Mekka Symposium not-quite-a-Realtime-Article Diary Sort of Thing!
-~- By CiH -~-
.:::.::.:. ( )_
':::'' ''::'(All those who think it is hot and noisy now, )
::'._ _.:'(wait until you get into the sleeping shed later!)
c-[_]-[_]} / '--- --- ----------- ---- ------ ----- - --- --'
( _\ )
\ <__> /
Our "special" correspondent reports!
17.45 hours on the 29th March, and a concentrated gust of heat and noise
hits you when you step into the Heidmark Halle for the first time. This is
the effluence of the combined activities of anything up to fourteen hundred
people, if the propaganda coming from the official website is any reliable
There are representatives of many scenes, from all corners of Europe. Among
the many diverse flavours of people, we may see Estonian C64 freaks, German
PeeCee fans, French Amiga bods, and even a couple of isolated looking
iMac's, but where are we Atarians?
Well there are a small number of us, a conservative headcount hovers around
the twenties. - Sorry, just paused to reboot with FlaySID, the main sound
system has been cranked up, and I don't really go for reggae this turgid
and heavy! Now the status quo has been restored with some suitable
oldskoolish sounds, these ones of a SID-dy persuation.
So, back to the topic in hand, where are all those brave people who
populated classic Atari parties, such as the immortal and fondly remembered
Error in Line series? Well a few of them are here with us now. We drove
Havoc to the party here, after driving him mad by our very late arrival at
03.00hrs this morning! Sitting opposite are a group of Swedes, headed by
Baggio, complete with a child-scaring goatee beard! There is a reasonable
French representation, where we spotted Zerkman and DMA-SC in there. Also
Deez managed to unstick himself from the UK, with more success than we had
yesterday (more on that day's aggravation shortly!) Somewhere else in the
building, is Q-Funk, the demonic walker into obscure wildernesses, and ALT
21.00 hours, And the meal of the day is Chinese in shape and taste!
Q-Funk and a couple of other guys summoned us forth to a sino-german co-
operative food venture. The end result was not too bad, and due to a fatal
miscalculation on the part of Q-Funk, it was in easy stalking distance, and
absolutely no epic feats of hiking were involved!
Getting back sees a few important additions to the Atari contingent. Some
of the missing Germans have turned up, as the smiling face of MC Laser
greets us on our return. Other tSCc dudes sit close by, and Remo is due to
put in an appearance tomorrow. People are asking "Where is Ray?" There is
some work being put in discreetly by various people on possible small
releases for the party, but bearing in mind my previous lame track record
for correct prediction, I'd better not get your hopes up too high just yet,
(Clicky sticky crap! After several months of relatively good behaviour, the
wobbly keyboard gremlin that has lurked to ill effect at previous parties,
seems to be set on trying to make a comeback! And this is when this machine
is still hardly warm? Maybe this keyboard is being disturbed by some of the
more eccentric clothing and behaviour of some of the younger Mekka
For now, we cast our minds back to a day of disappointment and delays, a
day spent in the darker recesses of travel hell, as we now ask the question
"was it really only yesterday?!"
* Prequel, otherwise known as "The Outlook is Foggy! *
Why not fast-backward to 06.00 hours, the day is Thursday the 28th of
March, and I stand all packed and ready in keen anticipation of what the
coming days may bring.
One of the things it brings, is a last-gasp of winter, in the form of some
late season fog. The journey up shows it to be on the lines of a
traditional 'pea-souper', of the sort seen a lot in bad Sherlock Holmes
films. It is indeed of the sort of thickness where you are making an
educated guess as to those tantalising objects in the road in front of you
actually are? I get to Felice's without incident, but I'm expecting
We set off, and encounter it almost mere yards and metres away from
Felice's front door, as a stark and univiting queue of stationary fogbound
traffic tells its own silent tale of woe and disaster. Tuning into the
local 'drivetime' radio drags out a traffic report that reads less like a
traffic report, and more like a war memorial! On the major route we are
attempting to get to, there are up to *nine* major accidents, all with
crumpled metal, broken glass, and brightly jacketed police fire and
ambulance people in attendance! But never mind that, as we've still got to
get out of the mess that we've got caught in.
We do manage to detour out of it after thirty minutes or so, and straight
into the maw of a queue for another incident, half a mile or so later.
After about an hour of non-productive hanging around, I contact the ferry
company offices. The lady on the other end is sympathetic but not that
helpful. The ferry leaves on time, and that is that, we will have to try to
get to Harwich somehow. That said, we do our best, with a deep detour past
the worst of the traffic mess, but our best just isn't good quite enough
this time, as we catch sight of the MV Stena Discovery gliding away from
its berth, giving a cheerily annoying "tough shit!" blast from its foghorn.
We have the option of travelling on the later sailing, at 19.20 hours, at
no extra cost, which is fair, but that leaves us with a yawning chasm of
time to kill until then. The girl on the checking in kiosk seems pretty
sure it will be easy. Harwich has lots of interesting things to see and do,
we are told..
It turned out more than a little bit differently to that, of course!
Harwich can best be described (accurately) as 'Rushden on Sea'! It is
another small town that time, and money, forgot. Shops are boarded up, or
closed, due to a policy of studied apathy, everything has an unkempt
weatherbeaten and unpainted air about it. We actually had a job to find
something that approximated to a town centre, spotting people emerging from
the high street clutching shopping bags, much as a man dying of thirst in
the desert starts to see mirages. We do eventually find the local cafe, for
local people. This offers a basic menu, a group of dodgy looking types
replenishing cholesterol levels in between breaking into cars, the usual
selection of trainee teenage single mothers, and a couple of elderly people
hell-bent on chain smoking themselves, and us, to death.
They also do a decent full English breakfast, ("And none of that foreign
rubbish, mind you, I want *proper* Danish bacon!")
(22.24 note:- Ray of tSCc is now in the building! Also, there are *still*
people arriving with more kit, but the party is full already, where are
they going to go?!)
We decide that spending another six hours in Harwich is really more than we
can stand, and head out of town, ending up in Colchester. Colchester is
mainly famous for the fact that it contains an army garrison, and has done
since the time of the Romans. Former Maggie altered states of reality
correspondent, Jody Smith used to live there. He remembered it well as a
very uncertain and dangerous place, where kill-crazy army people would roam
the clubs and bars of an evening, trying to pick fights with unsuspecting
civilians for no good reason! There isn't really anything there that
compels us to get out and explore, so we eventually head back to Harwich.
Over a lot of years spent in less than exciting places and situations, I
have somehow developed an ability for being able to sit and wait without
any obvious pain or ill-effects over a lot of boring empty hours. This
comes in handy right now. Eventually our belated ship of dreams comes in,
we set sail, take up our usual seats by the video wall, and do all the
usual crossing rituals involving food, drink, exploration of the tax free
shop, and artful criticism of the output on the video wall. (Which had a
new Ali G production on it.)
