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Alive 11
Interview with Ray/tSCc
        cxt: Hi ray, I guess you are already a VIP inside the Atari 
        scene and perhaps everybody already knows your real name, which 
        is Reimund Dratwa if I am not completely wrong. ;) Hmmm, perhaps 
        I asked the wrong guy for an interview :) You were born in 1983 
        and are famous for coding and hmmm drugs? :) You have also been 
        interviewed by that lamer :) ST Survivor in the very first issue 
        of Alive and also big Evil and the vanished Moondog added their 
        share. It seems there are not much questions left unasked :), 
        anyway what else can you tell our audience about you?
        ray: hi there cxt, first of all you're right about my real name
        (you may even add in "Marvin" as my second forename) and my
        birthyear. Calling me a VIP inside the scene is probably
        something I wouldn't underscore as I try to remain humble
        whenever possible ;) so deciding is left up to the reader. And
        yep that drugs-thing was a hoax made up for the dhs IRCgallery
        as you obviously seem to have noticed. Usually I am not quite
        into drugs; at least I'm used to strictly keeping away from
        chemical substances. So typing "coding, drugs" into dhs' doing-
        field was basically because it's called "doing drugs" and it was
        the first thing that popped up into my mind at that time. I just
        felt to add something more than just "coding" like most others
        did, but being a coder was the only true statement regarding my
        Atari aspects, I could also have typed "girls" or whatever ;).
        As you already said it, there aren't many unasked questions left
        and it's hard for me to make up something as I'm known as a
        rather elliptical and at most two-dimensional person but I will
        try, though. Sadly there isn't much left to be said when it
        comes to my Atari activities. I still got lots of projects going
        and too few time left so that my machines' harddisks are full of
        many unfinished frameworks which might be a common problem to
        coders. It had been worse in the past as sometimes I stayed up
        most of the night since I just couldn't let go trying to realize
        dozens of ideas floating through my mind which resulted in
        overstraining myself. Becoming organized, sticking to ToDo-lists
        and setting priorities is one thing I had to learn in the past
        few years. I believe that is the sort of work getting you
        somewhere even if you have to curb yourself all the time and
        abolish lots of ideas, at least it's the way working out best
        for myself at the moment. I also like to share my ideas a lot
        and that's what I had been writing those articles on my website
        for. To me this is a creative way of resorbing my ideas
        somewhere instead of just throwing them away, it's something I
        can finish without consuming very much time as opposed to for
        instance a large coding project. Enough said about me? :) The
        last thing to mention is that I wouldn't see why to call STS a
        lamer, but I guess you were kidding

        cxt: You have finished your military service some time ago and 
        it seems you are living in the city of Aachen now, what are you 
        doing there?

        ray: Yes that's right, I'm currently living in a far west German
        city which is called Aachen and famous for "Charlemagne" and
        nowadays its university especially for being good at teaching
        technical subjects, which is why I went there. I'm busy trying
        to obtain a degree in technical computer science which is
        closely interconnected with electrical engineering so it goes
        together with my interest for computer hardware and low-level
        programming well and I'm quite okay with that. Besides that
        Aachen is a nice place to be and it isn't far to Belgium and the
        Netherlands. (gets himself a cup of coffee…)

        cxt: When did you start to work with computers? What was your 
        first computer?

        ray: I think I mentioned this during another interview. To
        answer your question it must have been at the age of 12 when I
        got my first machine which was my uncle's Mega ST he gave off
        after he had brought himself his first peecee. He had been using
        it as music-equipment along with "creator/notator" which never
        was my cup of tea. The first things for me to do with my Atari
        back then was mainly about playing PD games like "Ballerburg
        ST", "Arka" and so on or Lucas Art adventures like "Loom" or
        "Monkey Island" since they ran on my unmodified SM124 (I had a
        colour emulator but that one - I think it was called Panther -
        never appeared to be very useful, especially with games as one
        would expect). The actual "work" started after I first started
        looking into the subject of my Omikron Basic manual, which came
        along with the Mega's language-disk when I started to try
        programming some most likely not very useful things. This is the
        reason why I had become more familiar with OM-Basic rather than
        GFA in the first place because I simply didn't have any GFA
        interpreter/compiler :).

