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Feelings after Assembly 2001 - How everything happened

I'm ashamed to say that this  one crept up on me  whilst I was unaware. The 
'Alt zone'  or  mini-Alt  taking place  within the  body of the mega-mighty
Assembly coding convention  had  been  discussed for  some  time  before it
happened,  but I was  unable to attend.  Regretfully turning to thoughts of
Greek Islands and summer sun,  I now hand you over to the excellent account
recorded  by  Setok of this seminal event,  intercut with key extracts from
the Wiki-Web real time report.  - CiH, August 8th 2001.

-------------- Start ------------------

The  whole  Alternative Zone actually happened by chance.  Originally  Ville
Vaten,  one of the many Assembly organisers,  had mentioned that it might be
possible for us to work at something nice together at Assembly. That was the
first  time ideas about an Alternative Zone popped up.  This was way back in
January or February so we had ample time to work out something.

I  guess  we  misunderstood this to mean that the  Assembly  organisers  had
actually  discussed having something like that there because of our  protest
and presence last year for the Alternative scene. In addition, Antti Silvast
(of  Bandwagon  fame) had also turned into an Assembly organiser.  All  this
together made us feel they were beginning to like us,  or at least that they
would not mind us doing something with them.

So  we  created some ideas for what we could do there and  decided  that  it
certainly could do no harm joining in.  I sent an email to Abyss/Future Crew
(the main Assembly organiser) about taking part in Assembly. Apparently at a
later  Assembly  meeting  Vaten was given a bit of rap  for  leading  us  to
believe  we  were given permission to do something there.  Anyhow,  after  a
month  of  anxious  waiting Abyss responded,  asking us about what  we  were
planning to do.

At  this time our hopes were quite high so we immediately chose a few  ideas
that  we were ready to implement.  Our goal was to raise the profile of  our
own Alternative Party ( ),  our "movement" and,  very
importantly, to present the wide range of machines available beyond the gray
world  of PCs.  Additionally we thought people would really enjoy  something
very different and thus raise the whole spirit of Assembly. It seemed like a
good deal for both sides of the equation.

We  never  actually  received  a response  from  Abyss  about  these  plans.
Organising a party is a huge job,  especially something like Assembly,  so I
guess  this  was  understandable.  Eventually  we dropped the  idea  of  any
"official"  support  for our Alternative Zone.  However,  as we were already
geared  to  do  something we thought we might set up a  table,  spread  some
propaganda and be a general menace to the mainstream.

Time went by and finally a week before Assembly I decided to give Abyss  one
last shot.  At the same time I asked about Oldskool tickets.  Everything had
been so unclear that several of us had not even purchased Assembly  tickets.
We  were not actually convinced about participating at all.  This time Abyss
answered  almost  immediately.  Interestingly enough he said "I'm not  quite
sure what I've promised,  so I guess you can come", or words to that effect.
Of course, he had not promised anything,but we jumped at the possibility and
brought in the old idea of an Alternative Zone. Thankfully we received a few
Assembly tickets and a small chunk of space to do something.

This  was all very ad hoc.  We found out on Wednesday -- the day before  the
party  -- that there were no tables or chairs available for us so we had  to
bring/invent  our  own.  It was clearly stated that we were not to use  much
electricity  and  later  at the party we were to  discover  that  a  network
connection was also going to be problematic.

We were very grateful to Abyss for the chance to do this and we awarded  him
with the last Alternative Party t-shirt.  However,  I could not help feeling
slightly depressed about everything. It was obvious that we were only really
an  after-thought and probably seemed like only trouble to  people  involved
with  Assembly.  Especially as that meant we had to try and find some tables
and chairs from somewhere in the very last moment.

This  feeling was only emphasised the next day when we had to queue  up  for
quite a while with our huge amount of stuff and to try and set up everything
amidst  the usual Assembly chaos.  We have always done everything with a bit
of a laugh and our tongues in our cheeks. Still, underneath the humour we do
feel rather strongly about what we do and that it is a Good Thing.

