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Alive 5

CiH shares some Coding Party memories with you..

I had this idea entirely separately and independently from STS, honest!

I briefly thought about doing something like this in the dying weeks  before
issue four was due to appear, on the basis that some gap somewhere needed to
be plugged,  and what better than a quick and cheap article about some of my
past attendances at some (in)famous coding parties.

But  then,  I  figured you would all be partied out from my extra large  ALT
Party report and realtime article, so this could wait awhile. Also it seemed
that  we  weren't  doing so badly on the article count after  all,  and  the
subsequent packed issue proved me right there (grin!)

So  I  was pleased and surprised to see that STS had got in there  with  the
same idea as myself.  Only pausing to stop and think "Fourteen parties since 
1994?  Way to go pal!" I'm kicking off with my version,  in this tepic post-
issue four period,  before all the other good stuff,  such as the Mekka/Symp
party, and the CT60 turn up.

A hesitant cough, and a false start.

Spring 1994, and I get an invitation to go to some strange and funny looking
event  somewhere in Germany called 'Fried Bits'.  It looks very interesting,
and  I'm gratified that someone has decided that I'm 'famous' enough  to  be
invited. But there are some large problems. Firstly, the invite has not left
me  with  very  much time to respond,  say about two to three  weeks  before
Easter.  At  that  time,  I worked at a place where getting the time off you
wanted required months of planning in advance. (This is a topic which I will
come back to, slightly later in the story!)

The second,  and  bigger problem,  is financial,  or a rather severe lack of
these.  I had just started this job, after a period of unemployment for some
months, so the money simply wasn't there. The third barrier was thrown up by
my  imminent  attendance  of a UK-based science  fiction  convention  called
'Inconceivable'.  Yes,  you  might  recall from the earlier 'teen' issues of
Maggie,  that  I was into the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy official  fan
club,  otherwise known as 'ZZ9 Plus Alpha' at that time.  This was expensive
enough itself, and was going to take up all my available travelling money.

(Damn,  I  might include a special add-on section detailing these parties as
well! There were three that I went to altogether, The 'Dangercon', which was
a  day in Croydon spent getting drunk in celebration of the  cartoon  series
'Danger Mouse! The epic 'Vocon', an official ZZ9 event, where I got involved
to  the  extent  of dressing up,  and the 'InCon' where I learned  the  true
meaning of all-night weed and booze sessions! - Supplement to follow!)

Between my ZZ9 activities, and a tendency of a small group of us local Atari
enthusiasts to raid the Atari specific events and the mainstream trade shows
of the time,  my travelling needs were well taken care of, and at that time,
a  foreign  coding party held little appeal.  (ECTS query for Mr  Pink,  are
there still lots of free-loaders who shouldn't really be there,  still going
to that one?!)

(And here's another possible side-topic,  Computer shows, I've been to loads
of these,  and I've got loads of stories!  Another article to follow for the
next issue then! so CiH, stay on topic you fool!)

We're getting nowhere fast,  are we?  I've come up with the probability of a
couple  of other articles on a similar theme,  but this narrative has hardly
progressed at all!

A  year  later,  and  another invite arrives just a few scant  weeks  before
Easter.  This  is for what was to become one of the legendary Atari parties,
the 3rd Fried Bits.  I am marginally keener than last year, Mr Pink is going
with  one  or two other Brits,  but from my end.  the finances really aren't
still up to it.  I've also got the distraction of the forthcoming Maggie 5th
anniversary,  and  I'm  planning something for that,  which leads me  nicely

Party #1 
Name: The Maggie 5th Birthday Party.
Date: August 1995.
Location: Rilton Hotel, Rushden, and my place.
Distance: About twenty to thirty metres away from each other!

Now most people attend a few parties, before they get delusions of grandeur,
and decide they'd like a crack at organising one themselves.  My first party
happened  to be an event that I held and organised,  almost  singlehandedly,
with some useful assistance rendered by Felice on the transport front.

The  total number of people that cycled through it would number  "less  than 
twenty",  with  a  hardcore of around nine or ten people staying at my  tiny
apartment the nights before and after. Believe me, that small number is very
big,  when  it  comes  to  fitting everyone in,  with two or  three  Falcons
running,  and  an  ancient  PeeCee portable for the realtime  article  in  a
postage-stamp sized dwelling, at the height of summer!