        cxt: It seems you are still quite young and missed the so called 
        golden Atari days, why did you start coding on a dead platform?

        ray: idealism, dunno? And maybe it was due to the Atari being my
        first and only computer which to me always made it appear more
        decent than any peecee or Amiga some of my friends had even if
        Atari had yet "died". Call it devoted or whatever, I think it
        had been merely the spirit that keeps the rest of our scene
        alive nowadays. I also thought that 68k would be a better and
        easier assembler language to learn than for instance 80x86 even
        when I already had my own peecee. My dream of porting
        Wolfenstein 3d to the ST which aroused maybe in '97 or something
        must have been another important point in keeping this notion.
        When I first discovered that an active scene of Atari-
        enthusiasts still existed everything seemed clear to me: like
        earx would put it, "stay cool, stay Atari!".

        cxt: Hmm, these words have become quite popular. I guess Edo was 
        the first one to use them but I might be wrong about that. You 
        joined tSCc around 2000 and the story about you becoming a 
        member leaves me with the impression that the communication 
        inside tSCc is not the best sometimes :) What do you do to keep 
        all members up to date? Is there still a scheduled meeting or 

        ray: Yes, you might be right. In my opinion this is a generic
        symptom to our scene rather than something very unique to
        .tSCc., though. To stay in touch and keep each other up to date
        about crew-internals we have our own mailing list. We used to
        hold a weekly IRC team meeting, too which has in fact died out,

        cxt: I heard that you also play drums and guitar so you have at 
        least some background when it comes to music. In the past you 
        also seemed to have a Mad Max alike haircut :) Have you ever 
        thought about doing modules or chiptracks?

        ray: In case of interest you may check some of a band's songs I
        play drums in over here:  *big
        advertisement* ;). Now believe me or not, I even thought about
        trying to compose some YM stuff since I had been challenged with
        "programming" a drum machine and typing various drum tablatures
        several times, so I might be at least basically familiar with a
        chip-/module-tracker's layout and functionality only that in a
        tablature-editor tracks are arranged horizontally instead of
        vertically. Call me ignorant and lazy but the last time I tried
        I got completely lost in the editor of Gwem's definitely
        excellent MaxYMizer (maybe I should just read the fucking manual
        before, next time :) ), nonetheless. What I've come to find is
        that just stepping behind the drums and play a certain pattern,
        groove or whatever is something pretty different from composing
        a chiptrack it's all a matter of feeling into it which I can't
        quite manage in the latter case, so I'm quite pessimistic about
        me ever becoming a chip musician ;). Please feel free to take
        this conclusion as my big respect I have for the great
        chip/module composers that I know.

        cxt: You started coding on a Mega ST with Omikron Basic like you 
        mentioned above and went on to Turbo Assembler later. What's 
        your favourite Atari development system and which assembler do 
        you use nowadays?

        ray: I eventually went from Turbo Assembler, which provides
        incredibly fast assembling speeds and a comfortable and very
        stable testing environment (i.e. in my opinion the still best
        68k debugger, bugaboo), to devpac due to technical reasons.
        First of all I always deplored that even despite its Part-
        feature TurboAss doesn't provide any decent ability to easily
        and reasonably split up your code into modules which is bad
        especially when it comes to coding greater projects such as
        Wolfenstein 3D. Secondly, TurboAss does neither support FPU code
        nor macros which I wanted or needed to use sometimes (Beams,
        some TT-stuff…). Additionally, bugaboo refused to run on my TT I
        got back in 2000, so I finally grew into using devpac's gen.ttp
        with q.e.d. as an excellent editing package with syntax
        highlighting and other useful features. I recently played around
        with gcc a bit which seems cool and awfully slow on an unboosted
        Falcon at the same time, but oh well, you asked for development

        cxt: It seems your revived tSCc when you joined em, how do you 
        feel about the echo on beams and the fame this demo has gathered 
        even beyond the Atari horizon?

