RetroKomp 2014 - Report


Third edition of the RetroKomp party for users/lovers/collectors of the „ancient” computers and game consoles took place on November, 8-9, 2014 in a port city - Gdansk, in the northern part of Poland. The visitors were offered, apart of the countless number of the old equipment, many attractions such as lectures, presentations and interviews with many software creators.

This edition was not expanded with Load Error demo party. As a recompense for that, the audience could watch a video show entitled „The night with a demoscene”, listed as the last point in the RetroKomp's schedule.

Earlier, for a couple of hours, one could participate to interesting lectures about XXth century's computers, in so-called Gdansk's Cultural Archipelago (on the Musical Stage to be precised) ul. Powstańców Warszawskich 25 w Gdańsku). Because I was proposed to be a part of the organizational team (hello Sachy, Tfardy, Johny, mCCnEx...) I could not allow myself to arrive with the „empty hands”.

On my personal and long TO-DO list I have had prepared a handful set of questions for the legenday (at least in Poland) group - QUARTET. Yes, the dudes decided to visit a party after... 20 years of silence. Here a BIG thank-you goes to Johny who was the first to contact the group and invite them for the RetroKomp. And I the fortunate one who was chosen (I would not say I did not want to;) to lead the conversation and discussion with Polonus, Hi-Man and Jemasoft. Raf and Duddie (who was in the Amiga Quartet section) could not come to the party unfortunately. Partially thanks to the fact that I know Quartet's soft-o-graphie very well, especially on the Commodore 64.

The trip to Gdansk was already something I will not forget. In the same train's compartment the precursors of the Polish C64 scene – Hi-Man, Jemasoft, Polonus and me – V-12- a big Quartet's fan since almost 20 years, who was dreaming of such a situations since a first contact with a „Quartet Chip” demo. The times passed very fast while talking about the old days when having a personal computer in the 80ies was a pure luxury.

In Gdańsk, after the not-so-short travel, at the train station we were warmly welcomed by no other than Johny/Lamers in person. We were about to see that Yolk, he too, arrived at the station to meet us. We rapidly hopped into his car and quickly arrived to the party place, where the last preparations were reaching its end. The retro-machines were already warming their integrated circuits up for good, showing the visitors all the wide and diverse spectrum of its sound and vision capabilities. Some machines were displayed as is, without being turned on.

The scenners were arriving slowly, but consequently. The Quartet members, when arrived to the party place hall, were welcomed by the Christmas Demo-Mix on Tfardy's Amiga 1000. As soon as Jemasoft has noticed that, he could not resist and caught the mouse in his palms to show and explain us the following parts of this 1989-year production. Another members were attracted by their first „true love”. Hi-Man played with ZX Spectrum, and Polonus, as for him, touched few C64s, and after that, with a curiosity started to use a Macintosh SE. The party's atmosphere were good and cozy, and the old QRT dudes felt as in the good, old days sharing with us their memories, and more memories. And it was just the beginning.

Because Quartet was RetroKomp2014 special guest, the organizers could not forget to present on the big screen some of the memorable C64 demos by the dudes from Szczecin. While watching those flying logos and scrolling texts, the authors were pleasing us with the stories behind. Thus we have been told that mostly, there were no „design tries” while coding or pixeling, and all the scrolltexts were written naturally and in the realtime, spontaneously. Without any big (apart grammatical;) corrections. It is a pity, I think, that such old groups are not too often (or not at all) invited or present on the modern copy-parties. They have a lot of stories to share and to tell. Besides, here, it was pleasant to watch on the big screen (between other demos) the Bvana Kubva’B.

The party evening was running quite normally and without any surprises. People were discussing together with each other, sometimes quite loudly (I am talking about no other than our dear Lotharek in person). It was the case of a very positive conversation that Lotharek had with Jemasoft. The latter one, in some cases had to present his secret martial-art techniques on live. The living model, or should I say - manikin - was our Lotharek himself and the results were very funny. After every contact Lotharek was laying flat as a flapjack and Jemasoft, smiling, was ready for more =).

RetroKomp party started for good on Saturday, 8th 2014, more or less at 8:30 AM (yes). An hour and a half later the visitors could have participate to special lectures about Polish technology and its history. The speakers (members of Technical Museum at ZSL in Gdansk and in Koszalin), presented such great machines as Elwro, Meritum, Bosman and UniPolbrit. The speakers brought theirs exponents to present them widely to the public. Some of them were in a perfect, almost mint condition, some not working (yet).

The lectures were very successful, with a lot of attendants almost all the time. One of the presenter was a man, who worked, during the Cold War period, at a secret CEMI laboratory, where some scientists were invigilating and reverse-engineering already existing solutions from the Western part of the Europe and World. His stories were really interesting. One could learn how the communism was controlling everything, how difficult it was to produce something better that a Soviet Union, or how many problems could bring a new proposal. Or how the project management was difficult (or made difficult).

