Now the full story can be told!
I'm sparing you all most of the pre-amble bit. Aren't you pleased with me!?
Well not quite all of it, as there is an all-new feature to this familiar
party landscape, that is, a brand new currency to get used to!
Outside of the Euro-hubbub, views here in the UK are rather mixed, some
people get all defensive, seeing it as some sort of 'attack' on the great
British way of life. Others are rather more enthusiastic, and look on with
regret, wishing they could join in with the Euro fun.
Now I've come up close and personal to this new funny money for the first
time, and my first impression is of feeling distinctly underwhelmed. It
seems that the designers of the Euro have decided to make it as charisma-
free as possible. Firstly, the notes themselves are on the small side, even
the higher denomination 50 euro note. The 5 euro note could easily slip by
without being spotted.
Secondly, I have a real problem establishing the country of origin from my
UK-acquired monetary spoils. I see that there is a standard design on one
side, something like a map of Europe and a bunch of bridges, to prove the
'Euro' part of it. The other side gives the individual euro zone states free
reign to express its proud nationalistic and artistic tendencies. But the
other side of my notes seem to continue the blandness from the standardised
cross-border 'bridges n' harmony' motif.
I really can't tell where these euro-notes originated from.. Hang on a
minute, now I remember that the notes are the same wherever, it's the coins
that are freeform on one side, and I don't have any of those as yet..
There are several anti-forgery devices built in, some of them are a little
bit scary on first viewing, and I seriously thought that I had been given
dud notes initially!
There is a weird 'see through' gadget, which only prints part of the number
on one side, and the 'missing' bit on the other. so what you see at first
glance, looks like something went horribly wrong in the printing process,
and it is only when you hold the note up to the light, that you can see the
rest of the number, then it all becomes clear.
Near the top of the note, something that might be a signature of the chief
cashier of the central bank, which looks at first glance, like a clerk or
teller has rudely scribbled on your brand new note, and at second glance,
like a very roughly sketched concept for a replacement for Concorde, but
drawn by someone on bendrezine...
The watermarking is good and going on for brilliant, and I like the neat
little metal strips at the side. But I've got a feeling there might even be
too much of a good thing there, whilst people are still getting used to the
new currency, they may not be able to pick up all the anti-copying gadgets
at once, which gives the counterfeiters a momentary opportunity?
But I look at the small, forlorn, if very neat and new pile of euro's, and
never has 100 UKP Sterling never looked so small!
I hope that isn't a prophecy for how far my money goes at 3 Alt?
Okay, that's your lot for this one, see you back after the party...
DAY 1, Thursday January 10th.
09.00ish, and CiH struggles free from the Northampton rush hour traffic, to
rendevous with Felice and John H. (the being known as 'Asteroid' in the
realtime text) at Felice's place in sunny St Neots, the town that time
forgot. An incident free journey, with some old thing by Depeche Mode on the
car stereo, leads to the premises of the Felicing one. Both he and John are
in the throes of packing, with stuff in various states of confusion in the
hallway and bedrooms. My SCSI hard drive (the smaller 400 meg version) is to
join Felice's Falcon, in a big hardened suitcase, and suitably padded out
with (protective?) clothing. John has brought his own item of rare hardware
with him to take to 3 Alt, an Acorn Archimedes laptop, known as an A4.
There is an idea to host a Maggie or Alive! realtime on this, so cleverly
avoiding the more normal sort of 'A4' that we tend to use, as in paper...
That is if it chooses to work, as it hasn't reached John in an ideal
condition. It has been abused by several years use in a school situation,
apparently works when it feels like it, and is generally starting to fall
apart. John switches it on to run some funny little game or other. It seems
to look okay to my eyes, apart from some damage to the external casing,
caused by a determined schoolchild and a piece of sandpaper? He is looking
forward to trying out some more Acorn software I've brought on my SCSI. As
it turns out, the Archie based realtime party log is one of the successes of
the party, as the accompanying realtime report of over 70k in size reveals.
The fact that we are travelling by air means that baggage is kept on the
sensible side, and Felice's car loads very easily for the next stage of the
journey to Stanstead Airport. This passes by painlessly, and we park up at a
long stay car park, seemingly going halfway back to Cambridge. Checking in
at the airport goes by in a haze of routineness, apart from John having some
screwdrivers confiscated. Fortunately, the security people didn't take any
further action with reference to John's possible Bin Laden tendencies, and
so we are left to pass the couple of hours or so to our flight unmolested.
Looking around the shopping area, and eating pricey and so-so quality food
help to ease the time lag. We also make our first stab at the Archie
realtime, and get a little distance until the battery gives out. (The Archie
had a "brilliant" low battery warning widget, which was supposed to give
around five minutes warning, which actually turned out to be just enough
time to fumble frantically for the 'Save' command, and not quite make it
before the machine died altogether!)
At the departure gate, there is more success with the realtime, as John
locates a 'spare' power socket, normally used by cleaning staff, so we were
able to make a renewed attempt on it. No-one dropped by to stop us. Nearby,
a loud-voiced American person lets us know that he owns a high-end mobile
The flight is on a bright yellow Buzz aircraft, and is totally unremarkable,
apart from an in-flight sandwich cunningly disguised to make it look larger
than it is.
Some later, at a locally adjusted mid-evening sort of time, we arrive at
Vantaa, the Helsinki international airport. We know it well, the ancient
Fokker monoplane, possibly the first member of the Finnair fleet, is still
dangling from the ceiling, the customs and security people have seen it all
before, and we are to meet up with Q-Funk, the former fellow traveller to
the first ALT Party. He is not there waiting for us.
John H. and Felice attempt to call him on the phone numbers he has left with
us, but they fumble, and are still trying to figure it out, when the man
himself arrives suddenly in our midst. He looks remarkably like he did, when
we first met in person, back at Heathrow airport, on the way to the first
Alt Party, all those years ago, a large amount of facial hair, and throwing
out a constant stream of humourous mannerisms behind him.
We are to head back to his place, across town, in the not entirely
unfamiliar suburb of Espoo, the former residence of the big man himself,
Setok! A series of buses follow, firstly from the airport to the city
centre, then a breath-takingly bumpy drag across town, particularly for the
suitcase containing Felice's Falcon. It is wheeled, so Q-Funk charges on
ahead with it, over cobbles, and down kerbs with a thump and a bump. I
remember my external hard drive is in there as well!
We pick up the final bus to Q-Funk's place at the other bus station, and it
is only a short, snow-covered distance to his place. The weather was in
traditional winter mode, but not as cold as I had been led to expect.
Temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees centigrade had been experienced in
the period after Xmas. These were temperatures more typical of the north,
than downtown Helsinki, but right now, the winter weather was more in line
with that of a middling day in the UK. I was prepared for the colder harsher
scenario, bringing extra clothing, and wearing much of it for the journey
over. So I ended up sweating into most of it by the time we got back to Q-
A perilous scramble up some hilly, and uncleared icy paths gets us into Q-
Funks apartment. We establish crash spaces for the nights sleep, then set
off to sample some localised version of that international burger-monger,
Macdonalds, a branch of which was handily located a short distance from Q's
apartment complex. A close encounter with a local burger, described in the
realtime follows, and clean-up squads with high powered hoses are summoned
to take care of the aftermath, or something.
A quick stop at the nearby garage to top up on chocolates and carbohydrates
follows, then back to Q-Funks for more general reminiscing, with some
interesting personal information given out. (Now I know the full story
behind the origin of the scene nick of 'Felice'!) Eventually, we head to
bed, as tomorrow promises to be an early start, with us spending the early
hours at one of Q-Funk's workplaces. We bed down in two rooms, Felice and I
in Q-Funk's room, and John H. in the sitting room cum other bedroom for the
presently missing housemate.
