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Alive 2


One  of the glass-fronted cabins contained what looked like a  somewhat 
ravaged  looking  she-male  shop window dummy,  dressed in  PVC  styled 
dominatrix wear.  It was standing perfectly still.  Then I blinked, and 
it moved! I moved too, smartly out of sensor range of the creature from 
the planet weird...

How  a large part of the Maggie/Alive!  team ended up in the Red  Light
district  of Amsterdam will be revealed later.  The answer has a lot to
do  with our being in the Netherlands for the STNICCC 10th  Anniversary
Convention, in December 2000.

Some  time  ago,  a whole bunch of idle chat on IRC about the good  old
days, turned into an idea that the ultimate slice of memory of the good
old  days,  should be resurrected on its tenth anniversary.  This being
the  'ST News International Christmas Coding Convention',  which was to
get that honour.

This was an event that was a long time in the planning,  my memory core
dumps  over  at  least a couple of years  previously,  in  which  other
memorable parties,  such as Error in Line, came and went. By the latter
half of this year,  the STNICCC 10th Anniversary was becoming harder to

We decided to tie in a certain other event with this, probably an event
of a similar level of significance.  That was,  the release of the 10th
Anniversary  issue of Maggie.  We had missed various dates before,  and
STNICCC was really a 'last chance saloon' to get the issue out,  whilst
the concepts of "10th" and "anniversary" were still meaningful!

The  final  weeks  up to STNICCC were pretty busy  for  me,  personally
speaking,  as  Maggie related concerns dominated over all else.  Felice
was  in  charge  of  the travel arrangements,  and  I  really  was  too
preoccupied  to pay any attention to things such as looking forward  to
the event itself.  With a ten-month gap from the previous issue, it was
amazing  how many people managed to leave their  contributions,  almost
literally to the last minute!  Still, I managed to put Maggie together,
the final part being the final version of the intro from FUN, which was
going to join me on Saturday, at the party.

For the trip,  I was taking my Nemesis modified (number 2) Falcon,  and
my  STe,  the  latter  for  the purposes of  maintaining  the  official
realtime  article  for the party.  The Nemesis machine was expected  to
only  play a minor role in Maggie building,  as it was still inherently
wobbly in the mouse/keyboard stability area.

Departure  is  at  a  sane time,  arrival at the  Karsmakers  place  in
Utrecht,  less sane.  It is mid-afternoon on the 14th December,  when I
load my car and set off in the direction of Felice's place in sunny  St
Neots.  I  was greeted by an empty driveway,  but I had been pre-warned
that  Felice  was  picking  up John Hayward,  and might  not  be  there
straightaway. Shortly after, the happy duo do turn up, and it is to the
serious business of loading up the car, that we turn to next..

Amazingly,  this  goes  well,  better  than expected,  as even Felice's
demands for load space are accomodated within the car,  and we are soon
ready  to set off,  for the great journey into the unknown.  Just as we
are  setting  off,  we realise that no-one has any contact  details  or
address  for  Richard Karsmakers!  A classic case of each assuming  the
other  had taken care of this issue was what had happened!  We do  have
his email address on the printed registration form,  and John H.  has a
mobile phone capable of sending emails,  which he does, somewhere along
the lines of "Arrgh help! Need address and phone number!"

Richard K.  manages to reply to this, as the much needed information is
on John's phone, by the time we reach Harwich. Also greeting us, is the
news of a forty minute delay (which worked out more like an hour). This
was going to make our eventual arrival seriously late!

Our ship of dreams was, once again, the MV Stena Discovery. I described
it in more detail in my SV2000 report, so I won't do it here again. The
Macdonalds,  serving  Dutch-sized  portions of fries,  is where it  was
before, the video wall is showing a selection of great and not-so-great
hits,  including  a selection from that self-adulatory cosmetic  freak,
Michael 'Crotchgrabber' Jackson.  It is supposed to be the aftermath of
a storm, but we are not troubled by the crossing, and a few short hours
later, we are stumbling down the gangplank, into the Netherlands.

DAY 1.. (Friday 15th December)

A nearby thunderstorm  stabs dramatically  at  the quivering  landscape
below,  as  we  head  across  country,  to the sleepy residence of  the
Karsmakers. Indeed we are hit by several showers on the way over. These
are not so much  mere showers,  more like whole  city-sized clouds that
gave up the struggle to contain water, and dumped their entire contents
on us in a single outburst!

Still,  no worries  as we arrive in Utrecht,  somewhere in the vicinity
of 2am!  We make contact with the Karsmakers, who is willing to meet us
to follow in to his home address, but he is strangely reluctant to come
to where we are, in the grounds of the Park Plaza Hotel. The reason for
his reluctance becomes all too clear,  as it is basically impossible to
proceed  legally  in  the direction that  Richard  suggests,  the  road
network  forces  you in the opposite direction!  We make it out of  the
trap anyway, managing to startle a couple of late night cyclists on the
way,  when we  take over  part of  the cycle lane!  A  couple of  dodgy
turnings later,  and  we  are on the way again, and a couple of minutes
later on,  manage to  find the man  himself,  at a closed for the night
petrol station.

Getting back to his place is straightforward.  It is in a neighbourhood
that  can  be  described as 'featureless modern',  apart from  a  giant
illuminated  mushroom (The Tomb of the Unknown Mushroom,  perhaps?)  He
lives  in  an apartment block,  and we park up beside it,  and go  into
'stealth mode',  all the better not to wake Richard's wife Karin up, as
she  has an early start in the morning.  A choice of accomodation boils
down  to  Richard's computer room,  cum study,  cum heavy metal  rumpus
room,  as  the  wall-full of CD's testifies.  Or there is a real  spare
bedroom,  with a proper guest bed,  which I take over,  after inflating
the  air  bed  for  someone  else to  use.  Sleep  follows,  as  social
interaction at 2 in the morning isn't really on...

Morning  has  broken,  and Rice Crispies,  especially,  and expensively
imported  for  us,  are on the breakfast menu.  We have a  food-related
surprise  for  Richard K.  too,  as his hunger for Branston Pickle,  is
satisfied by our importations of the crunchy stuff. (This is apparently
very difficult to get in the Netherlands.) From there,  the agenda is a
simple one,  get to the party place in Sassenheim,  south of Amsterdam,
dump  our stuff there,  and kill the remaining hours until the official
opening at 18.00hrs.

The journey down is punctuated with more of the sudden downpour  events
that enriched our enjoyment of the  journey up.  It is between showers,
that we arrive at Rich K's workplace,  and party venue,  the offices of
Lanalyst.These are plush and modern, the corpse of the businessman from
the rival company,  killed,  stuffed,  and placed in the reception area
causes momentary amusement, before we lug our gear into the main  hall,
just as the next rainstorm appears. It is around 13.00hrs, so we decide
to head off to Amsterdam, taking the expensive parking, but easy access
Schipol Airport option, rather than trying to leave the car in the city
centre  itself.  On the train for the last part of the journey,  we get
talking to a bunch of people from Birmingham,   on a 'relaxing' weekend
in old Amsterdam, and  ponder why you always seem to meet someone  from
Birmingham, wherever you go abroad!?