To cut a long journey short, we eventually end up in Enschede, at Havoc's
place, at 03.00 hours on the Friday morning. This is another last minute
change of plan, as we were originally set to go all the way to Creature
XL's place in Hanover, but factors changed, which ruled him out of the days
proceedings. Getting to Havoc's place is straightforward, with no amusing
chats with the local forces of law enforcement this time around, and no
wrong turnings taken either. Weren't we clever? Well we've been there
enough times to know where we're going by now! My mobile, silent up until
now, wakes up sufficiently to get a signal, so we can wake Havok up gently!
He staggers downstairs in a sleep-zombified state to let us in.
After a few hours sleep, gained by the handy expedient of me partially
dismantling Havoc's sofa, it's a glorious sunny day, and we're off to
Fallingbostel, almost before we can say "Are you sure Havoc is meant to fit
onto the back seat *quite* like that?!"
This part of the journey is straightforward, and we find ourselves at the
party place at around the hour of 15.00.
Which brings us hurtling back to the present...
The party place, the Heidmark Halle, consists of a front reception area
where the organisers gather, some toilets, and a vast hall jammed full of
computers and a huge stream of people constantly flowing in all directions.
There are a number of culture shocks to consider, and we're wondering if we
are getting a bit too old for this game now?
Our first encounter with the new generation of young sceners finds one
slumped out cold in the car park, this was at 15.15 hours, and we wonder
how he is going to last the other three days?! His friends have been
"helpful" in artfully arranging various bits of computer debris, discarded
magazines, and beer bottles around and on him. Felice edges the car
nervously around him, and the last we heard, was that this individual had
been sold to the Tate Gallery as a stunningly challenging contemporary work
of art, for seven million UKP!
One of the other things apparent, is that there seems to be a lot more
dressing up of various kinds. We Atari people are a conservative lot, maybe
expecting the odd party souvenir tee-shirt, or occasional dangerously funny
haircut, (Hi Earx, Mr Pink, Sh3!!) People here took things a bit further,
with a selection of silly hats, and we spotted a 'Colonel Scener' in US
military issue headgear, and a 'Cardinal Scener', who may well have been
coding some Roman Catholic demos, to go with his priest's hat?(*) Another
individual had no problem in dressing in a bunny costume, and this parade
of sad cross-dressing, and even worse acting extended into a cod-medieval
opening ceremony, where the Knights who say 'Ni!' seem to have been given
German accents, and the evening off to appear here!?
(*) Post-Party note:- I think some of these were Polish C64 people..
Right, that brings matters up to date, I'm off for a drink!
(CiH at 22.56hrs.)
It's DAY 2, the 30.3.02, it's sometime past midnight, and it's very
darkened, with a very bright screen right in front of me!
We're suffering the obligatory live music spot. It's like Kraftwerk, but
without the catchiness, or sense of humour of that outfit...
Various people have been coming up and talking to me, including the sole
other UK person to have attended this party? He seems to be with some
PeeCee group, but had an involvement in Atari related stuff, up to 1994.
His interest wasn't in the demo scene at that time, but he does remember
such luminaries of the software redistribution scene, such as the
Bladerunners, and the Pompey Pirates!
Okay, it's getting late, but not too late, seeya later?
That time of the day deserves some exclamation marks!
And I haven't been to bed yet!
I've avoided the sleeping room, a big shed at the back of the Heidmark
Halle, as it currently is in pitch blackness, and full of people. Right
now, the sleeping facilities are adequate for a party about the third of
the size of this one. Most of the rest of the Atari scene have gone to bed,
apart from Deez, who tried an uneasy night's sleep in a car, and Havoc,
like myself, who simply forgot about going to bed until it was too late!
DMA-SC rates an honourable mention, as someone who stayed up later than the
rest, and I was able to confront him with some rude ASCII!
Ah, Felice has returned, and he's not very happy at all. It looks like the
sleeping area is a bit of a freezing and noisy live animated disaster area,
where the last thing possible is sleeping!? Never mind, he shall keep going
until we slump across the keyboaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....
And talking of ASCII, I've finally managed to make a start on a little pet
project that I've had the idea for about the last month, without doing
anything about it.
Robotic Pop Idols have it in their nature to break their programming, and
become disobedient! - There, that's all I'm saying on the subject for now!
What else have I been doing? Well I listened to so much music stored on my
hard drive that my ears are ready to pop, and this Falcy overheated to the
point that it wasn't even prepared to boot a desktop anymore. So I left it
for a bit, switched it on again about ten minutes ago, and the reassuring
sight of a top left hand corner of the screen dominated by the sign of the
Fuji appeared. So I think this is going to be alright again.
Back later when some of the other Atari bods return, no doubt full of
"Sleeping area sucks!" anecdotes?
(Some time later...)
I've managed to try out the sleeping area that sucked so much, and I think
that I've sussed out the main reasons why it might suck...
The sleeping area is in a temporary shed or barn with a canvas roof. It is
heated by a hot air blower which does its job well enough, as you are
greeted with a blast of warm air when you first go in, an experience not
unlike our initial arrival at the Heide Halle. The problem comes when you
go to lie down, as it is apparent that heat has a nasty tendency to rise
(out of reach!)
At the same time, the 'temporary' nature of this building is underlined by
the large gaps in the walls, which admit blasts of chill evening air. You
have a situation where you can be warm, if you either get the spot next to
the hot air inlet tube, or else you somehow have to learn to sleep
suspended off the floor and near to the roof! (Note to the organisers, next
time, provide hammocks!)
Next, the foot traffic in and out is constant, and if you are not 100%
dedicated to the idea of total exhaustion, then the squeaky door reminds
you of its presence, constantly, not to mention the passing foot traffic
often causes a dip or wobble in the temporary flooring, so it is if you are
sleeping in an earthquake zone.
The rumble of passing traffic on the nearby highway is really a minor
distraction, compared with the rest of it! I'm pretty sure I managed to
sleep a little bit this morning. At the very least, it is a huge relief to
put my feet up and to get away from the relentlessness of the party for a
Other news this morning? Errrm buggerall really. The French guys are back
on station, the Swedes seem to be doing an 'Arnel' and are trying to sleep
their way through this party? I've had a currywurst, ("Mmmmm, what I'd give
for a currywurst right now!" - Arnel, Symposium 1996!) which the food
coroner pronounced 'dead delicious!' MC Laser is sitting across looking
neat and unruffled, so did he have access to a special private 'organisers
At last, some competition related happenings, with the C64 4ktro's on the
big screen. A nice batch, but the 252 byte blocky sineous wobbly line thing
has already been caned by Atari efforts in 128 bytes, years ago! Nothing
really really new there, but there was one with a nice, screenfilling and
fast texturemap in the 4k, with SID music, and other effects tagged on
before, so it was a proper dentro-sized production. Certainly up with the
DHS 4k efforts, for maximum use of the limited resources.
More Atari people are around, with Baggio breaking his Arnel spell to
return to the action in the main hall. Deez isn't too happy, as his luggage
decided it wanted to catch an entirely different flight from the one that
he went on! Is there going to be a heartstopping reunion 'twixt man and
luggage, or will airport-based butts have to be kicked? Only time will
Not a huge amount more to report since the last log entry. I've been to the
local supermarket for local people, which has had to deal with a huge
influx of dubious people of a scenish persuasion over the last couple of
days, topped up on a few basic foodstuffs. Then I slept, or relaxed in the
sleeping tent during the warmest time of day, which would be around a
couple of hours or so until it starts getting dank and chilly again. I've
also had a freshen-up and change of clothes. Disabled toilets rule,
especially for the amount of room and relative privacy that you get! Baggio
is wearing his 3 Alt Party tee-shirt, so am I. We have decided between us,
that ALT 3 was a really worthwhile party, purely to annoy MC Laser also
It also looks like I've missed a tracker music competition...