To help John get a poor nights sleep wobbling on a razor edge of fear and
uncertainty, Q-Funk mentions that his housemate is something of a paranoid
delusional alcoholic, with violent tendencies! Sleep tight John!
DAY 2, Friday January 11th.
But it isn't any drunken blatherings that rouse us, rather the insistent
tones of Q-Funk's alarm clock, at some ungodlike hour of the morning. Lying
still to make it go away works for a short time, but we have to get up in
A twilight bus whirls us into the city centre, luggage and all, and so we
end up at the first, and plushest of Q-Funk's various workplaces. The
pleasant sight of a blonde uber-babe receptionist smiles at us, and we make
our way upstairs, in the very hi-tech lifts with the inner workings exposed
for all to see. Before he disappears, Q-Funk is considerate enough to show
us the coffee machine, and a free classroom with some internet enabled
PeeCee's running. And we keep ourselves quietly amused, well apart from when
Felice tumbled on some anti Bin Laden animations, until lunchtime when the
bearded one returns. (Q-Funk, that is, not B-L!)
Lunch is in a high quality staff restaurant. The menu choices vary between
some intimidatingly heavy Finnish winter food, and a curried stir fry,
cooked on the spot, so we decide to give the latter a go.
This is good, and we are refreshed, so the final stage of the journey to the
partyplace, Gloria, begins. A mad-arse taxi driver spins across the icefield
at the side of the workplace, this is our transport there...
Getting to Gloria is straightforward, and we drag our gear into the main
hall. Already present are some of the organisers tables, someone else who
unloaded, set up and left, and the Reservoir Gods, sitting in a very dark
corner. There are four of them this time, the strongest 'Gods' showing for a
long time. regulars such as Mr Pink, MSG, and Sh3 are complemented by the
fair presence of Ripley, for whom this is her first major coding party. She
is here with a traditional reporters notebook, in a disturbing echo of
previous Maggie attendances, and is looking for a story for one of the
magazines she writes for back home. The others are hard at work on their
various projects, and I get to see a nearly completed 'Godpee' in action, as
well as an early version of another conversion being done in collaboration
with a well-known French Atari crew. There was also another so far unknown
project mentioned, which was being done with another Res Gods member 'Neo'.
but I didn't get to see any of this last one.
At this very moment of arrival, only Mr Pink is working, having the
advantage of his Sony Vaio laptop, the others have brought more orthodox
'Alternative' hardware, but are stuck impatiently awaiting monitors to turn
Meanwhile, Felice makes a disheartening discovery, as he unpacks his Falcon.
The casing has picked up some scars and gouges from the trip across town
last night, and several of the keys have come off. All but one of these is
put back easily, the '3' key on the top row is broken though. For now,
lacking monitors ourselves, we have to wait and see whether the damage is
more than on the surface? The Archie based RTA seems to be coming along fine
though. Q-Funk goes away to his next job, to reappear in the evening.
In the afternoon period, more people gradually arrive, and start to set up
their gear. In this fashion we get to catch up with fellow Atarians, Wiztom,
Baggio, and ZPQ. Wiztom seems to be planning on making some sort of return
to Atari coding. For the demo competitions at Alt, he is getting ready some
kind of record breaking shadebob screen, and for something more interesting,
he is apparently investigating a 3D texture map world engine for the STe.
Ultimately, nothing appeared from either of these in the competitions.
Baggio has a bit more to show off, some new and so far unseen effects from
Wildfire's long forthcoming Falcon demo. These are seriously good, and the
finished demo, hopefully will be out at some point this year?
Also in this 'lull before the live music power tool specialists' period, we
get to check out the rest of Gloria's facilities, the small cafe/bar, and
the rather useful internet connection. Also, there is the small matter of
purchasing the official 3 Alt t-shirt, which continues the slightly
paramilitary theme of the party website.
The time for the opening ceremony approaches, a certain amount of tuning up,
or is that last minute repairs to the stage? commences, with the live music
acts, who are to pleasure our ears a bit later that evening. A revival of
the C64 deejay is promised as well. The opening ceremony passes off quickly
enough. Q-Funk reappears, decides to move his kit upstairs onto the balcony.
About this time, thoughts turn to meeting Pahartik, due in from Tampere at
around 19.30, and getting some more food in. Q-Funk, myself, Felice, and
John H. head out into the city, and we opt for a nice pizza place by the
railway station. Q-Funk goes to fetch Pahartik whilst we eat ours, and soon
I spot the distinctive silhouette of a small person under a strange hat
drift past the restaurant window. I correctly conclude this is Pahartik..
We head back after our food is finished, back via a series of slippery
hills, with John H carrying Pahartik's monitor for him, what a great bloke
John is! Still, no accidents on the way back, so that was alright then. Q-
Funk whisks off upstairs with Pahartik, we remaining Maggie/Alive people opt
to stay where we are. Q-Funk and Felice head back to pick up some more gear
from Q-Funk's place, his 486 Debian Linux box, and a portable telly for use
with Felice's Falcy. The rest of us stay behind, as the first of the
evening's live music acts is gearing up to begin performing.
The quality is variable, some of it is rather good, some of it most
charitably described as "experimental", and not so much music, but more a
series of noises. By this time, the main hall is rapidly filling up, in
contrast to previous Alt parties, where there always seemed to be some table
space left, and soon, a couple (male-female, what were you thinking?!) are
sitting next to us. Among other items of older hardware, they have a Vectrex
running! This was one of the cool machines of 2 Alt, and a reappearance here
is very welcome! He has a devkit going from a PC, to the Vectrex itself, and
he is working on a small demo for the competitions! In the meantime, more
classical Vectrex fare, such as a vector version of Scramble is running,
there is even a rare transparent coloured plastic overlay on the screen.
In our corner meanwhile, John H. takes a break from the realtime, to get
some image files working on his Archie. We manage to get some demos running,
but these seem to be from an era when scrolly texts ruled, and they don't
look that great on a blurry LCD screen.
About 22.00 hours, the live music flips over, almost unannounced, to the
Commodore 64 live DJ set. This is variable in quality too, going from
'good', to 'blummin' excellent!' The length of the set is more satisfactory
this time too. In my opinion, it was over all too quickly at 2 Alt.
This is seriously cool, and we are entranced, but what follows after, is way
too loud, so we retreat to the lobby area, and take cover behind the
internet terminals and coffee bar for the following hour. By the time that
volume levels in the main hall have returned to a safe level, it is nearly
midnight, Felice and Q-Funk have returned with the rest of their gear, and
Felice is about to check to see if his Falcon internals have survived the
journey better than the casing did?
An initial attempt with the wrong sort of aerial lead is inconclusive, but a
second go with the correct connection shows us the good news, that Felice's
Falcy isn't dead after all!
DAY 3, Saturday January 12th.
Midnight creeps up, and is gone again. I head upstairs, to see how Q-Funk
and Pahartik are doing, and also to establish a base camp for the sleeping
area. They seem to be doing alright, with a tri-machine local network, based
on the Debian box, with Q-Funk's TT, and Pahartik's ancient Sparc Station
running off it. We pause to ask ourselves the question, is Q-Funk's nudie
desktop a paen to sexual frustration, or what?
Setting up sleeping equipment here seems to be a good idea initially. It is
clean, and relatively quiet, if you discount the noises coming from down
below in the main hall, which ultimately, you couldn't.
I'm guessing, it was around two or three am before I attempted to get some
sleep. Stepping over the slumbering corpses of Felice and John H. The
solitary figure of Pahartik still at his Sparc, I settled into my sleeping
back, gratefully, for a nights rest....
