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Alive 3

Interview with the Authors of STeem!

Here  in  this  issue  of  Alive!   magazine,  we  bring  you  what  is 
hip,  happening,and hot in the world of the authors of the best-selling 
(erm?  -  Ed)   ST   emulator  for the PC,   the  mighty  ST  emulating 
engine,  or 'STeem'.

So without further ado, I give you Anthony and Russell Hayward!

(Who are a pair of very nice chaps who replied back to me only a couple 
of days after I sent them the interview text! At the risk of sounding a 
bit too much like the late Elvis Presley, thank you very much!)

Okay,   to  start  with,  why not give us the usual sordid biographical 
details,  full name,  including any embarrassing middle names,  date of 
birth,   and  the   names  of  any  love-children  that  you  may  have 
accidentally fathered?

We are 2 brothers from the south of England:

Anthony Hayward - 12/12/78 - Hi, I am Ant, I like alternative music and
annoying Russell.   I have just got my maths degree from the University
of  Durham,  graduation  pictures on request.   Steem was originally my
stupid idea, suggested as a joke, as was the stupid name!  I wrote most
of the CPU,  MFP,  sound chip,  bits of FDC etc.   All the code without
spaces  or CapitalLetters and with_underscores is mine,  I can spot  it
cos his looks horrible!   Also assembler graphics including the OSD and
lots of debugging.

Russell Hayward - Haloween 1980 - My likes are complete opposites of my
evil  brother,  I like sport and annoying Anthony.  I'm responsible for
making  Steem  bearable to use,  all the dialogs and options  are  mine
really.  I also wrote the blitter,  most of the ACIAs, MIDI, disk image
handling,  did the website and reply to almost all of the e-mails.  All
my  code  is lovely neat and clear,  his looks like one great  mass  of

Now,   how  did  you come to the ST in the first place,  was Atari your 
first love in computing, or was there something else before that?

R:  We  started  with  a Sega Master System on which  we  played  Astro
Warrior for far longer than it deserved.  Then we moved on to our first
"proper" computer,  a Commodore 64 in about 1990,  that's where Anthony
started  to  program in BASIC.  What I remember is that they were  very
good  and exciting,  but I was very young and they were probably pants!
Then  we  got  our first ST,  we went into a shop and  had  the  choice
between an ST and an Amoeba,  this was a difficult decision at the time
and  who can say whether we were right or not but after we crashed  the
Amoeba in about 2 minutes we plumped for the ST.

A:  Programming  for the C64 was horribly painful with line numbers and
tape drives,  still you've got to learn somewhere.   I think I was born
wanting to program computers,  I wrote one for the C64 before we'd even
got it!   Then on the ST I learnt on GFA Basic and GFA Assembler, wrote
lots  of programs but never really got round to finishing  them.   They
were mainly games.

What  hardware  have you owned down the years?   What do you  currently 
use/play with/code on at the moment?

A:  One STFM,  2 STEs,  Master System,  C64 (now disposed of,  and good
riddance!),  Sony Playstation,  Gameboy, lots of hand-held brick games,
and  a Pentium 2 PC.   We code on the PC,  most of the STs' disk drives
have died,  perhaps due to the strong magnetic fields we have subjected
them to with TVs, PCs etc.  We code using any free development tools we
can get,  Borland's free C++ compiler for Windows,  NASM,  LCC-WIN32 (C
compiler) and gcc and NASM on Linux and BeOS.

Were you active in any shape or form back in the olden days,   when the 
world  was still young,  and the case on your ST wasn't nicotine yellow 
with age?

R:  Not  really,  we  missed  the boat as far as the ST went.  All  our
programs were finished after only one man and his dog still used an  ST
(and there was no way to get our programs to him).

A:  There  were  lots of games we never quite finished,  a rather  good
platformer  called  Mutant Dungbeetle Rampage,  a less good one  called
Warty Warrior, a Bat&Ball game called Bat&Bat&Bat&Bat&Ball (it featured
4  bats!),  3D  maze game called Action Corridor Fun,  Russell wrote  a
football game & a bomberman game.  I did actually finish a tetris clone
and a pretty good art package called Ant Art, if anyone out there wants
a copy then write to us and we'll send you a link!

What made you keen to add another ST emulator,   to what is, let's face 
it, a fairly crowded and competitive marketplace?

A: We actually started writing it as a joke, we were quite new to C and
I said "Hey, let's write an ST emulator ha ha ha ha ha ha!" and he said
alright.   So  we started writing it.   Really it looked like a project
with  many  interesting  aspects,  which wouldn't get boring  like  the
programs  we'd tried to write before.   The silly name STEEm Engine was
taking the mickey out of PaCifiST,  WinSTon etc.  but when it came time
to release the thing we couldn't think of anything better!  We also had
crazy plans to make the window look like an actual Steem Engine, oh how
we joked,  never expecting to release the thing.   We were motivated by
the  feeling  that we could add something to the market,  all the  ones
we'd used had shortcomings.  They were all awkward to use and most were
DOS, bleuurgh!  The WinSTon of the time didn't work very well at all on
our computer, and we didn't find it very easy to use.

