4th Alt Party Musings and Ramblings..
by your raving reporter, CiH !
Or as the bulk of this is being done on an Archimedes A3010, maybe it
should be !CiH(Bit of an in-joke for Acorn fans there!)
12.35hrs on the (pauses to check for date) 10th January 2003. This is the
fourth in the long-running series of Alternative Parties. Was it really as
long ago as Easter 1998 that we first came to Finland to sample this
very different party landscape? Well yes it was, and at least a couple of
times after Setok swore that he'd never do another one of these again, we
are back for another dose of the same old sleepless demo-laden
So, swooping back to the present day, we are a little way past the
official doors-opening time, the arrivals are trickling in, but these
include some very high profile tricklers. How about Jeff 'Yak' Minter for
example? Yes, the hairy one is here, and set up a couple of tables
away from us. He has been impressing the small amounts of gathered
multitudes with screengrabs of Flossie the sheep on his mobile
Sample conversation with Jeff Minter:
Jeff:- "Here's a picture of Flossie, I really love that sheep!"
Me:- "Personally, I'm more of a girlfriend person myself!"
Jeff:- "Flossie IS my girlfriend!"
Not to mention Jeff's love of what he calls "beast secretions"!
Jeff again, "If I had a cow, I'd suck it!" (Thank you Jeff, the RSPCA
inspector is in the post!) I think he is talking about milk, put it
another way, I HOPE he is talking about milk!?!
Scoop: the origin of the unfamous goatsex obsession that regularly
plagues Slashdot seems to have its roots in the land of Llamas. OHO! (Q-
Anyway, this thing is running late, as we really kicked off
yesterday, so for a little while, sit back and relax whilst I go back in
DOING THE YESTERDAY THING:...
Thursday the 9th of Jan.
A journey of two halves, begins somewhere in sunny Birmingham, as we dodge
under the tape barrier to get to the airport parking portakabin office
structure. A nice lady on the front desk takes an age to input our details
onto their ancient rusty grid of a PeeCee, and takes Felice's Kar Keys
off him. Then we are whisked quite a way back the way we came to the
Birmingham airport has a slightly unsettling central Asian feel to it, with
flight departures posted for destinations such as Islamabad, not to mention
the middle-eastern looking family groups waving off their younger family
members to destinations unknown?
(Goodbye Hassim, take as many of the unbelievers with you as you can, and
we'll see you in Paradise!)???
We pause at the security check-in and boggle at the huge selection of
dangerous scissors and nailfiles displayed in a glass case. Taking pride
of place is a Sikh ceremonial dagger. In the words of one of the security
guys "He thought he was getting on his flight, but didn't actually get
to do so!"
Our first stage flight to Amsterdam is uneventful, on a KLM UK Fokker 100.
(That IS its real name, so stop sniggering!) We land at a bleak and snowy
Schiphol airport. Several miles of amused contemplation of walkways later,
we link up with our fellow traveller for the second part of the journey,
a Russki-hatted John Hayward(Asteroid). He has failed his audition for
the successor organisation to the KGB, so he has decided to come with us
to the Alt Party instead.
Some more time passes amiably in the Schiphol locale, and we board a KLM
Boeing for the Helsinki leg of the journey. This goes down smoothly
too, and we arrive at Vantaa Airport, a shade after 10.30pm, local time,
more or less on time. Getting off the plane, we make phone contact with the
bearded one, otherwise known as Q-Funk. But it is when we get to the
baggage carousel, that things start to get a little bit less smooth.
Felice's bags, and my stuff turn up nicely, but a certain lumpiness to
the proceedings starts to be felt with the non- appearance of Asteroid's
big pack. A long while later, we proceed to the information desk, where
acres of unclaimed stuff resides. Success! John's big pack has made its way
over on an earlier flight, and is sitting there silently screaming "Claim
me!" So we do...
Meteorological add-on note:
(We had our first full-on encounter with the legendarily cold Finnish winter
climate when we left the airport. There had been a certain amount of hype
and warnings, pre-party, to dress appropriately, ie. as closely to an eskimo
as possible. Temperatures of more than minus twenty centigrade were
expected. So when we first met the cold air, the warnings did pay off, as it
gripped us like a giant freezing thing. Pissing in the snow was ruled out,
unless you wanted to produce instantaneous greeny coloured popsickles. We
did get used to this, and the weather slowly got "warmer" over the following
days, or not quite so freezing, but we got more snow instead. Ah well..)
We find Q-Funk, and the little fellow traveller from Tampere,
Pahartik. He wishes to stop for a cake break, being the only person not
to have eaten this evening. This we do, and he takes a good old while. It
is getting late by the time we go and look for a taxi.
This proved to be more interesting than it ought to have been as well.
There is a firm called, imaginatively, 'Airport Taxis', who will take you
anywhere in the Helsinki locale for a fixed rate, the cheapness depending
on the number of people using the vehicle. Pahartik opts to make his own
way back to Q-Funk's place. This usefully reduces the cost for us, but
triggers some kind of emotional or monetary brain spasm in our
temperamental taxi driver who skids to the edge of the snow-covered road
threatening to throw us out in Finnish if we don't stop talking about it!
Q-Funk says something that seems to calm him, and the journey resumes in a
somewhat subdued manner. We make it home without further incident, hardly
daring to ask if he was really joking or not, until we get well away from
that car. Q-Funk, hoping to make some trouble for the driver concerned,
splatters the Airport Taxis website with something which was a small novel
in size, in the general tone of "Your driver, was he an asshole or what?"
Sequel note:- This did receive a reply, which was apologetic in the
extreme, I wonder if it did make trouble for the driver concerned?
A swift uphill trot later, and we are back in Q-Funks apartment. A
cheery sober Marc, the manic midnight drunk fondly remembered from last
year, greets us. He is surrounded by several beer bottles and a
Microsoftie instant messenger box. He remembers us from last year, which
is pretty good going for him, and we tell him that he was the highlight
of last year's visit, which I think he appreciated?
There is a generous amount of floorspace cleared in Q-Funk's room for
mattresses and sleeping bags, so after some time spent online, we set up
sleeping space to gratefully crash out, which we did around 02.00hrs
on the friday morning.
Back to the Present - Friday 10th Jan 2003!
