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Alive 14
                       Chapter 11 - Diskmags Digest..

As I promised a little while ago, here's what a sample chapter of the (not
anytime soon) forthcoming history of the Atari demo scene might look like.
I  decided  to  pick  on a subject where I had  a  great  familiarity  and
affinity, namely the 'The history of disk-magazines on the Atari scene and
their effect from 1985 to the present.'


The  history  of 'demo scene' and 'disk-magazine' is  considered  to  have
started with the Dutch publication 'ST-News'.  This didn't start off self-
consciously  as  a  'scene' publication,  showing a  young  keen  hobbyist
perspective in the early issues,  courtesy of the two main editors,  Frank
Lemmen and Richard Karsmakers.

It  was  out of the blocks very early on,  in 1986.  ST-News started as  a
simple ascii newsletter.. It acquired more and more trappings of a diskmag
as we understand the medium. A GEM menu shell and text viewer was created,
and more and more features such as in-shell soundchip music were added. It
started  off  on a games and general interest ticket,  but was picking  up
more interest in the emerging Atari demo scene from 1987.  Crucially,  the
ST News team made contact and developed friendships with what would become
the  not totally unknown 'Exceptions/TEX' demo crew,  later to become  the
core of Thalion Software.

The  golden age of ST News commenced in 1987.  It was almost the exclusive
club-house  for the still emerging ST demoscene..  It acted as a mirror in
which  the early sceners could polish and admire their latest  efforts.  A
function  carried  out  by  the  succeeding  diskmags  too.   ST-News  was
appreciated  and  emulated  for offering  a  friendly  informal  'insider'
viewpoint  and  a relaxed atmosphere.  ST News pioneered the  practice  of
providing  useful information for many wannabe sceners to  get  themselves
started,  for  example,  the  UK-based 'Lost Boys' took notice of this and
started to stake their own claim to demoscene fame.

The  style  of ST News early reviews,  party reports and done in  realtime
'field trip' reports also carved a template for the other publications  to
follow  later on.  Even gimmicky innovations like the hidden article quest
were  started  here too.  Of course with an increasing involvement of  the
eary demoscene with the magazine,  there were small intro's made specially
for  the  magazine,  again  a  feature  that was  followed  more  or  less
faithfully  by  later  publications.  Of course,  the whole idea  of  disk
magazines  are only confined by the authors imagination (or  serious  lack
thereof!)  Fortunately,  with  the combined talents of Mr  Karsmakers  and
Stefan  Postuma that was never a problem,  and ST-News started a trend  to
diversify  from strict scene coverage,  and into some seriously  off-topic
areas  of  the author's own interests.  Anything from heavy metal  concert
reviews to self-created fiction got in there,  nothing was too implausible
to appear in ST-News.

The height of ST-News fame and power culminated in their grand tour around
the  great and good of the Atari ST games and demo creators in the  United
Kingdom.  This  appeared  as a massive trip report in volume 4,  issue  4.
After  that,  it seemed that they had done everything they had wanted  to,
and there were no new horizons left.  So in early 1990, ST News 'died' for
the first time.

This loss was felt keenly in many quarters, and a certain other person was
motivated  to  pick  up where they left off,  this person was  Sammy  Joe,
otherwise  known  as Mike Schussler in more respectable company,  and  the
fruits of his creation was called Maggie!

Maggie  was  launched in June 1990,  and it sought to carry on the  'scene
insider'  perspective pioneered by ST-News.  it helped that Sammy Joe  had
his  own network of contacts within the expanding Atari demo scene.  Being
part  of the Lost Boys demo crew helped the cause a lot too.  There was  a
wider overview of parts of the demo scene, that the more 'Thalion-centric'
ST-News  might not have quite picked up on.  Physically,  Maggie resembled
ST-News,  with a menu shell in GEM almost identical to ST-News, apart from
a scary cartoonish four colour cover picture,  where ST-News had been bare
of  this.  Maggie coverage was very much about the attitudes and views  of
the emerging parts of the demoscene,  less of the established players, and
it could be described as a 'younger' version of ST-News.  We really got to
see people such as the French scene here properly for the first time.  The
writing  quality  of  much  of Maggie could  be  charitably  described  as
'erratic',  or less charitably described as accurately reflecting the ages
of  the authors concerned,  with a wide variety of unknown authors joining
in, but even in the early days, there were straws blowing in the wind that
indicated that this publication might have a long term future.

Meanwhile,  ST-News somehow revived itself and became 'undead'.  The grand
old king of diskmags was back,  but it was never quite the same as before,
having surrendered some of its leading edge on the scene to Maggie.

