Yamaha CP

Yamaha Reface CP

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After creating my first SID tune in 25 years, I knew I had to get some sort of keyboard to test out leaders and chords. I didn’t want to get a big one as I didn’t have much room on my desk, and I didn’t expect to spend hours solely performing on it as I’m not brilliant at that anyway. A tiny one just to test out stuff would be just fine with me.

Luck had it that just a few streets away from my workplace in the center of Copenhagen, there was a renowned keyboard shop with tons of keyboards of all types and sizes. After checking things out for a while, I quickly decided not to get a small MIDI keyboard. These kinds of things tend to want an external sound source and I wanted it to have its own sound and loudspeakers.

Yamaha CP Unboxed

That’s when the new Yamaha Reface series caught my eyes.

Old C64/PC Player/Editor Notes

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While researching and compiling notes, papers and timelines for my 5-part series about my computer chronicles, I scanned a lot of old notes I made back in the 80’s and 90’s for my music players and editors on C64 and PC. There are also a few letters and other interesting tidbits as well. I didn’t find a place to include them in the chronicles but I thought I wouldn’t want to let the scanning go to waste, so here they are.

Unfortunately a lot of the ideas are almost solely in Danish. I apologize for not translating it, but it would have been a mammoth task. A few letters and an article are in English, though. There are five separate galleries, so remember to scroll down to start the next one.

I’m not sure how useful this is to anyone else but me – but for what it’s worth, here they are.

The Road to my First SID Tune in 25 Years

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Publishing my Computer Chronicles lately gave me a lot of positive response and it dawned on me how much the C64 scene still remembered and respected me for the editor and music I did back in the day. Not that I had been totally oblivious to it. That has been almost impossible on Facebook. I now have more than 750 friends there, and of course most of them have befriended me because of my past on the C64. I have been practically dragged into several C64 and Amiga Facebook groups, whether I wanted to or not. I just accepted it. Maybe there would be some nostalgia to check up on from time to time.

All these years, however, I always considered the C64 a thing of the past. A closed chapter. Now we have computers that are so much faster and produce so much better material, it’s not even funny. I considered the C64 a product of its time and instead spent my years making web sites and playing a ton of PC games. I had high hopes for some of the web sites and fan game sections I wrote, but none of them created much of a stir. It was pretty much letdown after letdown. There were a few dedicated visitors, but actually spawn discussions and spreading the word all around? Almost non-existent.

Just rolling tumbleweeds.

Especially my latest endeavor, the GameDeed web site, was almost always a major disappointment. I was actually arrogant enough to believe that a table layout would make it a strong contender among the likes of Backloggery and Howlongtobeat. Instead it immediately went for a small niche corner with less than half a dozen visitors per day. I even tried to fix this several times. Maybe if I added Steam synchronization? No? Perhaps if I added an export function? Still nothing? Then how about if I add a ton of C64 games?

Epiphanies

All these fiascos really got to me in the end and I finally decided to freeze all further development on the GameDeed web site. I played some more PC games instead and wrote a lot of blog posts about them, but again the feedback was somewhat sparse.

The hell with it, I then thought. Now I’ll do something for myself for once.

The Witcher 3: Leftovers

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Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2016 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

I completed the main story of The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine (the second expansion pack) in the end of December 2016 and wrote a blog post about it, but I still had a few question marks and secondary quests to finish off and I did so in January. I must say that some of these secondary quests were really funny and absolutely worth completing. I’ll get into detail about some of them in the spoiler section below.

It also turned out that there were a few additions to the game that I had not discovered yet in my previous blog post. One was the “Hanse” bases – unique map icons of fortified castles or caves swarming with bandits. Clearing these out could be challenging, especially if some of the bandits managed to light signal fires to call upon reinforcements. A base cleared out would be followed up by a short cutscene of soldiers taking over the place. Bandits in the surrounding areas would then have dispersed.

Screenshot

Another change was that clearing out a town had a different cutscene. In the vanilla game, villagers would immediately walk in and settle down. Now Geralt started meditating instead, a timelapse of a day passing by was shown, and as Geralt came back to his senses, villagers were now living and working there. It made sense that the developers wanted to make this change. The previous cutscene felt like the villagers were just outside the combat area, waiting for Geralt to finish off the monsters.

“Great, he killed them – let’s go!”