Back later, when there's something hopefully decent to write about. The
next compo is on its way shortly.
Breaking News! (At last!!)
There have been two positively identified Atari demos for this party. A
combined production with Wildfire and the Nature Brothers (source;
Associated Felice Press!) and also a surprise reappearance by a scene
legend, Nerve, who no-one has seen for years, and who has brought a brand
new demo with him! I did get to talk to him directly, and he said that we
should expect something "noisier" than the standard Atari demo! He was
apparently working on this, even on the way to the party. So a bit of an
echo of the surprise sprung on us by Escape last year. I wouldn't be
surprised if there were one or two more to come?
Also, just viewed the Amiga 4ktro competition. Fewer entries than the C64,
but more technically impressive, but I'm assuming they didn't restrict
themselves to a classic A500 Amiga, so they ought to be! Again, nothing
really new here, but let's see what the bigger competitions kick out
tonight and tomorrow?
The Wildfire involvement in the demo competitions has been confirmed.
Graphics competitions about to start.
The first gfx compo is a themed 'Robots vs knights' affair, with a freehand
compo to follow.
Graphics compo just finished, Felice has returned with Q-Funk to announce
that their room-finding mission has been unsuccessful. No room at the inn!
Will we be able to get to sleep tonight, or does another yawning hell
await? You will find out, as we will over the coming hours.
Graphics compo entries were plentiful, and of a high standard, but the old
argument applies of course, but so they should be, with the hardware and
software involved. Some of the more sustained applause was reserved for
those entries that announced themselves as simple pixelled pictures, done
on something like DPaint 4 on the Amiga. There was at least one amusing
entry in there, 'Dirty Harry', which was a piss-take of the secret life of
the world's favourite boy wizard.
If the timetable on the big screen is correct, there are some Amiga
64ktro'sd coming up soon.
Of miscellaneous themes worth mentioning, whilst we await the next burst of
competitions, there has been a shrine set up in the Polski C64 quarter.
This is dominated by a gold-painted Commodore 64, with a replica chapel,
including a Commodore-themed minature stained glass window. Is this a
notice announcing the end of that great machine, or more likely, a
commandment to bow down and worship it!?
Amiga 64ktro's are over, with a couple of real smashers. These may well be
better than the full demos? Never since the days of 'Terrorise Your Soul',
has a small amount of space been put to such good use. It's as if they've
taken a 3 meg demo, and packed it down to 64k! My prediction for the winner
of that three horse race, the intro called 'Planet Potion'. There is a
great 2nd place effort, which takes you around a Quake-like tour of a
castle. How did they get so many textures in there?! And the really
interesting thing as far as we are concerned was the fact that it proudly
advertised it was an '060 demo only, with no PPC or graphics card to help.
CT60 potential perhaps?
The noisy smeghead with the loudspeaker, and even louder horn is busy. A
considerable number of pre-match "refreshments" are implicated!
Ah well, time for some racket-blocking music of my own.. (Reaches for the
The Wild Competition seems to have got stuck?
Still we've been treated to some very interesting entries, including all
sorts of videos, including a Simpsons takeoff, and something very
controversial from a group called Crimson Jihad, which seems to 'rip'
inspiration from the events of September 11th? It is supposedly an Anti-
Microsoft production, but the message is somewhat confused, to say the
Ah, the Wild compo is back on...
Whilst we're waiting, I'll tell you about the one proper 'oldskool' entry,
a full demo for some Texas programmable calculator thingy. Chock full of
tunnels and plasma, and even a four greyscale hi-res picture on what is
only a two colour display! It would have been more at home at the last Alt
Party, but the audience here seems to appreciate it.
Now the organisers are telling us that their problems are all Win XP
related. They moved the mouse, and Windows told them they had to reboot for
the changes to take effect!!! Total comedy! as Mr Pink of RG would rightly
The wild compo has finally finished, it's a miracle that last delayed
entry, for it is a German speaking western! (Clint von Eastwood versus
Johann Wayne?) Coming up next is that dread pair of words, "live act",
which is guaranteed to clear the hall, then the ever-interesting C64 main
demo competitions. I should still be around to give some first impressions
Clocks go forward, so we lose an hour in bed, or not? No great loss, if the
sleeping tent is as hellish at night as it has been painted.
*News Just In!* The Crimson Jihad entry has been disqualified. Looks like
they did themselves absolutely no favours at all by including footage of
the attacks on New York as a kind of 'demo effect'?! Maybe they would have
got away with it, if they hadn't done that, but this looks like a breach of
good taste boundaries gone one step too far...
Havoc has returned from the freezing sleeping tent cum cold storage
facility. It isn't any easier to sleep there from last night, so we can
expect the return of a tired and fretful Felice fairly soon? Havoc is none
too happy himself about this, and it is going to be a serious issue as to
whether any form of sleep is possible here?
I've been alright, my mid-morning and afternoon timeouts may well have
helped, as I'm still sort of together, mind and body wise. The live act is
a predictably annoying filler before the final competition of the evening,
the C64 demo compo, and is probably a friend of the organisers, brought in
as some kind of under the counter favour. Like all live acts doing a favour
for a friend, they will confuse extreme volume levels and shitty sound
quality with doing a good job.
*News just in, a while ago.* Felice has managed to make contact with the
outside world, and found out that Britain is bowed under the weight of
black-edged news bulletins and commemorative telly programmes about a
certain Elizabeth Windsor, nee Bowes-Lyon, who shuffled off this mortal
coil whilst we're in this demo dungeon of madness. UK readers will know
this person better as the Queen Mother, they will also know that at getting
on for 102, she had a good run, better than most in fact. We're very sorry
about her death, but massively relieved at the same time that we've missed
most of the mawkish official mourning process that the rest of the UK
population are going through at the moment. There are three people from the
UK here at Mekka Symposium, and apart from some oddball explorer blokes who
might be marooned out of radio contact in the Andes foothills, they (we)
are the luckiest British people around, solely for that reason!
Oh fuck, the live act is starting! Deduct a large splodge of good fortune,
I was getting carried away on that last paragraph.
DAY 3, It's 01.57hrs, shortly to become 02.00hrs, and then 03.00hrs very
quickly with the onset of daylight saving.
Saw the C64 demos, a bit of a mixed bag, with a couple of authentic
megademos, and a cool little line cartoon style demo called 'La Linea',
about the misadventures of one man and his car.
It's 02.00hrs, sorry, 03.00..
Looks like we're not getting any sleep tonight either, it's way too dark at
the sleeping place, and it looks like my bed is occupied anyway, cheeky
cunt! Still, wait until daylight to turf him out, the polite but firm
approach is best, and also best left to attempt in daylight.