Maggie  became the motor for the scene,  and developed its own distinctive
style,  even  managing to maintain itself after the initial burst of  cult
popularity  when  it  launched.  The  reactions  to  it  n the wider Atari
community  were mixed, and  not  all  favourable,  unlike the  universally
establishment   favoured   ST-News.   For  issue  four,  it   incorporated
'Diskmagazin',  a short-lived  German  langauge  production  made by  Timo
Schmidt,  whose  input disappeared shortly afterwards.

Maggie carried on happily through the rest of 1990 and 1991, but the first
big  change  came  when  the main editor,  Sammy Joe,  relocated  back  to
Germany, taking Maggie out of the loose control of the Lost Boys. Instead,
he  affliated Maggie with the German demo group Delta Force,  who had  big
plans  for Maggie.  These saw fruition in the form of a brand-new demo-ish
and  good  looking custom menu and text displayer.  This was  intended  to
update Maggie and keep it ahead of the growing competition from new  rival
publications,  many of which were going their own way,  and abandoning the
staid GEM menu shell style made commonplace by earlier diskmags.

Maggie  saw  changes in other areas too,  not all of them favourable.  The
issue  release frequency,  never reliable from the start,  dropped away to
less frequent releases, and Delta Force sought to build on Maggie's mildly
non-establishment  nature by adding stronger content,  and a "Lamers  F*ck
off!" harder and crueller scener image.  At some point,  Sammy Joe severed
contact  with Delta Force,  and their interest culminated in the memorable
(for all the wrong reasons) issue ten.

After  that,  there  was a prolonged silence.  There hadn't been a  formal
announcement about quitting,  but it seemed that was on the cards.  From a
personal  perspective,  other plans were being laid,  and there is a story
about that a bit later in this chapter,  then Sammy Joe introduced himself
back into the story in early 1993,  with a copy of the Maggie source code.

A  new  team,  comprising  a  couple of the UK-based  writers  CiH  (Chris
Holland)  and  Felice  (Richard Spowart) prodded it around  for  a  while,
coming up with a cobbled-together and not totally perfect 'relaunch' issue
number  11  in  the spring of 1993.  There was a new focus  for  this  old
diskmag, as Atari's final home computer, the Falcon '030 had not long been
released, and CiH especially was interested in increasing coverage in this
new  machine,  in an echo of Richard Karsmaker's early ST News inspiration
coming from the newness of the Atari ST in 1986.

After  that early start,  some basic quality control reasserted itself for
issue 12, including a patch for Maggie to work on the Falcon. A name which
had been involved in contributing some memorable articles came to have  an
increasing role in Maggie evolution.  That person was Leon O'Reilly, known
by  a  whole bunch of pseudonyms!  Over the following  'Teenage'  numbered
issues,  other members of the crew 'Reservoir Gods' joined in. There was a
satisfactory  growth  in the Falcon demo scene in the  mid-nineties,  duly
covered  by Maggie,  and it started to look something like what it  should
have been all along.

Maggie  took  a step beyond the role ordained for it,  when it produced  a
Falcon-specific  separate edition in time for its 5th birthday.  This  was
not  the first Falcon-specific menu shell,  and honours may well go to the
Diskbusters  magazine,  of  which  we will consider in  due  course.  This
cemented  the involvement of the Reservoir Gods,  and to a certain extent,
their interests and priorities were a major part of Maggie.

Maggie continued more or less in the same vein,  with CiH firmly ensconsed
as  the  main  editor.  One  trend,  which Maggie started  off,  were  the
specificially themed one-off special issues.  The prototype for this,  was
the  early  "Maggie Guide to a Videogaming Lifestyle",  made by the  cover
artist  Kev  Dempsey  (known as SH3).  This early look into the  world  of
retrogaming and collectormania,  before Ebay was even mentioned,  was well
received.  Maggie  also took an interest in the wider world,  and the next
themed issue was a diskmag parody of mainstream computer magazines of  the
day,  "Maggie  Eezi-PeeCee".  For  a  hasty  throw-together,  it came  off
remarkably   well.   Other   themed  one-off  issues  included  the   anti
conspiracist "Psycho-Babble Guide", and right at the end of Maggie's life,
the  "Ascii-Nation" cartoon issue,  which was probably the very last thing
to be created with the Maggie menu shell.

But to swing back to the optimistic mid-nineties,  Maggie made an alliance
with  the  other big disk magazines of the day,  namely ST news,  and  the
Diskbusters  Magazine.  This  'big three' team-up was known  as  'Magnetic
Interlude',  and  a  short  period  of  mutual  co-operation  and  article
exchanges followed.  Magnetic Interlude never really got that far, as both
ST-News  and  eventually Diskbusters (DBA) flickered out.  ST-News  lasted
until  1996,  having  managed  to hang on for the full decade.  This  made
everyone else pause for breath, as we thought we were doing well to make a
fifth birthday!