Anyway, we got up in good time and reasonable order, and made our way over
here with the help of a more mentally stable taxi firm. So right now, I am
sitting in one of the upper galleries of Gloria, having switched over
this realtime to Felice's swanky Compaq laptop. Asteroid is seated next to
me, playing the Archie version of Lemmings.
Felice has got Twilighte in his deadly grip, his hypnotising voice flows
over the unsuspecting victim, Twilighte sways and starts to fall,
Felice pounces for the kill! Well there's not a lot else going on right
now. The Swedes, headed up by Baggio have arrived too, and have set up on
the opposite balcony. Some Amstrad CPC 6128 sits silent and unloved on the
table next to us, and some other dudes with various bits of C64 gear have
just arrived. Downstairs, the tables are still mostly unnoccupied and
silent. If the official propaganda is to be believed, this state of
peace and tranquility will not last very long, with 100 more people expected
than for the same time last year.
Anyway, I've got as far as I can, so let's sign off and hand this over to
someone else for now....
Asteroid here, marvelling at Richs chrome trimmed Compaq laptop, which is
rather pleasent to use. Had a fairly straight forward trip up here,
had to hang around 6 hours in Amsterdam Schiphol airport to catch my
next plane. Managed to meet up with Chris and Rich after spending long
hours on the airport lounge watching endless looped kids tv programs on a
large plasma monitor that is intending to keep travellers kids happy.
Anyway back at the familiar Gloria venue again now, just seen some of the
remains of Helsinki University's Cray Super computer which some of the
Finnish guys saved from being cruelly trashed from the IT centre when it
was deemed no longer in service, the boards have these expensive
looking tiny chips and large chunky tubing which is presumably is
for moving cold gas around the system.
The Acorn A3010 seem to survive its journey through to the snowy north
stashed in the overhead bin of the plane with me slightly worrying if I
would get hassle from the customs people, but no probs whatsoever :)
Getting here was a breeze apart from the forementioned stroppy taxi
driver who was threatning to stop and leave us at the side of a frozen main
CiH back, damn, it's quiet!
There are a few cool people here already, I've been spending time with
DBug, catching up with his post-STNICCC back catalogue of Oricness. Nice
work matey! Well with that, and the other people such as Twilighte
helping, there seems to be a nice little (active!) Oric scene building up.
They are presenting an entry for this party, and yes, I've seen this as
well. This is recode of a slightly older, buggy as hell party version from
last year. At last, serious competition for the Vic 20! Now if only there
can be some other groups splitting off from the main centre of Oric
activity, maybe a little bit of a scene feud?? Competition at least!
Of other possible entries, there is no real news yet, just some
disconnected rumours. Well, we really need some more people to get some
proper rumours going!!
I also had an interesting chat with Jeff Minter, when is that man ever dull?
He is under a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for something 'big' he is doing
for a current mainstream console under the Llamasoft label. One helpful
clue he was prepared to divulge, it's not going to be for the X-Box ;-)
However, we will know all about it in a couple of weeks after the
party, long before this lot gets out on the streets.
(Which we now know as the Gamecube project 'Unity' - Retrospective ednote!)
Asteroid is showing some scholarly looking Finnish dudes who have never
seen computers do scenish demo-y things, doing just that on his Archie. Not
too shabby for a machine that barely made it through the customs of three
European countries, poorly disguised as a home made bomb.
(One of these guys revealed himself to be some kind of social
scientist. The inevitable question "Why?" was directed at me, so I said
it was in defiance of Bill Gates, who would dearly love to pass a law
against people doing things with computers, for fun, and in their own
Someone got 'Revenge of the Mutant Camels' running on one of the
presentation screens as a tribute to our distinguished hairy guest of
honour. Disparaging comments about the graphics quality follow from said
hairy person, the game is described as the "Attack on two fat guys in a
pantomime camel costume."(!)
Now it is 11.00hrs, on Saturday the 11th Jan 2003.
Now this is what I call a lot laters!
Shortly after the last bit of realtime was done, Felice discovered
something called an "internet hub" Since that time, my access to this
realtime has been rather limited, as in not at all.
Felice's multi-hour marathon connected to the net only ended briefly when
it was pointed out that the party organisers didn't run a bowel-emptying
service in situ at the computer tables, and he would jolly well have to
go to the toilet all by himself! The other thing which tended to work
against any in-depth text interaction was the fact that the lights were
switched off, and it was too damn dark to work, like now in fact. But one
must carry on as best they can.
At this present time, Tempest 3000, the Nuon years is running on the
bigscreen which I'm sure Jeff is happy about, if he is awake.
Volume PUMPED UP! He will be now!
Doing the Yesterday thing, part 2:..
First thing, in a confusing reverse chronological order thing, I
pulled off a major miracle, as in, I-managed-to-sleep-on-the-first-
night-of-an-AltParty!(*) I also managed this in the main hall, whilst
Tempest 3000 was in full blast. Earplugs rule! I only crashed for about
3-4 hours, with some added horizontal inertia time of around another
couple of hours, but the point is, I did it!
(*)The sheer miraculousness of this deceptively simple action, cannot be
understated! Feel free to read all previous Alternative Party reports by
myself to understand why!
As for the rest of yesterday, lots happened, some of it crudely
stashed away in temporary memory bins awaiting later retrieval.
I saw a few odd 'Alt' machines, although Alt 4 seems to be the year that
the PeeCee Laptop rules. Grudammint, I'm typing on one right now! On the
ancient console front, there is an Intellivision devkit running a very
sprite-filled demo for that machine. I also spotted one Vectrex, but
so far, only the one :( - There is the usual sprinkling of Amiga and C64
hardware, and dare I say, even the occasional Atari, mostly belonging to
people I know already, but with at least one lone ST running in the
There was a big drawdown in the numbers of machines like the MSX, and the
Arctic Computer Museum, with its collection of extremely obscure models,
stayed away completely. In the end, there were just enough 'Alt'
machines to make it worthwhile though.
A special mention goes to one brave individual who has built the
ultimate 'Mad Scientist Peecee', which divides itself uneasily between a
standard PeeCee case, and the chassis of an old style globe shaped vacuum
cleaner. At least the computing experience would be cleaner than normal
for a party environment?
