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Alive 4
           The Edit-Man returns!
        And this time, it's personal!

Lots of little bits and pieces,  all of them quite trivial,  as an editor is
apt to do when he's all written out with temporary textual exhaustion. Let's
see what happens here...

Well,  here  goes,  with an unashamed wallow  in the acid bath of nostalgia.
With my  general  decline and fall on  the  Atari scene pretty well known by
now,  I'm sure you're all asking  how did I get into this computery lark  in
the first place?

It  was twenty years ago today!  - Well,  it was twenty years ago last Xmas,
possibly  the  best and certainly the most influential Xmas  present  of  my
life.  Yes,  my first computer, not an Atari, but one of those superb little
black boxes made by Clive Sinclair, and still one of the best in my opinion,
a ZX81!   In those days, there were Atari computers, the  400 and 800 series
but these  were  expensive luxury  items,  and the ZX81 was one of the first
brave attempts to make the whole computing thing more affordable.  Praise be
to the bearded one, Clive Sinclair, that is, not Osama Bin Laden!

Now what about my first  contact with any form of computer?  This was, about
a  year  or  so before  when  I was at school.   In those dark  days,  there
was  no  budget for 'Information Technology',  and the money for that  first
school machine (a Z80 powered beast called a Research Machines RML 380Z) had
to be raised privately.  So what  about a policy  for user access, and those
vital  IT  educational needs?   Well I seem to remember the maths department
took it all  for  themselves, stuck it in a disused music room,  and let the
rest of us come and look from a safe distance,the mythical machine protected
from stray fingers, faintly glowing green 9 inch monitor and all! From those
very lame beginnings, computer education had a hell of a long way to go!

Back  to that slightly later point in the past,  I was pre-warned that I was
getting  my  ZX81,  so  I  was able to immerse myself in the  world  of  the
computer magazines that were just appearing at the time. At the recent third
Alternative party,  skimming around EBay, I spotted an auction running for a
copy of that very first magazine I ever bought,  the November issue of 'Your
Computer'!  Cold  fingers  of remembrance travelled down my back,  as I  saw
this auction.

I  read,  and  re-read that damn magazine from cover to cover,  for a  month
before  I  got the computer.  What motivated people back then?  It certainly
wasn't  the demos,  because no-one was even at the primeaval stage of a demo
scene.  Games  appeal was certainly a part of it,  even the crude and blocky
graphics  of a ZX81 looked appealing in those days.  But most dominant,  was
the  sheer novelty,  and unknown quality of the thing.  If someone said that
you could control a nuclear power station with one of these,you feckin' well
believed  it.  The possibilities of playing those blocky funny little games,
and perhaps making your own,  or making something else entirely, was a fatal
attraction.  The magazines of the period showed the way, with loads of type-
in  listings,  and  tantalising hints of people who were getting  the  basic
machines to do far more than  they  could normally hope to do.  I kept a few
issues of  'Your Computing'  for my  permanent  archive, but that one didn't
make it, for some reason.

Yes, even then, it was a kind of magic!

So CiH,  I hear you ask, with such a huge head start, why aren't you now the
head coder at Electronic Arts,  with a twenty year industry pedigree?  Well,
the other thing I discovered that, with reference to programming and coding,
I  was too damn lazy!  I did get as far as writing a few not very good,  but
possibly  interesting  programs on my next computer,  the rare and  fabulous
Enterprise 64, but that is another story, for another day.

Insane moments on a ZX81 - Not having a tape recorder, but typing in a whole
machine  code program in one go.  This was a pure jumble of seemingly random
keyboard  characters,  no  assembly  language,  or assembler,  the whole lot
activated by a single POKE statement.  One wrong key-press, and it would all
self-destruct! Amazingly, it ran (a City-Bomber game in 1k) and it was quite
good,  and  I played it for about half an hour,  then I switched the machine
off, meaning I would have to type it all in again if I wanted another go!

The ZX81 had no sound capability at all,  not a drop, but someone managed to
fake it somehow,  with a type-in 'ZX81 Organ'.  This worked,  but I wouldn't
say the end result was that brilliant,  and it killed off the screen, so you
couldn't  have sound and vision in the same place.  But this was a long time
before they invented 'multimedia', so that was okay then!

There is a pretty good emulator of the ZX81 for Atari STs and above,  it's a
few years old now, but seems to run all the classic stuff flawlessly. It was
interesting to take a look at a lot of the commercial games that I never got
around to checking out originally. Why not give it a go yourself?