Even  the 'humble' ST menu shell had a massive revamp,  courtesy of  Steve
'Tat'  Tattersall',  a massively talented coder on the UK atari scene.  If
there was ever a 'best' issue of Maggie,  I would narrowly place Maggie 21
ahead of the 5th birthday issue 18. This was organised in a massive hurry,
in time for the Goodmans Computer show in Birmingham, to a tight deadline,
and showed off the abilities of the combined team at its best.

With  ST-News  gone,  and  DBA not doing so much,  Maggie was the  diskmag
'establishment' now, so what of the many challengers and imitators?

The  arrival  of  Maggie in 1990 seemed to stimulate  others  to  take  an
interest in producing disk magazines leaning towards the less formal parts
of the Atari scene.  I think the prevailing logic must have been "If Sammy
Joe can make a diskmag,  WE can!" In this light,  such publications as the
prolifically appearing Ledgers magazine appeared. This might be considered
to be a bit of a Maggie follower, but it had lots of unique touches of its
own.  One  issue  is  fondly remembered (or possibly not) for  a  game  or
megademo  style  interface,  where  opening a door led to a  selection  of
articles.  My  admittedly  vague memory also recalls that there were  many
articles, but a lot of short ones.

Another magazine with a short shelf-life but influential consequences  for
the future,  was 'HP Source'.  This started in a fairly relaxed fashion as
the centre of growing interest in the UK-specific STOS demo coding  scene,
many  of whom had made contact recently.  It fetured one Leon O'Reilly  as
the  man  in  charge.  He was an early Maggie contributor who  revealed  a
formidable writing talent which grew as time went on.  'HP Source' was the
vehicle for the original plan to succeed Maggie, after Delta Force dropped
out. However events took their own path as Maggie came back from the dead,
and Leon diversified his many talents into new areas.

There was a diskmag for almost every area of interest in the Atari  scene,
including some activities which could be described as rather "underground"
in  nature.  The self-depreciatingly titled "Pure Bollocks" diskmag was so
underground,  you  had to take a shovel and metal detector and dig up each
new  issue from unconsecrated ground at midnight!.  There were only  three
made,  but  with an indefinite threat of a fourth appearing for some  time
after. It was memorable for its minute-by-minute coverage of the goings-on
amongst the stallholders at the Glasgow Barrowlands market.

Another publication catering for the 'leet' scener was "Amazine",  made by
Mad Vision. A copy was reputedly sent to the anti-piracy organisation FAST
or someone like that?

As we discussed in passing in several places earlier,  another influential
disk magazine was the "Diskbusters magazine",  or "DBA Mag". This was made
by some of the Dutch scene who came after the Karsmakers era.  Diskbusters
had  a considerable early history,  had evolved a nice custom menu  shell,
and  became one of 'big three' during the Magnetic Interlude years in  the
mid  nineties.  it  was the first to arrive with a Falcon-specific  custom
shell which was very impressive at the time.  This managed to beat Maggie,
who  had been thinking about it,  but weren't ready to debut their  effort
before  the summer of 1995.  Diskbusters took the unfortunate decision  of
going  for a Falcon 030 only issue,  abandoning the still considerable  ST
scene. After a couple of neat issues, and too many compilation issues, the
main editor,  Sietze 'Slimer' Postma,  lost interest.  It wasn't quite the
end,  as a long time later, in 1996, it went back into an uneasy half-life
as 'Fun-Mag', but unsupported by any writers, soon died again.

There   were  several  other  publications,   over  whose  story  I   will
discracefully  skim  over,  such as the French "DNT Papers",  the Finnish-
based  "Eye on the Scene",  the follow-up to the Admirables 'Massive Mag'.
Eye on the Scene featured a better than average menu shell.  K-Klass,  aka
SH3,  a  not  so obscure artist,  drew some graphics for this when he  was
taking time off from Maggie.

Then  there was 'Toxic Mag'.  This was a French language diskmag,  slanted
towards  francophile scene interests,  and with quite a nice custom shell.
This  started  in  1991,  lasted until double figure  issue  numbers,  and
latterly  became HTML based,  one of the first regular diskmags to use the
Worldwide Web.

There were even one-off oddities such as the vey Falcon 030 specific  "How
to  Code".  This  was shareware with a vengeance,  featuring a  reasonable
shell,  but  massively restricted unless you coughed up 50FF to unlock the
better articles!