The other 'special' mention goes out to the unknown builder of a replica
Cobra Mk3, which any Elite-playing fool will know well. It was built of some
transparent material, and illuminated from inside, casting a ghostly glow
over the Oric Zone, where it was placed. If it had some kind of radio
controlled flying ability, say vector thrust mini-rockets, then it would
have been the perfect outdoor aerial combat geek-toy!
Demo rumours, let's get these over with.. There are not too many at the
minute, I've already had a good long look at the Oric contender,
'Barbitoric', which is excellent. I gather that Viznut is doing
another Vic 20 entry, and there's a little bit of talk about some
PeeCee stuff, of a suitably 'alt' nature? Apart from that, I dunno
really. I don't think there is going to be anything Atari related, as
Wiztom is working on the same shadebob routine that he was showing last
year on his STe, and Baggio's evening on his Falcon was mainly memorable
for some major mouse related hassles. So if something Fuji- powered does
make an appearance, it would be a major surprise.
We did get a fair spread of competitions from the Invite intro
competition, which included the ugliest demo ever seen (hint to
aspiring demo designers, don't use red/black and no other colours!) This
was followed by the 'rejected/banned demos' section, consisting of entries
which didn't make the grade at past coding parties, being kicked awake
from their coffins, and rewarmed here.
These could be divided into a number of categories. Such as the
'Clearly too crap even by the standards of that time'. Then there's the
'Runs waaay too fast on a modern PeeCee to make sense anymore'.
We are scarcely able to avoid the 'Demo written as a clear personal
insult to the party organisers or their friends'! There was also
another production with too much red in it, and several which fucked VGA
screen modes when running, or cleverly gave the impression that they were
about to do so??
The rejects included some wild compo entries, which picked up a lot in
quality with a UK production from a team called the 'Milk Gods', which
probed fearlessly into issues such as 'milk pornography'. This started Jeff
Minter up again, who complained about the lack of cows. The judges of
the Assembly Party, perhaps liking their humour a little less obscure,
stupidly kicked this one. I found it a somewhat side- hurting experience.
This lot clattered to a stop sometime around half four this morning, which
we decided that the hard floor surface should be renamed "bed".
(Apart from us wussers-out, who remembered to bring inflatable
Party numbers digression:- I chatted with Setok late last night, and the
official log entry indicates that the numbers attending have passed
all previous records, with around two hundred and fifteen people on
the books as of late last night. This of course does not take into
account that there are more unregistered people roaming the building, and
leaving small piles of drink-smelling vomit where they lie in their
sleeping bags. So the real total could be closer to the three hundred
discussed on the Slashdot.org press release yesterday?
In the meantime, Setok was wandering the building with a nervous tic,
asking people at random if they had registered yet.
I got talking to various people, a Yugoslavian dude whom me and
Twilighte chatted to, had mixed memories about his countries recent past.
He concluded that parts of the experience, such as the protests against the
Milosevic regime, with the general feeling of all standing together, were
some of the best times that he had!
I also had a chat with Ravel, as he topped up with loads of
(prescription?) drugs in the toilets this morning, who fondly(?)
remembered my 2 Alt obscure music compo entry. He regretted the fact that
there was not going to be another this year. Never mind, maybe next time!
Weather note:- Cold, a bit snowy, bearable until the wind gets up, then
it's goodbye ears lips and noses!
Rich and John are awake, but they'll have to wait until I've doubled on
the length of this text from yesterday, har har!
Okay, I might wrap up for now from here, same time again tomorrow?!!?
It's... 14.55hrs, and it's still Saturday, and it's still dark in here!
Felice has kindly stood down from his IRC marathon to let me have
another go on this sluggishly updated realtime dairy (damn those Gods of
Milk for that last typo!) Since the last time, it has been
pleasantly quiet, and my demo hunger from the third Alt Party has been
satiated by plentiful showings of much excellent archive Vic 20
material. It seems that Viznut is no longer the only Vic coding kid on the
block anymore, and there is a nicely burgeoning little scene out there!
Some of the demos really rip the piss in hardcore terms from the basic
3.5k machine. This is leading one person, I think it was Twilighte, to
give us the quote of the party so far.
"Hey, not bad for an ST demo!" (Followed by general gurgles of
amazement when it was revealed the "ST" was in fact a Vic 20 ;-)
The current entry state from the organisers tent, there are up to
seventeen demo entries for tonights competition, with several
different platforms covered. There is no more word if any of these
belong to "our" platform, or even any more detail on what they are yet?
I fear at least some of these may turn out to be the weak MSX- based
single command line 'joke' demos that infested the competitions from 2 ALT
The organisers have regrouped into the central upper gallery, and have taken
to communicating with the party solely via the means of a Vic 20 command
Ok, save this lot and let someone else have a go.
So it is now 17.19hrs, And Felice is downstairs making "Hello mum!"
gestures at the camera crew presently interviewing Jeff Minter. Good, as it
gives me the chance to have a go at this again. Maybe someone should
break it gently to him that his mother does not live in Helsinki ;-)
The news, there is not a lot, but I've had some interesting off the
record chat with a certain Swedish person, about up and coming
productions for another coding party with an Easter and easterly tint, but
no more to be said here!!
Latest Jeff Minter quote (in Welsh) "I want a sheep in my bed!" This
sounds exactly like the english version, as funnily enough, I know no
It is time for some food shortly, and it looks like a Captain Scott trip
as Q-Funk probably has a nice little bistro in mind on the other side of
the country ;-)
I might be back later, depends how this trip goes, feel free to send out a
properly equipped mountain rescue search party, whoever chances by this
last realtime log entry, if we're not back in here by 20.00hrs!
22.46hrs, and we made it back!
And we got back with all limbs intact! Mind you, with Q-Funk as
expedition leader, of course you're going to get the little minor fuck-
up, or fuckette, as bad luck clings to that man like a dirty shroud.
This time, we saw an awful lot of restaurant foyers and snowfields
before we finally got to eat. The Helsinki restaurant trade sighting our
not-so-little party of eight, and deciding to make a suspiciously quick
recovery from the slack post-Xmas trading period claiming to be fully
booked up, thank you very much and all!
Eventually, kudos flew to a Malaysian eaterie just a block away from
Gloria. With grateful thanks expressed here for feeding us guys! (The Satay
chicken may have provided the spiciness that Jeff missed out on?)