We opt to wander aimlessly in the general direction of shops and places
for tourists.  No Red Light District, just yet. Instead, we come across
an  awful  lot  of  places which seem  to  specialise  in  drug-related
souvenirs, subverted popular culture, and some really cool music shops,
one  of  which  was  showing a 3-D porno film  from  the  1960s!  (It's
typical,  you  never  have a pair of those funny little green  and  red
lensed spectacles on you when you really need them!)

Gift  of  the trip?  - In amongst a whole bunch of more orthodox  Delft
porcelain,  in what looked like a fairly conventional souvenir shop, we
found a rather life-sized delft-patterned willy!

Eventually,  after  getting  soaked,  just once too often,  we look for
somewhere congenial to spend our last hour or so.  We find a small side
street bar,  a traditional Dutch pub, which is tiny, seats only a dozen
people, but there is room for us three. After an initially rocky start,
when John H.  asked for a Grolsch in a Heineken logo splattered bar, we
seem to get on famously. The time soon flies by, in a blur of Dutch gin
(Jenever)  drinking,  and  edible  items are passed around in  a  Dutch
version of Tapas. A warm glow suffuses the vicinity of CiH, by the time
we get back to Central Station,  which doesn't go away until well after
we have returned to the party.

It  is a little bit after the official 'doors open' time  of  18.00hrs,
when  we  arrive back at the party,  already,  the first attendees  are
arriving,  some  of  the  French  guys,  and Alex  'Thalion  Webshrine'

The first thing that springs to hand,  is the setting up and opening of
the grandiosely titled "Official STNICCC Realtime Article." My STe  and
Felice's  Atari  Mono monitor combine to form a state of the  art  (for
1986)  text inputting machine to record the thoughts and deeds  of  the

Next,  is the business of clearing enough space in one of the adjoining
classrooms,  to set up our own equipment.  The Lanalyst classrooms,  or
resource  learning  areas,  or whatever,  have been set up with  around
twenty  PC's  each,  all on a central server.  For the duration of  the
convention,  we  have  been allowed free use of these,  able to install
what we want,  and to use the unlimited net access,  in a free and easy
fashion.  The only rule seems to be "No hacking!" Which is fair enough.
Also,  it  is  suggested  that nothing that is plugged  in,  should  be
unplugged,  which  makes  looking for space to set up non-PC  hardware,

With a little bit of discreet shifting around, people do manage this in
the  end though.  We manage to "claim" a few sets of speakers that  are
lying around,  for the production of Senior Dads demo type noises a bit
later on!

In the confusion,  various 'new scene' people arrive in our room, as we
are greeted by Defjam,  mOdmate,  and MC Laser when they turn up. Also,
Rich K. decides to settle himself in our lair, a bit later on. The tSCc
and  Checkpoint people have brought non-wintel hardware with them,  and
interesting chippy sounding and coding style activity soon ensues..

The party starts slowly, as it seems I am one of the few who is showing
off non-PC stuff,  or doing something with non-Wintel gear, so I get an
unaccustomed audience for the Senior Dads,  for instance. However, some
people are getting in their stride,  as the Frenchies set up to do some
serious  coding.  They  later  disappear out of sight,  in one  of  the
basement rooms,  bashing away on a more or less uninterrupted three day
coding explosion!

I  seek  out  some food next.  The catering has sort  of  started  this
evening,  as  various  sandwiches have been left for the party  masses.
These are  located in  the smart  looking  restaurant  on site.  We are
promised free food  with regular meals, and snacks available throughout
the day. Indeed, the catering turns out to be one of the most impressive
aspects of the whole STNICCC experience.  Mega-sponsorship proving to be
a  big  help  in  this case,  as  we only  paid 7.50 ukp  for the  party
admission! This  free  provision even  extended to a virtually unlimited
supply  of the  top coders drink, Coca  Cola  on  tap,  or  available in
tinned form from  the  drinks dispenser, again, free of charge.

For those people looking for something a little more caffeine-loaded, a
coffee  machine sits just around the corner from the realtime  article.
The level of provision really could not be beaten, and hats off to Rich
K, for getting the art of in-party catering to this sublime height!

The only thing that is missing, is a bar of the alcoholic beverage sort,
but some people manage quite well enough without this anyway ;-)

This  event manages to attract its fair share of former  luminaries  of
the old style Atari scene, including original STNICCC attenders such as
the  original  Maggie editor,  Sammy Joe,  or Michael Schussler.  He is
looking  fine, a lot  less  hair than I remember him having,  but still
the  same indefatigable,  ever-smiling  Sammy  Joe is in there.  He has
also  crash-landed in the wild hinterlands of respectability,  as he is
now married with  a  child  (who  is at the ultra-curious two year  old
stage  of sticking  fingers  in  electrical sockets?)  Mike is glad  to
see that Maggie is still going,  indeed thriving,  as he keenly follows
the internet charts that seem to keep us  at the  top!  He is persuaded
into contributing  something  to  a supplemental readme.txt for Maggie,
but that will have to wait until after he has returned from his planned
Amsterdam wild night out..

Other heroes of olden times include the membership of The Exceptions or
'Tex',  including the odd wife or girlfriend in tow. They tend to stick
together  in a slightly clannish fashion throughout the party,  but  at
least  they  do  attempt  to be sociable.  This little gathering of the
great and good includes the famous  Mr  Hippel, who seems to be working
as far away from the computer games industry as possible?

Representatives  of several other groups from the past,  include people
from Delta  Force,  and  Synergy,  to name two  off the top of my head,
are also present,  but there  are no people from  The Lost Boys  (Apart
from Stephan Postuma and Sammy Joe) or  Carebears who manage to make it
to the party.  I suppose the glamourous  locations of the Entertainment
software industry being too strong an attraction versus the Netherlands
in the winter?

At least one Frenchman hasn't sought the safety of the cellar,  as DBug
lets  rip with some of his work on a fairly well known  8-Bit  machine,
the  Oric  Atmos.  He seems to be showing what is a new demo for  this,
with lots of zooming and rotating effects.  This looks wicked!  DBug is
using techniques similar to the 2 Alt people,  using audio files from a
PC or audio CD, to load in as emulated tape files. (He has the original
tape recorder handy too, should that prove necessary.)

DAY 2.. (Saturday 16th December)

Before  we  know it,  it is midnight.  No-one is tired,  everyone is too
excited  and  wired to want to sleep.  That is,  apart from my unstable
Nemesis  Falcy,  which decides it has had enough for one evening,  so I
switch off and wander around instead.

I  encounter  Rapido of Synergy,  who had managed quite well without  a
booze serving bar on the site.  He is one of those people who gets very
friendly,  when  under the influence,  also very hard to get away from,
when in that state! Still, you only live once!!

(He did not say "I love you!" in a drunken state,  at any stage,  which
was lucky!)

I  also find various 'Teenage' and FUN people in the building.  No sign
of  Earx just yet with the vital final version of the Maggie intro.  He
is not due until later on Saturday.  However,  the giant looming figure
of Havoc is to hand.  He is inflating a large air bed, more of a family
sized 'abandon ship' kit, with a big air pump. The other Dutch guys are
giving him every "encouragement"! The air bed is inflated, and Havoc is
visibly shagged out by the effort,  but I manage to borrow the pump for
my  much  smaller  airbed,  which  is quickly brought  to  a  state  of
readiness in case of any sudden nap attacks, later on.

