bootsector compo) which is covered in another article in this issue of
Alive, however it seems you are interested in size limited stuff, like 4ktro or
ggn: It's a challenge, producing something visually pleasing (even enjoyable) in
as small space as possible. It takes less time to develop than a full-blown demo
cxt: You have also released the awfully bugged "Alive Kolour Tagger" which
allows to edit Articles for Alive in WYSIWYG manner, do you still have the
source lying around somewhere?
ggn: Of course, but I consider it beta stuff. I haven't even bothered to send
you the version that saves correctly (i.e. shell friendly). I mainly coded it
for myself, to add colour fast and easy. Then I had all sorts of ideas (making
gradients and stuff like that), and it kinda grew. What should have been a nice
addition would be a text editor, so you could write text and add colour, true
cxt: You have released the source code for Psychobee in this issue of Alive. Are
you planning to release the source of the Colour Tagger as well?
ggn: No problem at all, just gimme a call.
cxt: Well why not release it in this issue of Alive, we can put it in the
"Goodies" folder and perhaps it helps to remove some bugs if you go open source
with it :)
ggn: Let me find the correct version and I'll send it to you when this interview
is over, even if I feel pity for the poor bastard who will try to debug it ;)
cxt: Since we are talking about sources already, what is your favourite Atari
system for coding?
ggn: Seeing as I don't have enough choice (yet!), my favourite coding machine is
an Atari 520STE upgraded to 4 megs (no hdd!)
cxt: How do you think about Atari clones and accelerators? Is that something you
appreciate or do you prefer to stick to stockpile machines?
ggn: My brother does hardware design at uni for his degree, and after some
lengthily discussions on the matter I certainly appreciate the work done on all
Atari machines (it is quite a painful process to patch a hardware to do your
bidding). When I get any newer machine than my STE (e.g., Falcon, TT, etc.), I
will most certainly consider adding extra hardware to them. I am fairly
confident that accelerators will add a significant boost to the machine, unlike
PCs where this policy doesn't apply (because the software keeps getting bigger
cxt: It's no surprise you are using Windoze at work, perhaps even at home :) so
it's not to far fetched that you might also use emulators here and there. What
is your general view on emulators and which one is your absolute favourite when
it comes to Atari stuff?
ggn: Well, from day one I got on the Internet (late '98 I guess), the first
thing I did was to search for an Atari 800XL emulator. Finding that I wondered
if there was also one for the ST. Much to my surprise, there was one
(PaCifiST!). Although emulation got off to a slow start, things increased
dramatically with STEem and SainT (when STEem got to emulate KUo vAdis, I was
finally convinced that it does a great job). Psycho bee was written on STEem in
work, as I couldn't have made the deadline if I got home and wrote it on my STE.
Also, because my STE has a faulty HDD DMA, I can't use any hard drives with it,
so STEem is very tempting and comfortable with its virtual partitions.
cxt: Like all our interview victims you are now treated with the ultra violent
Alive brainstorming test. :) Ready or not here it comes:
ggn: Duhhhh, where is it? Oh...
E: Escher, M.C.!
O: Oneiros (for Neil Gaiman fans!)
R: Rockz :)
G: Grant Lee Buffalo
E: Ellada (Greece for those that didn't catch that)
A: Atari rulez!
K: Kaleidoscopic Ephialtic Marathoners :)
O: OK = Ola Kala (=everything good)
S: Source code editing
O: Omikron Assembler -> Turbo Assembler ;)
D: Dave Gibbons (Watchmen rules!)
E: END of source
S: Stack Pointer
O: Oh no! More letters!
R: Really, is it over yet? Oh, we have 3 more...
A: Alles ;)
cxt: Half an eternity later I have to ask you for your final works in this
interview. If you want to greet your mother or something like that shoot now
ggn: Hi mom! (although she won't ever read this!)
Hi Atari 16/32 scene!
Hi Atari 8-bit scene!
Hi Jub, Stoned, Babs, Manolo and all the other guys at the Laboratory for
Research and Development of Digital Systems!
Hi people that don't greet me in demos :(
Hi all I forgot!
cxt: Hehe, again its my part to say thank you for all the work you put into that
interview and of course for the time you sacrificed for it ...
Cyclone / X-Troll for Alive, 2005-05-05