Asteroid amused us briefly with some snowdrift leaping and stumbling
antics on the way home, thanks for the sadistic enjoyment mate!
News in here, and now, Twilighte has started work on that most
worthwhile of projects for the Oric, a conversion of 'Revenge of the
Mutant Camels', with Jeff Minter's official blessing! Indeed, his
munificence extended to a request to the Llamsoftie philes out there for
rips of the original sprites from the C64 game being responded to within 20
minutes! Anyway, he's out there right now, coding away in a lonely
corridor. Twenty four hour game anyone? And who mentioned 'Bugger'!?
.:Stand by earplugs!:.
We've had the (regrettable?) live music as made by the voices of the
artistes only. These were mostly done for comic effect and worked well that
way. Coming to an Alt Party next year, Sammi Arsenholeen and his armpit
farting noises orchestra!?!
We also witnessed the rather better photographic competition, apart from
one which continued the theme from the live music a bit (hem!) We are
currently typing in semi darkness, illuminated by this dazzlingly bright
screen, so I am trusting my fingers to do the work korrectly hear!
Then after that, the main demo competition, sometime around midnight, with
the lovely Oric, and who knows what else by then?
Whilst we're waiting for the next in-party happening, here's a BIG UP TO
EARX! for releasing his three years worked on Falcon demo. I've got
something to look forward to going home for, switch on my CT2 Falcy, crank
it up into high detail mode, and enjoy. Just a shame there's scarcely
any Falcy's here, it's the one item of hardware we didn't bring with us.
(If it needs an FPU, it won't even run on Baggio's machine, as the
socket for that is bolloxed!)
All for now, I'm just going to fit in some Web potato behavior for a
couple of mins, then hand this back to Felice.
It's now SUNDAY!!! (The ?? of Jan..)
It is also 01.20hrs, and we are awaiting the kick off for the final demo
We have been entertained by a selection of monochrome movie entries,
ranging from the extremely entertaining, through to the slightly, erm,
disturbing. One which was titled 'ALT Invite 2023' confirmed what I
suspected about 'Scene love'!? I'm sure I can sneak in some snide cheap
comment about Amiga owners, but right now, I can't give a stuff.
We love the sound of silence.
I'll get back a bit later, erm, a lot later on how the demo compo went.
I've got high hopes for the Oric, just depends if it gets trashed by
biased local voting patterns in favour of the Vic.
See you (a lot) later kids!
A lot lot later...
Right, it's Sunday evening, just fifteen minutes shy of 20 hundred
hours, I'm back at the Apartment of the Q-Funking one, showered, refreshed,
awaiting imminent pizza delivery, and trying to adjust to the very slight
peculiarities thrown up by this scandinavian styled keyboard. Lot's to do,
starting with last nights/this mornings demo competitions, so here
Before this got going, there was a nice little speech from Jeff Minter,
heavily ad-libbed from the effects of alcohol. His thoughts are entirely in
tune with the gathered demo sceners, disliking the corporate nature of the
current software entertainment industry, and being lifted and inspired by
coming to the Alt Party to find that there are still people like him, active
and doing stuff for the sheer hell of it! He hinted heavily at the new top
secret Llamasoft project, and ended up playing a "message" from his
'girlfriend' on his voicemail. (Space for much Bleating here!)
.:DEMO COMPO FIRST IMPRESSIONZZz.
There were a lot of entries, around twenty-five in all. And there was only
the single daft MSX BASIC 'megademo' intro. Making quite a big impression on
the first half of the demo compo, were the entries running on modern
species of Wintel boxes. These had been allowed in under the "Hey well we're
all ALTernative in some way anyway" Amnesty of last year.
The PeeCee demos tended to live up to their 'Alternative' label quite well.
In some cases, ugliness was the new beauty, which was the same situation
with a lot of the entries in the previous sections.
Just when the competition started to get into a single format rut, the
hardware requirements started to change tentatively. This brought on some
new eye-rolling problems, as a Linux box refused to talk to the
projector, or the other way around. Nightmare recollections of the
horribly delayed SiliVenture 2000 demo competitions lurked.
The problems continued with the next few entries, with a Nokia Java demo
refusing to play along also. Then quelle bloody major surprise, as an entry
for a largely non-appearing species of computer at this party, the Atari ST,
is due up next!
This did take us by surprise, although I suspected something was
happening in one of the far alcoves, where an ST was more or less
permanently switched on, some of the time with a screen of code showing on
it. But the curse claims this one as well. According to the organisers
viewpoint, the crew didn't help themselves by not supplying any sort of
monitor cable. This demo gets disqualified, and remains unshown.
It also remains unknown if it is to be released anyway, but according to
Setok, the Atari scene aren't missing out too much whilst it's in it's
present state if it isn't ;-)
The air of barely supressed panic eases with an Amiga 1200 entry that
condescends to run properly, then we are into the keenly awaited
'oldschool' final section. DBug's Oric demo is shown on the big screen, and
the applause that greets it partly consists of relief! At the same time, the
kid from en France has made a big impression on local hearts and minds, will
Viznut be able to beat dis!?
(Later on note:- Among other things in 'Barbitoric', we got to see multiple
spinning 3D ducks, and the Oric version of bumpmapping!)
And rather inevitably, Viznut does, with another unexpanded Vic 20 Lo-Fi
multimedia masterpiece! The main component of this demo is the slick
storytelling, but Viznut manages to break at least one new boundary with a
kewl software speech synth for the basic Vic.
Storyline = Oppressed people build warrior robot, who kills evil
emperor, Robot then kills them off to take over the world! The speech synth
comes out like it is singing a rousing death anthem "HAI-I-I-L ROBOT WAR-
With the final entry in the sequence, another Vic 20 demo with the inspiring
message "This demo is no good, give Viznut your vote", it is no major
effort to predict where the winners spot is going to be going.
After the 'missing' entries are tidied up and shown, the competition ends.
the Nokia demo turns out to be a neat little Java demo which looks rather
cute. The other highlight of the competition is a Perl/Ascii demo which
manages to simulate a lot of demo effects entirely in text mode! This has
been produced by some people rather close to the organisers.
Teque and a group of other food monsters raid a nocturnally open (to 5am!)