The main aim of the party was to celebrate the fifth anniversary of  Maggie,
and to release the first issue (issue 18) with the new Falcon shell. With Mr
Pink  working very hard throughout,  and with Tat attending to provide  that
glorious  3-D  intro,  we  just  about managed it,  knocking out  the  first
'production'  copies at a very late time on the Saturday night,  when people
were  dropping  fast  through lack of sleep.  We even managed  to  supply  a
birthday cake for the Sunday morning after!

Key moment of that party was my first sighting of the new Maggie shell. When
Mr  Pink  brought  it  up onscreen for the first  time,  I  was  emotionally
overcome enough to ring Slimer, the editor of DBA Mag, to tell him how great
it looked! And yes, he was in the Netherlands, but I didn't care!

Attendees included,  myself,  Felice,  Mr Pink, Ripley, Sh3, Tat, Rich Davey 
(Falcon  Owners  Group),  John 'VoGue' Knott,  Mike Noyce (ST News),  Gareth 
Smith,  Mark and Dave James at the party, Ralph Lovesey (Impact Software and 
footy  game  'Team') and a couple of unnamed local Atari  loving  dudes  who
thought that a MIDI-linked bash of Sub-Station would be a nice touch!

There  would  have been at least *one* more person attending,  the  youthful
owner of 'Power PDL', James Matthews, but he got "Northampton" and "Taunton"
mixed up on his train ticket and didn't make it, and we never let him forget
it afterwards!

A full blow-by-blow account is available in Maggie issue 19.

Party #2
Name: Symposium '96.
Date: Easter 1996.
Location: Hittfeld, near to Hamburg.
Distance: Too bloody far to go by coach!

I  was  impressed by Mr Pink's post-party report which described  the  Fried
Bits part 3.  It seemed that all Atari scene life was there to see,  and not
just  the visible demo releases,  but all the undercurrents and super-secret
works in progress were exposed to daylight briefly.  Anyway, I now wanted to
go to the next Easter party, very very much.

The opportunity presented itself early in '96,  where we organised ourselves
somewhat sooner than the regulation three weeks prior to the event, and yes,
there was sufficient spare cash this time. A group of us, Mr Pink, Tat, Mike 
Noyce,  Kev 'Taff' Davies,  Arnel, Felice, and myself arranged a coach trip,
on  the  basis that travelling conditions would be basic,  but it  would  be
cheap. Any thought of going by car was still a few years off.

So  we wobbled over on that cold bright April day,  and overnight across the
darkened autobahns,  not quite getting any sleep.  Bleary eyed,  we stumbled
into some big trouble at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof,  as Arnel was accosted by
a  drunk  knifeman in a cafe!  We escaped that one,  as the man was just too
drunk  to do much apart from threaten us,  in that special 'drunk'  language
used by nine out of ten idiots worldwide!  All of this,  and our progress at
the party, was faithfully recorded on a realtime article, paper-based in the
absence of any sort of portable computer. This seemed to work pretty well.

The party itself was very tightly packed,  with the Atari folk jammed into a
small classroom. Unlike the Atari only Fried Bits parties of previous years,
this was a combined event with PeeCee and Amiga sceners,  who frankly didn't
impress  us  with their demeanour.  When they weren't ignoring us  and  each
other,  they decided that some drunken pilfering of food supplies was a neat

Others,  who had attended  previous Fried Bits parties, rated this party as
disappointing.  I would say,  it did sort of half-live up to its potential.
The  best  moment  on  the  big  screen  came,  with  the  showing  of some
unforgettable  4k  Falcon  intros  that  really  stretched  the  art of the
possible back then.

Felice  camcordered  quite a bit of the party, and  thankfully  managed  to
capture these.  This  was  the  night when the Falcon '030 was pressed into
service for some  religious  flame-effect based propaganda,  courtesy of an
outfit called 'Spirits',  who were  determined  to take the "happy" and the
"clappy" out  of  contemporary christian worship!

I  also  spotted some early work in progress for  Sonoluminescenz  on  Tat's
Falcon,  which  nearly  made  it out as a 96ktro.  (I've still got  a  title 
sequence and a couple of effects, where you can see where the later demo was 
influenced from it!) I was also pleased to see that the 'Doomino' 3-D engine
from  Fried  Bits,  was finally turning into the game called 'Running'.  The
96ktro's were poor though,  and we missed the main demo competition, four of
us  having to start back early for our protracted journey back.  On the  way
back,  we did briefly meet Richard 'ST News' Karsmakers,  the one light spot
in  a very gruelling journey home.  I would say that this first real  coding
party, was nothing, if not memorable!