So  at  the time it did not feel so great as it looked like  we  were  being
ignored.  Of course,  looking back now, that is not quite the truth. We were
given  special permission to do what nobody else was doing.  I guess it  was
mostly  depressing  because  originally we had  hoped  for  something  quite
different.  We  had hoped to be able to organise a special part of  Assembly
along  with the rest of the organisers.  To be almost a part of this  year's
show,  rather  than an eccentricity.  It was the final realization that this
was not to be that made me feel rather gloomy.

The actual event
Things  did  pick up when we finally got everything set up  after  hours  of
work.  A  row of wonderful machines was building up on top of the camouflage
net we borrowed from Entropy,  along with the UV lights.  Epson sponsored us
with  a video projector so we could show off demos for the Amiga500,  Ataris
and  other machines!  Immediately people began to take interest in our area,
often with loving remarks about our nice machines.

An ST and an unknown MSX recline in a seductive fashion?

Our  first  mini-compo was to be the analogue graphics compo,  but as  there
were not yet that many contributions we decided to extend the deadline. This
seemed to be a good idea as we received some pretty good entries by the  end
of  Assembly.  This  was also our most popular competition.  The  simplistic
beauty  of  a pencil and paper is unbeatable.  Anyone can sit down and  draw
something  and  take part.  It is so straightforward that it satisfies  even
someone with no artistic skills.

At  the  same time it separates the really skilled from the ones  with  less
gifts.  What  is  also nice about this minimalistic approach is  that  every
person is different.  Each person has their own style,  however skilled they
might  be otherwise.  If one takes a look at the entries for Assembly's real
graphics  competition,  almost all represent the usual demoscene  surrealism
and many in a very similar style. You simply do not get that with a pencil.

The next day it was time for perhaps our most creative competition: the live
music  competition.  We actually expected this to fail miserably as creating
live music requires a bit of courage.  Something most of us lack.  With this
in  mind  we were pleasantly surprised to have 6 entries taking  part.  tAAt
hallitsee  was  the  only group that decided not to use  a  synthesizer  and
perhaps for that reason they won the competition (or then they have lots  of

We now turn to the Wiki Web realtime report for some early reactions to the
Live Music Compo.

This  was a superb event and surpasses our expectations.  6 people took  part 
and  each entry was at the very least interesting,  some were creative and  a 
couple  were  really  quite  nice indeed.  Many people  were  interested  and 
Assembly  TV  just  had  to  take some footage  of  us  playing  around  with 
synthesizers and mixers.

Analogia  even said that this was a real compo.  One where people had to  use 
their imagination.

But this was not without its problems, as the following paragraph now 

pnmf!   played   it's   live  gig  after  midnight.   people  involved   were 
nosfe,synteesi,roi  blask and floppy.  we managed to make some nice noise and 
there even were few people listening and enjoying(?) our show.  some problems 
with the staff of hartwall arena though, we had to stop our show twice. first 
they took away our tables, and then they told us to move ourselves even more. 
fuck  that.  we  stopped playing when the console democompo started and  they 
wanted to kill all audio and lights.

I believe a special mention should also be given to Analogia,  who was quite
obviously  well  aquainted  with the art of making  music  and  my  personal
favourite. Ravel and I even took part by setting up a German industrial band
called  "Die  Rebels"  (can be pronounced either in  German  or  English  --
whichever  you prefer).  I am sure you will hear more from us in the future!
AssemblyTV  finally found something worthwhile to film when they  discovered
this competition,  so the end of it was broadcasted. A video will be made of
the whole live music event.

In  contrast,  our  demo  competition was a bit of a let-down  with  only  4
contributions. Still, it is the thought that counts.

The  joint  winners of the most obscure machine competition were  a  Philips
Videopac  and an old Epson computer (nothing to do with the fact that  Epson
sponsored us).

Assembly competitions
The biggest events from our point of view were the Oldskool competitions. It
was actually great to see the MSX and VIC-20 beating the C64 in the oldskool
demo competition!  I am sure Silvast,  in particular, was feeling good about
their production winning, considering that his entry was the target of scorn
at  last  year's Wild compo. Mind you,  meeting the C64 Dekadence guys,  who
came  in third,   certainly convinced me of their alternativeness.  They can
wear their ALT arm bands with pride.