Unfortunately, although the live music had finished downstairs, the music in
general had not. Eventually, the loud and upfront bassy tunes gave way to
something more 'ambient' and soothing, but truth be told, still a bit on the
loud side. I manage some sort of half-sleep for around a couple of hours,
before it gets too much, and I get up again. By then, the main music has
stopped, but someone is using one of the big display screens to play some
beepy chippy sounding MSX game. A case where YM chip sounds really WERE a
racket! What motivated me to get up, was a loud English accented voice,
which may have belonged to the Oric enthusiast known as 'Twilighte' talking
to Setok. So I get up to see if I can find him.
Downstairs, there are a few people moving around, and a sizeable chunk of
porn on the local cable teevee. I decide against waking Felice. Looking for
some kind of breakfast reveals the coffee bar shut, so I end up chatting to
one of the organisers, a big untidy looking bloke, who remembers me from the
other Alt parties. Another chap, a member of a PeeCee crew, and employee of
Wiztom's workplace, Housemarque joins in. His (real) name is Sami Koistinen,
and he works as a coder there. We get into a discussion on how long we've
been into the scene. I seem to get extra credibility points when I say that
I've been interested since the late 1980's, and even incur some degree of
awe, when I mention that I was involved with a diskmag for ten years.
(Maggie, of course!)
Eventually, foodless, I drift back to bed, around 06.00, to attempt to sleep
once more. The music has all but stopped, but the ingame annoying soundchip
racket still goes on. Sleep is starting to catch up, may even yet win out,
until the final surprise of the night blunders into the adjoining balcony
area, and starts crashing about drunkenly and yelling down to the main hall
That did it, I am awake, there is no going back now, and the curse of Alt
Party, lack of sleep, wins out yet again!
The scene around 08.30 - 09.00 finds me, and John H. awake, and borrowing
back my spare power cable off MSG's currently switched off monitor. We are
reviving my SCSI hard drive, getting it to talk to Felice's Falcy, which it
does, grudgingly at first, more willingly when we get HD Driver on the case.
Transfer the contents of my '3 Alt temporary' partition to one of Felice's
unused IDE virtual drives, and update on things like the Archie realtime.
Also update on things like coffee, very welcome after such a long and noise
Eventually, Felice rouses himself up and joins us, so we make an executive
decision to go out for some food and check out the local Macdonalds at the
bottom of the street. Instead, we find that at 10.30hrs, they STILL aren't
open yet, presumably never heard of a breakfast Macmuffin? Instead, we head
to the adjoining mini-mart or convenience stall. These seem to offer a range
of quick cheap things to eat that mirrors the sort of thing a garage shop
sells, but without petrol, or windscreen defroster. They happen to serve a
hotdog, which turns into one of the nicest snacks of the whole weekend, with
a lightly toasted bun, ketchup, mustard, and an onion dressing, yummee!
Suitably snacked up, we get back to Gloria, and one of the first things we
do, is to check out the neat display of several of the other old computers
at the party. On a slightly disappointing note, unlike the second Alt party,
they do not seem to be doing too much, and the majority of the hardware has
a little caption card with it, a bit like a museum in fact? (Could be the
Arctic Computer Museum.) This way, we get to see a rare Finnish badge-
engineered version of the Dragon 32 (where literally only the name was
changed!) I pick up and lovingly fondle a ZX81, rekindling ancient memories.
The SAM Coupe is back, but sits silently. The Telmac is picked up, and feels
very lightweight, but there is going to be no demo written for it this time.
Almost passing unnoticed, is some very new hardware, the next gen Nintendo
console, the Game Cube. This is playing the rather filmlike intro sequence
to some Star Wars game. (I found out shortly after writing this bit of the
report, it was actually playing back a ten minute 'short' feature film
called 'Troopers', about a day in the life of a couple of Imperial Troopers,
done in the style of a reality teevee police documentary.)
Of other hardware around the party. A fair number of Commodore 64's
predominated, not so much MSX stuff this time. A Commodore Pet did its
tightly looped textual thing next to us, and the MC6800 evaluation kit made
a welcome comeback! We learnt earlier at the party, there was going to be a
return to demo amazement form from Viznut, the coder of the Vic 20 entry at
the first Alt Party.
For now, someone is demonstrating an enhanced C64, which has up to 4
megabytes of RAM, and a 16-bit version of the 6502 CPU (which is the same
CPU used in the SNES!) clocked up to 20 mhz. They are showing a very nice
demo, written about a couple of years ago with this expander in mind. This
super-C64 was based on a C128 chassis, and it looks like the 'dual' Z80 part
of the machine got lost with the upgrade! Although it was possible to have
the same sort of expansion done to the Z80 half if you felt so inclined.
Really, apart from one or two isolated showings, and some interesting
related material a bit later on, this party underplayed the exposure to demo
material from diverse platforms. A promised Falcon specific spot got
scrubbed, and it was mainly through one-to-one viewings of individual
machines, that I saw much of interest before the competitions. We didn't get
to see any MSX demos, and I'm sure there were releases since the second Alt
Party for that platform?
Note for the next Alt Party, we need more demos from diverse computers,
maybe lose one or two of the dodgier live music acts?
After that, I am talking to Wiztom about his planned 3-D world demo for the
STe, which seems to sum up as a quite simple main bit of code, but a hell of
a lot of ancilliary sounding stuff. Whilst he is doing this, I feel my
concentration going rapidly as lack of sleep catches up, like the mean
motherfarmer it is. So I make my excuses and leave to crash out for a bit.
This is right back in the spot which I abandoned earlier, and everything
seems to be alright at first. Q-Funk and Pahartik are silently tapping away
on their screens. I recline back in my sleeping back to relax, which works
until people start stepping over me to get to the control desk for the main
projector. With this third attempt at sleeping killed off prematurely, I
relocate my bedding in the side corridor, a hopefully quieter location.
Back downstairs, and I finally meet Twilighte, the other British Alt Party
attendee, and keen Oric fan. He initially catches sight of us, and I show
him around Felice's Falcon, and Maggie and the Hmmm demo in particular. He
is suitably impressed, and reveals that he was a closet ST owner in the
past, along with other machines such as the C64, and of course, the famous
Oric. Today, he has not brought any real hardware, but is able to give us a
pretty good demonstration of what he's been up to, on the emulated version
of Oric, known as 'Euphoric', on his PeeCee Laptop.
Twilighte has been doing the odd bit of demo coding, namely in cooperation
with Dbug of NeXT, but with a little demo all his own, whose main tweak
seemed to be inventing new colour modes with cunning combinations of red
green and blue pixels. The Dbug demo, was a follow on from the STNICCC demo,
for some French party last summer, and quite possibly even more impressive
than that earlier demo, featuring more enhanced screen modes with many
colours, and fantastic zooming. Even a clever use of hi-res mono got in
there, with a better than average greets section, which included a lot of
Atari people, as well as Oric dudes.
We also saw a couple of games that Twilighte had been working on. These were
to a very high standard for the 8-bitter, and we semi-seriously considered
if 'Chu Chu Rocket!' could be converted Oric-wise, then we saw sense! (Check
out 'Mini-Mag' in this issue for another viewpoint on the wisdom of
converting Chu Chu for the Oric!) Also, we got to see, or hear a modfile
tracker for the Oric. Don't forget the Oric has practically identical sound
hardware to the basic STFM, so clearly the difference in CPU power makes
life easier for the ST. So the Oric was doing well, to be kicking out sample
replay at a humble 5khz.
Twilighte has been interested for a long time, but has only started doing
things of a scenish nature relatively recently. With a view to dropping in
and checking out his Oric setup at home, I urge him to stay in touch, as he
only lives an hour or so's drive away from me.
Afterwards, back to the Alive!/Maggie table, where Felice seems to be into
past glories of Falcon Maggie, and John H. has been loaned a VGA monitor, so
he can run his Archie laptop in glorious full colour. At this moment, he is
running the vastly ambitious 'Star Fighter 3000', a game which combines
elements of Star Glider and Cybermorph, with touches of some SNES mode 7
thing as well. This looks way cool, but John gets trashed by the heavily
opposing forces very frequently, with lots of polygon shatter. Eventually,
all this fiery death gets too much, so we go and look for some lunch.