There is more live "entertainment" on stage, this is an ad-hoc effort by a
crowd calling themselves the Booz-o-matic Beats. I hate to sound
disapproving, but I'd hate to see what this place would be like if the
organisers *condoned* drinking?? Like the day after World War 3 perhaps??
As it is, there is an awful lot of debris, human and otherwise from some
sort of party which is still in progress, mainly on the stage?
-~< Knights vs Robots >~-
"An ancient code of chivalry is all very well, but it is no match for the
superhuman ability to carry out several hundred repetitive and perfectly
completed tasks in a minute!" - A Robot..
"We do not associate, or even acknowledge those metallic spawn of satan.
They merely exist for valorous knights to run their steel through them!" -
I think that is probably enough diary for now, I'll get back to you after
I've got some shut-eye. (So will that be on the 2nd of April back home
11.30hrs. (But our body clock is still happy with it being 10.30, so
Well I'm back, having experienced the nighttime, or early morning terrors
of the sleeping room for myself. I got back there around 06.30-07.00, and
found that my illegally occupied bed had been deserted, the illegal
occupant realising that he was pushing his luck somewhat?
The weird micro-climate, where it gets colder near to the floor, and as
described earlier in this report, was in full force, but I got to sleep
quickly anyway. But damn, waking up feeling cold, on a cold mattress, in a
cold sleeping bag, sucks hugely!
Anyway, I had slept enough to 11.00 for now, so I got up and out of it.
Havoc was on his way there at the time, so I briefed him on what to expect
there. Having had some breakfast (supermarket special bread rolls and
processed cheese) and a *hot* cup of caffeine, I'm waiting for some
tangible improvements to my cold-befuddled state to take place. When you
see those shivering refugees in some rain-swept part of the Balkans, trying
to scrape thin substenance and a small amount of cover from a harsh
landscape, our nights spent at Mekka provide some insight into their
Sight that sums up this whole party:- About twenty people trying to use the
four sinks available to clean their teeth, all at once!
We have politely suggested to MC Laser that we might have to kill him if he
wants to come back here next year!
The second Dutch/Scandinavian 'joint venture' Atari demo has been completed
and handed in, the really interesting news is, that it is going out under
the 'Spice Boys' label. You may all start crying now!
(Reboot needed, as keyboard starts causing trouble, mere minutes after this
Falcy is switched on, CAPSLOCK KEY GETS STUCK>>>>>)
Right now, not too much is happening, but you can tell it's still early, as
the racket coming from the stage area is of a more ambient and soothing
Now you might remember this little ascii-based witticism at the beginning
of the text, right?
.:::.::.:. ( )_
':::'' ''::' (All those who think it is hot and noisy now, )
::'._ _.:' (wait until you get into the sleeping shed later!)
c-[_]-[_]} / '--- --- ----------- ---- ------ ----- - --- --'
( _\ )
\ <__> /
In fact, you do remember, and you're asking, "Well with the prevailing cold
conditions described so brilliantly in this diary, weren't you just a
little bit *wrong* there?!" So in my defence, I might suggest that I was
thinking of an alternative definition of "hot and noisy in the sleeping
In fact, the sort of "hot and noisy" that those people linked to the
network here, have been swapping enthusiastically all night. a flesh-
coloured, with carefully trimmed pubic hair sort of "hot and noisy"(!) A
land where silicon enhancements and bad acting rule!
Now are we all clear here what I was talking about back then? - Good ;-)
It is now 13.34hrs!
PC 64ktro has been and gone.
A lot more of these, around 18 or 19 to the Amiga 64ktro section which had
three. Some high quality efforts, the last one very much in an oldschool
sense, using OpenGL, and several others which were up to the quality of
last night's Amiga smasher 'Planet Potion'. But what sort of a name is
"Poem for a Horse" anyway??
One thing which amused me on a lot of these PC 64's. They started with a
precalculation progress bar, on a 1.8 ghz PeeCee?! Surely not!
One early entry, which combined sub-LSD visuals, with something done out of
ST-Cad c.1985 reminded Felice of a children's telly programme 'Ivor the
Engine'. Well it wasn't the Ivor the Engine that I remember, unless he'd
seen the previously unscreened episode called "Ivor drops loads of Acid and
E's and things get rather odd from there!" (For Welsh UK viewers only.)
Okay, I feel daring enough to use one of the many facilities here at Mekka
Symp, is it going to be the toilets? Do I fancy a bit more sleep? If it is
either of those, I do feel like I'm going out on a limb a bit (grin!)
See you a bit later.
I'm back, I've slept a bit more too, in accordance with the general rules
for sleeping rough, that you go for the warmest time of the day, which is
the afternoon, so this time I didn't wake up with incipient hypothermia.
I've also eaten, staying away from the currywurst, which I liked yesterday,
but I'm not too sure if it liked me that much? And I explored the field out
the back of the Heider Halle, which seems to have its own, loosely
connected version of the party going on. It is quite possible that a lot of
these have hardly been in the main hall at all, and are here on a renewing
of old acquaintances.
The mystery of the woodsmoke smell around the building was solved, with the
remains of several improvised barbeques in evidence.
"Now can I have my branches back please?" - A tree, yesterday.
The girlfriend/female admirer ratio seems to be significantly higher
outdoors as well.
Talking of which, I managed to phone Nicky, and she confirmed the
unfortunate royal news mentioned about eighteen hours or so earlier. She
also confirmed that the coverage of this event was at saturation level, so
I feel lucky to be out here, in spite of the numerous hassles encountered
in the past few days!
Back in here, the temperature is soaring again, and the C64 music compo
rages over our heads.
Zerkman, DMA-SC, and the other Atari Frenchies have left, not out of any
special disquiet with the party over and above the standard gripes, just
the fact they had to get back today.
Now Nerve has come over to talk to us. I'm looking forward to his surprise
demo release this evening! He says that in its present 'party' version, it
still needs a bit of work, mainly debugging, and some work in getting the
overall filesize down. The good news is, that this won't delay any release
of this preview version, which will be available to download, with the
properly finished demo to follow later.
Shit, no soap!! I left it behind at Havocs!!
And the soap dispensers in what is laughingly known as the 'bathroom' have
all run out too.
Better leave the car windows down on the journey back then...
Other news, not a lot really, Felice is worn out after working some more on
his Lord of the Rings review for the next issue of Alive! (grin) He has
disappeared in the direction of the chinese restaurant that we visited on
the Friday evening.
The MP3 compo is running, and one of the entries is an extra cheesy remix
of western movie themes, with added cheese sauce on top. MC Laser, sitting
opposite, reaches for his fingers to put down his throat! This is the score
for the final wild compo entry last night, the German speaking cowboys with
comedy homicidal tendencies who shoot everyone in sight!
MC Laser now reaches for the biggest pair of headphones in the hall, so big
in fact, they could be used as a pair of speakers in their own right?!
Well the Amiga main demo competition is at 21.00, with the two Atari
entries to follow afterwards, around 22.30.
