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Alive 11

        Current  reports  seem to indicate,  here at this chill-out zone  at
        Outline  '05,  that  once again the Dutch party has been a  success.
        So  much  so,  that with checking out pictures and other stuff  from
        older  parties  over the years,  and the fact that it is  coming  up
        to  nearly  10  years since I attended my  first  overseas  computer
        party,  now  seems  to  be  the best time for  a  rundown  of  these
        parties over that timeframe.

        And  that  starts with Symposium '96.  Happy memories,  despite  the
        negative  aspects  of this early party,  that only  became  apparent
        later  on  after  more successful parties  were  attended  in  later

        Symposium  96  took quite an effort in terms of time  and  transport
        to  get  there.  Driving on the continent was still another 4  scary
        years  or  so away and,  due to not having a great deal of  cash  on
        us,  the  decision  was  taken to travel by  bus,  using  Eurolines'
        infamous  service,  to  get  over to Hamburg  from  London  Victoria
        station in UK.

        It  really  is  embarrassing to see,  even now,  the people who  are
        travelling  on  by  bus from Victoria,  trundling their  cases  down
        the  street  from  the  train  station  to  the  bus  station.  I've
        always  thought  that it doesn't exactly present London in  as  good
        a  light  as other cities,  simply because other cities have  things
        designed  better  anyways  or there are tunnels  for  this  sort  of
        thing ! I don't know ...

        Anyway,  we  all  assembled,  that  large (7 of us,  I think) motley
        crew  of  us in the main entrance at London  Victoria  bus  station.
        First  delay  we  encountered  there  was  the  fact  that  the  bus
        originally  taking  us  had broken down,  so we had  to  wait  while
        another  one  was  found and brought over to  our  stand.  Next,  we
        all  got  on board,  sorting out our luggage into the boot area  and
        taking  our  hand  luggage on board  properly.  Seating  was  rather
        tight  and  the  bus itself was quite packed out,  so  we  ended  up
        being  perched  on  the  edge of seats  occupied  by  other,  mostly
        sleeping, foreign students and others who were also on board.

        The  journey  itself went quite well;  we had time to wander  around
        on  the  ferry journey between Dover and Calais,  then back  on  the
        bus  again  for some rather prolonged overnight  driving.  This  was
        a  slightly  boring  bit of the journey,  the longer  it  progressed
        overnight.   It   was  impossible  to  sleep  on  the  coach  itself
        totally,   so   it  came  to  us  being  dumped  off  at   Hamburg's
        Hauptbahnhof  (central  train  station) at  5am  or  some  unearthly
        hour  of  the  morning.  As  the party itself wasn't  due  to  start
        until  12pm  that day,  this meant we had rather a lot of  hours  to
        kill.  Having  missed  a  night of sleep didn't  help  either.  Some
        time  later,  we  entered a fast-food cafe to get some  coffee,  and
        this  was  where  Arnel  had  his  now  infamous  episode  with  the
        drunken  knifeman.  Well  documented over the years now,  and  while
        it  was  rather scary when it happened,  we look back on it  now  as
        being  rather  funny.  What  a twisted sense of humour  some  of  us
        have ...

        (Some of us present at the cafe found the whole thing rather  funny,
        about  thirty  seconds after the drunk dude left!  None  of  those
        people were called Arnel though! - Ed Note.)
        To  cut  a  long story short,  we finally got to  the  party  itself
        sometime  earlier  on that afternoon at Hittfeld.  I recall  finding
        out  where  the Atari room was pretty much early on and  meeting  up
        with  Dutch  contacts  for the first time as well  proved  to  be  a
        big  hit,  with  most  of  these friendships  carrying  on  even  to
        date.  OK,  so  not  all  of  them have been seen at  parties  since
        then,  but  on  occasions where we have met up the friendship  level
        is   very   much   there.   Sentry23,   Slimer  (DBA  Mag),   Bonus,
        Wingleader  and  others helped us along at the party and  were  also
        quite  happy  to  help look after our stuff.  The guys  from  Lazer,
        the  group  behind  the successful Falcon  demos  'Lost  Blubb'  and
        'Autowaschen  Verboten'  were there - and pleased to  meet  up  with
        us for what was then the first time of a face-to-face meeting.