Macdonalds have roused themselves at last, so we head there. encountering
the Finnish equivalent of a children's hour, including one baby Bin Laden
suspect, who seems to be incarcerated withing a penal playpen, but perfectly
happy in there?
In the latter part of the afternoon, the next pre-planned event comes to
pass, this can be loosely described as the 'MSX laserdisk hour'. Here, we
get to see a couple of real rarities. These are games based on a combination
of an MSX computer, and a laserdisk player. A rare and expensive combination
in the mid-eighties, pre-CD ROM, when a lot of us were still using audio
cassettes. As the realtime admirably describes, these seem to combine an
awful lot of work in areas like background rendering, with a really crummy,
lightweight, sub-VCS game. The second game is based more on the "classic"
Dragon Quest style, with its arcade rooted potential for sudden premature
death. In fact, watching the many different variations on the violent ending
theme proves to be the most entertaining part of the experience!
The live games competition springs into existence amid a blaze of
incomprehension. Some kind of combat or tank game features, but without any
shooting, as far as I could see. This was running on an Intellivision
console, the early 80's Sega Saturn equivalent, to the Atari VCS
Shortly afterwards, I manage to corner Setok in the organisers tent, to
round up the latest rumours for this evening's competitions. He is in a
confident mood, claiming up to eight good quality demo releases, a mixture
of anything from Macintosh to Vectrex, with a good helping of Commodore 64
in the middle. The Vic 20 is to return to centre stage too, courtesy of that
talented young man, Viznut. It all looks rather good from this viewpoint,
although there is no sign of any Atari badged entries, not even Wiztom's
trace of shadebobbing code?
We are also able to view the results of the analogue graphics competition in
the lobby. These have been created via the medium of paper and assorted
crayons, and a large number of interesting entries are on view on the wall.
Out ahead of all of them, is Lance of Aggression and his depiction of a
'Cyber Fish in Space', which does not look too different from how he might
have done this with computer paints? We guess that this will be the likely
Another 'Alternative' competition next, and one with only one taker, the
eternally excellent overhead projector compo comes up. A group called 'Taat'
(no relation to you know who?) manages the seemingly impossible. To create a
demo without computers! This is done with a clever use of transparent
acetates, some effects, particularly things like overlapping acid circles,
came out very well indeed. Others, including a 'rendering' section done with
a set-square, were hilarious in the extreme. Surely this was how the eastern
bloc countries used to do demos, even before the first Atari 8-bits reached
Somewhere before the live music, and the first major competitions of the
evening start, we grab some food from the ever-handy Macdonalds, as we are
told the doors are going to be locked during the competitions. The Res Gods
also go out to grab a pizza, and just about make the return deadline.
Back into the main hall, and just as the live music acts are starting to
gear up for their instalment of the evening's fun, a middle-aged American
drops by to check out the Vectrex set up next to us. He seems to be
radically different from the normal run of Alt party guests, apart from old
farts such as Twilighte and myself, and is taking a keen interest, but from
an outsiders point of view. This person turns out to be the famous guest
speaker, Robert Michal, creator of the Amiga and Lynx (not to mention the
3DO). He is in our bit of the hall, and even when talking to him, we don't
realise who he is!
As the realtime reveals, he did also look at what we were doing, principally
with the Archie laptop, and I managed to run a demo which he thought highly
of. Meanwhile the live music competition was starting to get going at this
point in time.
Most memorable moments from the live music compo. One guy trying to play a
digeridoo, and not succeeding too well. Also Setok with a vocal style of a
sea mammal in its death agonies groaning "Boring buggers suck!" The scary
thing is, that I'm still not sure if Setok was taking himself seriously up
More musical hell follows, with the modfile competition with no samples! Oh
great, and why not follow that with an electric chair execution done by
candlelight!? The end results are done in very little time, "live", meaning
about an hour before, and with whatever scratches and clicks that the
composers have been able to 'make' themselves. Some of them sound passable,
but not the sort of thing that takes pride of place in a modfile
competition, let's face it.
A 4k graphics compo gets in there somewhere, then we're almost on the last
leg, waiting for the main demo competition. Felice starts showing some
camcordered excerpts from the STNICCC party, about five minutes worth,
taking us back to a time where warm luxurious rooms, with Atari people
enjoying sumptuous catering, ran riot. We didn't sleep there a lot
Just one more thing before the demo competitions, as our guest speaker, the
recently blissfully unknown to us Robert J Michal, creator of the Amiga,
Lynx and 3DO goes to the front of the main hall to speak. At that point, we
connect with the middle-aged but youthful sounding American person in our
midst earlier! He goes on to a rapturous reception, in the manner of an
elderly and past his best form rockstar playing a gig to his most diehard
fans, and lapping up every last nano-second of the experience.
The realtime gives quite a good summary of the main parts of his speech, so
I'm not going to repeat them here. Needless to say, every word is lapped up,
and Robert is invited to take some questions afterwards.
Initially he takes some questions from the floor, and gives some interesting
answers including the disheartening possibility that Microsoft might be
around for a very long time to come yet (if current multi-national companies
in other areas, like the car manufacturer Mercedes are a guide.) Although
they may be tempered by the growth of Linux in its forthcoming easy-to-use-
for-newbies incarnation 'Lindows'. There is also an interesting sideline
which picks up on his relationship with Atari, in the very early days of
Amiga, which was not so great. Indeed, Robert was only latterly able to
bring himself to mention 'Atari' by name, and still wasn't able to mention
the dreaded 'first family of Atari', the Tr*miels, unless really pushed!
The formal part of the meeting breaks up, then Robert is surrounded by a
heaving mass of interested bodies, including just about all of the Atari
kids of the UK contingent. This close-up probing goes on for a very very
long time indeed, and Robert finds himself fielding pretty detailed
questions about the Atari Lynx in particular. It is a typically Felician
'curved ball' question that solicits some of the most interesting
information about the status of the Tramiel family. "Are Jack and Sam
Tramiel still alive?" gets the response that, yes they are, but not doing
too much else at the moment, opting for a profile that is positively
subterranean these days. Indeed, this eager pushing close and questioning
continues, and it is well past midnight, by the time the demo competition is
clear to go.
DAY 4, Sunday January 13th.
The much anticipated demo competion, with loads of high quality entries,
begins at last. It doesn't start off too badly, with a conventional solid
vector 3-D 'dentro' production, produced on a fairly bog-standard 386 SX
PeeCee by the overhead projector people. The grins on people's faces become
rather more fixed, and start to blur into a frown of worried
incomprehension, when the iMac entry comes on next.
This is a clever parody of 'advice of an intimate nature, given to young
women of a certain age, in bygone years', with some 'artistic' or truly
fucked-up video. A return of the 'Ego demo' of 1st Error in Line infamy?
Quite possibly! On further reflection, this would have suited our visit on
Tuesday to the Kiasma museum of contemporary 'ars' in central Helsinki very
well. A good and funny fake or joke demo from a famous C64 group 'Extend',
is next, then something called 'Megademo' on the MSX, which turns out to be
one of those 2 Alt five minute creations, then the C64 follows with
something very similar. An endless black pit opens up before the screaming
audience... Another BASIC demo on the supercharged C128, better than the two
entries preceding it, but purely of dry technical interest keeps us from
falling in totally.
The last three entries reintroduce the missing factor of ass-kicking
coolness into the competition. Viznut blasts out with another Vic 20
masterpiece, shorter than his first one, but with a gorgeous 'truecolour' or
palette-faking screen reminiscent of Dbug's Oric efforts. The applause at
the end of that one included a large and heartfelt chunk of relief! A
classic Gameboy demo starts slowly and confusingly, then all of a sudden,
classic effects, well executed, can be seen, this one goes on to finish well
and keep interest levels bubbling.