The  Oldskool  music  competition also was  fantastic  with  many  wonderful
entries with !Cube (Atari people will certainly recognise the name)  winning
and   Britelite   coming  in  second.   Personally  I  very   much   enjoyed
"Valtavirtaa", which was the first truly experimental SID tune I have heard.
Contrary  to  popular belief,  this was not a joke entry from  the  AltParty
crowd,  although  the  name (Mainstream) may sound like that.  But maybe the
name was inspired by us? Who knows...

The  normal  music competitions were a horrible  disappointment.  While  the
multichannels  entries  were simply amateur-like,  the mp3  compo  contained
mostly  rather  tiring  pop/rock songs,  with hardly anything  different  or
interesting  going  on.  One would have thought that that particular  medium
would allow the artist's creativity to flow freely.  This did not seem to be
the case. Where was the experimentation?

A  quick  note on the demo competition:  it was much better than last  year.
Although last year's certainly was not bad, it mostly lacked really original
entries.  This  year  was slightly different,  with at least three memorable
entries (Lapsuus,  gerbera and dese 2), each with their own style instead of
simply  twirling  3D  objects.  The  stunning  Amiga  entry  "Lapsuus"  from
Maturefurk (Future Mark) won,  which was a great victory for the "old lady",
as  Owl  called  it during the prize ceremony.  Having said that,  it  would
definitely not hurt to see even more individuality and new ideas.

But you've almost forgotten the Wild Competition! Never mind, the realtime
report has quite a lot to say on the subject.

At last we got our network back online so time to say a word or two about the 
wild  compo.  The most disappointing thing about it was that Nosfe&Co's entry 
was  not  shown  on  the big screen.  Yes,  it was weird,  yes the sound  was 
basically bleeps and noise,  but it was well made,  looked good and obviously 
effort  was  put into it.  Meanwhile there must have been at least 5  entries 
based around some guys fighting on screen in supposedly funny ways. Some were 
naturally better than the others,  but why not show something a bit different 
to balance things out?

As for the other entries,  the return of the lego animation was welcomed. The 
quality has just gone up since last year.  Probably this year's winner again. 
Another  interesting entry was by Pygmy Project with a version of  their  old 
Amiga  intro  winner from ' 4 (name?).  For some straneg reason the  audience 
didn't like this. Apparently they wanted more fight scenes.

One more entry is worth mentioning as it was quite different.  It contained a 
collection  of war pictures and the usual demoscene "philosophical"  content. 
As  an idea this was very neat and could have been a winner,  but somehow  it 
just ended up being very tasteless. The font used was not appropriate for the 
material, and the ending was nauseating with a loving picture of the author's 
girlfriend and the famous marines photo from WWII edited to contain a Finnish 
flag.  An  ending  like  this for a production that began  with  pictures  of 
massacred people was just too much.

Here's another viewpoint coming up....

Same  goes for entries in the wild compo.  Majority were dullish home  videos 
masquerading  as  action adventures (mostly of the "secret  agent"  variety). 
Okay,  most  had  a nice idea or two,  but still there was direct correlation 
between  sex + violence and positive response from the crowd.  A demo running 
on  Nokia's  9210 PDA was scorned upon loudly - the audience  got  bored  (no 
cheap humor). Appreciation for the technical novelty value was very low.

Calling  it "wild compo" doesn't seem appropriate anymore since nothing  wild 
got  to  the  screen...

I  believe our Alternative Zone was a success,  despite the odds.  We gained
quite  a fair share of media attention and interest -- especially  from  the
people  at  the Oldskool area.  Several pointed out that we were by far  the
most  interesting  portion of that articular section of  Assembly  (although
technically we were not inside it). Analogia even went as far as to say that
our  live  music  competition was the only really  creative  competition  at
Assembly. Much more so than the pre-programmed official music competitions.