Macdonalds. I force myself not to follow them over, instead
concentrating on doing the 'bed thing' once more. After all the
delays, half-starts and mis-showings, it is a shade under 05.00 hours, by
the time the competitions finish, which is damn late, or early.
With that great invention, ear plugs, (on the ear not resting on the
pillow!) sleep is quite easy to resume, apart from one ear-splitting
"musical" interval at around 08.00, I manage quite happily for a good
Around 09.30 - 10.00hrs.
The restfulness is only broken by Pahartik waking me up to say that Q-
Funk, the quitter of midnight parties, is on his way back to the scene of
the crime. We are to get up and get packed asap, the plan being to
repatriate our stuff back to his place this side of the prize-giving
ceremony. This would be before the after-party rush to leave Gloria, and the
consumption of scarce taxi resources that would take place. It also turns
out we are to have the run of Q-Funk's apartment whilst QF is on the other
side of the Baltic. Paavo is to be left with a spare key.
I manage to find some time before the exodus to vote on the competition
entries that I understood and half-remembered, using a dedicated voting
terminal and a personal login ID number given out when I first paid to
When our taxi firm (still mentally stable, thanks) gets us back. We wave
cheery greetings at a heavily sleep-deprived drunky Mark. He's alright and
he even remembers us from last year (How!?) So that's okay then.
We dump our gear, there is a small hike to a shopping precinct half a mile
distant, to pick up a travel card for the Helsinki public transport system.
And then we make our way back on a bright sunny afternoon, taking us via a
belated breakfast Macdonalds stop. This gets us to just before the prize
giving ceremony is due to start, or about three quarters of an hour before
it actually does ;-)
It is easy to eat my Macdonalds customised bumper fat bastard selection in
total darkness, including the ice cream. Grud knows, most of the realtime
bit of this text was typed in the same way.
We adjourn downstairs, and the prize-giving eventually starts. The prizes
tend to fall into the 'having a laugh' category. In amongst the more sincere
prize material, such as Infogrammes/Atari sponsored T-shirts and stuff, were
bottles of clearasil for the younger more teenage winners, technical manuals
for a decommissioned Cray computer, and even a couple of Cray circuit boards
going to the first and second prize winners of the main demo competition.
A Cray circuit board, is of course not on the modest scale of current PeeCee
motherboards. Each of these magnificent beasts would go to make up one
sixteenth part of a fully grown Cray Supercomputer. Each board having eight
separate processing elements on it. Two of these boards laid end to end
would make up a good if somewhat hard bed for a fairly tall person to lie
on. The cost of excess baggage in Dbug's case would add up to a lot of
In the end, natural justice was served, as Dbug's top-rated Oric demo, which
gained the respect of the tough Finnish audience, came second, but the
inevitable winner, was Viznut's robotic odessey. Dbug sensibly left his Cray
board behind, but the last I heard, Setok was finding out how much it would
cost to post the thing onwards to Dbug's address in France!
The party breaks up fairly briskly after that, and an hour later, the main
hall of Gloria is practically empty apart from the odd Wiztom packing his
gear up in a leisurely manner. Q-Funk disappears, bidding us farewell, and
setting off for the ferry port with a couple of the Estonian guys.
Eventually, it is our turn, and we set off with Pahartik in the direction of
'home' (in its temporary format of Q-Funk's loaned place.) Some strolling
around Helsinki centre later, including admiring the contents of one or two
off-licences, and a bus home, sees us back and starting to catch up on some
of the restfulness that has been missing from the past few days.
The rest of the evening consists of much needed sanitary making-good
(shower, not sauna, which we are awaiting Monday's after-party for!) A
timely delivery of Pizza from the omnipresent 'Pizza Taxi', who did the job
so nicely the last time, and a fair bit of IRC'ing and web-surfing from the
extended network that we have set up. Apart from Q-Funk's debian box,
discussed last year, he has also gained an iMac, and it isn't too hard to
add Felice's laptop, and reinstall the HP workstation, so we all get to have
a computer each, which is feckin' brilliant.
After managing to totally confuse Mr Pink on Atariscene IRC, about the
nature of the missing and disqualified ST demo entry, tiredness catches up
with us, as if it has been given the loan of a really expensive and fast
sportscar, and we are crashing floorward sometime before midnight.
Sleep, and no half-assed early interventions from Marc, thanks very much,
also no earplugs needed, which is even better, and more floorspace, since Q-
Funk's departure has freed up his bed for someone to borrow.
So it is, we sleep for a good old while into Monday, before we even take a
vague interest in its existence.
.:Monday, the first half:.
Yawny yawn, stir awake, trip to bathroom, pass by Mark's room and notice
that he is still awake after all this time, back to bed...
Around 11 or 12 hundred hours, we start to take more of an interest in the
immediate surroundings, slowly get up, and resume web browsing. We also
decide how to fill some of the time before the after-party starts this
evening. A suggestion from yesterday evening that we travel to Pahartik's
home town of Tampere, a couple of hours train journey away, is regretfully
scrubbed on the grounds of there being too little time to spare. (And we all
know from the Mekka Symposium 2002 report of the perils of rushing around
with too little time to spare!)
Instead, Pahartik has an alternative suggestion for a day out, which is to
go to the harbour in Helsinki centre, and take a boat trip out to an island
some way out in the harbour called Suomenlinna, (Sveaborg in Swedish) which
contains some old fortifications, lots of other touristy places of interest,
and the odd eaterie or two, where we should be able to pick up something to
occupy our stomachs, which are throwing up the odd growling noise or two
This is fine in theory, but as usual, the practice turns out to be a bit
more complex than that.
The first part of this expedition is straightforward enough, a bus trip,
followed by a ferry ride (which is part of the public transport system and
usefully covered by our travel card). This is on a bright and sunlit, if
very cold afternoon. The ferry trip is a pleasant novelty, as we are sitting
inside warm and dry as it scrunches its way through the iced-up harbour
channel past the berthed cross-Baltic ferries. As there are no visible signs
of lifeboats, a disaster of a titanic nature is briefly feared, but we
realise that the channel is kept in a fluid, if not exactly ice-free state,
by the daily activities of proper ice-breaking vessels. If this did not take
place, then we would probably be able to walk clear across to the island!