Finally, a demo on a most unusual platform for demos, the Vectrex demo, or
'Vecdemo'. This has no video output, but the screen is filmed, live and the
result beamed onto the big screen. The Vecdemo actually benefits from this
method of transmission, as otherwise mundane vector effects seem to gain a
brilliant blue lense-flare at crucial moments, and I'm sure, fooling a lot
of people into thinking it was a natural and intentional part of the demo!
Now if someone were to reproduce this in a 'normal' demo on another
platform. Right, are you lot taking notes, brilliant blue 'sunburst' or
flare coming from common vector line objects, how about it, mainstream? What
we actually see, seems to be a specially adapted version of a trailer and
credits for a forthcoming game.
With that, the demo competition is over, but not a single entry with a Fuji
badge anywhere near it, not even a Senior Dads 'GEM fake demo'.
I manage to get to an internet terminal, a very lonely 'first' with the
news, or non-news, for the Dead Hackers pages, on a weekend where everyone
else in the Atari scene seemed to be on holiday. Afterwards, there seems to
be some expression of regret from a Godlike corner of the hall, that given
the prevailing standard of some of the middle order entries, they could have
pulled off something better on the Falcy? Indeed, the world is keenly
awaiting the next 128 byte-tro, or better still, the follow-up to the 'Snow-
It is damn late by now, and the post-competition collapse into freefall
madness is well underway. At some unnamed hour, some of us attempt to get
some sleep, denied to us the previous night.
This proved to be nearly as complicated as last night...
When I get to my newly appointed resting place, in one of the side
corridors, Felice is already out of things, along with a number of other
sleep-anonymous Finnish bodies. John H. comes to join us, and my inflatable
pillow seems to have gone on a unilateral world tour, without telling me.
Still, it seems to be quieter, and more settled than the noisy central part
of the hall, so John and I settle down.
But a constant flow of pedestrian traffic, shuffling back and forth, none of
it feeling able to shut the doors to the central gallery, provides just
enough interest to keep us awake. Some of it is packing to leave, as an
intensive torchlit search for stray goods and chattels, also keeps sleep
just at bay. At one stage, a possible wild competition entry consisting of a
man in a black binliner hobbles about purposelessly. Unlike MSG's ever
popular 'worm-bag' style, this guy is wearing his bag over the top half of
his body! It may have been real, or it could have been a rogue hallucination
from lack of sleep?
Eventually, I get to sleep, don't know when, and wake up around 09.00, look
around for a bit, clean up, and go back to sleep for a short time, until I
properly awake a bit later on.
This late morning part of the day mumbles inaudably into life. Presently,
the others join me. Large amounts of lazy relaxed adding to the realtime
article, web-browsing, and watching what the Vectrex fan next door to us was
up to, follows. He is working on a small demo, based on a Windowze
screensaver, which was an early work in progress to something bigger and
better? Some food, from the ever-ubiquitous Macdonalds, makes its presence
I turn to packing my stuff for the journey home, relocating the major part
of the missing pillow in the far corner of the corridor. A missing shirt,
which didn't move out with me after the first sleepless night is
rediscovered, and that is that.
It is wearing on to mid afternoon before the results of the competitions are
announced. Here they are, reproduced in full:
THE ALTERNATIVE PARTY
11th-13th January 2002 Gloria, Helsinki, Finland
Classic Gaming Competition
Overhead Projector Competition
1. tAAt: Valoköysiviljelijä
Live Music Competition
1. Epävire 55
Nosfe + kumpp. 55
3. Bass Cadet 41
5. Die Rebels 38
6. Pilvisten herrasväki 37
7. tAAt 20
Realtime Music Competition With No Samples
1. Deetsay: Prop Eller Paeae 80
2. Tripper: Vaihto(ehto)kalsari 52
3. Ravel: Irresponsibility 37
4. tArzAn: Viidakon huoltomies 26
5. Hooligan/DCS: Kyrpae 25
Cahva: Gauheeta scheissea 25
Skrebbel: Lapzwans 25
8. Stonda: Medium 0
Pi kB Graphics Competition
1. Uncle-X/MFX: Metropolis 80
2. Electric: Meiju Suvas 46
3. Nosfe/MFX: Sceneboylove 31
4. Random/Armada: Kebabelaein 30
5. Marquee/Rapbisse: Hilsemutki 17
6. tArzAn/tAAt: Media 15
7. Scoopr: Scp-alt 14
Zeroic/Details: Steve McQueen14
Stonda: Stonda 14
10.Kameli: Downhill 7
11.Ravel: Pizza-man 6
12.Nosfe/MFX: Tuijotus 5
13.Sauli/Jumalauta: Saulin penis 4
Analogue Graphics Competition With Colours
Alt-machine Demo Competition
1. pWp: THOH 109 (Vic-20)
2. CNCD: ALT TOO 65 (Game Boy)
3. Pelikonepeijoonit: Vecdemo 44 (Vectrex)
4. tAAt: Partaitiö 41 (386SX)
5. MFX: Space Cadet 31 (iMac)
6. Extend: Hunger One 9 (C64)
7. Jumalauta: MSX-megademo 7 (MSX)
8. Pihtisoft & pWp: NMNMNA 5 (C128+SuperCPU)
9. Extend: Cafe Lamer 1 (C64)
Obscure Machine Competition
Poster Placement Competition
The Unofficial NetHack Competition
1. Tokio 534409
No surprises for the demo competition, with Viznut as top dog with his
wicked Vic 20 code, and honourable second and third places to the Gameboy
and Vectrex demos respectively. The rest of the results won't mean too much
to you non-Atarians and non-Finns out there?
A barely awake or alive Setok concludes the closing ceremony, for a fast
disappearing third Alt party.
It is over, bar the going home part, the party rapidly reduces down to a
small group consisting of the Reservoir Gods, with Partycle, our favourite
vampire, ourselves, Wiztom, and a small band of Gloria staff who were
starting the clear-up operation, sparing us the table moving traumas of the
second Alt party. Thoughts, and phone calls turn to getting a taxi, the
bigger the better, as Q-Funk and Pahartik's stuff, in combination with our
own, is really quite an impressive floorful.
An initial taxi turns up, but this is too small for our huge luggage needs,
and it is sent away again. Indeed, it may not even be ours in the first
place? Mucho taxi confusion with Q-Funk follows. Several times, he phones
the taxi firm, with different and ever more entertaining excuses given when
the taxi concerned, seems to have been mislaid. Eventually, a suitable
vehicle turns up, but this is the one that the Reservoir Gods booked, so
with a whoop of vegetable headgear inspired joy (don't ask!) They rush off,
leaving a small group of us behind.
A further long wait ensues, with more casual backchat passing between an
ever more irritated Q-Funk, and the taxi company. A long time later, a
station wagon sized vehicle arrives. We charge with armfuls of monitors and
bags, taking the taxi driver by surprise, but he bravely helps out, and we
stack ourselves, and the gear as best as we can.