D-Force is wrapped tightly in a set of headphones, concentrating on his
competition  entry,  NUT and Tinker are messing about,  and it is quite
easy to join in with them.

Whilst in the centre hall, we get our first sighting of the fabled next
gen  Nuon  console,  in  devkit form.  This is playing various  things,
including  Jeff  'Yak' Minter's latest work,  'Tempest 3000'!  This  is
cool, in  a mad, sparkly sort of way,  but we wonder if getting the Yak
onboard means  that this project  is dying,  as he has  a  nasty  track
record of selecting the romantically doomed minority formats,  from the
Konix onwards!

Around the middle of this early morning period,  say about three-ish, a
mouse  cursor on the realtime starts to move oddly.  A quick check with
UVK on  the text disks reveals that the Ghost Virus is roaming loose on
the realtime!

No harm done at all,  but a swift diskclean and reboot is needed. It is
still a mystery as to whether there was a problem at home that came out
with me,or someone at the party decided to add their own little touches
to the realtime!?

The mood is getting calmer, as more people go to sleep. Felice and John
H.  take themselves off downstairs in search of a sleeping place.  Even
now,  I'm not really tired, but feel that I might regret it, if I don't
make the attempt.  Instead of searching for the sleeping area, I make a
go  of it where I am,  only disturbed by the gentle key-clacking of the
assorted Checkpoint and tSCc members, as they work on.

This proves disturing enough however, as I never really properly manage
to  get  to sleep.  A mist-crazed semi-consciousness is the best I  can
manage at that time.

06.00 hours (approx) - CiH gets up.

06.15 hours - Sammy Joe and co get back from Amsterdam and go to bed!

A fair number of the rest are taking it really easy right now, so there
wasn't  a  lot  memorable  going on,  until  breakfast  was  ready,  at

The  insomniac  wing of FUN and Teenage proved to be good  company,  in
this  lull  period,  before the next bout of storms.  Tinker shows  off
various GFA routines with dots chasing each other around the screen...

Breakfast lived up to the early promise. As in addition to the standard
ham/cheese/bread  staple  continental breakfast items,  there was  also
some fresh hot bacon,  and lovely scrambled eggs.  Taken in conjunction
with  the  freshly baked crusty bread rolls,  these combined to form  a
totally  delicious breakfast experience!  I also found myself  glugging
down more vitamin C, in the form of fresh orange juice, than I normally
get in a week.

At  some  point  in this grey early morning,  a  tall  ghostly  figure,
familiar  from the Symposium '96 appears.  It is the former Diskbusters
mag  editor,  Slimer.  He  hasn't shrunk any, since the last time I saw
him, and looks as old and shagged out now, as he did then (grin!)

However,  he  is  motivated  enough  to contribute  to  the  additional
readme.txt that I am scraping together for Maggie,  as a "live from the
STNICCC" piece.  So far, Rich K has written something for it, Sammy Joe
will too,  when he regains a vertical and conscious attitude, now it is
Slimer's  turn.  The  Nemesis Falcy refrains from acting up,  just long

Not  long  after,  a figure,  familiar from events closer to home,  but
totally  alien  to  foreign coding parties blocks the  doorway.  It  is
Carbon, the Mancunian madcap pie fanatic, who got a lift in with Grazey
&  co.  I  am  amazed!  Carbon  soon  makes himself at  home.  The  net
connection quivers, as John H. smacks it around looking for 8-Bit Atari
stuff. Soon, Felice and company are back on the job too.

The co-organiser of the original party, and representative of the major
sponsor,  Electronic  Arts  turns  up.  This  is a  ponytailed  Stephan
Postuma,  formerly  Digital Insanity of The Lost Boys.  Who seems to be
pleased to be here.

Stephan 10 years ago - "Here we are at STNICCC, got to go on coding all
night, Yaaaayyy!!"

Stephan  right  now?  - "I want those beta versions on my desk by  this
Monday Ay-Yem!"

(There is a bit more on him at the party, a little later on.)

More  UK  people arrive,  as the morning wears on,  Stick and Bilbo  of
Ripped off arrive, this time, not seeking to  repeat their ICC "Look no
documents" escapade, and thus  keeping their passports very  very close
to them!  Then about midday,  maybe a little bit later, a solitary Earx
is spotted,  plodding through the poor weather,  into the party... This
means  that  the  final bit of Maggie still  awaited,  the  intro,  has
arrived at last!

I  check  out  Earx,  who has borrowed Tinker's Falcon for  this  final
assemblage  of the Maggie intro.  An initial lurch of fear follows,  as
the   vital  source  code  disk  refuses  to  divulge  its   directory.
Fortunately,  a  second  attempt with Kobold succeeds in  shifting  the
offending mass of source files onto Tinker's machine,  and Earx sets to

This is easily finished, and my Falcy, which has been left switched off
for an extra long period before now, to allow the longest possible time
before  it  heats up and starts doing silly things  with  the  keyboard
again,  comes  back into life for the final vital hours of Maggie,  the
10th anniversary issue.

Finishing  Maggie is just really a question of seeing  that  everything
works,  after  collecting the last bit for the extra readme.txt from  a
drooling  and  barely functioning Sammy Joe.  The next hour or so  goes
something like this. Zip archives, check archives, split Falcon archive
into two,  as it is approaching two and a half meg. Then check and make
sure   that  it  still  runs  under  a  (simulated)  four  meg   Falcon
environment.  Fortunately,  I  had  already done things like  integrity
checking  for  the  textfiles,  before setting off  to  STNICC.  Unpack
Zipfiles,  and rejoin split archive, to make sure these work okay. They
do,  so  finally,  get  all  of the above onto three disks,  ready  for
transporting  across  the  internet,  in a form that can  be  put  back
together easily.

Gibber to myself, but only for a short time....

For  the final stage of the journey,  Felice manages to organise a  DCC
link  on  Atariscene  IRC.  At  this point,  it finally sinks  in,  the
struggle to complete the 10th Anniversary issue, and quite possibly, my
own personal struggles to keep the whole Maggie roadshow running,  were
actually over at last!

Profound  relief  takes  several  forms.  Playing  loud  and  hopefully
obnoxious music of several types, from MP3, through modfile, and TaoSID
tunes.  Pointing  out  to Richard K,  that this is what the new age  of
Atari  based music sounds like.  I'm also sure that 'Necrophilia',  the
Falcon DSP softsynth, got in there too,  but that may have been earlier
on in the day? There is also the  little  issue of a lack of sleep that
catches up with me, around this  time, so  I  collapse for half an hour
or so,  after  installing  Falcon  Maggie on  Tinker's  Falcon,  what a
nice person I am? (No - Ed answer!)

I come back to life, take a wander down the corridor. The faint strains
of some  fairly familiar  soundchip music filters in from the next room
along, so I take  a peek in,  to find virtually the whole membership of
Synergy  gathered around a single ST,  playing the Aenigmatica 'Genesys
82-track remix' demo. Another figure from the past, Bonus, had appeared
too. I'm also pretty sure,  Stephan Postuma was in there too,  reliving
a few good old days.  The older sceners  squeal with  glee,  with every
iteration of that old familiar demo, heads bobbing up and down as if in
a trance, when the singing heads screen do their YM-inspired chorus.