        Plenty  of  drink  was drunk,  whether that was beer,  wine or  soft
        drinks.  Looking  back,  the  quality  and  frequency  of  the  food
        wasn't  too  brilliant,  but I recall at least one serving of  pizza
        that  seemed  to go down quite well.  This party was also our  first
        experience  of  mass  sleeping rooms,  where people tended  to  make
        all  kinds  of  noises,  not  just snoring either,  but  the  famous
        'SID-snore'  along  with the occasional loud fart or two.  And  this
        was  well  before the days of John Hayward as well,  so he can't  be
        blamed for making that noise at this particular party!

        We  also  experienced here,  for the first and thankfully only  time
        so  far,   having  pre-brought  food  stolen  from  us  by  oddballs
        there.   Fortunately   it   was  just  food  that  was   taken   and
        thankfully  nothing  else,  although  my video camera  at  the  time
        was  put  safely in the care of our new Dutch friends as  a  result.
        Much  respect  was gained by us of them as a result,  as it was  our
        first party they took us in hand and showed us the way.

        The  journey  back  from  Hamburg,  once  again  by  bus,  was  very
        tiring.  Leaving  Mr  Pink  and Tat there for a bit longer,  we  had
        to  go  before  the party finished;  therefore we missed  the  major
        competitions.  This  at  the  time  couldn't be  helped,  but  as  a
        result  we  rearranged our travel arrangements  for  future  parties
        so  we  could  be  there  for the  full  time-length  of  the  party

        Easter  of  1997  proved to be a no-party year  for  me  personally,
        with  external  goings-on  as a result.  Fast forward to  Easter  of
        1998   and   the  first  Alternative  Party,   held  in   the   then
        unfamiliar country of Finland.

        Memories  of  this  first Alt Party are quite  hazy  now,  but  from
        recollections  the  venue was one of the best we've  been  to.  Held
        in  Finland's  2nd  or  3rd major city,  Turku,  it  was  the  first
        retro-party  that  I'd been to,  and this was before the  now-global
        retro  scene  had got going properly in a major way  with  magazines
        such  as  Retro  Gamer being on the shelves.  Talking  of  RG,  this
        was a long way off into the future.

        The  first  Alt-Party  again brought us  new  friends  and  contacts
        from  the  Finnish  scene,  most  of whom are still  active  to  the
        present  day.  Originally  invited  by  members  of  the  ST  group,
        Aggression,  we  also  got  to meet completely different  people  as
        well.  Viznut  for  example  - the guy responsible for  the  amazing
        demos  on  the  Vic20 - a system which had died in the  UK  back  in
        1983  or  thereabouts.  Our  travels to Finland for the  first  time
        were  also  to  include a Canadian contact from the  IRC,  known  as
        Q-Funk.  He  was  flying  over from Canada for the  first  time.  We
        had  the  amazing stroke of luck to meet him at Heathrow  once  we'd
        got  through  customs.  I seem to recall noticing a small  guy  with
        one  of  the famous 'IRC #Atari' T-shirts and,  upon  pointing  that
        out  to  CiH  at the time,  both of us were pleased to  meet  a  guy
        who  has  since  become  a very good friend  to  us,  also  in  non-
        computer  life  as  well.  He  since emigrated over  to  Finland  to
        live  permanently  and  married a lovely Finnish  lady  (Solveig)  a
        little while ago.

        We  also  got  to  meet the  cool  members  of  Aggression,  notably
        Setok,  Wiztom,  Teque  and  Lance.  Not forgetting Partycle (not an
        Aggression  member)  too  :)  Whilst at  this  time,  Diamondie  and
        others  who  featured  at later parties were not  there,  they  made
        appearances  to  us  later  on during future  ALT  parties,  as  you
        will see by reading further on.

        Party  no  3,  during Easter of 1999,  was the utterly fantastic and
        still  to  be bettered Error in Line,  in its 1st incarnation.  Held
        in  the  famous location of Dresden,  Germany,  this party  featured
        most  of  the  currently present  Atari  demoscene  today.  Although
        we'd  had  the  chance  to  meet Evl /  DHS,  Baggio  /  (then  with
        Wildfire,  now  Evolution)  along with others,  this was a chance to
        meet  the  WHOLE scene.  Grey and Sqward of Mystic Bytes were  there
        -  and  it  was so great to meet up with these  cool  guys  for  the
        first  time.  Hailing  from Poland and with Polish people  generally
        having  high  regards  for us UK'ers (due to actions  in  World  War
        2)  we  spent one hell of a lot of time with these guys  and  others
        who  joined  them.  EIL  # 1 also introduced us to  people  such  as
        505  (Nils  Feske),  No (Normal Feske) of Escape.  Re-meetings  were
        combined  with  old and new people,  who we'd either met  in  person
        at  earlier  parties or were meeting for the first time.  Those  who
        hadn't  met  us  before were still very  interested  in  meeting  us
        and  giving  us  a hand as it were;  many  friendships  were  forged
        here over the time of the party.