Next  time,  and  forever after,  we decided that we weren't going again  by
Eurolines coach!  You can read all about it in Maggie issue 20.

Sili '97, a missed opportunity..

Because,  or  perhaps some people might say,  in spite of our experiences at
Symposium  '96,  I  was  keen  for more of this  coding  party  mayhem.  The
Siliconvention  was a return to the famous Fried Bits venue at  Bremen.  The
Atari scene saw the future at Symp '96,  decided it didn't like it, and went
back  to  a defiantly single-scene stance the following year.  As the  post-
party  report,  by the extremely helpful Mr Pink shows,  this was another of
the  legendary  Atari parties of all time,  dominated by Tat's DSP  smashing
demo 'Sonoluminescenz', among a host of class releases.

And  where  was  I at that time?  Well,  by the time that things were  being
organised  in  January  1997,  the  available time  off  around  Easter  had
*already* been booked off by others at work, so I couldn't go. The bastards!

Party #3 
Name: Alternative Party.
Date: Easter 1998.
Location: Turku, Finland.
Distance:  About  two  and  a half hours flight time,  then 200  miles  road

I  got  my  next shot at going the following year,  as the  now  traditional
Easter event went a bit vague and undecided from an Atari point of view.  In
steps  Setok,  a  strange long-haired Finnish-Irish hybrid,  who organises a
party called 'Alternative',  not specifically an Atari party,  but an event,
where 'old' computers of any age or denomination were welcome.

So  with  a mounting sense of interest at going to such a  faraway  country,
Felice and I took off from Heathrow airport in the teeth of a raging  storm.
We had picked up a fellow traveller,  IRC fan Martin 'Q-Funk' Racine who had
jetted  in  overnight  from  Canada.  When we got to  Finland,  we  met  the
Fishpoolers,  and  stayed  at  the  house of  top  Aggression  coder  Wiztom
overnight,  dodging  a couple of comedy drunken middle-aged men on the train
over there.  Then a journey to Turku in the morning,  in the tightest packed
car possible. Not a single square inch of space was left unused! Where there
weren't people, there were bags, and where there weren't bags, people sat!

At  the party venue,  a place called the Palatsi in Turku,  we were reunited
with Mr Pink,  Sh3,  and Arnel,  who decided to come over as well. I left my
realtime notebook at the offices of Fishpool, but managed to improvise a new
one  on  handtowel paper!  (This actually survived intact  until  relatively
recently, September 2001, when I moved house and had to chuck a lot of stuff
away.)  Pink  and  Sh3 decided to write their own  version  of  the  classic
Frogger  game  which we know as Bugger!  We saw quite a large Swedish  Atari
representation,  and  one  or two stray Dutchmen,  but Alt was otherwise  an
overwhelmingly local event.

We  enjoyed this one so much,  that some of us forgot about sleeping for the
first couple of days, and by the end, sudden nap attacks would - ZzzzZZZ!

In spite of a brave 4ktro effort from the Dead Hackers society,  and a study
in  black and white from the absentee Senior Dads,  there wasn't too much in
the  way of new demos coming from the Atari scene,  but we were entranced by
the  sparkling  productions coming from the local MSX 8-bit scene,  and  the
competition winner? An ace Vic 20 demo!

The  post-party  period  was a lot more relaxed and  satisfactory  than  the
hellish apres-Symposium journey home, and so it was that (some) of us UK'ers
went into the sauna, and found it a lot less scary than we thought!

I  enjoyed  Alt a lot,  even though it wasn't a classic Atari  scene  Easter
party. I hoped there would be another one sometime.

You can catch the full lowdown for this one in Maggie 26.

Party #4 
Name: Error in Line.
Date: Easter 1999.
Location: Dresden, Germany.
Distance: A couple of shortish flights and a very short car journey.

Time  moves  on,  and  life  changes,  and  I change jobs,  and pick  up  an
unexpected  leaving  present  at the same time.  Her name is Nicky!  She  is
sceptical about me going to this next Easter party,  but seems to accept the
fact.  But  the  night  before,  she suddenly turns unhappy about me  going,
imagining  that I'm not coming back!  Damn these emotional complications!  I
started  the  party journey,  normally a joyous occasion on something  of  a
downer,  and didn't really recover until we were well airborne. (These days,
she  is a lot more laid back,  her response to the impending Mekka/Symposium
2002 trip was "Is it a one-way ticket then?") Thanks dear ;-)

Anyway,  me,  Felice,  and  Requiem  (Rich  Davey)  make use of  Lufthansa's
considerable  travelling  expertise to get to Dresden,  changing  planes  at
Frankfurt,  boggling  at the US Airforce transports and tanker planes on the
adjacent military base. This was at the height of when they were bombing the 
crap out of Yugoslavia! We are met by Joe Cool, and transported to our venue
at GAG 18,  a club in a pre-war cellar.  This was the most atmospheric party
venue so far!  In the far corner,  we find Mr Pink,  MSG,  and Arnel. We are
shown  to  relatively comfortable sleeping quarters in a junkroom,  and  are
kept hilariously awake by Requiem's nocturnal tonsil rattling.