In the central hall or room,  The Mad Butcher is spotted, amidst a pile
of  8-bit Atari stuff.  It seems that his roadshow is very new to a lot
of  people,  as  they  are visibly amazed by what the 800XL  can  still
accomplish.  SV2000  veterans like myself,  already know what the 8-bit
coders mean by their version of '"No limits!" He also takes time out to
tell  me more  about  his multimedia  scripting system,  which  can  be
adapted for demo or game use,  and sounds  very interesting,  from  the
point  of  view of  a  non-coder  who  might  be reasonably handy  with
graphics and sound. This is awaited with some interest!

Soon  after,  it  is time for tea/dinner,  and lasangne is on the menu.
This  is  sort of italian, but still not pizza.  In fact,  this was one
thing  which didn't make an appearance at STNICCC 2000,  making it  the
coding  convention  without  Pizza! What we do get is nice, if  scarily

I  end  up  back with Tinker,  D-Force and company.  They are having  a
conversation with Havoc. This should normally go right over my head, as
it  is  in  Dutch,  but in the conditions of enhanced fatigue,  I  find
myself  snapping  between different states of  consciousness,  lurching
between  this  objective STNICCC reality,  and dreamland,  even  almost
understanding the Dutch, as spoken by the rest. This is truly worrying,
so I crawl back to my sack for another session of immobile and complete

Meanwhile,  Carbon,  Felice, and company amuse themselves with the fart
machine website, which seems to have got loads of new noises, since its
last outing,  at one of Dave Hollis's little soirees, a year or so ago.
John Hayward is inspired by the Mad Butcher's activities,  to get a PC-
based Atari 8-Bit emulator running, with mixed success.

A  little  while  later,  I re-emerge,  and checking out  the  internet
connection,  find out that the Dead Hackers site is already on the job,
by  having  copies  of Maggie available for  download!  This  is  quick
thinking,  and  fast  work  from them!  This was a pattern that was  to
follow  for  the rest of the weekend,  probably making this one of  the
busiest weekends that the Atari scene has had this year!

Also,  I can monitor the activities of the convention, or the room next
door, through a webcam, set up by the Ripped Off guys. Fine if you want
to  watch things happen in spooky slo-mo,  and if your legs don't  feel
like carrying you the half-dozen or so paces,  from my bedside,  to the
physical  location  that would let you see for yourself!  I  never  did
check  out the chat forum for STNICCC 2000,  but I understand that Jeff
Minter made it onto there, and Rob Hubbard nearly did as well.

Whilst  the rest of the party attendees engage in acts of more or  less
constructive  activity.  We, in  our little bunker,  are playing around
with  extracts  from  the  cult  1970's  childrens  television  series,
'Rainbow'!  Carbon, in  particular,  is  going all out with the sampled
dialogue,  that was intended to appeal to innocent pre-school children,
but instead,  was turned into something quite sinister and perverted by

"Zippy, leave my twanger alone!"

And so on...

One issue,  which I had a few pre-party misgivings about, turned out to
be not so fearful after all.  Stephan Postuma,  ex co-collaborater with
the Karsmakers,  and former Lost Boy,  was here at STNICCC on behalf of
Electronic Arts Canada,  apparently talent spotting and seeing what the
new  generation  of coders was capable of.  Meeting him in  the  flesh,
revealed  a laid back,  easy going sort of guy.  His approach to cherry
picking of the new talent,  was similar, as literature was made readily
available,  and  Stephan  was there to answer any questions,  but there
were  no overt attempts at dragging people away from  their  keyboards,
coshing  them  over  the head,  and smuggling them out of  the  country
stashed away in a cargo container.  So after that,  I felt better about
the presence of the Electronic Arts representative at the party.

At some point in the evening,  we get curious about the fate of a large
group of Frenchies,  from Overlanders,  ST Connexion,  and others,  who
were seen upstairs initially,  coding away quite hard on assorted Atari
machines.  Now,  they are nowhere to be seen. We assume they have stuck
themselves away in the cellar,  a suspicion which proved to be correct.
Downstairs,  we spot the de facto 'sleeping room' (In partial use), and
the big hulking server,  which keeps an eye on the rest of the Lanalyst
kit  upstairs.  The  French  are cordoned off from the  outside  world,
apparently working on a non-stop coding marathon,  and don't seem to be
too keen on outside visitors. This is apparently, normal behaviour, and
seems  to echo the original STNICCC event,  where they took over a room
for themselves back then too.

And what of us,  whilst Atari history is being made?  Well,  we have to
confess  to  the  fact  that we  shamelessly  exploited  the  unlimited
internet  connection  to its maximum!  More arsing about  followed,  as
Carbon  fearlessly  tracked  down  a  whole  load  of  cult  television
material.  This  includes  more hilarious stuff,  on the aforementioned
'Rainbow',  including a bottom-bitingly hilarious cartoon strip,  which
has  had  its  original captions mangled  beyond  recognition.  In  the
realtime room,  the window is gaping wide open,  a chill breeze hammers
in from outside,  all the better to keep the realtime machine cool,  my
original STe,  purchased at the very same show, that the first issue of
Maggie  was launched.  This machine had been running continuously,  the
brief Ghost virus cleaning interlude aside,  since the beginning of the
party, over 24 hours ago.

Tiredness makes a quicker job of catching up with us,  that night,  and
it also nails down a number of the  other people in the room too. So we
turn the  lights  off,  close the door, and adopt an attitude of "We're
asleep in here, okay!!"  Which works  pretty well,  as a deep dreamless
sweet sleep follows.

DAY 3.. (Sunday 17th December)

In fact,  this perfect state remains, until someone, Milhouse or one of
the other chip musicians,  starts up at 8am, which is mine and everyone
else's  alarm  call  as  well.  We don't mind at all  though,  this  is
appropriate 'mood music' for the party!

After  a  false  start,  breakfast does its thing at  9am.  Similar  to
yesterday, so another round of good food, including the raw ingredients
for a stripped down version of an English breakfast. Carbon is confused
by  the hardboiled eggs on display.  He seriously considers that  these
may  be raw eggs,  and eaten as such as a local delicacy!  (If that was
the  case,  then  salmonella  would  be the  Dutch  national  disease!)
(Supplementary  food info note:- But they do like to eat  raw  herrings
around these parts!)

Checking  the Dead Hackers bulletin board reveals a plea for help  from
Deez,  who has a Falcon competition entry for the party, with a link to
download it, for anyone who happens to chance upon it in time! So I do!
The  entry  was appreciated,  but owing to the  particular  competition
rules for this party,  was not permitted to be entered,  as the entrant
had to have a physical presence at the party.