        The  year  2000 was an amazing year in general,  with not  just  one
        but  THREE  parties  in total - all of them  amazing  in  their  own
        way.  Travel  started  off  with  the long 'trip too  far'  (in  the
        words  of  Matt  Smith) to Poland,  to a party which Grey  /  Mystic
        Bytes  had  organised.  While,  admittedly,  there  were some faults
        with  the  party  itself,  these paled into insignificance  when  we
        realised just what Grey had in store for us.

        On  entering  Poland for the first time,  after clearing customs  at
        the  border  crossings,  it  was getting late and the  group  of  us
        travelling  in  the  car were thinking more of  packing  it  in  for
        the  night  and  hopefully  finding a  bed  for  the  night  around.
        Fortunately  because  of where we were we located  a  rather  decent
        motel  abut  5  minutes walk or so away from  the  border  crossing,
        where,  on  realising  just what we were getting for our  money  and
        that  there  were  some spare rooms available,  we decided  to  stay
        there  overnight.  For  a fiver (8 euro) per night for the 5 of  us,
        including  breakfast  the  next  morning too,  this was  not  a  bad
        deal at all.

        The  trip  around Gdansk,  in the helpfully-provided free  bus  from
        Gdansk's  mayor  at  the  time,  was  an excellent  way  for  us  to
        explore  a  historic  town and see some of the  sights  that  Poland
        as  a  country  are  developing  for  tourism.  Respect,  even  five
        years  later,  still  goes out to the mayor for organising this  and
        respect  also  comes  from us on Poland's successful  entry  to  the
        EU last year.

        Driving  over  provided its own entertainment.  Stopping off in  the
        pre-firework  factory  explosion  city  of  Enschede  to  stay  with
        Havoc  in  his  rather cool high-rise flat  a  short  distance  away
        from  the  city  centre,  followed by a long drive  across  Germany,
        into  Poland  via the Szcezcin border (I hope that is  spelt  right)
        and  back  again  a few days later was an experience  in  itself.  A
        good experience though, I must insist :)

        Amusing  times  were had at the party,  most notably the  time  when
        the  film  'South Park:  Bigger,  Longer and Uncut' was shown to the
        audience  there.  This  even  had the (largely Polish)  visitors  in
        stitches  too,  despite  it also being an English  language  version
        of  the  film.  From  what I recall of the entries  at  the  compos,
        these  were  not  too bad,  although the toilet habits  of  some  of
        the visitors left a lot to be desired!

        On  our  return  home from this party,  it has to be noted  at  this
        point  that  it  began  to get a  little  bit  worrying  during  the
        early  &  middle part of May.  We had begun to get reports on  local
        radio  and  TV,  telling  us  about an explosion  in  a  Dutch  city
        'about  120  miles or so east of Amsterdam'.  A day or so  later,  I
        was  in  Cambridge with friends from my church,  idly  reading  some
        of  the  Sunday  newspapers that were available  at  the  University
        Centre  or  Gradpad.  Suddenly I got a shock - after focusing  on  a
        picture  in  one  of the newspapers,  I realised where  the  picture
        had  been  taken  and  how  far it was  in  relation  to  where  the
        explosion  occurred.  The  picture included Havoc's tower block  and
        streets  nearby,  which  I  was familiar with,  having just  visited
        recently.  Going  home  that evening,  I saw the TV news - and  this
        was  when  the footage of the explosion itself was shown.  This,  to
        me  at  least  (and  it  was a year or  so  more  before  9/11)  was
        shocking,   even  compared  to  that  footage.    I  recall  that  I
        frantically  called  up CiH and a few of the other guys  to  see  if
        anyone  knew  the  whereabouts of Havoc.  Fortunately,  he  was  OK,
        having  been  out of town that day.  There also had been  no  damage
        to his flat either, which was a relief.

        Fast  forward  to  the  summer  of  2000,  and  we  had  the  second
        Alternative  Party  to  visit,  back over in Finland.  This was  the
        first  Alt  party  to be held in Helsinki,  although not  at  Gloria
        just  yet.  It  was held in a basement outroom,  with rather  decent
        if  a  bit narrow long chairs to sleep on in the sleeping  area  and
        also  rather  dark  too.  Some of the Finnish  regulars  did  indeed
        remember  us  from the first Alt party,  so they were happy to  meet
        us  again  and see how we were doing.  Having not been able to  take
        any  computer  equipment  with  us (this  was  in  the  days  before
        laptops  were  so  readily and cheaply available) we  were  able  to
        watch  and  communicate  with  the  other  Finnish  teams  who  were
        there.  In  the  main,  most of these guys spoke excellent  English,
        which was a big help.