Next day, the party is in full swing, and we get to meet all kinds of people
for  the  first time,  including Grey and the other Polish Sceners,  and all
sorts of other people, whom we know by name, but haven't really properly met
in person.  These included our dear co-editor STS,  for the first time,  who
seemed  to  be in between roles,  shortly before he got given the  editorial
keys to the Undercover Magascene.

Someone with a sadistic sense of humour decided to put 'Maggie' in the  same
room  as 'Undercover',  but Moondog turned out to be a very nice chap in the
flesh, and the rest of The Naughty Bytes were great pals, especially FXL! We
ran a successful realtime diary, this one almost fully electronic, thanks to
Joe Cool,  on a mutant Mega ST, which only worked when propped up in a weird
position,  and  suffered  from intermittent failure if nudged slightly.  The
realtime  survived quite well in fact,  thanks to careful saving and backing

The other thing I did for the party, a one-off 'special' Maggie issue called
'The Psycho-Babble Project',  my anti-UFO issue, wasn't quite as successful,
not working very well on a lot of machines. This subsequently crept out some
months later.

As  for the demo competitions,  well,  you all know what happened very well!
Needless to say, I felt I had finally witnessed the magic of a classic Atari
scene party to set alongside the likes of the legendary Fried Bits and  Sili
'97  that I had missed out on previously.   Read all about this party,  with
the expanded and separate realtime article, in Maggie 28.

Party #5 
Name: Sillyventure 2000.
Date: Easter 2000.
Location: Gdansk, Poland.
Distance: Fun fun fun on the Autobahn!

For  the  first  Easter  party  of the  new  millenium,  there  were  a  few
significant  changes.  Firstly, it  was being held in Poland,  not a strange
place  to hold a computer party in,  I might add,  but certainly strange and
faraway  for  the  rest of us non-Poles.  Secondly,  in another instance  of
"running  before  we  learned  to  walk  properly"  (see  the  Maggie  Party
reportlet!) We opted to go to this one by car!

So the days before found five of us travelling in the same vehicle, with all
the baggage that went with it,  and a host of computers, a video beamer, all
manner of taped media,  in fact, almost enough gear to go into business as a
television station!  Felice had to leave some of it behind, otherwise no-one
was going  anywhere.  In that car,  were Felice,  myself,  Matt 'Neo' Smith, 
Franky, and John 'Asteroid' Hayward.

A  quick  drive to Harwich,  then a welcome comfort-stop in the form of  the
Harwich  to  Hook  of  Holland ferry.  Then our  first  encounter  with  the
continental road system,  Dutch style,  slow and hesitant at first, but more
and  more  confident as we went on.  We met with the Atari  scene's  tallest
graphician, Havoc, and stopped overnight in his high rise (appropriate for a
tall  person!) apartment in Enschede.  The next day found us heading  across
Germany  on the ever-interesting autobahn system.  Although we covered a lot
of  ground,  the protracted wait to cross the Polish border (with real armed
border guards) dropped us into darkness with most of Poland still to cover.

We  soon learned we had crossed into a really 'foreign' foreign country,  as
almost no-one knew English.  We did find a motel manager who did, and we had
a  brilliant nights rest,  punctuated only by the sounds of lightly  uttered
and incomprehensible threats coming from the outer darkness! Next day saw us
tackle the mysteries of the Polish road system,  with not a lot of motorway,
and  quite  a  bit of long and winding stuff,  dangerous overtaking  on  the
bends, of countless Polski Fiat 126's kept us all awake!

Eventually we arrived on the Friday afternoon, and met Grey in the shadow of
the Solidarity building, and we were whisked off to a school in some obscure
locale where the party was in full swing.  Notable at the party,  were a lot
of  Polish 8-bit sceners,  who kept us amused on the Sunday with playing  of
the  best of their awesome demos,  the ever-curious Swedes,  even some dudes
from Satantronic. I'll skip the drunken show-off Amiga people who turned up,
and were asked to leave...