As it is, the navigable channel is narrow, and when we are clear of the
harbour, the ice just a few yards away, looks solid enough to walk on. With
big stepping-stone slabs of ice that you could jump on from the boat to get
But such speculation is shoved to the back of my mind, as the boat
approaches the island. We disembark into a landscape of infinite coldness,
and some old style wooden houses which make me think that this place could
be used as a Siberian style theme park. Pahartik only came here as a
youngster, in the summer, and barely remembers his time here. But a handy
tourist map shows where we are, and where the main attractions are, and even
which ones are open at this time of the year, with one of the languages most
usefully being English.
So we strike out hopefully in the direction of a cafe called "Chaplins". It
is on the other side of the islet, about half a mile or so away. We duck
into a windswept snow-blasted tunnel, up and down paths, dodging the
occasional tractor and envying the driver in his heated cabin, the smug
bastard! For it is cold, and getting colder, our guide seemingly ready to go
on forever, but we are mindful the last time we ate, was in the bit of this
article that described the Pizza Taxi! We do get to Chaplins, but a big
disappointment breaks, as they have just closed for the final lunchtime
sitting about ten minutes before we got there!
An attempt to find an alternative food venue takes us further away from the
sanctuary of the landing stage, and the indoor warmth of the return trip
ferry. Worringly, the number of people in view soon declines to zero. We end
up on the edge of some of the fortifications, ancient cannon still in
position, and all covered in a fine layer of snow. Pahartik zooms off in an
advance scouting role, leaving the rest of us to admire the many different
forms and colours of ice. The sun has gone down by now, and evening is heavy
with imminent arrival. Truly this is fantastic film set country, if you
wanted to depict the twin themes of 'cold' and 'desolation'. I also get the
feeling that this is the sort of place that you put unwanted things out to
die in, which could include us if Pahartik does not get back very quickly!
A black waving dot is sighted, which resolves into the familiar small,
behatted and headphone wearing form of Pahartik. He has found nothing else
is open here, so our best option is to get the boat back to the city centre,
and find something to eat there. It is with some relief that we go back,
other humanoid shapes start to appear, and another ten or so brisk minutes
walk later, we are safely back at the pier and away from the frozen arse-end
of beyond, and even better, the ferry is waiting for us!
There is still some current military interest in this location, as a bunch
of army conscripts in full battledress disembark from the boat we are
catching. Maybe they brush up on their arctic survival skills here? The boat
going back is rather more full than the boat coming out, and we let the
waves of warmth wash enjoyably over us!
When we discussed our afternoon adventure in the frozen wastes of
Suomenlinna at the afterparty sauna, the others commented that it was a very
nice place. In the summer...
Back in Helsinki centre, Pahartik's alternative mealtime suggestion is a
good one. This is namely the same small and peculiar Indian eaterie, which
shares premises with an opticians, and has seating room for about six to
eight people that we visited last year. We order a load of stuff, with naan
bread, and it goes down with a crash, Asteroid in particular trying to eat
the patterns off his, and everybody elses plate.
Now refreshed, fully loaded, and stuffed like a fat person, we head back for
the bus home, trolling around in the centre on a Moomin-shop hunt for
Asteroid's benefit, and stopping to pick up some stuff for the after-party
on the way back. Once back at the apartment, we have to IRC the location of
the after-party out of people, and decide on the best method of getting
A moment of wobbly trepidation arises when we find out that it is near to
the location of last year's after-party, and the epic hike that went with
it. Thankfully, Pahartik opts for a more sensible means of travel, as it is
entirely possible to get there with the correct combination of buses.
This is not *totally* straightforward in itself. The first bus takes us to
the shopping centre about half a mile up the road. The place where we change
buses seems to be hard to find, and we end up retracing the part of last
years Q-Funkathon where there is no pavement, and we are walking on the
road. But before things degenerate, we do find a compatible bus stop five
minutes later, and gratefully collapse and wait...
Ten short minutes later, it turns up, and another ten minutes after, we are
dropped off at the terminus. The immediate environment looks immensely
familiar from last year as well, but to avoid the buggering about looking
for the exact location, we persuade Asteroid to overcome his fear of high
international phone charges, and ring Partycle the trainee vampire for
someone to come and collect us. We are promised a response in five minutes,
but don't anticipate that it is travelling on the bus behind us.
We firstly spot the familiar features of Wiztom, and then the bus also
disgorges Partycle, Twilighte, and for full bonus points, Mr Yak-a-licious
himself! We figure that they know where the after-party is, and happily tag
along with them. There is the small matter of dodging the snow ploughs,
which are operating in full pavement terrorist mode, not just clearing the
roads of excess white powder, but edging their massive scoops onto the
pavements as well. Silly foreign people like us scramble out of the way,
into deeper snow, but the Finns stand their ground, and the snowploughs
grumble to a reluctant stop, mere centimetres away from pedestrian feet. The
snowplough drivers, carefully trained to ignore the cries of "Ki-i-ill! Kill
them all!" going around inside their heads, let us pass.
The sauna venue is further down in the woods than last year's place, quite
close to the nearby lake, or was that the Baltic shore? Arrival at the
After-party reveals a scene where tables and chairs, and a big screen
projector are gathered. Setok is presently away, gathering supplies, so we
donate our offerings to the cavernous fridge, and Setok soon returns with
plenty of beer for the after-party adherents. Jeff has been very hospitable
too, donating a large quantity of vodka to the proceedings too (hic!) At
this early stage of the after-party, the big screen is devoted to multiple
playing sessions of Jeff's latest Llamasoft opus, 'Gridrunner ++'. This is
proving to be a very popular draw. it feels like a superior shareware game,
with lots of sweary speech samples, and with all the Minteresque splattery
pixel trademarks so fondly remembered from Tempests 2K and 3K to hand too.
This is alternated with showings of a number of demos on the big screen. The
machine connected up is a PeeCee, and it is taking an interest in running a
number of classic mid-nineties DOS productions. One of the first up is a
demo locked into my long term memory as an all-time kick-ass classic, the
Future Crew produced 'Second Reality' demo. My first thought after seeing it
again, was that it hadn't aged well at all, being chock-full of cheesy old
effects, lumpy 3-D, and generally kicked by several Falcon demos produced
since. Still, I remember a time before I realised that the Cuddly demos had
such things as ripped Amiga textscrolly fonts. There were several other more
or less good DOS PeeCee demos, and then the projector switched to a Linux
theme, for a reshowing of the third place Alt 4 demo competition entry based
on swirly effects done entirely in text mode.