Undercover MagaScene,  or "UCM" turned out to be another long-term player.
A  relative latecomer in 1993,  it experienced at least 2 or 3 deaths  and
rebirths under the editor,  Eric 'Moondog' Henschler.  UCM became notable,
even notorious for some fairly sharp reviews. In the 1997-98 period, there
was  a bit of a feud about with Maggie about some of the content  of  each
others publications.  UCM was taken over by Sebastien "ST Survivor" Larnac
for several issues.  The style calmed down, so much so that it then merged
with the remaining Maggie interests to make 'Alive' in 1999.  But this was
not  the end of that particular story.  UCM was revived yet again by Eric,
and  affiliated to the Sirius Cybernetics demo crew.  The time spent  away
from his baby seemed to benefit Eric,  as the later UCM issues took a more
objective,  controlled  and  less  personal approach,  and in those  final
issues,   really   realised   its   potential  as  a   pedigree   diskmag.
Unfortunately,  the  strain as a one-man band was telling too much,  so it
died for the final(?) time sometime in 2004.

But  we've  left the life-story of Maggie hanging in midair  for  far  too
long! What happened next?

Maggie was able to carry on in a similar vein after issue 21. If anything,
the  average  issue size kept getting a bit larger,  approaching the  file
size  of  ST-News in its glory days.  There were some major blips in  that
happy  time,  such  as the feud with Undercover Mag previously  mentioned,
then all of a sudden, all sorts of outside time pressures closed in on the
lives of the Maggie team.

Maggie came under pressure from new work-related pressures affecting  many
people,   and   even   the  time-destroying  consequences  of   developing
relationships  affecting others (cough!) The release rate,  never prolific
in  recent times,  crashed to new lows.  By the time the new millenium was
looming,  Maggie  was clinging on by its fingernails stubbornly to make it
to  its  10th  birthday,  which  it did,  just,  during the  STNICCC  10th
Anniversary gathering,  in the period before Xmas 2000.  But did that mean
the end for CiH, the longstanding editor of Maggie? Sure it didn't!

There was a back-up plan,  an entirely new diskmag,  rising from the ruins
of both Maggie and Undercover. This was the happily named "Alive" Diskmag.

In  fact it started a little bit before the officially planned  ending  of
Maggie.  the  groundwork  had been laid in the summer of 1999.  Alive  has
continued to date, has survived one major editor change. (When ST Survivor
dropped out, Heinz "Cyclone" Rudolf took over. There must be some mystical
law that dictates that an Englishman and a German have to work together to
make  a  successful Atari diskmag?  (The Englishman/Frenchman  combination
also worked pretty well!) Alive, almost without realising, managed to pass
its 5th anniversary,  and is the focus of the present day Atari scene.  It
reflects the increasing role of the internet in the last few years,  as it
also  handily has all issues online in HTML virtual form,  as well as  the
traditional diskmag menu.

You  might think that the story of diskmags and the Atari demo  scene  had
come to a stop at this point,  but there is at least one other publication
going  down  the  Falcon 030 specific trail blazed by  the  Diskbusters  a
decade before.  This is the Chosneck (Garlic) diskmag,  a brilliant Polish
Falcon-specific  diskmag.  It seems to have taken things to the next stage
as  it is strictly a hard-disk mag,  as typically the file sizes are  very
big,  and  certainly  will  not fit onto a floppy disk  anymore.  It  most
closely resembles the DBA double-disk Falcon issues,  but manages more in-
depth and better quality articles, and some brilliant awe-inspiring front-
ends with access to truecolour pics etc.  Unfortunately,  as for any other
publication these days,  regardless of the hardware platform,  the lowered
overall scene activity rate, and accompanying real-lie time pressures mean
that Chosneck is subject to irregular and infrequent issue release dates.

I  might also mention that apart from those diskmags made with  the  Atari
demo scene in mind,  there were a lot of other diskmags, catering for many
other areas of Ataridom, some reflecting specific interest groups like the
long-running  'Stosser',  covering coding for the STOS language,   even in
the case of STEN (ST Enthusiasts Newsletter), taking a distainful approach
to  the more juvenile antics of certain demoscener  publications.  Others,
like  Power Mag,  successfully operated as a pre-internet forum for  their
groups of admirers. One or two, like 'ST+' even managed to donate some new
writing talent to us on the way!

The  internet has helped the cause of retro-computing  and  non-mainstream
hobbyist platforms in a lot of ways.  Promoting the role of diskmags isn't
one of them!  The World Wide Web has taken over as the main transmitter of
news, and community meeting place from the diskmags. However, if a diskmag
is  well written and regarded,  they can still be a cherished item in  the
modern demo scene, and the Atari scene in particular.

So to sum up, diskmags in the early days of the demo scene were the mirror
and the motor of the general scene.  This role has been lost to other more
omnipresent,  faster and more influential media.  However,  whether we are
talking about the old scene,  or the current situation,  people are always
vain and like to see their name in print,  and have nice things said about
them  by their contemporaries.  This factor remains constant right through
to the present day!

         CiH       - Dec '06 - Initial Chapter version for Alive Mag.

Alive 14