The  weather  was  glorious throughout,  and we took full advantage  on  the
Saturday, when we were given a guided tour of the nicely sunny and (rebuilt)
medieval city,  where we discovered more about the Polski's slowly coming to
terms with western Europe. When they do, then will a lot of that cool Polish
character  unfortunately  be lost?  Some unprovoked comedy  nakedness  came,
courtesy of a couple of the NoCrew guys,  and it all ended in the inevitable
beer at the end of the pier!

Sunday  was relaxed,  the competitions took far too long,  as Grey struggled
with the entries.  There were some nice entries,  including a very promising
3D  DSP buster following in Tat's footsteps in a Polski style,  but  nothing
quite able to match the glories of the previous years EIL party.  By 3am, we
were dead on our feet.

Still, there was one last lovely surprise, as we had a little bit of a party
afterwards at Grey's parents,  who really went to a lot of trouble there. It
only  remains  to  briefly  describe  the  non-stop  and  largely  overnight
journeython  from Gdansk to Enschede.  It was a good job there were three of
us taking turns in driving!

This  longest and luckiest road trip was a debut and a half into the art  of
long-distance  intercontinental driving.  Truly we felt we could go anywhere
now,  and  any  way we liked!  We liked Poland a lot,  especially the female

There  was an intermittent realtime diary,  mainly organised by John Hayward
on  his  ancient  Toshiba laptop,  a notebook and paper based  one  started,
sputtered, and never got anywhere.

This  one  appears,  sleep-fuzzed nighttime autobahn antics and all,  in the
Maggie 10th anniversary issue.

Party #6 
Name: 2nd Alternative Party. (2 Alt)
Date: July 2000.
Location: Helsinki, Finland.
Distance: About the same as the first Alt, but a lot more cheaply!

And  what a vintage year for parties this was proving to be!  A summer rerun
of  that  first fun Alternative Party was in the offing.  It was  a  reduced
attendance  of myself and Felice for this one,  as we discovered the joys of
budget  flying.  Helsinki and back in a big bright yellow aircraft,  and all
for the price of a tin of beans, seemingly.

We  had the pleasure of spending our out of party time with Setok,  and  the
mixed pleasure of helping with a lot of the fetching and carrying. Never has
Fishpool  seemed  to have so many portable contents!  This one was  back  in
Helsinki, in another underground location. There's a PhD awaiting the person
who  manages  to crack the link between minority demo scenes,  and deep  and
dark underground places!

We managed to get to see a Commodore 64 Deejay, sleep in a bombproof lecture
room, watched some very old episodes of 'Dr Who', eat at Raxxes, the all you
can  stuff into yourself before you explode pizza  restaurant,  accidentally
blag  a  free  breakfast from the university cafe,  and more.  I managed  to
organise a realtime which was really the one that we should have done at the
first Alt party, in a nice neat notebook sort of concept.

The competitions were a bit less novel than the first time, the serious demo
makers mostly stayed away, apart from local boys 'Fit', who deservedly won a
first prize with a very respectable Falcon effort. I even got as far as some
making  some  primitive sound synthesis,  with some even more primitive  MP3
making techniques,  and comedy samples,  to make a competition entry for the
weird and obscure music compo. It got third place, which was pretty good
going against strong local opposition.

After party,  we did even more fetching and carrying. I still get flashbacks
to that time consisting of endless table and chair carrying! Still, we got a
suitable payoff with a killer sauna party where we were allowed to drink  as
much as we could! Quite a big deal in Finland, where alcohol costs nearly as
much as a games console!

2 Alt would not be a major scene event, but it would certainly be remembered
as a cool summer vacation of a party!

You  can  see  this,  nestling up to the SV2000 report,  in the Maggie  10th
anniversary issue.

Party #7 
Name: STNICCC 10th Anniversary.
Date: Weekend before Xmas, December 2000.
Location: Sassenheim, The Netherlands.
Distance: Quite a tidy and compact journey by car.

The ST News International Christmas Coding Convention 10th Anniversary issue
not  only wins the award for the longest unabbreviated title,  but also  the
golden prize for the longest lead time,  as memory serves me to tell that it
was an event we were waiting for over a couple of years or so before it took

Felice,  myself  and  John  Hayward went by car this time,  along the  well-
established Harwich-Hook route,  ending up at the house of legendary diskmag
editor,  Richard Karsmakers, sometime very late on. (And after a performance
in the Utrecht city centre which is still being pulled off their CCTV  tapes
for the next episode of the Dutch version of "Police! Camera! Carnage!")