The action switches to Felice who has his Compaq laptop with him, and
several Falcon demos, no, not running on an emulator of Felice's secret
design made from HTML commands, but instead, in movie form, and we get to
see old friends such as 'Sono', Cycedelic Knockout, and the ever popular
'Lost Blubb'. Any lingering memory that Jeff Minter still has about the
mental well-being of the Atari scene community, is rudely blasted aside by
Felice's rendition of the 'H-Demo IV', this time on an emulated ST (STeem).
I think he was quietly impressed?
All this is going on, and not even a sniff of a wet towel from the sauna
changing room yet. It is getting on for 10.30, when the first of our two
sauna's is ready. Yes, we have a choice of two sauna's, a large communal
electrically heated one, which could seat the entire after-party contingent,
followed by a smaller wood-burner, which was still getting there in
temperature terms. This is Jeff and Twilighte's first time in one of these,
and they nervously strip off, Jeff predicting that he would have to be very
drunk to jump into the lake afterwards. It is thus, that I get to see bits
of Jeff that only Flossie the sheep has access to! Not that I was looking
too closely mind...
With cries of "Sheepies" being uttered from Mr Minter, he is quickly dragged
inside the sauna, and the door is slammed shut...
The first sauna is roomy, indeed, we are rattling around inside it, and the
experience is remarkable for being, well, unremarkable to this sauna
hardened after-party fanatic. However, the experience ratchets up in
interest, when we shift over to the wood-powered heating box. In here, the
temperature is much higher, and the atmosphere very congenial and closely
packed. The temperature is sent even higher with the creation of a lot of
steam, which even has some of the Finns gasping!
Apart from diving under a cold shower, some of us find ourselves outside, in
the cold, in the dark, and naked. With the cumulative effect of several
vodka and Dr Peppers taking effect, this seemed like a sensible and fun
thing to do at the time! Nobody is drunk enough to go into the lake,
although one intrepid individual did try rolling in the snow. I decide it
would be a fun thing to throw snow over a naked and unsuspecting Jeff
Minter, so obtaining one of the lesser known utterings from the Great Yak
("Aaaggh, you bastard!")
Eventually, after Jeff has topped up on nocturnal nakedness and nicotine, we
head back inside.
Right, Let's call this one Tuesday now.. (14th of January)
At some stage, Felice's laptop is reclaimed for a burst of realtime activity
that sums up the spirit of these times very well! Here it is!
John H. kicking off, I think he's had a bit of alcopops, the naughty fellow.
Still, he battles on gamely trying to make some sense of the evenings
its 0.07 hours or something like that
its the after event party
its been good, and this evening has been great fun. Jeff Minter has had his
first sauna and seems to have enjoyed it. Actually myself, despite doing
this last year, this has been one the of weirdest and most interesting days
of my life, had been sampling some of the local vodka and some of this
unusual Finnish cranbury/vodka drink which I feel a little pissed, and going
for not one but two saunas, which is quite interesting when you are cramped
into a small pine kiosk with 7 Finnish guys, when you go out for a shower
theres an exit door which coincidently leads to a path which leads in a
straight line to the nearby lake so sauna occupants can, if in the mood, can
taking a running jump of a few yards straight into the lake, in a
Scandinavian macho style, taking a really extremely extreme case, an exit
into the immensely cold water for the ultimately refreshingly cold
despite the amount of alcohol consumed here, no one yet has wanted to try
This is from me, I think I realised that I was more than a little under the
influence, so I didn't try too hard, neither did my fingers.
CiH on the keyzzzz.
I am pretty drunk, having tried various combinations of vodka, minty stuff,
beer, sauna, raoming around outside throwing snow at people, sitting stark
bolluk naked with Jeff Minter in the sauna, and more dR Peppers with Vodka.
I'll write some stuff about monday when I'm fit and able, which isn't right
Damn, this voka is 80n proof, this might explain a lot of this evening!!!
CiH, in Nostrovia mode!!
And this extract is from Mr Hairy himself!!
is this thing having a sane keyboard?
I have been having to deal with maad Euro keyboards the last few days...
is nice to be baack on a UK machine!
and now I know about this thing called "sauna"...
the Finnish are maad but in a very cool way...
seen much insanity here and much creativity... is very cool... is an
Much fun... I feel much inspired to go home ande code the bejeezus out of
that Thing that I cannot mention yet...
but for now it is vodka and mad creativity and lots of naked people!:)
Having a blinding laugh here... but missing my compiler... and my sheepie!
Flossie, Goat bless 'er ;).
And... everybody buy Edge magazine on Jan 24th ;-).... :-D :-D
Llamasoft is BAAAAAACK!!!!
Did I really manage to do that, this late on, it's better written than the
earlier extract though??
It's 02.17hrs on Tuesday Morning.
CiH back, we are going home today, can't think how...
Ohhh Goddd, drunk too much, send for a beer taxi!
Many Amiga demos on the big screen, and talk of sausages being barbequed
over an open fire thing. See you tomorrow, or the day after, or when time
and fingers permit!
There is more alcohol, there are more demos, as we switch to Amiga on the
bigscreen, with a never ending procession of A1200 classics. A couple of
these coming (all meanings of the word operative!) from a very gay Amiga
crew indeed. People start to get up and dance to the more hyper-kinetic
productions, especially Pahartik, who has been taking something else with
his Dr Peppers, maybe it was some of the minty alcoholic substance that he
had brought with him? Jeff spots a kindred spirit in Pahartik, suggesting
that he spend some time down on the farm if Paavo ever comes to the UK. More
alcohol is drunk..
There is reindeer stew, with mashed swedes. Reindeer meat tastes, well,
different, can't explain how, but we were all hungry by then, and it got
In amongst all this enjoyable but non-productive activity, Felice has been
tapping away on his laptop, running 1st Word inside the STeem environment,
putting on his "Atari head" to write a party report for the Chosneck disk
magazine. A sensible avoidance of alcohol is implicated!