I've had my head down over the previous hour, trying to get some additional
rest before the sleeping room reverts back to an all too literal 'chill-out
I've missed some Commodore 64 pictures, and I caught the tail-end of the
32k games competition, where someone seems to have put together a curling
simulator. (Curling, the sport of Olympic choice of mad scottish women
Havoc and I have relocated our sleeping gear back out of the sleeping shed.
Another comedy moment as we realise the the warm air actually lasts until
it is mere inches off the floor, where people are trying to sleep!
One other disturbing item of news, there are up to 50(!!) entries for the
PeeCee demo compo. These will all be variations on a three-dee theme, and
you will get seven or eight at a time using the same graphics engine. Will
the audience stay awake? Will we care by the end of it? It is very
Felice has returned for another bash at this Lordy Rings review thing. And
no mate, you're not imagining that the hall is noisier than it has ever
been at any other time this weekend. Still, it's nearly all over now :)
JUST A FEW MORE HOURS, THEN IT STOPS, AND THEN WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO THE
NEXT PARTY BEING A REAL ATARI PARTY!!
Real time note to Felice: Stop reading mine and get on with yours (grin!)
In the wait for those first Amiga demos, I'm contemplating the party
summing-up stage of my report. This will wait until after the competitions
are over, and I'll probably do this at some point tomorrow morning, before
we pack all of this away to go home.
Even now, certain key words and phrases are bobbing up with tedious
regularity. How about "Animal House atmosphere"? Or "relentless", or
"Immature desperation to attract attention resulted in some of the least
attractive forms of drunken behaviour"?
Wait, I've not finished yet....
Not forgetting "basic amenities, normally taken for granted elsewhere,
seemed to be in exceedingly short supply for the numbers of people
There was some good stuff, and we'll hopefully see more when the
competitions start, so I'll leave it there for now.
More news just in, and it 'aint good!
Organisers decide to prolong the waiting agony with another shit amateur
hour 'live' act, this time made up from any willing idiots with a lust for
"stardom", in spite of them being totally untalented. So the PeeCee demo
competition will eventually grind to a dead stop, in a lather of saliva and
sawdust at around seven ay-em tomorrow morning?
Switch off for a minute, my brain just has..
Atari entries were shuffled out in rather an apologetic fashion. A live
video feed was used, and not a very good quality one at that. it would be
nice to get back home and see what the entries look like, when they're not
being presented as a hastily considered afterthought. The demo from Nerve
was most certainly 'different', and I'd like to see the optimised version
of that on a less dingy looking screen.
One other thing, the attention deficit disorder cases in the seats
opposite, and a bit further down started up again. Should we yell and shout
when the Amiga demos start? I'm sure they'd like it if we did?!
Oh well, better load Sono' again ;)
Amiga demo's now starting...
It really isn't our party at all, is it?!
I'm not about to get up out of my chair and start yelling "We're shit, we
are, we are, we are!" But the Amiga demos lived up to their pre-release
billing. They have only just finished, and the principal entries clearly
show the time, care, attention to detail, and dare I say love? that was put
into this work. I'd be interested to know, even with a bigger scene, and
more people available, how long it takes for these guys to put together one
of these fifteen-minutes plus showings
There a still a couple of entries to come, those which failed on the
launch-pad, so to speak.
Then it is the long night of the PeeCee demos still to come!
The Amiga demo machine blew up!
What will happen when the PeeCee demo machine overheats?!?!
We're still awaiting the PeeCee demo compo. The really bad news is, that
there *are* fifty entries, and it wasn't my brain on a bad numerical trip
after all. So this is going to take all night/morning.
Felice has gone to the sleeping hut, all the better to be able to drive us
back later. The bad news for him is that a bunch of drunk Polish coders,
including the bloke with the priests hat mentioned earlier in this diary,
are on their way to greet him!
Right now, Nerve is sitting with me, warming up after the chilling out,
outside. We're just talking about anything and everything, particularly the
propensity of the artificially blonde female with skimpy clothing and
'obvious' attributes a few seats down, to 'put out' for the members of the
computer club she patronises. This is according to some information we've
been given by fellow travellers who were on the same overnight ferry from
Now Baggio has joined us, we have a small party of our own! And Q-Funk has
gone to bed to say hello to the drunk Polski's who are probably swapping
declarations of undying love with Felice right now!
Those Swedes who are still up are awaiting the end with keen desperation.
Anxious phone calls are being made to get ferry captains out of bed just
that little bit earlier. Lateness for work tomorrow will not be permitted!
We've added Deez to the audience and I seem to be the only person *doing*
anything at the moment??
Nerve is offering some kind of tobacco product for perverts with no nerve
endings left in their mouth's! (Snus!) I like to keep my mouth where it
is, so I don't!
The current thinking from the organisers is to pre-select the first twenty
five demos, according to *their* version of what is good, and show these
first. I think we should cast our votes in the direction of the unloved
second twenty-five, just to piss them off!
Mouse cursor update! it started moving by itself around the screen, but not
in the usual epileptic fashion. A Deez moment at the controls of the Jagpad
running Power Mouse is implicated!
PeeCee demo compo FINALLY starts..
FIRST PART of PeeCee demo compo stops..
Too much to get an impression. First thing, a lot of them insist on
stuffing as much on the screen as they can, just because it can do 16
zillion polys a second, even if doing that destroys any cohesion or
Weird thing that was a fairground in three-dee with trillions of polys,
pushing the competition hardware to the max as it was chugging in a few
places.... Absence half-finished a co-production, where knights that go Ni!
attack a village, but fall on their arses and die en masse... Lots of
hurtling whirling flying things in pointless frantic motion. Described
aptly by Baggio as a 3D slideshow, and too many demos did that...
Next, oh I don't know, wait until the morning....
But much against my better judgement, I'm back anyway.
The second half of the PeeCee compo is yet to start, but I'm going to
mostly ignore this. I was thinking of some sort of bed-based resting
concept, but all the under-tables have already been grabbed, or turned into
storage areas. So it looks like I won't...
So, the inexorable party reckoning and summing up beckons with a grisly
skeletal finger. It is being animated by some PeeCee demo crew with more 3D
accelerator than sense, so it is flying off in sixteen directions,
Was there some good stuff?
Well yes, this almost all came from the strong and continuing friendship
with those Atari people who did show up. Friendship is a marvellous thing,
it gets stronger in times of adversity. So we reunited, and closed ranks
against the outrages of the outsiders world. So thanks go firstly to Havoc,
our host pre-party and after, and also to Creature XL, who would have been
our host, but for the forced changes to our travel plans. A warm word is
due to MC Laser, who made this (limited) gathering of the Atari faithful
possible. I think he was expecting rather more than what we actually got,
and I hope he isn't feeling too bad about this party. We'll see you again,
at a proper Atari party sometime.
Big hi there's go to the Swedes who turned up, especially Baggio, Deez, and
the Nature brothers. A special hello goes to Nerve, who had the 'nerve' to
put his demo up for the competition, and who spent a lot of time
socialising. What a cool guy! And strange but nice to see the Spice Boys do
the nearest thing they can to a straight demo, with their party throw-
together. Shame these weren't seen to good effect on the big screen.
We're not going to forget the other tSCc dudes, and even Q-Funk turned up
on the back of some Estonian bus trip. Also Zerkman, DMA-SC, and the other
French guys who arrived with them. Also anyone else that I might have
forgotten, no, actually, I think that was about it?