Back at Q-Funk's, he persuades the driver to go most of the way up the
slippery ice covered hills next to his bit of the apartment complex. This
just leaves the final bit of path, and steep stairs to go. Still, with five
of us on the job, we soon clear away the gear upstairs, and thankfully
A thoroughly pleasant evening follows, where sauna's are taken, in Q-Funk's
minature hotbox, which seats three people. Interesting design feature of
even this humble Finnish apartment, as it manages to fit a half-decent sauna
in. Pizza's are ordered, via the ever reliable Pizza-Taxi, fondly eaten at
past Alt events. These arrive whilst we are still sauna-ing, so a gaggle of
us hide in a naked fashion behind the bathroom door, goading each other on
to peer out, whilst Q-Funk answers the front door, presumably in a not so
naked fashion? (Well, where would he keep the money to pay for the pizzas
The pizzas are good, even better when ordered in a borderline Baggio large
size in my case, and we eat well. Large scale chat resumes at this point,
with Q-Funk revealing that he was dissatisfied with life in Finland, in a
strange echo of many of the same reasons that had him escaping from Canada
three years ago, when we met him on the way to the first Alt party? His
present escape route involves a likely looking job in Estonia. If Q-Funk
goes for this, I hope it works out, but at the same time, I wonder if he is
going to be having this same conversation in another three years time with
us. "This place is useless, the women are too proud/dumb/materialistic, and
they don't like foreigners here.." (??)
It gets later, more beer slips down, and eventually, sleeping equipment is
made ready. It could have been either side of midnight when we went to bed,
I'm not sure, but it was close either way...
DAY 5, Monday January 14th.
Sleep the sleep of the totally shagged out, fade to black as the world
outside spins away.....
02.00ish, Intruder alert! Lights in the hallway, voices in the next room!
Q-Funk's nightmare alcoholic flatmate has made an unwelcome return. John H.
is in the chair, as the flatmate is clearly the worse for wear, apparently
covered in blood from a kicking he took at a local seedy dive from the
friendly local drug dealer(!) John opens hailing frequencies, with "Hi,
we're the British guys!" (Which might translate to "Don't shoot, we're
British!") Mark, for this is the drunkard's name, asks if John has got any
weed or booze, to which John replies that he hasn't. (Or he COULD have said,
"No, but we're British, and we've got a nice cup of tea, doncha' know!") The
initial tense period of misunderstanding is over, and Mark now has an
unwilling if attentive audience in the form of John.
Mark treats John to a series of paranoid ramblings, specifically that Q-Funk
sent him a death threat, and that Q-Funk wanted him out of the way, because
Q-Funk wanted to get to his girlfriend, and was constantly staring at her
tits! He also complained about his injuries, saying that he got beaten up
for no reason, and that he was such a loser, he would never hit them back.
He goes on in this vein for some time, before wandering over to the kitchen,
finding the half-bottle of beer that we missed, which seems to quieten him
down a bit. Pahartik, also in the same room as John, has his identity
queried, "Are you really Finnish?"
We are all awake, and listening to this very carefully. Do we get up and
help John? Bollocks, do we! He seems to be handling this situation very
well, so the part of my brain that handles sleep and cowardice decides to
leave him to it. Eventually, Mark quietens down in a manner which suggests
he is going to bed. Quietness, darkness, and sleep thankfully resume.
BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP!
BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! Stops for a short
time, resumes, with the occasional angry sound of a text message hitting the
memory banks of Mark's phone. Yes, it is his phone which is filling the
apartment with much unwanted mid-morning noise.
Eventually, John has had enough, and gets up, picks up the phone,
practically shoving it in the face of Mark, who is sleeping off the exciting
events of the night before, until he wakes up enough to answer it. Poor old
John, as if he had not suffered enough already! The caller turns out to be
the girlfriend of Mark, fascinating to Q-Funk tits and all.
As it is, in spite of the tragicomic interruptions, we sleep in a determined
fashion, only getting up a very long time later, around 13.30. In daylight,
and without the blood and booze, Mark seems to be a normal human again, as
opposed to one of the paranoid/weird variety.
Before setting off for town, we catch some highlights of the local community
cable teevee channel, including a piece filmed, live at the Alt Party,
featuring a interviewer aiming in the general direction of that non-boring
bugger, Setok. As this is one of those channels which constantly repeats the
hour's output, we make sure that Setok is warned to look out for it the next
time it comes around.
Into the city centre, and we make much needed phone calls (hello Nicky! She
sent me an email to my firstname.lastname@example.org address, just a short time after we
finally left Gloria, so I didn't get it until Tuesday, damn...) Get out much
needed cash from a much used ATM. We go on to a nice cafe to stuff ourselves
with some very nice buns and cakes, Finnish style. We then go on to the not
entirely unfamiliar premises of Molly Malone's, to consume some even more
needed beer! This takes us up nicely to early evening, when thoughts turn to
going back to Q-Funk's place, and then onto the post-party sauna. Some more
lurking in the metro, and various record shops follows, John H. is taken by
a Moomins souvenir shop in the metro shopping centre, but the shopkeeper is
out, so he doesn't buy anything.
Back home, we get to meet the girlfriend of scary alky man Mark. She manages
blondeness with a wry smile that suggests she has seen all too much of
Mark's more off the wall antics, her name is Margaret. We move everyone else
into Q-Funk's room, in accordance with the unspoken wish that she and Mark
might want to be left alone tonight. This takes some major reorganisation,
in which I personally end up better off, swapping a pretty good airbed, for
an even better mattress. That done, thoughts turn to the after party sauna.
The sauna is some distance away, not at the former (2000 vintage) plush
premises of Fishpool, as they have been forced to downsize to some extent in
the harsh world following the Dotcom crash. Instead, this is at some
municipal place, attached to an apartment complex, and we are to make our
own way there.
The journey to the after party was memorable, chiefly for the sort of
reasons that the last moments of the Titanic were memorable. Now Q-Funk was
either a bad judge of distances, or a very good liar, as he decided that as
the after party was "only a couple of kilometres" away, we could walk to it.
Now this sounds nice and reasonable, and even my asthmatic mathematics would
give an approximate timing of around half an hour to complete a journey of
that length on foot? But the realtime, in all its gory glory, details a much
longer journey, say an hours walking, and around twenty minutes buggering
about in a confused fashion, when we did get to the other end. So it can't
have been "only a couple of kilometres", can it? I'm not even going to get
entangled in discussing Q-Funk's knack of making 'short-cuts' out of odd
places where foot traffic wasn't really intended to go, as that may turn
into a rant too far.
Still, all abysmal things do eventually pass, even after a very long time,
and so we arrive at the rapidly gathering sauna party. This seems to be
filled with a lot of Fishpool and Aggression guys, and assorted hangers-on.
Setok has yet to arrive with the Reservoir Gods, but they wil be there soon.
In the meantime, We take our coats off gratefully, collapse, and John H.
sets up the realtime Archie laptop that he brought along specially for the
evening. One of the Fishpoolers is playing with a laptop of his own with
some weird little speech synth program.
Setok and the 'Gods arrive, bringing with them, large quantities of potato
snacks, crisps, beer and coke. Also a selection of nervous humour, as the
sauna derived tension becomes palpable. We take a closer look at the crisps,
these are in very big bags, labelled 'Megapussi'. Oh wow, more opportunities
for sexually based cheap wordplay, there will be no holding back Felice and
John H. now! Putting my hand into the megapussi, I grabbed a crispy
Soon, activities turn to sauna, and we go in the first batch, as the sauna
can only hold eight people at a time. There is someone with a large
television camera on the premises who is taking a keen interest in the
proceedings. John H. slips into 'Stupid Boy' mode, hoping out loud that the
camera doesn't follow us in. Q-Funk decides this would be a great laugh if
he did. So he comes in, and we're wondering how we might be able to get to
lynch Q-Funk twice in one evening?
The sauna, well, it's just these guys, you know. Just to add an extra
flavour to the evenings proceedings, John drops one in the sauna. The fellow
sauna-goers flinch, and it seems that John had committed a major
'saunacrime'! (With a one strike, or guff, then you're out, policy!?)
("Hehe, Hey Beavis, I've got this really cool idea, like, when we're in the
sauna, why don't we, you know, like fart in the direction of the burner,
then throw some water on it, to make, like, FART STEAM!"
"Now why would you want to do that, Mr President, Sir?")