A bit later still, I become aware of the existence of an open fire, I
remember this, because I assisted in a search for wood before the booze
claimed the brain cells that help me to walk. Felice is enlisted in a
sausage roasting crew, and I get to taste the end result, which is blackened
and split, but still strangely tepid in the middle.
It is now very late, and I would totally agree with John H. in his last bit
of realtime about the after-party being one of the most weird and
interesting days of his life. We reluctantly decide to drag ourselves away
sometime after 04.00hrs, first booking a taxi. A lot of drunken farewells
later, and we clamber back to the top of the road to find our taxi waiting.
I think we got home sometime before 05.00hrs, but not by much.
Mark is still awake, and he greets us with the news that he has been awake
for two days now. However, I think I had the edge on him in general
drunkeness this time around!
Bedtime, for a few scant hours before we have to depart the land of sauna,
and crawl back to the UK..
Pahartik is the first to go, I don't think he even went to bed in the first
place. He generously decides to wake *me* up, out of a choice of three
people, at 08.00hrs, saying a quick farewell, and pushing the phone number
for the taxi firm and the spare key into my hand. The others rouse
themselves just long enough for a hearfelt goodbye, then back to sleep.
Around 11.00hrs, we start to get up, slowly. A lack of enthusiasm translates
into our slow and hesitant packing and clearing up. My toothbrush becomes a
casualty of war, as it slips inside the radiator grille in the bathroom. I
have a momentary panic, when I try to recall where I placed my glasses in
the drunken collapse earlier this morning, but these turn up, so no harm
A final session of net-bashing, including an email to Nicky to tell her I
will be home very late, the last in a heavy correspondence exchange that
went on over the duration of the party. (I still didn't get off lightly
though when I got back, she said "When I said don't phone me, I meant the
Eventually, around 13.00hrs, we depart the residence of Q-Funk and Marky
Mark for the last time, Mark looking like his missing sleep is about to
catch up with him in a big way! And there is another shock waiting outside,
as temperatures have risen to 'just' a few degrees below zero, but there is
a lot more snow out there, and more being added every minute.
The ten minutes waiting for the taxi to turn up adds quite a bit of snow to
us as well, and we have to kick and stomp as much off us as possible, to
avoid bringing it with us to the airport. Conditions on the journey back to
Vantaa are nicely blizzard-like, and our taxi driver struggles with iced up
windscreen wipers, and delicately edges past a genteel and carefully posed
motorway several vehicle pile-up. Further proof that even the snow-hardy
Finns aren't totally immune from ice-bound human error, comes in the
disheartening shape of another taxi that veered off the motorway, and into a
ditch in the central reservation! This was about a couple of minutes driving
away from the airport. I hope he didn't have to pay full fare for that one!
Anyway, we do get back to the airport safely, gratefully gather our baggage
inside the warm and relaxed terminal building, and play the old airport game
of waiting around.
This takes several forms. Waiting with food, waiting for the KLM check-in
desk to open. Then there is waiting to get to our flight, with a little bit
of essential airport shopping carried out. There is also some waiting to do
once we are on the aircraft, as it cannot fly very well with the ice and
snowy gunk accumulated on it, and necessitating a visit from the de-icing
It is gathering darkness when we eventually take off, around half an hour
late. This is not a big issue, as it merely cuts down the waiting around at
At Schiphol, we soon have to say goodbye to Asteroid, and now we are two
again, Felice and I. More shopping, casual browsing, and waiting around
follows, then onto our final leg flight, a reverse-run to Birmingham on a
half-empty KLM Fokker 100.
Birmingham is cleared by us in a record time, the only moment of excitement
came from the armed police, all body armour and Heckler and Koch sub-machine
guns, that took to following us around in the terminal building.
The retrieval of Felice's automotive box on wheels proves to be awesomely
quick too, and I am back in Northampton sometime around 22.30.
Dropping my bag on the bed, I pause for an end-party moment of remembrance,
by loading up Earx's new demo 'Delta', for which he sent a personalised copy
through the post for me. What a nice bloke! And that is the end of the tale
of the fourth Alt Party.
To sum up, conclude etc..
Fourth Alt Party, well what else can I say? Bigger, longer,faster, louder!
Also drunker, when you take the after-party into account. Also better
prepared, and better rested than any of the previous three.
I'll throw in colder, as this was the first time that we experienced a full-
on Finnish winter. This was also the first Alt Party where we heard the
cries of "Sheepies!" echoing around the place, courtesy of the very special
guest of honour, Jeff Minter.
I always had this impression of Jeff Minter as an extremely cool and down-
to-earth guy. I was pleased to find that the reality matched the public
relations, after spending some time in his company. He was especially a
terrifically good sport at the after-party, which was his first time as a
'sauna virgin'. Nice one hairy, and I hope future Llamasoft enterprises go
to plan for you!
The party itself was bigger than any of the previous escapades, the final
total of attending bodies getting near the three hundred mark. It looks like
that Alt Party is no longer going to be a small and obscure party, and it
looks increasingly likely, that this will more or less an annual event? I
don't think this is going to be the last one of these!
The live entertainment component of the party grows apace. There seemed to
be more of this than ever, especially on the first night, but at the same
time, the computer-based entertainment grew to keep up with it. There were
more competitions, and entries, and more demo's than before, especially now
that Wintel boxes have been allowed in.
There didn't seem to be quite so much retro-computing around, although the
organisers controlled everything very well from a Vic 20, and the two most
stunning demo competition entries still came from machines dating back to
the early 8-bit era. I think we are missing the MSX scene, although the
emergent Vic 20 scene seemed to be well on the way to filling that gap!
On a personal note things that sucked slightly last year hardly figured at
all. I managed to sleep at the party, even on that 'difficult' first night,
for one thing. Things like pointlessly wandering around, getting lost, and
getting delayed were avoided successfully. Also, the after-party managed to
be the best one yet. We came away reluctantly at around 04.30hrs, but I
think certain people didn't actually stop until they were dragged back to
the airport and deported from the country!?
On another personal note, we thank Martin 'Q-Funk' Racine for the loan of
his apartment whilst he was away, for the final couple of days that we were
I could go on all night, but just to finish up, I think that Alt Party still
rules, and I'm sure we'll be back for the next time!
CiH, for Alive! Mag,Jan '03