Other good things? Well the fact that there were two releases at all was
close to a real-life miracle. And this was in the days where all the
principal expected participants had dropped out and we were expecting
nothing at all. Well what about the party itself? Certainly it succeeded
in its central aim which was to gather the international scene on the
biggest platforms, the PeeCee and Amiga, and draw an unprecedented number
of new releases, particularly from the PeeCee. Outside of Assembly, it is
one of the biggest demo parties anywhere in the world. the organisation was
reasonable, and not heavy-handed, they provided food and drink at a
reasonable price. I managed to control my costs pretty well, coming out of
the party with 80 Euros to spare. And I hadn't taken that much in to it.
(And I had even less, once the 40 Eur entry fee had been paid!)
And alright, there were some real ass-kicker demos, and I would take the
Amiga ones if I had to. their 64ktro's were genuinely fantastic.
Okay, the bit you've all been waiting for, the shitty end of the stick! For
ease of reference, I've decided to divide them up into specific areas, that
is, 'personal' and 'party'.
The journey there, fogbound traffic delays and missing the boat!
Then hanging around for ages in sunny and interesting Harwich (barp!)
Not getting to meet Creature XL :(
Next to no fuckin' sleep at the party!
No fucking place to sleep worth a damn. The sleeping area was a training
centre for arctic survival at night!
The fuckwit drunken attention seekers.. People here really don't know when
to stop. A lot of people are acting like it is their first time away from
their parents? A lot of these people have also forgotten they were
The general 'Animal House' atmosphere. This is normally funny for about
five minutes, but a lot less funny when it is apparent that it is going to
go on forever, and there isn't really any escape from it!
The organisers being lenient where some firmness might have been needed?
Operating a 'no drunkeness' policy, but selling beer might seem a little
bit disconnected, logically speaking?
The general lack of space, Mekka seemed to operate a "cram 'em in" policy?
The piss-poor (ahem!) sanitation facilities. Almost enough toilets, COLD
water only, and a small number of sinks, four showers available for about
an hour or so a day! Sad or what?
Do people really enjoy this level of discomfort?
The entry fee, a hefty forty Euros was a lot of money for what you
actually got, or not. This was cited as a direct reason by a number of
Atari people who didn't attend as to why they didn't.
The Atari competition seemed to be an afterthought, which took the
organisers by surprise?
Such Atari entries that there were weren't shown to best effect on the big
screen. The jury is out to see if any blame can be attached or not, but
what we saw would not be acceptable if there was a larger Atari presence
This probably confirms most other scene people's unfair view that the Atari
scene is lame and insignificant.
And certain parts of the audience, those that jeered and shouted through
the screening of the Atari demo entries, should be lightly culled and
buried in unconsecrated ground at midnight!
Okay, I'm off for tonight, try to pick this up again when there is some
daylight. CiH at 05.07hrs.
Probably my last words from the party before I pack this up.
Keyboards do *not* rule for sleeping on!
I will be adding to this report, in a non-realtime sense, like when I get
back home, and some form of normal service has been resumed.
We won't be back!
CiH from the Dying remains, 08.52.
---End of Diary---
(The Shitty Afterpart and Some Issues in More Detail.. )
Anyway, life goes on, and the final morning sees the slow return of the
rest of our party to the main hall. Felice has managed to get some sleep,
even in spite of the interruption halfway through the PeeCee demo
competitions, when a horde of drunken people decided to crash out in the
sleeping room. Havoc is as fresh as he can be, after some hours comatose
underneath the table, and after we've prodded him awake.
It is not too difficult to get packed up and ready to go, and soon, our
stuff is gathered in neat piles, and ready to go. A slow trickle of people
carting monitors and other computer gear to the main entrance is slowly
growing to a bigger flow, and we decide the time is right to get ready to
get out. So we load up the car, gingerly stepping over the discarded beer
bottles, empty cans, and the thousand other items of debris left overnight
by all these 27 year olds acting like they were fifteen! The car doesn't
load up *quite* like it did for the way up, but never mind.
The results and prize-giving ceremony suitably winds things up here, with
more of that cod-medieval play-acting by the party organisers. Competition
winners are knighted before they get their prizes. Some of my own personal
predictions actually came to be. A funny little line-cartoon demo called
'La Linea', in the C64 competitions, deservedly wins its category. The
'Planet Potion' Amiga 64ktro is unsurprisingly the victor there, and in
quite a close race, Nerve's demo steals the top spot from the Spice Boys.
(Funny that, I'm sure I was the only one awake enough to vote from our
merry little band!?)
After the *great* prizes that the Atari scene got (Copies of the Symposium
'97, remixed to CD-ROM) it is time for a final round of handshakes and
fervently expressed farewells from the remaining people (Scandinavian
scene). MC Laser and the tSCc gang saw which way the wind was blowing, and
got the hell out in the small sleepless hours, some time before. The flow
leaving the hall has now become a torrential flood, but we've sensibly
packed, and are ready to go, and do so, dodging past the first clusters of
party traffic attempting to join the Autobahn.
The journey back is unremarkable, with very little in the way of delays,
and more of that pleasant sunny weather which dominated the whole weekend.
Fairly soon, we are back at Havoc's sixth-floor abode, and we can sit on
PROPER comfy chairs, and take a DECENT leisurely shower, and eat HUGE
pizzas! Havoc seems to have mostly enjoyed the party, apart from those
irritating lapses in facilities which bugged the rest of us, and he reveals
that he talked to quite a few constructive sceners, as opposed to the
drunken lamers, and they were quite pleased to see an Atari presence back
at Mekka, with a view to hacking together possible future releases on 'old
and fascinating systems', such as Atari perhaps?!
We were in general agreement that we really needed a proper single format
party, or with Atari as the dominant format, next time.
The remainder of the day is given over to rest and relaxation, with
tomorrow being set as our departure date back home, via a little Felice-
inspired diversion to Amsterdam. Now if I'd been a fly on the wall, about a
day into the future, with the facility to report back to the past, I doubt
that we would have quite been so keen to go to the big city!
It isn't too hard to get to sleep, there being a notable shortage of this
commodity at the party, so we do..
We are up at around 09.00, all the better to make an early start, and to
allow Havoc to make his way to an exam. We part with Havoc, for what we
think is the final time this Easter. Some prescient mental niggle stops me
deleting his phone number off my mobile's directory. The journey to
Amsterdam is fair to middling, with one or two fair to middling traffic
delays, so we make less good time than we thought we would. A combination
of park and ride metro and tram gets us to the city centre, with barely
over an hour to explore.