("And look Pieter, those mad bastards are going UP the cycle path now!")

The  venue was at the most luxurious place yet,  a business training  school
called  'Lanalyst',  Rich K's workplace.  Mega sponsorship from the likes of
Electronic  Arts  meant  that the admission price was very  cheap,  and  the
catering was top notch!  The chinese style banquet on the final evening even
surpassed the efforts of the EIL team, and the coke (a cola) was FREE! Truly
we had entered scener heaven?

The congregation differed quite a bit from the normal Atari scene gathering.
Apart  from  some familiar tSCc and Checkpoint dudes who  ventured  over,  a
number of current Dutch scene fans, and ourselves, the STNICCC was dominated
by legendary ancient scene personalities,  such as The Exceptions, and a lot
of hairy,  or nearly hairless Dutch and French people. We were even reunited
with Maggie founder-editor,  Michael 'Sammy Joe' Schussler,  a good job too,
as we were working to get the very delayed tenth anniversary issue of Maggie
out. We just about did it as well.

Surprise  party attender,  Carbon,  who normally considers anywhere south of
Derby as 'foreign' in itself!

Other good spots of the party included unlimited internet access,  thanks to
the facilities of Lanalyst,  and an interesting series of competitions which
exceeded  many people's expectations.  I even acted as a member of the three
man  judging  panel.  No  votesheets here!  We also spotted our  first  Nuon
devkit,  running  something very swirly by Jeff Minter on it.  Demo's on the
Oric Atmos? Who did that? Dbug of Next!

There was a good realtime article,  an official one too,  not quite reaching
the textual excesses of the original STNICCC,  but respectable in itself. My
STe  drew  a  few  affectionate grumbles as to the  spongy  quality  of  the
keyboard.  Shows that some people have spent more time than is good for them
on a PeeCee?

There was an aftermath here too, as Felice managed to whisk John H off for a
magical  mystery  tour  of the Amsterdam red light  district,  with  a  more
general follow-up visit the day after!

The   STNICCC   was  refreshingly  different,   with  a  heady  mixture   of
unprecedented luxury, and ancient sceners rediscovering the reasons why they
did it in the first place. It was also the biggest relief for me personally,
to finally get the 10th Anniversary issue of Maggie out of the way!

This one found its way into the pages of Alive! issue 2

Party #8 
Name: Error in Line Second Edition.
Date: Easter weekend 2001.
Location: Dresden again.
Distance: By car, through snow and storm, and foot and mouth!

When  it  was first announced,  we were so excited!  A second edition of the
greatest  Atari scene party of recent years.  Anticipation was further built
upon by the news of various long-awaited productions being carefully leaked.
It couldn't be as great as the first one, surely?

The  journey  was  as  interesting as it could be,  with a  foot  and  mouth 
epidemic  raging,  and  midnight confiscations of chocolate biscuits by  the 
Dutch army. The police took an interest in us at Enschede too, but they took
one  look,  and  decided  we could go on.  We stopped over at Havoc's  place
again,  the tall building for even taller people.  On Friday,  our passenger
load for Dresden increased,  as we took NUT of FUN,  then picked up Creature
XL.  We  were  close  to maximum load capacity,  as we struggled  through  a
succession of storms to Dresden.

When we got to the Cellar club,  it was as if we had never been away for the
past  two years!  The Reservoir Gods had blown the cobwebs from  themselves,
and  were showing new signs of life,  John 'Asteroid' Hayward had got  there
ahead of us, The Polski's were exceedingly friendly, with promises of vodka-
fuelled fun later on.  Almost all the participants from the first party were
there, with one or two notable omissions.

The rest of it,  you all know about very well by now. The report, with added
ASCII-Nation enhancements,  featured in Alive! mag issue three. I would add,
that  this  was the first time I've ever met a perfect sequel.  In  fact,  I
slightly  preferred the competition output this time around,  which was more
Falcon focused than the first EIL was.

So it's another all-time great in the Atari party pantheon then!

Note:- This four parties in a year spasm was possible,  due to the fact that
I  was  free and single again over that time period.  Mere days after I  got
home  from  EIL  part  2,  this changed back,  the same  female  person  was
implicated in the deed (grin!) Does this stop me going to any more  parties?
Well, read on and see!