        2  Alt  was where we got to know just what it was like  to  organise
        a  party,  in  terms  of getting equipment and other  stuff  to  the
        venue.  We  were  staying  at  the residence  of  Setok  (Kristoffer
        Lawson)  and  helping  him to cart his caboodle over  to  the  party
        itself.  Plenty  of  lifting and carrying was done,  even after  the
        party,  with  us  being  involved  with taking the  used  desks  and
        chairs back to where they came from elsewhere in the building.

        We  also  got  the  chance to talk and meet with  most  of  our  now
        excellent  Finnish  friends  on  a  more  personal  level.  Pahartik
        made  himself  known  to us as well - even though  he  had  been  at
        the  first  Alt party we'd not been introduced,  for no specific  or
        particular  reason  as  far  as I know.  He  became  more  and  more
        known  to  us  as time and parties went on.  I think we  might  have
        also  spent  more  time with Nosfe as well,  although not  clear  on
        that  -  but one thing I do recall is sharing (in my case  a  couple
        of  mouthfuls,  in  CiH's  case  more than one or  two  glasses)  of
        rather  excellent  whisky  from Teque,  Aggression's  resident  (and
        very talented) musician.

        Flights  both  to  and from Finland at this  point  had  dumped  the
        rather  pricey  British  Airways and the rather  dirty,  smelly  and
        horrible  Heathrow  Airport for the lovely,  clean Stansted  Airport
        and  Buzz  Airlines,  respectively.  Being close to Cambridge (where
        I  live)  Stansted  is not too far to get to  from  here,  about  an
        hour  or  so  at the most and the price  of  long-stay  car  parking
        there  is  also decent.  Buzz are now sadly missed but provided  for
        us  a  very good flight with excellent seating  arrangements  for  a
        very  decent  cost.  I  think we paid around 80 ukp or so  each  for
        the return direct flights between Stansted and Helsinki.

        Moving  on  to early December 2000 and another trip via  the  famous
        Harwich-Hoek  van  Holland  bound ferry service,  from  Stena  Line.
        This  party  was STNICCC 2000,  the follow-up to the original  first
        STNICCC  party  held  back  in  1990.  Although  CiH  and  I  hadn't
        attended   the  original,   we'd  become  firm  friends  with   Rich
        Karsmakers  (editor  -  ST  News &  organiser)  a  little  later  on
        during  the  90's.  We first got the chance to meet him  very  early
        one  morning  at  Amsterdam's bus depot on our way  back  home  from
        Symposium  96.  Odd  meetings  have  occurred  as  well  before  and
        since  STNICCC  2000,  the  most memorable of which,  I  think,  was
        before  one  of the Error in Line parties,  but more on those  later
        on ...

        It  was  becoming  rather  routine,  with the  ferry  trip  over  to
        Holland  being  booked  and us setting out on  it  from  Harwich  in
        the  usual  way.  I recall from this party that we took  the  Friday
        evening  sailing,  that  was  slightly delayed anyway (not  sure  if
        it  was  a  headwind  or something,  crossings have  not  been  that
        bad).  We  disembarked  easily  enough  and made  our  way  straight
        over  to  Utrecht and,  after some to-ing and fro-ing,  met up  with
        Rich  K  at some petrol station.  John Hayward also accompanied  CiH
        and  myself  on this trip too - and no,  in case you ask,  he wasn't
        blowing off too loudly just yet ...

        This  party  may  well  also  have been  our  first  time  into  the
        wonderful  city  of Amsterdam as well.  Walking down the Damrak  for
        the  first  time,  particularly  when  all  is  new  to  us  was  an
        amazing   experience.   Having   noticed  that  we  were   3   Brits
        travelling  together,  various  maps  were pressed into  our  hands,
        clearly  indicating  with  a big red circle  and  directions  as  to
        just  where  the  infamous  Red Light District  is.  So  we  toddled
        briefly   around  there  in  a  not-quite  'window  shopping'   mode
        (although  some  of the ladies might have thought  otherwise).  This
        day  was  also  (I  think) the time where we  seemed  to  come  into
        contact  with  a mad person in one of the  major  department  stores
        in 'Dam.