Okay, and over to the tricky topic of Mekka Symposium.  You may ask if it is
worth going? Sure, they have an Atari section for the first time since 1996,
but is it  anything more than a  patronising gesture from the bigger  PC and
Amiga scenes,  secretly hoping for a poorly attended  washout as final proof
of  the  death of  Ataridom.  Or  could it  be something  else,  as good and
enthusiastic people choose to go along,  to blaze the name of Atari, and the
Atari scene with pride, and show some hot new asskicking releases?!

Well, I have information, closely guarded and confidential information, that
seriously suggests that an Easter visit to Symposium might well be worth the
effort after all! I can't reveal any names at this point in time,but I would
say that one  of them was seriously  considering putting  their demo in a PC
emulator and showing it at Symposium that way,  before the Atari section was
announced!  Is it going to be a  classic party to match last year's Error in
Line, well on the available evidence, it could come pretty close!

Anyway, Easter wouldn't be the same without a major coding party to go to!

Finally, is 2002 going to be the year that the Atari scene breaks out of the
"Odd numbered years good demos, even numbered years crap releases" sequence,
it  has  been  stuck in since 1995.  This year could be the year that breaks
that alternatively  inspiring and depressing cycle at last. ALL years should
be good ones!

Okay,  that's  all from me,  I hope STS makes a better job of filling up his
chunk of column inches than I did with this lot.

See you next time.

CiH - Feb '02


   Well I can see that Chris  has already filled some space, what is a relief
since I don't know what I should bore you  with. As  you can see we are still
ALIVE and therefore proud to bear that  name and label :) Sure you never know
when next issue's going to  be  released, and  neither do we. Working on such
project is no small task : you need to mail as many people as possible to see
who's going to help (except for regular writers), most of the time you almost
have to harass them  with  emails as  they 'tend' to  forget that  they first
offered to write and some contributions are still supposed to hit my mailbox.
Surely next time guys...

   We've started another year in the new  millenium and things are going quiet
and peaceful in our small world. Sure there are not so many  of us still doing
things but there are always unannounced projects in progress and I'm sure that
the MEKKA SYMPOSIUM will bring us a couple of sweeties ! I don't think I'll be
there and I need to tell  you  why : first  I usually work till Saturday noon,
what already reduces my party presence from to many hours. Then the partyplace
is about as far as Dresden for me, except  that I don't feel any motivation to
drive that long  this time. And above all the presence of more than a thousand
PC Sceners would get on my nerves after  ten seconds and  then I'd draw out my
favourite knife and tear them to pieces ! But if you're not a psycho and above
all if you wanna show them what we are up to, then  don't have second thoughts
and attend the party !! I really hope great things will come out of this.

   Regarding parties, here  comes  the  lame  part. Some  time ago I rumoured a
Coding Party  at  my  place  where  there is that  huge  WW1 bunker, renewed of
course. It could be a great partyplace, in a peaceful corner of my village, not
far from Germany and supermakets (no common point to be seen here :). BUT... of
course there is a BUT. I remember Grey putting up  Sillyventure 2000 all alone.
the party was cool but there was no giant  screen, no movie  shown nor anything
to entertain us. Also there was no food service and above all Grey had to spend
his time running everywhere, trying to  handle everything  at once. We all know
he lost quite a lot of money because of that party and I don't want to make the
same mistake. That's  why I  dropped some  messages on  DHS and on French Atari
newsgroups to find reliable supporters and  potential organizers. Unfortunately
no real help was  offered, either guys  offered to promote or attend the party,
or some guy living 700kms far from my place wanted to give a hand (by phone ?).
Sorry guys, I really wish there  was a summer party in  France and a nice party
above all but I'm not superman and cannot work on alive + some gfx AND organize
a party all alone. Therefore I hope you'll  understand that at this stage, this
party is nothing more  than a  dream I hope that'll come true some day but with
extra support. End of announcment.

   Back to ALIVE now and more precisely to the charts launched in the previous
issue. I only received a couple of  votesheets so that  there will NOT  be any
results before long. I just feel none of  us care about fame and rank anymore.
It's true that  competition  is  long dead  in our  Scene but I don't think we
should lament. Feeling  superior to  someone is  not the  kind of feeling that
pushes to improving. I'd rather mail people and  tell them how and why I liked
or disliked what they did, thus making  this a bit more constructive. So let's
forget about the charts, unless you wish to send me some votesheets :)

    For the rest, you will find the  usual contents here with news, interviews,
party reports, demos and games reviews plus some loony articles. Enough to feed
your brain for a while before we strike back (in another 3 or 4 months ? :). We
hope you'll enjoy this new  issue and will  feel brave enough to give us a hand
with the following issue.

    Take care ATARI fellows..........

PS : I planned to write some lines about Moondog's UCM and respond to his 
article about "how bad UCM had been" but I think it's not even worth it...

Alive 4