Anyway, we survive the rest of our sauna, without any more anal incidents or
anecdotes, and we dry off and dress in a very relaxed frame of mind, doubly
so, after extracting a promise from Q-Funk that we are going home by means
other than foot transport.
The Reservoir Gods are still reluctant, doing their best impersonation of a
sauna-hating cat on a hot tin roof. Meanwhile, we gain an unexpected bonus,
as we get talking to a nice Finnish babe, whom mother would surely have
approved of for marriage! Her name is Heli, and we even are as bold to get
her to type into the realtime before she goes.
One of the 'Gods does go in, the most confident member of the team is
Ripley, who goes in on her own, with Partycyle guarding the door, hmmm?
Inside the main lounge or post sauna rest area, a big discussion on weighty
topics, such as 'the future of the scene' is building. There are lots of
suggestions, but with no conclusions reached.
DAY 6, Tuesday January 15th.
It is sometime around midnight, not too late, when the five of us head off
home. There is no rerun of the forced march. An abortive attempt to catch
the last bus home, results in a taxi turning up a little later and cramming
five of us in. The drive back takes a good while, and we wonder just how far
we actually walked? Definitely more than 'two kilometres'!
The rest of the night is straightforward, there is no rerun of last night's
oddball dialogue, and we sleep happily right through until Q-Funks alarm
announces the new day. He goes to work, leaving us to sleep on, a sensible
move. We do get up at a suitably mid-morning hour, and manage to rouse Mark
and Margaret to let us out. (A lot of Finnish apartments don't have a pull-
shut latch lock, and you HAVE to have a key to get in and out.) We are
meeting Q-Funk in the centre, but making our own plans first.
Having got the Helsinki bus service well and truly sussed, we wind up in the
centre of town, looking around awhile for a place to eat. We find one, sit
back and eat, then onto the Computer Club Bookshop, in a very ritzy and
upmarket development, near a whole load of other upmarket stuff, including
the place that is to make this Tuesday afternoon so memorable, the Kiasma
Museum of Contemporary Art.
The bookshop is very accommodating, and very well stocked, mainly with
English language material on many flavours of computing, with a strong Linux
bias, it has to be said :)
We meet up briefly with Q-Funk to set up plans for the rest of the day, we
are to go on to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Arts, a huge curved
aircraft hangar of a building often glimpsed from the outside, during our
various travels around Helsinki. Now we were going in! One thing which led
to more juvenile language-based hilarity, was the Finnish word for 'arts',
which was 'ars'. So notices within the hall asking us not to touch the 'ars'
elicit a gentle titter, apart from Pahartik, who may be just that little bit
more cultured than the rest of us?
The interior is striking, modern, and the exhibition is organised so you are
gradually heading ever upwards, until it culminates in a Volkswagen Beetle,
cut up and with the bits redistributed around in an artistic fashion, right
up at the top. In keeping with the contemporary theme, the exhibits are
'Tate Modern', rather than 'Old masters'. Some of these may be considered as
'ars'. There was one which seemed to (unconsciously?) draw on some
techniques of demo coders, used and long discarded, which developed on a
recursive sprites theme! Other exhibits verged on the impressive, including
the huge stack of radios known as 'The Tower of Babel', which took up two
There was an awful lot of the sort of thing, where the artists life was
photographed, or videotaped, and reinterpreted through a curiously twisted
viewpoint. I thought that the iMac demo, from the Alt Party demo
competitions would have fitted in here perfectly well. Speaking of which,
there were some smart Macintoshes which were running the museum information
service. A John H. bit in the realtime also goes into pleasurable spasms of
technoporn appreciation, at some of the very expensive kit used to display
this stuff. We considered if it would be possible to smuggle out a 40 inch
plasma flat screen under our coats, but drop the idea with some regret.
I would say that none of it was dull, and we whiled away a thoroughly
entertaining afternoon in Kiasma. Eventually, we head back down, and find
the restaurant, as taking in all that culture was thirsty work. Then to meet
up with Q-Funk to collect his cable modem.
Q-Funk disappears to collect some documents from the Canadian embassy or
something, and we head over to the cable modem shop, to wait to pick up this
modem. It seems that this shop has borrowed its retailing practices from the
Soviet Union, as we take a ticket, and wait, and wait....
Internet terminals, when one can be grabbed, and a rolling multiscreen
presentation of various tele programmes and films, help to break the
monotony a little bit, but an hour later, and we still seem to be little
closer to getting out of there. Q-Funk returns, leaves us with the key to
his apartment, and dashes off back to work, whilst we remain in the waiting
room. Empires rise, civilisations crumble, glaciers grow and retreat, and
eventually, our number is called. Pahartik is in charge of the paperwork,
which the counter clerk seems to accept, and he comes away, clutching a
brand new Motorola cable modem. It subsequently turns out that they accepted
Pahartik's handling of the paperwork so much, there was an imminent danger
of him getting all the bills for Q-Funk's cable subscription and internet
useage! At the time we left, they were still trying to sort that one out!
After a bit of a diversion around the shopping centre known as the Forum,
trying to get a belt or strap for Pahartik to rig up to carry his monitor
home, we eventually stagger home on a handy bus (number 105). We make it
back, about ten minutes ahead of Q-Funk, he arrives, and much fiddling with
cable wall sockets, and setting up computers abandoned since our hurried Alt
party return on Sunday, commences.
Q-Funky is so happy he is back online again. This is the event that makes
and defines his day. His Debian box is the first to burst into life but
soon, the TT, and then Pahartik's SparcStation join in the fun as well.
We burst back onto the Atariscne IRC, and surprise a number of residents on
there. The Debian box is a sluggish but adequate web browser, so we get some
surfing in as well. This is going so well, that when thoughts turn to
getting the Pizza Taxi back out, it is too late, and they have stopped
delivering. No-one is too pleased with this development, but an alternative
plan is forged, that is, a late late pizza show, made possible by purchasing
and cooking the damn things ourselves. The local Esso garage makes the
purchasing possible, and we opt to do the job properly, oldschool style, by
oven cooking, rather than the soggy mess that the microwave would have made
DAY 7, Wednesday January 16th.
So we start this final day in Finland with the taste of pizza in our mouths..
It just remains for us to bed down, firstly after another session of IRC
mania. The usual crowd is there, Grey tries to join in, several times, as
his connection keeps dropping, maybe rainwater or rats got in the telephone
cables? Mr Pink assures me that the UK is still there, and it is safe to
return to it. I am almost the last person abed, leaving Mr Pink and co in a
discussion about PS2 development kits. You need the best part of 15,000 UKP
for an official one, apparently.
Getting up is a leisurely process. Q-Funk has left us with his key, and a
plan for us to take our luggage to the airport, leave it there, and come
back to meet him at the French school, one of his varied workplaces.
The leg to the airport is straightforward, a large and luxurious station-
wagon taxi takes us to Vantaa, a large and luxurious price is charged by the
driver! Still, it was worth it, getting our gear out of the way. We make our
way back to the city centre by bus, then pick up another bus to get to the
French School. This turns out to be some distance out of town, half-an-hour
later, and with Pahartik looking none too clear, we are concerned. About
where Pahartik says, "I think the last stop is where we should have got
off?" he asks the driver, who assures him that he hadn't missed his stop.
But ten minutes later, Pahartik suddenly dives off the bus, we follow, but
where are we?
Another ten minutes foot travel, in an uncertain location, brings about
horrible memories of Monday night. We stop to ask directions from a woman
who gets hit intermittently by a swinging garage door. At that point,
Pahartik bravely decides to go on alone to look for Q-Funk, and the rest of
us decide to return to town.
It is at the branch of Macdonalds where we ended up meeting Partycle at the
first Alt party, where we break our self-imposed famine. Never has a big Mac
tasted so good! (And a couple of them tasted even better!) Afterwards, we
search out the payphones in the Forum we first used, a couple of days ago,
and re-establish contact with Q-Funk. A much better plan to take the place
of the chaotic first attempt is sorted out. We are to remeet at Molly
Malone's, for a final drink before we set off for the airport.