The  next  landmark event of the party is looming,  the judging of  the
various  competition  entries,  which is due to take place at 11am.  At
about five minutes to go, Rich K. suddenly decides that they need Atari
hardware to show the entries,  and I'm to organise it,  grabbing it off
people, if necessary! That drastic step does not prove to be necessary,
as my Falcon, and the realtime STe are more than adequate for the task.
This  means  the  realtime falls silent for about  a  couple  of  hours

The  competitions  are  divided up into various  categories.  The  Java
competition (which gave rise to fears that this event was nothing  more
than  PC Dads getting together) had no entries.  The 'ultimate cracker'
competition  didn't  get  any  response  either  (Dragonflight  remains
unsullied to this day!) The first competition which gets a response, is
the soundchip music compo,  and we turn to my Falcon,  and a mix of the
SID sound composer, and SND Player. These entries are all good, Rich K,
and the other judging person, Alex Crouzen,  are in full  flow,  making
copious  notes.  Err,  like,  another  thing I wasn't warned about, and
didn't  have time to organise,  as the person in charge of plugging  in
and  hastily  swapping around the competition  entry  showing  hardware

Showing  and  judging  the competition entries  differed  totally  from
recent  party practice.  'Showing' was not organised for the benefit of
the  party attendees,  there was no systematic screening of competition
entries.  Instead,  the only people privileged to view all the entries,
were  the  three  man  judging  panel.  Also,  there wasn't  a  lot  of
democracy,  as again,  in a departure from current party practice,  all
decisions  relating to who got prizes,  were down to the three  judges,
there being no 'view and vote' system available to the party  attendees
this time.

Switch back to the STe for some of the demo viewing.  This does attract
a  bit  of  a crowd,  as the viewing is taking place via a  very  large
screen  display,  which takes inputs from a number of sources including
ST!   The  effect,  especially  close  up,  is  impressive.  This  goes
especially for a new demo from Oxygene, an STe-based 3-D stunner, based
upon  the  brilliant  intro sequence for the  'Nostalgic-O'  demo,  but
vastly expanded and improved upon! Modfile music from the Amiga 'Desert
Dreams'  demo is in there too (the major 'STe' part,  I suspect!)  This
fits amazingly well with the rest of the demo. Surely this looks like a
candidate  for that coveted DVD player first prize?  Just depends  what
else comes up. Also shown, is a brief entry from the Overlanders, a 3-D
object  in a bootsector,  for the 'Commodore 64 revisited' competition.
Deez's   entry  'Sleepless'  is  shown,   and  draws  some   gasps   of
appreciation,  as  the  only authentically Falcon  specific  production

However,  it  isn't  allowed into the competition,  for reasons already
discussed.  We  also  get  to see a very unfinished Falcon  entry  from
Idemline,  which needs to have a separate modfile player (in this case,
Megaplayer)  running.  Also,  Mr  Ni!  shows  something  which is  very
familiar  to  UK  scene  people,  but seems to take  everyone  else  by
surprise!  This  turns  out to be a 'C' Port of a Tony  Greenwood  STOS
game,  'Heartlands',  but optimised to run in 1 VBL. (I speak to Mr Ni!
about  this later,  and it seems he knows what he is doing,  especially
when  it comes to the tricky question of what Mr Greenwood might  think
about this!!)

That  concludes the bit of the competition which is accessible  to  the
viewing  public,  for  these  later entries,  we have to attend to  the
individual  coders where they are hurriedly scrambling to finish  their
masterpieces.  In the meantime,  a couple of harmless diversions, as we
view the 'STNICC logo' entries (two of these),  and the 'ST News in the
strangest place', (again two entries.)

The winner of the 'ST News in the strangest place' competition  manages
to achieve victory  by quite a margin.  This is  DBug  of NeXT, who, in
his job coding for serious games industry types, has to devise a way of
filling  in  the blank spaces between bits of code on  the  master  CD.
Rather than just using  any old thing,  DBug  puts in the sublime,  and
possibly  subliminal messages "Atari and Oric are cool computers!"  and
"ST  News  rules!"  Carbon put up a strong challenge,  with  'ST  News'
inscribed  in the inside of a Pringles canister,  but he hadn't a  hope

It  is  left  for  us to catch the remaining  demo  and  C64  revisited
entries,  with  a prizegiving ceremony deadline breathing hard down our
necks. Firstly, tSCc are nearest to finishing, but we are sent away for
a  few  minutes  more.  We stop by DBug's  second  contribution to  the
competition,  which  is  his  Oric Atmos based entry to the  C64  times
revisited intro competition. This is fully fledged, brilliant, and full
of  authentic  zoom  and rotate stuff.  It could well  be  the  winner,
depending on what tSCc have pulled out the bag?

Checkpoint  pull out at the last moment,  they feel what they have done
is  too buggy and unfinished,  so we'll just have to wait for Error  in
Line  part  2  then!  But tSCc are brave enough to offer  their  mostly
finished intro for the critical scrutiny of the judges. What we get are
some incredibly high quality ST-based effects,  including a sharp bump-
map screen,  and a lovely enviro-textured 3-D object.  This is offering
stiff  competition to D-Bug's Oric demo,  but its unfinished state  may
just  tip  the balance against it?  We then drop in on  the  Ripped-Off
crew,   who  have  offered  their  'Ultimate  Music'  collection  as  a
competition  entry  for the main demo competition.  This  is  virtually
ready, apart from some last minute bugs on the Falcon.

Downstairs,  the  ST Connexion gang have absolutely used up their  last
time  extension.  What  we  got there,  was probably the most  gorgeous
looking  classic  French scene 'old school' styled demo ever  made!  Or
about 50 percent of it.  Again, the tricky issue of finishing has to be
weighed up in our final judgement.

We three go off into a judging huddle.  Some decisions, such as the 'ST
News  in  the  strangest place',  and the STNICC logo,  are  easy.  The
soundchip  music takes a little bit of thought,  but Milhouse steals it
by  a whisker.  We make good progress in placing the also-rans for  the
main demo competition,  but it is tight for the first and second place,
which  is  a  two-way fight between the Frenchies of  Oxygene,  and  ST
Connexion. In the end, it goes to Oxygene, just...

Same  for the C64  revisited intro,  where  DBug  claims his second big
prize of the day,  by creeping in just ahead of The Galactically Hitch-
Hiking people.  Here, the two entries were very different, excellent in
their  own  respective  areas,  and  in the end,  we had to  count  the
finished  state,  or  not,  of  the two  entries,  which went in DBug's

Another  area  where  the  STNICCC differed  from  most  recent  coding
parties,  is  the fact that the deadlines were ruthlessly enforced.  We
were only minutes late for the prizegiving ceremony,  which was set for
1pm  in  the  restaurant.  This  was very different  from  most  recent
parties,  where delays are much longer,  and expected to be much longer

Apart  from  a few people who had already left,  the  entire  attending
contingent  of the STNICCC was in that restaurant.  There were a  large
selection  of  prizes,   generously  donated  by  the  major  sponsors,
including  a  skipful  of  NTSC  compatible  Playstation  games,   from
Electronic Arts themselves.

Then  begins  the long process of dragging people up to the  front,  to
receive their awards and prizes.  People are generally happy, but there
are some last minute adjustments that are needed.  Milhouse, the winner
of  the soundchip music competition,  is a confirmed Atari kid,  but is
given a PC soundcard as a prize.  He does accept it,  on the basis that
he can give it to someone who needs it, or sell it on, as it is quite a
good  one.  This confusion extends to people who are given  Playstation
games,  and  it  turns  out that quite a lot of people don't  own  this
console!  Even  DBug, the  winner  of  the Playstation 2,  arranges  to
swap  this  for  the other major prize,  the pure DVD player,  for  the
reason that he didn't want to end up buying Playstation 2 games!