Following   on   from the previous question,   what does  STeem  offer,  
that the  other emulators don't?   Where do you think the others get it 

R:  Well  STE features were a big thing that hadn't been done  properly
before, the blitter and hardware scrolling are very useful. Even though
I  wrote  the GUI I still think Steem is easier to use than  any  other
emulator,  beginners  find  most  of it intuitive.  None of  the  other
emulators are as configurable as far as joysticks go, and shortcuts are
a  great  feature,  I control most aspects of Steem from  my  joystick.
Hardware MIDI support was quite revolutionary, and it worked, which was
quite  a shock to me!  Even more remarkable as I wasn't able to test it
myself. We have added hardware RS-232 support to v1.6 of Steem, that is
something I haven't seen before either.

There  are areas where the other emulators have got the edge on  Steem,
almost  all of them are faster.  We have improved the drawing speed but
the  CPU  is as slow as an old dog!  SainT runs demos a lot better,  it
more  accurately  emulates  the  undocumented  features  of  the  video

A: It has an On-screen display with lots of pretty colours  which makes
it  automatically much cooler than the other ones!   I also think Steem
has  by  far the most accurate sound chip emulation.   We get  lots  of
emails criticizing it but they mainly come from people who've got  used
to  other emulators and forgotten what a real ST sounds like!   We send
them a test program which demonstrates their wrongness.

Should  people continue to develop the many diverse ST emulators  there 
are  out   there  at  the moment,   or perhaps try to get together   to  
pool their resources to make one 'ultimate' Atari TOS emulation?

A:  It's  difficult to know how you could bring the different emulators
together.   They've  all  developed separately and probably  work  very
differently.   How  would  you  decide which bits to  dump?   There  is
certainly  some  rivalry  and  secrecy on all  sides  of  the  emulator
developers,  you  could  say it would be better if we all  helped  each
other  out.   But  I  think  it  is good to  have  competition  and  it
encourages us to keep Steem ahead of the rest!

In  your opinion,  how close to the real thing is STeem getting at  the 
moment,  and  how much closer can it get in the future?   Are there any 
brilliant  new  features that you've got in mind that you can  tell  us 

R:  I think we are getting there,  at least 95% of ST programs will now
run  identically  on Steem as they would on a real ST.  It  is  getting
harder and harder to find any programs that give us a chance of finding
a  bug.  As  for new features we would like to add internet  play  some
time,  we  have ideas of how to do it but have no idea whether it would
work  or not.  Apart from that making Steem faster and more accurate is
our  only  goal,  and  stopping  the annoying crashing  that  v1.6  has
started!  We  would  like  to  find a way that Steem  could  use  copy-
protected  disks  so people can make images of their old  games  before
their STs pack up.

A:  We  believe  there's  a  nice,  hardware way of doing  extended  ST
graphics resolutions for GEM,  but we don't know what it is yet.   That
would  be a good thing to put in.   All the other emulators seem to use
TOS-dependent hacking which we don't want to do.

Another  thing  we haven't quite got right  is  raster  screen-effects,
SainT  is the only emulator to do that well.   We'll look at it in  the

Why  do  you think it has taken so long for someone to  get  around  to 
emulating something other than the classic STFM? Why haven't we had STe 
support before  now?

A:  I  think  there's  a number of reasons.   People writing  emulators
probably  didn't write for STEs,  indeed there's not that many  program
that  use the extended features.   Also they are less  well-documented.
Writing  an STFM emulator is hard enough so they probably  didn't  feel
inclined to put in the STE features once they'd done that!

A  technical  curiosity  here,  if STe support is more or less  on  the 
scene,  how   soon   before  we  start to see the first  TT  emulation,  
which  is   a similar generation  of  hardware,   albeit with  a  68030 
CPU,   and  some extra screen modes,   (and  minus  a   blitter..)  How 
difficult would it be  to  add that machine to STeem's repertoire?

A:  As  far  as I can see there isn't much point.   How many people had
TTs,  and  how  much software is there for them - at least that  hasn't
been  massively  overtaken  by software you can get free  for  the  PC?
Also,  we've never had one so we couldn't test it.   I don't think it's
going to happen!

And  to  really  take the piss,  what are the chances for emulation  of 
the  Falcon  '030  on  the PC?  How easy or difficult would  it  be  to 
properly  emulate the  Falcon's hardware architecture,   including  the 
DSP?   I  don't personally think it would be too easy,  but what do you 

A:  Yes,  very difficult!   The DSP would be a difficult job in itself,
and heaven knows what else was in the thing!   Again,  we've never seen
one so we'd be a bit lost.   And once again,  thanks to Atari's bungles
there's not that many people who've got them and not much software  for

Now  we're  getting very silly,   I saw screenshots and read a  report, 
even  briefly   discovered the URL of a Spanish website  containing  an 
entirely new kind of emulator.   This one was for the ZX Spectrum,  and 
in  addition  to  the  usual stuff,  had  an  extra  emulated  graphics 
processor  that  could run classic speccy  games in 256  colours!   (If 
converted beforehand.) Do you think that  something  like this would be 
possible for a future ST emulation.   (Think of classic  Starglider  II  
running in 16 or 24  bit  colour,  with textures!!  Mmmm...)