I  do not think anyone really had anything against us being there.  At least
nobody  came  up to complain,  except for the few times when we played  some
experimental music rather loud -- and even then it was mostly the organisers
complaining  while the rest of the people seemed fine with it.  We  actually
got  shouts of approval after playing something nice and harsh by '2nd  Gen'
immediately   after   the  pop-focused  mp3  competition.   The  track   was
appropriately   named  "Musicians  are  Morons".   Just  to  shrug  off  any
misunderstandings:  the  organisers were mostly great as well.  Many visited
our tables and were obviously in glee at seeing some of the hardware we  had
with us. Some even insisted on receiving red "ALT" arm bands.

Our most honoured guest was Robert J Mical,  creator of the Amiga. He is the
kind  of  person  who  probably never looks  miserable.  The  best  kind  of
American, with a big smile, big laugh and interested in hearing the silliest
stories. It was obviously bliss for him to see two Amiga500s sitting proudly
at  our Alternative Zone.  I could not resist forcing him to touch an  Atari
Falcon030,  explaining that it is one of the most underrated machines in the
demoscene. He  slid  his fingers across the case and exclaimed with a  broad
smile "this is SO great!".

The realtime reveals a bit more about this famous figure....

Robert J Mical (father of Amiga and Lynx) visited the Alternative Zone to see 
an example of his baby in action.  He saw Viznut's VIC entry for the oldskool 
compo  and was stunned.  He told us about his experiences with Atari and  the 
Lynx.  Apparently  the bosses at the time were complete idiots and  genuinely 
evil.  Well  we all knew that...  Their greed made developers feel pissed off 
with Atari, the Lynx team quit, and nobody was terribly excited with it. This 
resulted in a higher price and bad feeling all round.

He was visibly excited to touch an Atari Falcon.

WARNING! This man (Sam Tramiel) is Evil!

And here, the Alt boys accomplish something never seen before in the whole
history of the Amiga/PC dominated Assembly party.

For the first time in known history Atari Falcon demos were shown on the  big 
screen at Assembly!  We showed Avena's Sono*,  Fit's Maha* (damn, Falcon demo 
names  are  difficult  to remember) and Eko's  System.  It's  unsure  whether 
anybody  really noticed them,  not to mention enjoying them (mostly pelulamus 
in the main area), but if even one person liked them, then we are content.

Now just how did they manage to do THAT!?

The success of the ALT bands is an interesting story in itself. We sold many
of  them to people with an attitude and who were interested in what we  were
doing  and  our  fun machines.  These strips of red cloth with  "ALT"  spelt
across  them turned out to be on of the hottest items at the  event.  People
everywhere could be seen proudly wearing one on their arm,  leg, head or any
other  half suitable place.  Some were even showing off with two bands.  The
funniest  was  seeing  the  winners of the  oldskool  demo  compo  on  stage
collecting  their prizes.  It was basically just a row of freaks wearing red
arm bands. A clear sign of their stance in the world.

What about an Alternative Zone next year? I sort of doubt it. For one thing,
we have this habit of never doing the same thing twice. Must keep one's mind
fresh,  and  all.  Certainly I do not think it would happen in the haphazard
way  it did this time.  While almost everyone loved our little collection of
weirdness,  it  was  really a huge pain to get together and I am  still  not
quite  sure  what the actual Assembly organisers thought of us.  I think  we
were still considered a silly curiosity and maybe even a nuisance.  While it
is certainly rewarding to receive the comments that we did from party-goers,
being considered a nuisance and unwanted is not a nice feeling.

I still strongly believe we brought a colour and diversity to Assembly  that
it benefited greatly from.  Maybe we had some kind of impact somewhere,  and
that would certainly be wonderful.  At the same time,  Assembly can probably
manage fine without us. I am pretty sure some of us will visit in the future
but right now our primary concern is the next Alternative Party. I just hope
enough  people noticed our small contribution to Assembly and will come  and
visit  what  must  be  one  of the most  interesting  events  of  the  whole

Thanks To everyone helping to organise the Alternative Zone:

Mikko Tuomela
Pilvari Pirtola
Tuomas Toivonen
Taneli Saastamoinen
Teemu Hukkanen
Matti Koskimies
Pekka Takala

And  a  special thanks to Jussi Laakkonen (Abyss) for allowing  us  to  take

Kristoffer Lawson | Setok / Aggression |

Can be reproduced freely (although I would like to hear about it).

Alive 3