Felice peels off in the direction of his unknown desires, agreeing to meet
back at the entrance to Central Station, sometime before 14.00hrs. I wonder
absently, skirting past the red light district, but spending some time in
the headshop and smokers cafe quarter. Interesting herbal smells waft from
these premises, providing an instant olfactory flashback to our times at
Mekka! I locate the flea market, the subject of a previous visit, and I
spend a bit of time there. The day is unseasonably warm, almost like early
The signs in the city centre tell us to beware of pick-pockets in a variety
of languages, and I feel my wallet pressed tight in an inside pocket, so I
feel I'm suitably bewaring. But in spite of this, about five minutes before
I'm due to meet Felice, a quick pocket check reveals that the equally vital
little red passport has somehow disappeared! Of course there is a black
stab of panic, and a hasty rechecking of every pocket and stray concealing
item of fabric, and again, but the passport mocks me with its
disappearance. I think momentarily of retracing my steps, then realising
that time is short, and the passport is not likely to be in friendly hands,
head to Central Station anyway. I find Felice, and tell him what is going
on, and we accost a couple of Amsterdam cops standing nearby. They give
directions to the nearest police station, but that will make us miss the
boat, so they suggest we try to catch the ferry, and report the loss as
soon as we can after. Remembering the example of Bilbo and Stick, and how
they bluffed their way back in, we decide this is eminently sensible, and
make like a very fast thing in the general direction of "away".
Getting back to the park and ride was such a bundle of laughs too, as my
travel ticket back, has also taken a leave of absence too, so after various
'comedy' misdirection hassles to get another ticket, information offices
which preferred to stay closed, we manage to catch the metro back. Then it
is just a case of getting out of the park and ride complex (located at the
Ajax stadium, footy fans!) And there, the way to freedom is barred by the
ticket machine from hell....
When one big thing goes wrong, all the little things that normally mind
their business decide to join in. The ticket machine takes a violent
dislike to my credit card, deciding to throw up vivid red Dutch abuse on
the screen and the swallow the card, which turns into a pantomine of
getting some maintenance man out to unlock the machine to release my card.
All of which means we were finally back on the road about an hour later
than we intended. There is no way we are going to be on time to catch the
boat, but we persevere in the direction of the Hoek van Holland, in order
to best be able to pick up the pieces. As with the journey in, we are late,
but not by very much, and the Stena Discovery has definitely gone.
In the quietened ferry terminal, we rebook for the following day, and also
look to get some general advice what to do about my passportless
predicament. In this fashion, we get talking to some Dutch Customs people,
whose attitude was laid back to the point where one of them said that I
could produce a piece of toilet paper for all they cared, and that would
let me travel. Of course, the interesting part would come when it was time
to convince the UK immigration authorities that I was a bona-fide Brit..
This doesn't help that much, and no-one else is really sure what to do
there, and so our thoughts turn to getting hold of the British Consulate to
see what they might suggest.
This leaves a problem of what to do overnight, and we meander back in the
general direction of Havoc's part of the Netherlands, but taking time out
at a service station, just before we got to Utrecht, to make contact with
Havoc. He is initially surprised to hear from us, but he is willing to put
up with us for another evening. Whilst we're waiting at the service area, I
spot Felice's frequent traveller individual travel insurance, and then I
spot the emergency 24 hour assistance number... More expensive phone calls,
ho hum... After a little initial confusion, where I have to convince them
I'm not actually the policyholder, and I'm just wanting some key phone
numbers, I manage to get the British Embassy number (for Den Hague, not the
Amsterdam Consulate) out of them. The British Embassy keep strictly to
office hours, so that will have to wait until tomorrow then.
We wind up back at Havoc's, sometime around 21.30hrs, and make our way
back. More pizza turns up, and in spite of being a little downhearted, and
not initially feeling that interested in food, it tastes wonderful. Whilst
we are there, we do get to see one or two extra little goodies on Havoc's
Wintel box, such as some oldskool classic demo effects that he has put
together, as part of some college-based multimedia study. Also, he has
started on his own Mekka party report, and we get to read the first 8
kilobytes of that, and it looks highly promising.
Then it is bedtime, and in spite of today's traumatic events, not too hard
to get to sleep at all..
DAY 6!? - Extra day!
We rise fairly early, all the better for me to get in contact with the
British Embassy, for that crucial travelling advice. After a false start,
where the Embassy proper at the Hague refers me to the Amsterdam Consulate,
I am told that all I need to do, is to get a police report. This will be
enough to let me travel, and I don't need to travel back to Amsterdam, a
local report from the station at Enschede will be sufficient! I instantly
feel a lot better!
After breakfast, we bus down to what is the rather smart looking regional
police headquarters, posh reception area and all. Doing the business is
straightforward, with a mumsy sympathetic female desk sergeant. She doesn't
ask for the documentation that I have got when I offer, saying that if it
turns out I'm not who I say I am, then the UK authorities have got the
power to arrest me! Clutching the vital signed piece of paper very
carefully, we make our way back to Havoc's part of town.
I like the Dutch word for 'Police' - "Polite" It implies a wholly different
approach to the sordid business of policework, as in "We're very very sorry
we're going to have to arrest you!" The Dutch uniformed guys of various
services emerge with some credit out of this sorry affair.
Back at Havoc's, we trawl around the local shopping centre for last minute
souvenirs, and vaguely risible chocolate confectionary items. (Hell, it
worked, Nicky found the Mini-Dickmans hilarious, but then again, it's easy
to make her laugh, I do it all the time by merely existing!)
We while away a bit more time, until we decide to head off, shortly before
midday, in a manner which allows us plenty of time to get back to the Hook.
The journey back, in total contrast to yesterday's panicked rush, is
straightforward, with not even a solitary traffic-jam to bar the way. It is
as if the demo-making gods are smiling on us, and have just optimised their
road drawing-routines. So we arrive back at the Hook, with ages to spare,
and we grab a meal, and then nervously confront the hurdle of getting onto
the ferry. I produce my police report, and the check-in person doesn't
register anything as out of the ordinary. Next the customs, and they glance
at the report, and wave it away, clearly not interested at all. We're in
the forecourt gathered and waiting to get on the ferry, first hurdle
The ferry is on time, and we board, grabbing our usual seats by the bar.
The ferry sets sail when it should, and there is just the matter of the
four hours to kill before the next big test. Will I be able to get back
into the UK?!
Time - goes - ever - so - slowly -
Still remembering the example of Bilbo and Stick, remembering that they
managed to get back without a passport, but not quite remembering what they
had to do, and how much hassle they got whilst doing it. I re-read the
relevant article in Maggie issue 8 afterwards, and they summed up the
critical moment when they faced the UK immigration authorities, in a few
terse words about the person on the counter trying to out-psych them for a
bit, before letting them through.
With a certain amount of foreboding, we drive off the ferry, into a huge
queue waiting to go through the immigration control. The queue winds in
slowly, ever closer to the moment of destiny, and I produce a sad
expression, and the copy of that police report which was instrumental in
getting us on the boat in the first place. The UK customs guy is a genial
sort, and seems to think this is okay. He asks if I've got any other
identification, and I am able to produce a number of plastic cards with
signatures on them, matching the one on the police report, including the
clincher, a 1984-vintage specimen on an organ donor card. He's seen enough,
we are allowed to go!
WE'RE FREE AT LAST, and this qualifies, by a long way, as the best and most
enjoyable moment of the whole party! Felice starts some serious hurtling
homewards, into a blood-red sunset, whilst I phone up various interested
parties, including a relieved Havoc, who is not having to put us in his
apartment for a third night.