Even after all the rightful winners have been given their prizes, there
is still a surfeit of these.  The next attempt to clear the table,  and
get rid of these,  is in the form of a raffle,  where all the attendees
have  been put into a hat,  and the embarrassed Japanese girlfriend  of
one  of  the French guys,  is summoned forth,  to act as official name-

The  prizes,  apart  from the more obviously commercial stuff,  include
signed  original  copies  of famous old demos,  such as the  Union  and
Syntax Terror demos, and even the sole 'ST News' inscribed baseball cap
in  existence!  This probably represents the largest Atari  memorabilia
clearout  from the Karsmakers household to date.  I don't win anything,
but  as  I don't own an NTSC compatible Playstation,  I'm not  too  sad
about that!

After  that,  the rapid disintegration of STNICCC commences,  as people
start to leave from mid-afternoon.  Most of the old scene have left the
building by 3pm, Alex Holland is heading to Amsterdam, to catch up with
some shopping that he promised to do,  so Felice and John H.  decide to
go  with him.  They are reminded that they have to be back by 8pm,  the
official closedown time.

There isn't a lot else to do now, the realtime is reinstated, mainly to
catch the final thoughts of the departing hordes. A small interruption,
of  around  half an hour is suffered,  as someone managed to knock  the
power plug out whilst seeking to open the window. By teatime, there are
around twenty or so people left, a mixture of Dutch 'FUN' and 'Teenage'
people,  and a few Frenchies. My not going to Amsterdam with Felice and
John is amply rewarded,  when the final meal turns out to be a catering
feat, as several varieties of curry or chinese food are on offer. Owing
to  the  reduced numbers,  there is plenty of it too!  So the  greedier
attendees  make  the most of the situation,  I think some  people  even
managed to improvise 'doggy bags' to take some of this food with  them?
I just settle for trying to see how far I can stretch my stomach wall!

After,  that  I just settle back for some leisurely browsing,  and slow
packing of stuff.  The clothing, bedding, and Falcon go back into their
bags. The realtime persists a little longer, to shortly after 7pm, when
cleaning  and janitorial activities start to make themselves  known.  I
almost  get the feeling I'm being chased out of the room with a  vacuum
cleaner right behind me!

Alex  Holland  returns from Amsterdam,  he has lost the other two,  who
seemed  to  be  heading  off  in  the  direction  of  a  certain  redly
illuminated part of the city, led by "The guy in the glasses" according
to Alex (this was Felice!) They had agreed to meet back at the  central
station for a certain time,  but were nowhere in sight.  I lose no time
in letting the assembled crowds on Atariscne IRC know where Felice  had
gone. Cries of "We're not really that surprised!" echo back..

My  gear is fully packed by now,  and finds its way to the lobby  area,
awaiting  the return of the still missing Felice and John H.  I look at
Felice's  set up and decide not to go too close to it,  as he seems  to
have a weird power switch modification to his Falcon, and his PC linked
to one of the Lanalyst machines. These will have to await his return.

The  final minutes consist of various FUN and French people loading  up
their cars,  and me and Rich K,  waiting around.  Suddenly,  Felice and
John  emerge,  slightly  sheepish looking.  It turned out that  nothing
drastic  had happened to them,  and Felice certainly wasn't taking  the
extra  time out with impressing the ladies with the depth and power  of
his  lovemaking  technique!  Instead,  they managed to catch the  wrong
train,  which sort of missed going to Sassenheim,  and they had to wait
to get another one going there.

Felice  and  John  attend  to the  remaining  gear,  I'm  helping  Rich
Karsmakers cleanse some of the PC's used by the STNICCC people, as they
are  being  shut down,  and returned to a pristine state of  normality,
ready for their day-to-day working existence on Monday morning. This is
very simple,  running an autobooting disk,  which wipes the hard drives
of  all the party gubbins,  and connects them back to the main  server.
Whilst this is going on,  Felice fetches the car, and we load up. It is
around  8.30pm,  not  too late after all. We are the last people,  with
Rich K.  to leave the party. The last act that evening is to follow him
home back to Utrecht.

This  is  straightforward.  On  the way back,  we are making plans  for
Monday,  as Rich K. and Karin are having a day off together, presumably
to  concentrate  on  neglected things like 'Christmas'.  We  decide  to
revisit Amsterdam,  with Felice as our experienced guide around the red
light  district.  Felice even makes a most generous offer with this  in
mind  "If you want to go with a woman tomorrow Chris,  that's okay with

John and I almost shake the car off the road,  we are laughing so much,
but trying to choke it back at the same time!

Back  at the Karsmakers residence,  we get to meet Rich K's wife Karin,
for the first time. She meets her pre-release billing, and turns out to
be  a nice looking,  and very pleasant lady,  even when confronted with
some of the geeks who were responsible for her husband being  seriously
distracted over the last few weeks. Tea (as in the drink) follows, then
the conversation turns to Richards Plantiac shrine.  At this point,  we
even  get to try some of the 'heavenly fluid' as described by  Rich  K.
I'm  used to many forms of alcohol,  and I'm always willing to try  out
new  varieties,  but  this  one  does not really come  across  as  that
impressive.  A  cursory  description  would be something  like  anaemic
brandy.  The  best thing being the fact that you can throw a slug of it
down in one go, and it doesn't take the lining of your throat off!

No-one really has a lot of spare energy by this time,  so thoughts soon
turn  to  bed.  This time,  Felice takes the guest room,  and John and I
camp down in the computer room.

DAY 4.. (Monday 18th December)

I  sleep  for  a while,  but this room seems to be doubling as  a  meat
locker,  as  a  lot  of the second part of the night is taken  up  with
trying to keep warm (it had got markedly colder since we arrived in the
Netherlands,  this  was  in keeping with the five-day forecast,  so top
marks to the meterological boys and girls for getting that one right!)

A chilly morning eventually breaks..

Not  too  early, or too late, we all get up. Breakfast is grabbed,  and
Rich  and Karin disappear off to do whatever it is they are  doing.  We
have planned to meet up later on, to have a farewell meal together.

Meanwhile,  we  set  out to get a train to Amsterdam,  first catching a
bus,  which is the first one,  since the 2 Alt party in Finland, or the
Gdansk  citybus  last Easter!  What is it about UK public transport  by
comparison,  which makes it so easy for me to avoid it!?  The same rule
goes for the trains,  as the previous train travelling occasion to this
one, was again at the 2 Alt party in July!

We have decided to treat ourselves, as we are catching the 'ICE' train,
which  is  the  Trans-Europe Express of Kraftwerk fame?  It  pulls  in,
sleek,  and on time.  We find out we have to pay a supplement to travel
on it to Amsterdam,  but it isn't too much,  and what the heck,  it's a
nice  looking train anyway.  The interior is as impressive,  with decor
and  seating in second class,  that is as good as most  other  services
first class  travel! About  twenty  minutes or so later,  we are at the
Amsterdam  Central Station again.