A:  The  problem  is that the most ST games were written at really  low
level,  to get the most out of the hardware.   There's really no way of
knowing  what  they  are trying to do!   You'd need to do that  if  you
wanted to make it work better.

How  valuable to the continued survival of the Atari Scene do you think 
the  existence and continued development of ST emulators such as  yours 
has been?

R:  I think they are the only hope really,  the ST wasn't built to last
forever  so I should think there will be very few working around  in  a
few years time. If people still want to play those games or watch those
demos they will have to use an emulator.

Is  there anything that an emulator will never be able to do,  that you 
will always need the original hardware for?

R: There are some very complex protection systems that wouldn't be able
to  be  emulated,  using  the cartridge port or a ridiculous  level  of
timing  accuracy  just couldn't be done.  Also reading most  ST  floppy
disks is impossible, a normal PC's FDC isn't capable of it.

To   close   off  this  part of the  interview,   is  there  any  other  
programs or projects   that  you are working on,   either for the Atari 
or the PC, apart from STeem?

R:  Not really, Anthony has been too busy recently even to do Steem and
I  spend most of my time writing e-mails or debugging  programs,  there
really  isn't time for any other projects.  We tend to only be able  to
concentrate on one thing at a time anyway.

Some   more  general  questions now,   what do you think of  the  Atari 
Scene  generally?   Have  reports of our demise (first heard in 1990 or 
thereabouts) been premature, or what!

R:  We really don't know much about the Atari Scene,  it's nice to know
there  are  some  people who still use their  Ataris,  there  was  some
remarkable  software written for the machines that doesn't  deserve  to

Did you ever subscribe to the old rivalries,   such as ST vs the Amiga? 
(Such  pointless bickering, ahhh, glorious days!)

R: Yes, we try to destroy the souls of Amoeba owners as much as we can!

Wintel PeeCee, slavery, liberation, or perhaps something else?

R: I don't think it is as bad as everybody says, Linux will be a viable
alternative  in  the  future and AMD already makes  superior  chips  to

A:  PCs  are  so massively powerful and cheap these days,  I think it's
silly to yearn for the days when computers could do less.  But they say
limitation  makes for great art and that's why the ST had  great  games
like Bombjack and the PC doesn't!

Does Bill Gates take the wee-wee or what?!   (My own answer to that is, 
yes he does, then renames it to MS Urine Millenium Edition!)

A:  He  has  been  very good at selling duff products like  MS-DOS  and
Windows 3.1 to an ignorant public.   Windows ME stinks!  But he must be
doing  something right to be the richest man in the world,  I think  it
was making computers (at least appear to be) easy-to-use.

If  this  rumoured Playstation 2 Linux add-on box does  take  off,  any 
chance of a port of STeem to it (grin!)

R:  I  haven't heard of that particular add-on but the Linux version of
Steem  is almost ready to be released,  there is a lot of 486 only code
in Steem unfortunately so it would be quite a job to convert it to work
on any other platform.

Infogrammes or the Tramiel family, which annoys you the most!?

R: I have infinite hatred for both!

A: I love them all!

Demo's, love 'em or hate 'em?

A:  Hate  trying to get them to work on Steem!   And I'm not sure I can
see  the  point.   On the ST,  I never knew the hardware well enough to
write or appreciate a good demo - of course, I know better now!

R:  I think there were a huge number of very impressive demos on the ST
but  spending time trying to emulate them seems a waste of time to  me.
With the power of an average PC you could write one hell of a demo!

What   are/were  your favourite game/demo/serious applications  on  the  
ST or STe?

R:  We played Captive,  Civilisation, Mega-lo-mania an awful lot on our
STs,  they  were great games.  As for serious applications I think that
GFA Basic is really good, most of our ST programming was done using it.

A: Bombjack!

Are you getting tired? Is this interview dragging on too long?

A: Yes.

R: I'm fine for another 2000 lines.

And  finally  to  finish this interview off,  in your opinion,  what is 
the meaning of life?  (Giving the answer "42" is not original,  clever, 
or funny  anymore!)

R: 42.

A: The meaning of life is to emulate obsolete computers for the benefit
of a small group of appreciative nostalgists!

Thanks for your valuable time, have a nice day..

Both: Bye!


I hope that is all okay, it's a bit long, feel free to cut any bits you
like (especially Ant's bits).

Anthony and Russell Hayward

Steem - ST emulation made easy:

Alive 3