        Fast  forward  a  few hours,  and we returned to the car,  which  we
        had   thoughtfully  left  parked  at  Schiphol   airport.   Although
        prices  were  rather  high security was the main  reason  -  and  it
        was  still  in one piece with four wheels in the right  places  when
        we  got  back too.  We drove down to Leiden,  stopping just after we
        left  the  airport in amazement and wonder to see  a  passenger  jet
        actually   taxiing  over  the  motorway  to  the  runway.   This  is
        definitely  a  sight for sore eyes :) Leiden itself wasn't  too  far
        away  from  the  airport,  and we got there in a relaxed  state  and
        ready to party.

        STNICCC  was  different to all the other parties we'd  been  to  and
        since.  It  was  mainly a reunion party for all the old Atari  scene
        guys  who  we'd read and heard a lot about over the years.  Some  of
        them  recalled  having heard about us too,  which was a  help.  Mike
        Schuessler  (Sammy  Joe / TLB) was one of the first to be  found  at
        the  party.  Big  hugs all round I think and a good chance for  Mike
        to  introduce  us to the other guys there,  most of whom we  weren't
        familiar  with  in  person.  Alex  Holland was also  there;  also  I
        seem  to  recall  505 and other newer members  of  the  scene  being
        there.   There   was,   as   you'd  expect,   a  rather  large  Dutch
        attendance  there,  this  included  people such  as  Earx,  D-Force,
        Havoc, Nut (I think) and Comp7 too.

        Stefan  Posthuma,  who  was  also one of the guiding  lights  behind
        ST  News  over  the  years,  was also there,  having just  flown  in
        from  Canada  just  for  that weekend.  Stefan is  now  working  for
        Electronic  Arts,  who  Mr  Pink  and  others  also  now  work  for,
        although  he's  based  more in their  Vancouver  -  based  division.
        Introductions   to   him   were   good,   although   he   was   more
        concentrating  on  getting some of our more  successful  coders  out
        to  work  for  EA  as well.  I'm not sure to  this  day  whether  he
        succeeded or not!

        STNICC  was  a party to be enjoyed,  very much.  One thing that  was
        present  at  this  party  was free food  (included  with  the  entry
        price  IIRC)  and  good food,  at that.  It made a big  change  from
        the  junk  food  diet  that we tend to get  into  at  parties,  with
        stuff  from  one  night  in particular being  a  huge  selection  of
        freshly cooked Chinese food.

        Jump  to  Easter 2001 now,  with the welcome return of the Error  In
        Line  party.  It  was great to get over to Dresden again,  this time
        in  the  car  too.  We made the now familiar crossing on  the  ferry
        from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and drove to Enschede.

         If  memory serves me right,  this was the time when we also met  up
        with  the  now infamous Nut (Barry) from FUN.  We took him  down  in
        the  car  to  Dresden,  stopping on the way to pick up  Creature  XL
        as   well.   This  particular  drive  down  to  Dresden  was  rather
        interesting,  as  once  we  turned off the main  east-west  autobahn
        to   go   south,   the  weather  started  to  throw  all  sorts   of
        interesting  obstacles  at us.  Heavy hailstones being at least  one
        of  the  weather  formations  that  we  ended  up  (I  think  I  was
        driving  back  then)  having to pull over in a parking  area  for  a
        while  until  that passed,  as it was impossible to see anything  on
        the  road.  I  also recall driving through a snowstorm too  at  some
        stage,  once  again  having  to pull over till it  passed  over.  We
        fortunately  weren't  the only ones doing this,  however,  it turned
        out  that  many  other drivers surrounding us were  also  doing  the
        same thing.

        We  got  down  to Dresden,  despite all this,  and found  the  party
        location  easily,  bearing  in mind it was at the same place as  the
        first  EIL,  in  the underground student bar place.  As it had  just
        started  to  rain,  many  willing  Atari sceners  who  were  already
        there  helped  us  to unload our stuff,  along with  the  Frenchies'
        stuff too, as they arrived around the same time as we had.

        My  memories  of EIL #2 are rather hazy for  some  reason,  although
        the   journey  itself  was  noted  for  one  thing,   that  we  were
        travelling  when  the foot and mouth outbreak was still  ongoing  at
        home.   This   meant   that  all  British  cars  coming   into   the
        Netherlands  were  stopped at the port and forced to hand  over  any
        food they might have.

        And  as  this  article gets bigger and bigger,  well,  this is  just
        Part One. Stay tuned for another instalment!

                                                   Felice for Alive,2005-10-10
Alive 11