It is around 17.00 when Q-Funk finally turns up, with the little behatted
fellow Pahartik in tow, we relax downstairs, drink, and slowly add to the
realtime, in anticipation of the final journey back home.
For our final meal in town, we find a very nice, but cramped Indian
restaurant. The food is authentic, and just needing a nan bread to make it
perfect. The staff is totally non-indian, being more blonde and local.
We all head back to the airport on the bus. We're on time, but Felice, with
a sad expression on his face tells us that the flight home isn't going to
be! We check in anyway, with a dire warning that there will be no food on
the flight, no big loss really. To while away the additional two hours
waiting, we go and sit in a bar in the upstairs part of the terminal. From
there, anything is possible, as long as it involves drink, chat, and a great
view of the runway, from which, aircraft of all sizes take off and land.
Time ambles by, and eventually, our flight comes in, more or less at the
revised time expected for it. It is finally time to take our leave of Q-Funk
and Pahartik. We head back downstairs, and find the airport darkened and
largely shut. There is a couple of minutes of real panic when this lack of
activity extends to the security check-in to the departure lounge. At the
other end of the airport, an information desk is still open, and just twenty
yards or so further on, a security check is also waiting, for a long haul
overnight flight that is due to depart a bit later on. We say our final
goodbyes, and Q-Funk and Pahartik slide out of sight.
There is a tax-free shop still open, we dash around it with ten minutes to
go to our allotted departure time. We stride purposely to our gate, and
make it to the queue waiting to board our flight, with, oh, minutes to
Another surprise, as 'technical difficulties' have stopped our normal semi-
comfortable Boeing aircraft from flying. 'Technical Difficulties' meaning
anything from a cabin light needing replacing, to an engine falling off, I
suppose? It has been replaced by a cramped Bae 146 short haul jet which was
pulled off a flight to Milan at the last minute.
It is a squeeze-in, and we take off with the "enjoyable" company of a party
of drunk Finns who are constantly queueing to use the toilet at the back. We
wonder if this is some bizarre Scandinavian variant on the mile high club?
But not for too long.
I attempt to get some sleep, knowing that the delayed flight will put my
personal arrival time in my own bed, at some very late hour. I am only very
slightly successful. The seats recline, and you can lean back in them
reasonably well, but the agitated atmosphere of the flight means that you
wake up suddenly, with your heart pounding, as if you've jut woken up from
taking part in a high activity nightmare?
A while later, adjusted for a UK time near to midnight, we arrive back at
Stanstead. Fortunately, luggage collection and departure is quick and
straightforward, apart from some heavy handed antics from the baggage
handling gorillas leaving their mark on Felice's case (his Falcon survived,
so don't worry.) At this point, John parts company, opting to see if he can
pick up an early or late train back to Portsmouth. Felice goes to see if his
car is still there, it is, so the journey home resumes. After stopping off
at Felice's place to collect my car, I'm finally back home, with my
comfortable double bed, in my own room, by myself, for 02.30 in the end.
3 Alt, an assessment and summing up?
I'm not sure where to place this one. There was the memorable novelty of the
first Alt Party, the travelling to Turku, and the great showing by the local
8-bit scene. The second party was more up close and personal, to the extent
where we were helping with some of the preparation and cleaning up, and
we lived closely in Setok's pockets back then.
We saw a return of some of the elements of the first party, with a return of
certain key people, missing from 2 Alt, such as Q-Funk, and the Res.Gods.
Incidentally, we would like to thank Martin very much, for the loan of his
floor space and his valuable time and invaluable assistance, whilst we were
Impressions of the party itself were mixed. From what started as a fairly
purist geekfest, Setok seems to be moving to a more diverse and general
definition of "Alternative", including things such as live music, and the
'arts' in general. 3 Alt seemed to be uneasily balanced between the two
sides of its dual identity, and it is debatable which way it will go next
time, or will the two aspects learn to merge together in relative harmony?
We were treated to a lot of live music on Friday night, and a more or less
continuous DJ'd soundtrack throughout the night. So we didn't go short of
music. On the other hand, apart from what I was able to search out for
myself, there wasn't an awful lot of demo showing of any platform. Such
things, as Twilighte's Oric material, really deserved a wider audience, but
stayed locked away in the private world of his hard drive. This was an
aspect, previously stronger, and somewhat neglected this time around. If
someone really wanted us to, we could have arranged a showing of cool Acorn
Archimedes material on John's laptop, as we were getting plenty of goodies
organised. Instead, the big screen seemed to be mostly used for some
repetitively lame MSX R-Type game or other.
In contrast to past parties, the 'Alternativeness' of the computer hardware
itself was less strongly emphasised, this time around, with less being done
or shown than before. Some owners were opting for a static museum-like
display of dead machines, which weren't switched on at any point during the
party, which I found personally disappointing.
Honourable exceptions did include the Vectrex owners two person fan club
next to us, who seem to be entering a new era of software development! Also,
the large number of Commodore 64's seemed to be buzzing with life. Not to
mention the Swedish, Finnish and UK Atari contingents, who seemed to be
coding or doing something productive, whatever time of day or night you
found them. I also enjoyed the bizarre novelty value of the MSX Laserdisk
games, and was glad I only got to see that one secondhand. As for the
competitions, we did see a wide range of amusing entries, with the
occasional jaw-dropper. In this light, the return of the Vic 20 was welcome,
and it was cool to see demos for the classic Gameboy and Vectrex. Big
disappointments were a non-appearance of the MSX scene, and a lack of
anything on that big screen with a Fuji badge to it!
What made 3 Alt special, was the cunning choice of a celebrity guest, which
was the not totally unknown Robert J Michal, the designer of the Amiga and
Lynx. His interesting speech, and the lengthy questions afterwards
transmogrified the evening beyond a normal party competition viewing, so to
some extent, the demo competitions had a very tough act to follow at the
More good points in general:- Free and easy internet access, good location
in relation to Helsinki central, and to local amenities. Also a nice venue.
The party itself seemed to be more popular and fuller than ever. At previous
parties, there were always spare tables, but not this time. Also, NO
CLEARING UP, or shifting tables needed afterwards. The C64 live set was even
better than the last time. Before I forget, the analogue graphics
competition (with crayon) was a big success as well. Not to mention that the
cool T-shirts were ready for sale at the party, rather than sometime after
Some not so good points:- The sleeping facilities sucked big time, if they
actually existed at all? This reminded me of the waking nightmare of the
first Alt party, and makes me ask whether there is going to be some
restraints put on the drunk moron contingent who made the scene at 05.00
hours so wonderful! On a related theme, there ought be a moratorium, or at
least a lessening of intensity, of some of the music very late at night, not
to mention the people playing a beepy 8-bit game on one of the big screens,
could be taught to put a sock in it as well? And a non-party specific point
for Helsinki taxi firms, when we ask for a big taxi, we MEAN a big taxi, and
today would be very nice as well!
There was also the fun and games not immediately connected with the party,
such as the post-party sauna, with the preceding epic forced march across
the snowfields of Espoo, and the visit to the Kiasma museum which made it
all as memorable as past visits. If I did this third Alt Party again, I
would choose to do less buggering and waiting about, as things such as
missing taxis, getting lost outdoors (more than once), and waiting to pick
up cable modems were causing me to want to gnaw my fingers off in
frustration by the end of it!
So in the end, I did enjoy 3 Alt. I enjoyed it a lot, and with a great bunch
of people, but there is still room for improvements, or to bring back some
things which have been allowed to slip to one side perhaps?
If there is another one, will I go? Almost certainly, yeah!!
CiH- Alive Mag, Jan '02