We reach our respective domiciles, more or less at the time we expected to,
and that is the conclusion of one of the most eventful, and stressful
weekends of our partygoing lives..
Mekka Issues and conclusions
(To add to main report.)
Well what a fantastic party that was, drowning in drunken lamers, faced
with a choice of staying awake or freezing to death, and with a PeeCee demo
competition that never seemed to end, was Mekka, for Atarians at least, the
lame event of the century?
You will have seen my views which were drawn up in the heat of the moment,
written into the realtime party diary, and there isn't really a lot to
change from there. What I am going to do, is to bring out in more detail,
some impressions of events and people from the party, which were glossed
over in the diary, and then maybe fit them together into some sort of
The sleeping tent was a good idea which fell apart fatally in its botched
execution. On the face of it, the organisers seem to have thought of
everything, by providing a heat source for what is a temporary structure.
But a lack of draughtproofing at floor level, and a door which refused to
stay closed, created a freakish microclimate where the space closest to the
floor was as cold as the night air outside! What is more incredible to me,
a first time attendee of the Mekka party, is that this arrangement had been
in use before. I can't believe that no-one has mentioned the rather large
flaws described above? Maybe a lot of the people in the main hall were
getting drunk to enable them to block out and ignore the freezing nighttime
The Heidmark Halle was quite good in some respects. It managed to fit in a
party the size of Mekka, with a thousand-plus people. On reflection, the
hall was pretty full, but not as tight as the venue I remember for
Symposium '96. However it was clearly inadequate in some areas. The
sanitation facilities were overloaded at times, and washing facilities were
almost totally lacking. In their favour, I remember that these were kept
clean, which must have been very brave of someone!
The normal use of the Heidmark Halle was discovered by Havoc, who did a
much better job as a roving reporter at the party than I did. It is the
'home ground' for a handball team. Handball is a popular sport in Germany
and central Europe. The huge width of the hall is explained by the fact
that there is normally stadium style seating at each side. This can seat a
crowd of around a thousand or more.
There were some other 'environmental' issues worthy of note. Mekka was the
noisiest and dirtiest party I've ever been to, at least in the main hall
area. This would have been down to the high numbers attending in a small
space, many of whom were not really responsible for their actions for a
lot of the time! Baggio became ill there, this is not surprising with
the noise and stress and golden opportunities for cross infection. It is
not so fanciful to speculate that if the party was left to its own
devices for another three days, it might be interesting to see what sort
of antibiotic-immune superbug would come along! Then if you left this toxic
mixture for another three weeks, everything in the main hall would have
turned into a brown sludge!?
Many non-Atarians did come up to see us in a spirit of curiousity. They
wanted to know what the Atari could do these days, so I showed them! One
chap got a decent eyeful of last year's 'Hmmm demo'. He was pleasantly
surprised, and said that this was just like an Amiga demo, and seemed to go
against what his friends said about Atari being a lame system.
I spoke to the one other British person who came to Mekka, I forget your
name, sorry chap. This confirms the dire state of the UK demo scene, even
for more popular formats like the PC and Amiga. According to his
information, there is one active coder working within a multinational crew
a la Tat, and no current UK groups left!! It seems that our old friend, the
games industry is to blame. Clearly, the coders and other scene people have
been scooped up by their intellectual slash and burn tactics, leaving
nothing behind. It is ironic that we may be one of the most 'numerous'
remaining UK scenes, with the Res Gods back in town, if that information is
We managed to avoid the bane of Symposium '96, which was theft-related
losses. Other people at Mekka weren't so lucky, with a couple of people
losing major items like mobile phones and wallets. "Geez, what's up with
you people!?" was one heartfelt plea from the organisers. On a related sad
and dodgy note, my passport stayed with me at all times when I was at the
party, and it didn't go missing until afterwards!
Nerve was the discovery of the party. Known on the scene for a while, but
not known to me, he really was a nice guy. We chatted a lot, and my
favourite anecdote was about when he and a friend fell asleep when stopping
in the middle of a car journey. They left the engine running and woke up
about 6 to 7 hours later, half a fuel tank used up going nowhere!
He suggested that after his party demo release, there would be more from
him in the future. He had already coded a 3-D world engine capable of
effects comparable with some of the more interesting Amiga demos. This
featured things like multiple layers of transparency etc, but this was too
slow on a standard Falcon. He awaits his CT60 as keenly as the rest of us!
There was a strong tSCc presence, and so there should be, with MC Laser
cheerleeding the idea of Atari at the party. Scy and Dynacore sat next to
me, they were nice guys, who were pretty quiet, kept themselves to
themselves, and busy on their PCs. Ray also turned up, he showed some
Falcon effects but I didn't see those. Those people 'in the know' reckon
these weren't the fastest versions he had with him?
We were lucky to get two entries for the demo competitions. One of these
(Nerve) was totally unexpected, the other was an in-party effort, created
from whatever spare source code was lying around, and some graphics that
Havoc created in his sleepless nights. Of the three demos we were
originally going to get, the two Falcon demo's, tSCc and Mind Design,
succumbed to multiple hardware failure. There seems to be a lot of that
thing around at the moment?! And the other demo, arguably even more
interesting, and coming from a certain Dresden-based ST coding wizard,
didn't show, when he didn't... Maybe look out next Easter for that one?!
Coming to some conclusions.
It could have been so different if another twenty or thirty people had made
the trip. Then the pre-party expected trio of demo entries may have
materialised in addition to the two that did make it. Then if they had been
properly shown in the competitions, maybe we'd be judging this party quite
differently. We may even had been calling it a success?!
But this was Mekka, and I think a lot of people who may have come, were put
off by the concept of a very large multi-scene party. I'm pretty sure that
you will never get a large Atarian attendance at an event like this. It was
brave of MC Laser to try, but I don't think even he will want to repeat what
happened (or not) this Easter.
There may have been all sorts of individual reasons for those people who did
make it. Some people were there, simply because there was no other show in
town. Others, only used to smaller scale gatherings, were curious to see
what one of these big parties was really like. Others still may have been
genuinely interested in the progress of the other parts of the demo scene,
and I'm sure all of us were expecting a bit more than we actually got. Now
we know what the sound and fury of a big multiscene demo party is really
like. I get the impression in the majority of cases, that people's curiosity
has been well and truly satisfied, and that they are not planning to go
again next year!
It is interesting to compare this party with the 1996 Symposium party. Back
then, the scene was in transistion. The Atari crowd were expecting another
Fried Bits party, and the Amiga and PeeCee crowds did what they always did.
The Atari people were put off to the extent that they effectively reconvened
the single format Fried Bits party, under a different name, the following
Coming back in 2002 shows how wide the gap has got between the Atari scene
and the others expectations from a coding party. The six years in between
developments have put the Atari scene, and the rest, on different and
diverging paths. Mekka Symposium 2002 showed that there is no easy way of
putting the two together again. For if you try to, it will be the smaller
scene that suffers.
So, for next Easter, it is essential that a single format party is revived,
whether it is another in the successful Error in Line series, or at some
other location, I'm not fussy, but I *really* don't want to go through
another Easter like this one!
CiH - For Alive! Mag,April '02