The Ideal Woman

I was going through my nostalgic stuff in my cellar room the other day, looking for old computer letters and notebooks. I found quite a number of notebooks especially from the 90’s. In one of them I had drawn this silly comic on September 19, 1996. I had forgotten all about it and it made me laugh.

The title can be translated to “This is what happens when you only desire the ideal woman.”

Comic

Please forgive the crude pencil sketching – I can draw stuff like this but I’m no Michelangelo.

FastTracker II Music by MSK

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Morten Sigaard Kristensen, mostly known as MSK in the European C64 demo scene, also made a handful of FastTracker II tunes in the end of the 90’s.

FastTracker II was a popular DOS tracker in the 90’s that used the proprietary XM file format. It employed samples as instruments, played with alphanumeric notes in patterns of typically 64 rows each. Up to 32 channels were possible. I have converted the original XM music to stereo MP3 for easy listening here.

Broken Waves
1998 Morten Sigaard Kristensen

Demo Tune Example
1995 Morten Sigaard Kristensen

Double Cross
1999 Torben Hansen and Morten Sigaard Kristensen
Cooperation between Metal and MSK. Made for the competition The Trackering #34.

My Computer Chronicles, Part 5

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This is part 5 in a 5-part series about my computer chronicles, right from the beginning of the 80’s to the end of the 90’s. I’ll go into details about the computers I used, how I got into the C64 demo scene, created my music players and editors, and the experiences I had on the way until the turn of the millennium.

Part 1 is here in case you missed it.

AdLib

At some point during 1991, I got a 33 MHz 80386 PC as payment for doing the Hugo sound work for SilverRock Productions. As soon as I got it, the C64 already started to fade into the background. It was cutting edge at the time, with a whopping 89 MB hard disk (my first hard disk ever), 5 MB RAM, a Sound Blaster card and of course a CRT color monitor on top of a hideous desktop box equipped with a digital MHz display, a 3½” floppy drive and a turbo button I rarely used.

I was instantly attracted by the Sound Blaster sound card and its AdLib FM chip. I wanted to code for it immediately. It actually didn’t take me long to learn how to code on the PC. Even though it was a 80386, everybody said that it was prudent to stick with 8086 code and that meant having to juggle with awkward 64 KB segments for code and data. For games this could be a problem, but it was good enough for testing how to code simple things and of course music players. For coding, I used Borland Turbo Assembler along with QEdit for editing the source codes. At this point it was all DOS mode only.

QEdit (Top)QEdit (Editing)

Getting hold of documentation about the Sound Blaster card was actually quite difficult in 1991. I searched for a long time before I finally got wind of a book in a small computer shop in a village further north on the island of Zealand. It was expensive and came in a box from which I pulled out sort of a small binder. It was unlike any other manual I had seen before for developing software. Things obviously worked differently on the PC. But the manual was a good investment. It had all the information I needed and soon I was testing the basic FM sounds of the AdLib chip. It also had data about programming the DSP on the Sound Blaster card for playing samples, something I would also make use of later.

My Computer Chronicles, Part 4

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This is part 4 in a 5-part series about my computer chronicles, right from the beginning of the 80’s to the end of the 90’s. I’ll go into details about the computers I used, how I got into the C64 demo scene, created my music players and editors, and the experiences I had on the way until the turn of the millennium.

Part 1 is here in case you missed it.

Snail mail

One of the best things about the C64 demo scene in 1988-92 was the way we swapped with each other all over Europe. Of course a ladder of recognition was in place. You had a much greater chance of swapping with the awesome guys if you had something to show for it yourself. Climbing the ladder and getting the best swapping partners meant trying to create better demos and smaller cracks. Newcomers (usually the youngest kids) that failed to impress anyone were often condescendingly called lamers.

It was something you wouldn’t want to be called, yet most of us started as one.

Being the network it literally was, getting the reputation of producing good stuff and being a nice guy earned you more connections. More people wanted to swap with you, improving the chance and speed of spreading your work. For the groups that prioritized cracks, it was about being the fastest and also having the smallest version of a game. The game might have a copy protection that was hard to crack. There was also some prestige in showing that your group can do that anyway. A smaller version meant having access to (or being able to code) a packer that could compress better than others. For demo groups, being able to break a new technical record or show a new type of awesome effect earned respect. A large part of this network was governed by this air of competition which by itself kept it alive and fast.

Snail Mail Letters

But the swapping also spawned camaraderie, giving it sort of a pen pal spin where nice letters were written, discussing everything related to the scene.