An early lunch,  or late breakfast follows,  then we set off to explore
the  city  a  bit further.  We skirt around the famous old city  for  a
while,  Felice  spots  the word "free" on the door of  one  interesting
establishment,  and almost dives in unchecked. I get a small inkling of
what  John Hayward probably spent most of yesterday afternoon into  the
evening doing, as we persuade Felice away..

And talking of drowning strange lusts and urges with an excess of  your
hearts  desire.  We found the Dutch version of Maplins,  the electronic
components  people,  so we kept John H.  happy for quite a while there!
Eventually,  Felice  confidently finds the right co-ordinates to get us
to  the  Red Light district,  and a scene totally unlike anything  else
you've ever seen before, greets our eyes...

The  'red light' soubriquet comes from the advertising method that  the
ladies use to attract customers.  These are prominently displayed above
the  glass  fronted  booths or cabins where  they  display  themselves,
usually with very little clothing.  From there,  a prospective customer
approaches a booth,  if he likes what he sees,  and negotiates a 'deal'
from  there,  but  why  am  I wasting time here telling  you  what  you
probably already knew!

Many of these cabins are clustered together in fairly narrow alleyways,
the  Red Light district is a major tourist attraction,  even for  those
people who are not actively partaking of the 'wares',  as it gives some
kind of illicit thrill,  even to browsers and 'window shoppers'.  It is
like  a form of sexual Russian Roulette to the male  population,  where
the only safety is in some form of numbers, and going down there alone,
would  be  like pulling the trigger on a fully  loaded  single  chamber
automatic pistol!

Some  of  the girls,  particularly the African ones,  were more,  ahem,
forward  in coming forward,  tapping on the glass panels,  some calling
out  "Hey,  I  want  to ask you a question!" (Yeah,  like "What is  the
Polish unit of currency"?!  er hang on, I know the answer to that one!)
We  tended to hurry on by a little more hastily through those  sort  of

Generally,  there was a fair mixture, a lot of Asian girls, some blonde
stunners,  most  likely from East European parts,  a fair few black and
half-caste  girls,  and  probably about three Dutch women  working  the
quarter, win a special prize if you spot one! (Stop that! - Ed note)

Anyway, Felice's honour remains intact, and we stop for a drink, and to
let the steam out from under our collars, at a bar in the middle of the
district.  Here  collectors of weird toilet anecdotes can sit back  and
rejoice,  as  I  find a single person urinal,  which is a French  style
'piss into the hole in the ground' affair.  Thing is,  there is quite a
drop  down,  and  you have to stand in the doorway to take aim,  so  it
would  be  quite easy for someone on a busy Friday night,  to push  you
into the urine collection point,  and drunkenly piss all over you.  But
anyway,  we didn't go anywhere near the gay fetish places,  so this was
the nearest thing to that sort of behaviour we found!!!!

Whilst we are in the bar,  we are able to glimpse at one of the booths,
which is occupied by a half-caste girl,  nice face, cheerful demeanour,
a  little heavily built up top for my taste,  and bopping to the  music
from the bar jukebox.  One potential punter approached on bicycle,  but
appeared  to  decline,  when he was told where he could put his  bike?!
Felice  comes  up with a 'nudge nudge,  wink wink' style query,  as  to
whether I was going to be  'going with anyone',  or other words to that
effect.  But in the end, none of us did....

It is a relief to finally get away.  I suppose people get hardened to a
place like that, but for us, it was the most surreal place, on this, or
any other planet!

Priceless  Felice  comment  on the situation:- "When we  come  up  next
Easter,  we'll  have to come by here again,  I'm sure I'll have a woman
next  time,  and  Matt and Franky would be interested!" (!!!  - Ed note
exclamation marks!)

We fetch up at a large department store,  with some of the madness from
the  previous  few paragraphs following us all the way in!  A  deranged
Chinese woman continually swearing in Dutch and English,  seems to have
a grudge against the foyer of a large posh hotel, but staggers off down
the  street  cursing.  We  duck  into  the  shop,  but  the  sounds  of
multilingual cursing follow us in!  Shit! We think, but eventually make
our  escape  up the escalator,  figuring that she would have a  problem
figuring  out  how  the  'magic stairs'  worked.  This  proved  correct
fortunately,  so we are able to turn to more harmless pursuits, such as
John H. tracking down a few presents and greeting cards.

This  final  phase  of the visit goes back into the  shopping  area  we
visited on the preceding Friday.  John H.  is looking for some clothes,
Felice goes off to the newsagent next door,  and is glimpsed looking at
more  top  shelf material,  as if he hadn't already had enough for  one

The  same  newsagent proves very helpful in wrapping up a  last  minute
present  from  John H.  with very little prompting,  and we are  almost
done, and back to the Central Station.

Just  an  ordinary  train back this time,  but we are back  at  Utrecht
Central,  not long before our pre-agreed meeting time with Rich K.  and
Karin.  We stop at the main meeting point, where Karin finds us, just a
few minutes later.  Rich K.  is on the scene,  and we head off into the
centre of town, to find somewhere to eat.

Utrecht main street has a canal running through the middle of it.  This
historical  part  of the city is built up on two levels.  A paved  main
street  on  each bank above,  and quays and wharfs down to  the  waters
edge,  forming  another  level of the street,  and mainly populated  by
restaurants  and  bars.  After an abortive search for one place,  which
appears  to  have  gone away,  we settle on a suitably  rustic  Italian
styled  pizza restaurant,  our pizza deprivation state from the  party,
reaching critical levels!

The  meal  is pleasant,  the pizza is more home made and authentic,  by
rustic Italian standards,  rather than coding party Pizza Express style
delivery  service standards,  which suits the more civilised atmosphere
of  the  evening.  We  head  home,  suitably  refuelled,  back  to  the
Karsmakers  residence,  where  more tea comes out,  and we get on first
name terms with Richards escapee pet rats!

There  are three of these altogether,  all females,  but no jokes about
lesbian rats,  please! They are running around, enjoying the benefit of
their  evening exercise period.  One is good at jumping down from  high
places,  such  as  from the cage to the floor (it is the  smallest  and
lightest).  Another one enjoys climbing all over people,  not a problem
with  Rich  K.  But  John H.  has a hair trigger phobia for  rats,  and
doesn't  enjoy the experience at all.  The third rat is good at getting
away from it all, and manages to get into our sleeping room. "But don't
worry," said Rich K. "They only crap in warm places, such as the bottom
of sleeping bags.." (Erm, thanks for that!)

Eventually, they go back into their cage, and the DVD player comes out.
Included with his great collection of stored electronic media  (lighter
by a few ST demos as of yesterday evening!) are the Blackadder  series,
and so it is, we settle down for a couple of hours of the second series
of Blackadder's elizabethan antics, before we call it a day.

DAY 5.. (Tuesday 19th December)

Back into the meat locker, but this time, I dress warmer, and sleep for
longer.  (And  there weren't any insulating layers of rat-poo  present,
before you ask!) I awaken due to airbed induced stiffness, but struggle
back to sleep.  Eventually, I start to get up, finding that Rich K. and
Karin  have flown the coop and gone to work,  but Rich has left a spare
key (for locking up purposes) and a note where to leave it  afterwards.
There is also the question of washing or showering in semi-darkness, as
someone  has  managed  to wreck the pull-cord for  the  bathroom  light
switch sometime in the night! (It wasn't me!)