Party #9 
Name: Alternative Party 3.
Date: January 2002.
Location: Helsinki, Finland.
Distance: Let's just 'Buzz' on over then...

A third edition of the much loved ALT Party series came along, in winter, in
Finland. We expected icicles on the ends of our shivering noses, we expected
igloo accomodation in a permanent, permafrosted half-light. We got something
nearly as good, as we ended up staying at the residence of Q-Funk!

This  is so recent,  I've only just finished writing about it for the  first
time! What else can I say?

Well,  sleepless nights,  and Vic 20 demos, Reservoir Gods back in the ring,
Q-Funk in a lather of indecision, these are a few of my favourite things!

Archimedes laptop low battery warnings, Blood-splattered drunks which caused
us much yawning,  Vectrex presentation,  Euro hesitation,  beer is one of my
favourite drinks!

Sauna foot journey goes on for far too long,  Molly Malone's is the place to
be,  the  iMac  demo  surely went wrong?  RJ Michal is one of  my  favourite

Without this bit rhyming, I would say that the 3rd Alt party lived up to the
enjoyment  levels set by its precedessors,  although there wasn't much Atari
activity on the surface at least,  and quite a bit more loud noise. Also, Q-
Funk  seemed  to  prove himself to be one of the unluckiest  people  in  the
world.  But we've recovered from the collateral damage now, thanks very much
for asking!

Party #10 
Name: Mekka Symposium 2002.
Date: Easter 2002.
Location: Fallingbostel, Germany.
Distance: Looks like car again.

And  we've still not had enough!  See elsewhere in this issue of Alive!  for
the  full  rundown  on  what  happened here.  Was it a  rerun  of  the  1996
tragifarce,  or was it something a lot better?  It's exactly two weeks to go
from the time of me writing this, so you'll have to wait and see!


This  next  bit  is my attempt to put some of the above into  some  kind  of
league  table,  or  charts,  for  the  'best of',  or 'worst of' in  certain
categories.  Don't worry, I've worked all this out beforehand (leans over..)
Now where's that bit of paper?

Best Journey (There and back) 
1. Error in Line 1 (apart from the dismal beginning!)
2. Alt Parties 1 and 2

The three entrants into this category were all flight-based.  Clearly having
someone else,  skilled and professional, doing all the hard work makes a lot
of difference in the enjoyment factor here.

Worst Journey!
1. Symposium '96
2. Alt Party 3 return journey

There  was  only one real soaraway winner,  the unforgettable  Hell  Coaches
Incorporated  (my name for Eurolines Coaches) overnight slog from London  to
Hamburg,  and the even more ludicrously extended journey back via Amsterdam.
Note  to coach companies in general:- airline style tiny seats,  and cramped
legroom  are  barely tolerable when going by air,  let alone for an  average
journey by bus taking ten times longer!

The  third  Alt Party journey back,  limps in lamely,  some distance behind,
mainly due to the fact there was a flight delay with an attendant very  late
arrival back home.

Most Memorable Journey
1. Siliventure 2000
2. Error in Line 2
3. STNICCC 10th Anniversary

This  is a category that is neither "best" or "worst".  You might also  note
that all the entries are road-based,  reflecting the extra time that we took
on  the  journey,  with the subsequently enhanced opportunities for  travel-
based weirdness. On reflection, I think we really should have done something
simpler than the Sili' 2000 for our first road trip!

Best or Most Relaxing Sleep at the Party
1. Siliventure 2000
2. Error in Line 1
3. Alt Party 2

By  normal standards,  none of the parties really offered huge opportunities
for rest and relaxation,  unless your name was Arnel!  Grey wins everlasting
kudos  in this bleary-eyed and yawning category,  for making an effort  with
the sleeping facilities at SV2000. Sili' was one of those rare parties where
if you wanted to get away from it all and sleep,  you actually could. We did
well at EIL part one,  with our own secret sleeping facility which was quite
comfortable,  and the Second Alt Party had beds of a sort,  which turned out
quite handy for that purpose.

Worst or Least Relaxing sleep at the Party!
1. Alt Parties 1 and 3!
2. Symp' 96

It's a dead heat!  Between the first and third Alt parties,  it's impossible
to choose! With both of these events, rest and relaxation were in very short
supply.  The major differences were, that at the first Alt, I was determined
to  stay awake as long as possible,  and nearly made it into the third  day.
Whereas  at  the  third  Alt,  I  was trying  to  sleep,  and  kept  getting
interrupted  in this task (and let's not get onto the vexed topic of  'after
party' strange nocturnal happenings until the appropriate time,  eh!) At the
Symp '96,  I did sleep to some extent,  but I never really felt that safe or
relaxed  in  their  sleeping room,  especially after the second  night  food
thefts, not to mention the strange combination of freezing air and gas fumes
we encountered on the third morning.