        ray: Even if it isn't up to me to evaluate if I revived .tSCc.,
        I am in fact very satisfied with the feedback we got for "beams"
        (even if I wouldn't exactly call myself satisfied with the
        result codewise) even in spite of that long delay since the
        first presentation at EIL 2003 (the 3d engine and first screens
        were coded in late 2001 and the demo was actually planned as a
        Mekka&Symposium 2002 release) I wouldn't have expected the
        amount of appreciation we got….maybe this is a point to spell
        out my thanks the scene, if you want to put it that way. I'd
        also like to take this as a chance to encourage people to finish
        their stuff (reproachlessly waving hello to ultra and cream)
        after years, as it had obviously turned out as such a great
        relieve, after all. I'd even say to feel a bit proud of our

        cxt: You have worked several years on beams, and it was just 
        released when lots of  people started to call it vapourware :), 
        what beside your military service time caused this huge delay?

        ray: After my military service I was a bit out of practice as I
        hadn't done much coding during that time. I also had to dig
        through my own old source code trying to understand the lines I
        had written down once which is always a problem when returning
        to work on "old" projects which didn't exactly increase my yet
        low motivation at that time. That way I got stuck several times.
        I guess there were also various other personal issues such as a
        general low that I had been encountering during spring/summer

        cxt: It seem you believe some screens in beams could have been 
        done faster in retrospective, so I guess it's not optimized to 

        ray: No, beams surely isn't optimized to death, at all. That
        wasn't my main goal anyway; finishing the demo had gotten
        highest priority. I would have probably have had to rewrite
        everything in order to achieve the best performance, visual
        results and on most of the screens, but that way beams would
        more likely have ended up a death project - this is why I said
        I'm not quite satisfied with the final product code-wise as lots
        of improvements in the implementation still could have been made
        but I didn't want to push the release date even further. On the
        other hand there are things that suffer from the falcons own
        technical boundaries (e.g. a creepingly slow 16bit bus) such as
        the fullscreen 3d scenes - keeping in mind the full demo runs in
        320*200 pixels and the fact that those scenes are being mapped
        by the BLiTTER much faster than a cpu routine in the standard
        Falcon could draw gouraud-shaded polygons, their speed gets
        primarily limited by fillrate than anything else.

        cxt: Beams runs on a standard Falcon with only 4 MB which is not 
        the smallest but perhaps the most common configuration. Was 
        there a reason to stick to that configuration? Why not go for at 
        least 14 MB? You could have avoided some problems in that case, 
        like realtime streaming the MP2 from the floppy for example.

        ray: well, idealism and challenge are two words I could mention
        regarding this question. I believe there are still some people
        who would appreciate to watch demos on their real machines
        instead of watching recorded mpeg video of those or who plainly
        don't have any 14MB board, so this is where the idealism taps
        in. one of the concepts for beams was that we would try to
        refrain from non standard features like an FPU, accelerator
        boards and just those 14MB of RAM, which is also stated during
        the initialization ASCII-screen. So I hope our demo basically
        manages to suit those ideals. As sort of a by-product I had to
        repatch nocrew's mp2 replayer to support d2d streaming replay as
        known from toys' 2001 EIL entry "wait" (but their sources had
        gotten destroyed during a hdd crash). Maybe one can use it for
        future productions or something; you can download it at

        cxt: In the past you haven't been too fond about accelerators. 
        Since you own a ct60 yourself now, why did you change your mind? 
        What do you think about the ct60? Is it a good thing that allows 
        us to do create decent effects in demos or is it a bad thing 
        splitting an already small scene into even smaller sub-scenes?