We  are  left  to  get  on with things for  ourselves,  so  we  do  for
breakfast.  We  are  nice considerate people,  and manage to leave  the
place a little bit less cluttered in the kitchen than it was,  for Rich
and Karin later on.

Time  drifts  on,  but in the early afternoon,  we start to make a move
back  home.  Getting  out of Utrecht onto the ring road,  then back  to
Rotterdam for the Hook of Holland.  The day is sunny, the journey easy,
and  we  get back to the Stena terminal in plenty of time.  There is  a
queue of cars, but the checkpoints aren't open yet, so we leave the car
to  seek  out  lunch.  This  is memorable for  the  Dutch  sized  (very
generous)  portions  of chips,  and the industrial sized containers  of
tomato ketchup, another sign we are nearly home!?

We get back to find that the queue that was there before has dispersed,
it  has weaved its way around our unattended car!  So we check in,  and
settle  down to wait for our ship to come in,  which isn't too long  at

The  rest  of  the journey back was uneventful,  and can be  summed  up

Xmas presents - Two lots of perfume,  and a cuddly toy. (All recepients
Food - Pizza, rather than Macdonalds.
Video Wall - That Madonna and Ali G. video, again.
Cash left over - Converted back to around forty three UKP.
Weather - Dark..
Side of the road - Drive on the left!
Arrival time back home - Around 9pm, GMT, which wasn't bad.

Oh yes, there was another classic Felice moment on the ferry home, when
we  were  looking  at  our first English newspapers  for  a  few  days,
catching up on all that essential C-list micro-celebrity gossip, that's
so important to people here.  We read that a wealthy ginger geek called
Chris  Evans,  was 'dating' a young female singer called Billie  Piper.
Now  remember  that Felice has a  little bit of a  'thing'  for  Billie
Piper.  This alleged "romance" is probably nothing,  almost certainly a
publicity stunt to sell more records for her,  but when we were reading
this, Felice's face darkened. He said "I hope this isn't true!" But you
could tell that he was *really* thinking:-

"She must be punished, and HE MUST DIE!!"

But  Felice couldn't really hurt a fly,  so if anyone related to either
of the above is reading this, don't worry!

Conclusions, this time around..

So what did we think of the STNICCC by the end of it?  Well, if you are
considering  it by the most objective standards,  and comparing it with
those  parties that I've attended in the past few years,  it  certainly
held  up well.  There was a good production rate from both the new  and
old  parts  of  the scene alike.  Those initial fears about  the  Atari
content being downplayed or dispensed with altogether were happily cast
aside,  as even people who had almost forgotten what an ST looked like,
suddenly  rediscovered  their keeness for that old grey  mushy  feeling
keyboard!  So,  on  its  own  merits,  and  even  without  the  special
'heritage'  or  10th  anniversary aspect,  STNICC was one of  the  more
productive and successful parties of this year.

It  was  mostly successful in its secondary job,  or was that its  main
task,  in reuniting as many of the original scene participants from the
first time around. But there were some notable omissions, especially as
no  members of The Carebears and most of The Lost Boys were  unable  to
make  it.  On  a  personal  note,  I enjoyed seeing  Mike  'Sammy  Joe'
Schussler,  the original Maggie editor, on the premises. The appearance
of that other diskmag giant, Slimer, was a pleasant surprise too!

On  a related theme,  the UK attendance was better than for some  time,
with  us three Maggie Team people joined by Carbon,  (a first time  for
him!)  and  Grazey and co,  and even the Ripped Off team returning!  It
could have been even better if Mr Pink and Griff had attended too,  but
last minute problems from Griff's side apparently put paid to that one.
We also had the pleasure of Alex 'Thalion Webshrine' Holland's  company

It  was  noticeable  that the party divided  into  two  distinct  camps
(three,  if, you consider the Frenchies hiding in the cellar) where the
'old'  and 'new' scenes tended to keep to their own communities.  There
were  no  overt attempts to enforce any differences,  and  people  were
basically  sociable.  However,  people naturally tend to seek out those
most  familiar  to them.  So the 'old scene',  such as the  Exceptions,
accompanied  by Alex Holland,  tended to stick together in their corner
of  the  party,  whilst 'new scene' people such as tSCc and  Checkpoint
sought  each  other  out.  They also joined us in a room  which  became
predominantly 'new scene' in nature too.

The  physical  aspects of the party were good,  indeed  excellent.  The
premises of Lanalyst,  Rich Karsmakers workplace, were a plush location
to hold a coding party.  It was truly a brilliant gesture on their part
to  allow  us to use the premises over that weekend.  The provision  of
spare  computing facilities was luxurious in the extreme,  with PeeCees
including  internet connection available,  even before you brought your
own!  It  wasn't  too much of a problem to add some good  honest  Fuji-
badged hardware into the mixture either ;-)

My favourite aspect of the whole STNICCC experience,  was the catering.
This  was excellent,  and probably the best of any party I've ever been
to,  as food was more or less available around the clock.  There was an
increased  choice  for the set mealtimes of course,  and drinks of  all
kinds,  with the exception of alcohol and PG Tips were also permanently
available.  Best of all, and a big hand is due to the STNICCC sponsors,
these were all free of charge!

There  were  some differences in the organisation and  running  of  the
competitions  from  current accepted practice.  Richard Karsmakers  had
last  been to a scene party around the time of the original STNICCC.  A
lot of things have changed since then.

The  competition  deadlines  were fixed and  absolute,  and  rigorously
enforced.  Also,  the  judging  methods were varying a lot from current
practice,  consisting  of  a three man committee with the final say  on
everything. (I would have to admit to taking part as one of the members
of  this benign dictatorship,  if it wasn't already clear from the main
part  of  the report!) We would like to think that the end  result  was
more or less the same, as if everyone had voted on it? However, I don't
think  that  the  committee method is likely to be used  again  at  any
future  event.  One  entry was submitted from outside the  party,  this
being  based  on  the assumption that recent  practice,  where  outside
entries are accepted,  would be acceptable here. However, it turned out
that this demo was not eligible for the STNICCC competitions after all.

With these two points,  it is fair enough. It is Rich K's party, and he
makes the rules,  but it might have been a good move to have these sort
of  procedures and rules explained better ahead of the party,  to avoid
any  possible hurt feelings on the part of people used to  some  things
being quite different?

Still, these  are  minor  points  to  set  against  the  overwhelmingly
positive things about the STNICCC as a whole.

On a personal level,  we had loads of fun at STNICC,  and outside it as
well.  There  was  an colourful aftermath,  in our post-party visit  to
Amsterdam!  Our  hosts,  Rich  K.  and  Karin were both extremely  nice
people, which we already knew of course!

Hopefully,  this  shouldn't be Rich K's final going away present to the
Atari scene,  as he is talking, at least semi-seriously, about the 25th
Anniversary  reunion!  And one wonders what might be happening by  that

For great days enjoyed take your pick, from anyone at STNICCC!

CiH - For Alive! Magazine - Dec '00

Alive 2