Best Catering (where this existed)
1. STNICCC 10th Anniversary
2. Error in Line 1 and 2
3. Alt Party 1
4. Alt Party 3
5. Symp '96

The  STNICCC is a runaway winner.  Clearly moneybags Karsmakers was able  to
make  the  most  of  proper party sponsorship  here.  Hot  and  cold  drinks
available 24 hours a day,  food constantly there,  with three proper meals a
day,  and that final send-off!  Now how can you beat that?  The EIL boys and
girls did their best,  with fantastic breakfasts laid on free of charge, and
a  hotline  to the pizza parlour that was close to melting by the  end.  The
first Alt Party had a good, and reasonably priced food counter available, 24
hours a day, the third Alt Party had a nice if limited coffee bar, and handy
shops. The Symp '96 had a useful, if limited and pricey food counter.

Best Competitions
1. Error in Line Part 2
2. Error in Line Part 1
3. Alt Party 1
4. STNICCC 10th Anniversary

Now  my  choice of winner in this most important category  reflects  my  own
personal  bias.  A lot of other people could equally convincingly swap round
the  winner and second place,  especially if their name is Defjam!  There is
only a whisker in it. The first Alt Party put in a strong showing with their
nice demos from an obscure 8-bit format,  and a machine not even supposed to
be  capable  of such things.  The STNICCC sneaks in to fourth place,  as its
competitions  turned  out better than expected,  even if one or two  of  the
entries have STILL yet to see full daylight!

I would add, that out of my partygoing experiences, I have been lucky enough
not  to experience any party,  where the competition element was  completely
lame. All the parties I've been to have all had some great stuff to offer!

Friendliest Party
1. Error in Line Part 2
2. Sili '2000, Error in Line 1, Various Alt Parties, STNICCC, Maggie Party?

Again,  I've been lucky here,  with no party being completely lame, cold and
uninteresting.  The closest to that reverse situation, would have been being
plonked down in a sea of PeeCee and Amiga loving strangers at Symp '96,  but
there  were all those great Atarians there as well,  so it didn't matter  in
the end.  Error in Line Part 2 wins over a very tight field, as it was where
a 'family feeling', described by STS in his issue 4 report, really kicked in
fully and hugely. I had good feelings from all the other parties, so that is
why I put them in equal second place!

Best Apres Party
1. Sili' 2000
2. Alt Parties 1 and 2

We  didn't  really  get  to stay there long  enough,  but  the  considerable
personal  effort by Grey and his family in making us welcome after the  main
part  of  the  Sili' 2000 action was over,  guarantees their  place  in  our
hearts!  The  first and second Alternative parties knew how to relax when it
was all over too, with a great concept called the sauna party!

Most traumatically funny Apres Party!
1. Alternative Party 3

We  can  laugh  about  it now,  but a host of  minor  disasters  dogged  our
movements after the match was over.  Firstly the taxi home, what taxi home??
Then  the  thrilling  early hours dialogue,  between John H.  and a  drunken
maniac,  that could have come straight out of a Harold Pinter play!  Oh what
fun! Then the next evening, Q-Funk decided he wanted to play polar explorer,
seeking to get to the sauna party, the long way, around Finland! Then on the
final day, we *almost* succeeded in finding Q-Funk at his place of work, but
not  quite.  At least the final flight delay gave us a couple more hours  to
relax in the airport bar!

Coolest Party of them all!
1. Error in Line Part 2

And  it's  a  big winner for a big accolade,  after a lot  of  deliberation,
mainly  over  whether the first or second Error in Line should get  the  top

Why EIL Part 2?  Well it seemed to have more of everything, more friendship,
the most fun (more vokda,  hemm!) the best competitions,  (by the tiniest of
margins!) and it was personally the party that I felt most closely connected
with. Maybe it was the Whip-Pong tournament that swung it?

This award of the "Party of all parties" to EIL part 2, doesn't detract from
any of the other parties that I've been to. Apart from isolated odd moments,
where things didn't go quite as right as we'd liked them to, I've no regrets
about a single minute spent on my party experiences.

I'm hoping for more of these magical things, many more in the future!

CiH, for Alive! Mag,March '02

Alive 5