        ray: that's a hard one, at first, I finally had changed my mind
        once I moved from the TT to the Falcon realizing that even if
        this machine is capable of rendering stunning demo effects (also
        without any accelerator) it tends to not to be too responsive
        when it comes to more general works such as coding (especially
        with the yet quite slow devpac assembler), driving a word-
        processor, image processing etc. - I just feels very slow and
        sometimes too unstable for tasks like these. As mentioned, it
        badly suffers from its 16bit bus. So buying a ct60 merely helped
        improving "everyday-work" on that computer. To refer to demo
        coding type arguments, I believe today that it is as well
        challenging to exploit a powerful (as opposed to the standard
        falcon) '060 accelerator's features with new upper boundaries
        set. I'm curious what the future might bring. And without
        contradicting to what I've said before I don't think that it
        will split our scene into small sub-scenes since nearly everyone
        is able to watch most demos recorded as mpeg video. It doesn't
        change the fact that I still think there should be separate
        compos, i.e. I'm one of the guys contending it to be unfair to
        put '030 and ct60 entries into a single compo.

        cxt: You seemed quite interested in the TT some time ago. AFAIR 
        you were also in league with some other guys trying to open 
        borders on that machine. Did you get any useable results in that 

        ray: Actually, I'm still quite interested in doing stuff on my
        TT, but time is rare and atm. I am quite busy with finishing
        Wolf3d. Hence I'm rather keeping it in the background a bit.
        Regarding your question upon opening borders on the TT the only
        things I could discover where that performing resolution instead
        of sync switches (which aren't possible with the TT-shifters
        fixed vsync frequency anyways) at critical raster positions
        didn't lead to any success and that there are 2 undocumented and
        very strange display modes (modes 0x03 and 0x07 otherwise marked
        as "reserved") that produced some sort of bitplane repetitions
        (due to the lack of a TTM I couldn't verify the result on a ECL
        screen). Another promising trick that had be common on the STE
        which used the hscroll-registers to open the left border
        unfortunately didn't produce the expected result on the TT,
        either. If you find any trick that opens one of the TT's borders
        let me know. I am quite dubious though, since the TT-shifter
        internally seems to be pretty diffrent from the ST/STE's

        cxt: Besides your Mega ST, the Falcon (ct60) and obviously the 
        TT do you have any other Atari machines? Are you a collector 
        like many other sceners?

        ray: Nope, but with a bit of luck I'm gonna get hands on a BJL-
        equipped Jaguar soon, which would be could since I would also
        love to develop Jaguar-stuff. Its hardware looks so promising
        and very interesting from a coders point of view (2 strong RISC
        processors, a very powerful blitter, a multiprocessor
        architecture in general - lots of hardware bugs on the other
        hand). I'm very curious at what one could achieve on that "box".
        Besides that I don't prefer collecting vintage items too much as
        for the space it takes. I'm already quite well served with the
        Ataris I got. I still have a PowerPC (604e) based workstation I
        can't quite use due to lack of any development environment (I
        couldn't yet get Linux to run on it). Atm. it runs the PPC
        version of Windows NT 4.0 which doesn't appear very useful
        either. I'd consider this as the only far Atari/Motorola related
        collector's computer-item I got atm...

        cxt: Is there a specific piece of Atari hardware you would like 
        to own? I think I saw you looking for a Crazy Dots VME card some 
        time ago.

        ray: I actually swapped my Crazy Dots with DBug against a Nova
        VME which didn't suit my needs too much. Disliking the external
        casing too I finally got rid of it. What I could actually use in
        my TT would be a Riebl VME card with RJ-45 converter but apart
        from that, there isn't anything in particular I would like to
        own, no (A Supervidel, maybe *nature-nag-nag*).

        cxt: What do you think about Atari emulators? Do you consider 
        the current ones like STEem or SainT useful or are they killing 
        the true Atari spirit? Would you like to have a full scale 
        Falcon emulator?

        ray: Sure, a full featured and useable Falcon emulator would be
        cool stuff as no one seems to have yet actually taken the
        challenge. But I am one of the guys who prefer to work on the
        real machine and because I feel I'm with many others who stick
        to their beloved computers I do not fear emulators could once
        kill the spirit, even if I'm avid at what for instance STEem is
        yet up to.

        cxt: The Wolfenstein 3D port is one of your current projects, 
        which should hopefully be finished when this issue of Alive is 
        released :) How much time did you use to make that conversion 

        ray: I'd estimate it to be more than 5 years of hard on and off
        work as I started the first vague conversion attempts in 1999
        (still under that rd-development label), dunno if I still can
        dig out the first pre alpha v0.1 engines…I think moondog could
        still have a copy of it. It must have looked awful, hehe ;).

        cxt: What were the most difficult parts in that port?

        ray: I guess keeping at the game at all must have been the
        hardest task, since I was the only coder involved in it.
        Optimizing most of the time critical main loop "atoms" and
        especially extending the game's 3d engine feature by feature
        without sacrificing a playable speed on a humble 8MHz ST, that
        was very hard work too, yeah.

        cxt: So what's your next project? Do you plan to add textured 
        floors and ceilings like in Doom or is Wolfenstein 3D a dead 

        ray: You should rather consider Wolfenstein 3d as a dead end.
        After such a long development period I wouldn't ever want to do
        something like that again ;). I don't plan to extend it by
        textured floors and ceilings at that would simply drop the speed
        to an unplayable rate on the ST. However, mods could be a
        solution in order to reuse the game engine. Some of the 3d
        engine's features (the sprite and wall-slice scaling routines,
        sound mixer etc. in particular) could prolly be reused, so I
        don't hold a ST Doom conversion to be impossible (without
        textured floors or ceilings though). But I surely wouldn't be
        the one for such a project as the amount of development and
        conversion tasks would be even greater. If anyone wants to
        volunteer, I could provide my source code at least ;).

        cxt: In the past you published some nice articles about various 
        coding topics. Now you seem to aim at digging deeper into dsp 
        coding. Does that mean we can expect more articles for your site 
        or perhaps even for a more or less famous diskmag? :)

        ray: Sure, always expect more articles as long as I find new
        things to work on. As I said, I like to share things I've
        learned/figured out or whatever, so I don't see anything that
        would argue against releasing new coding articles or gems, via
        diskmag or my website or whatever except for projects occupying
        too much of my time to write articles.

        cxt: Last year you mentioned a 3D API for 060 based machines, 
        what happened to that project? Will it be compatible to any 
        other 3D API on Linux or Windows machines?

        ray: That one is still in the pipe, yeah. It is going to be
        called SirGL and meant to be a more general hardware abstraction
        layer providing 3D primitive outputs, a geometry and a material
        library for Falcons and TTs also exploiting the CT60s
        possibilities. It isn't meant to be compatible to any yet known
        3D APIs and my goal is to keep it as "lean and mean" as
        possible, though. I can't tell about any release date yet.

        cxt: As you probably know Alive is quite famous for silly 
        questions and especially for the unavoidable Alive brainstorming 
        test, since you have already passed it once, I will make this 
        one a bit shorter ;)








        S:hipping of



        cxt: Seems to be the fastest performance to far :) If you have 
        any final words, something that needs to be scribbled onto your 
        tombstone or if you just want greet your girlfriend feel free to 
        add anything you like.

        ray: Well even if this is without any chances of success I feel
        in a funny mood: unfortunately, I'm without any girlfriend at
        present, so if you are a nice, between 20-25 years old, sexy and
        perhaps redheaded girl who feels capable of caring a bit for a
        depressed and lonely crabber feel free to drop me a line via the
        usual way ;).

        cxt: Ok ray, thanks for all the time you sacrificed to answer my 
        questions and even more for the time you spent on beams and 
        Wolfenstein 3D. Keep up the cool spirit and stay Atari...

        ray: It was a pleasure to me.

                                   Cyclone / X-Troll for Alive, 2005-10-04

Appendix A
Web References

        Alive 1 -
        DHS     -
        UCM 25  -


        Rays Homepage
        tSCc Homepage
Alive 11