About one hour later, on the first floor, in the room called „Games' Room” the masters of the joystick and pad have their competitions. This year's edition were a little bit smaller comparing to its predecessor from 2013, but still the competitors were at their best (and the organizers as well). The gamers had to prove their skills in River Raid (Atari XL/XE version; the leader was Yolk), Super Smash Bros (N64 game; leading player - Jacek) and Lotus III – Challenge (Amiga 500 version; TomRain as the best driver). The winners (this time unfortunately without V-12 ;) were announced at about 4:30 PM.

I cannot forget to mention virtually dozens of retro-computer exposes, side by side, arm by arm. The guys had a lot of work – explain to the visitors all the how-to's, to present machine's special features, outstanding games, rare programs and let the visitors try them and even play on them. That part was successful as well till the level there were no place to sit and have a rest. Enuff to mention that over 500 participants were present! „Phew”, huh?

At 11:30 AM two dudes - TomRain and Tfardy – were leading a lecture about one of the first Polish computer journal „Bajtek”. That was followed by Mirek_1978 and Marek „Troja” Trojanowicz who presented Polish-only games lectures. Marek_1978 presented an Amiga game called „Legion” and Troja - „Boks” - a ZX Spectrum product.

The presenters kept us very busy (and interested) all the time. At noon two young individuals from the city of Szczecin, calling themselves „Floating Coders” had a mission to introduce to the audience two new Amiga projects: a very well known DigiBooster by Wal and Tap of the famous Amiga group INV and a game - Castle Hack.

What is really worth to mention, and what was one of the flag-points, a especially for the people who were kids in the 80ies, was a very interesting lecture about a very famous TV program called SONDA. The 2014 was the 25th commemoration year of a tragic car-accident were two SONDA presenters ZdzisławaKamiński and Andrzej Kurek (together with a car driver and a program producer) died. The presentation, led by Yolk and Sachy, was crowned by two special SONDA emissions.

After a small pause (yes, we DID have a tiny break...;) all who were interested were proposed to go to Concert SCene, where a 20 minutes-long documental movie „Władysław Komendarek – W Kosmosie jest zawsze dobrze” (Wladyslaw KOMENDAREK – It is always good in the Cosmos) about the musician Wladyslaw KOMENDAREK was shown. During the projection no one, literally no one touched his keyboard, joy nor console pad. It looked quite impressive, in fact.

After the projection, to all the attendants surprise, the artist the movie was about, entered the bigscreen-stage. He was welcomed by a big applause and was ready to answer the eventual questions. The ex-keyboard player of already defunct formation EXODUS (no, not that C64 cracking group ;) was full of energy, vivid as always and was gladly answering all the questions for more than 30 minutes. When leaving the scene, was once again amply applauded.

I would also like to make a side-note and mention that I had met a C64 hardware-guru – Kisiel (together with his wife =). Kisiel presented his newest disk emulator – UK1541 (if you want to read more about this splendid device – the article is in THIS ZINE). It is no less no more a hardware 1541 floppy emulator for Commodore 64. It has a built-in LCD screen, can be managed remotely or joystick'ly ;). The test were successful... well, as far as I could have noticed behind and between my River Raid Atari (sic!) game sessions ;).

I was not only visiting and presenting. I also did a good deed ;). I managed to fix a broken Commodore 64 computer of one of my scene friends – Jesionen. Fortunately, the fix was done without any soldering (thanx to Tom Rain for letting us use his expo-desk for fixing it). It luckily turned out that the two suspicious integrated circuits had legs a little bit shorter than usually. Thus, more precised ICs placing fixed the issue. What is worth to mention, that Tom Rain as the only one, was presenting his C64 in the old classic way – a with a datasette and a Black Box cartridge. Everything connected to the old Polish Neptun TV set. Ummm that classic turbo-loading noise border-bars... It gave a special flavour. Happy Jesionen was playing like in the good old days, happy that his beloved Commodore 64 is now undead ;).

Another Commodore fan – Rafal, was less lucky. He asked me to test his C128 together with a 1571 floppy. The latter one worked perfectly, but the C64 successor had to go with me to my house. Still not giving any sign of life... Maybe soon?...

Despite the fact that the RetroKomp twin party called “Load Error” was not organised this year, a serious bunch of scenners were, never the less, present. Apart of already presented Kisiel, there were Jericho and Ryan (again with his SX-64) from Warsaw together with Stary Marabut (for whom it was the first party ever).

What is worth to mention was a special „floppy-stand”. Yes, Sebastian - the owner of "Save the Floppy" mark - who supported the party with the occasional RetroKomp t-shirts was proposing other stylish t-shirts. One, if wished so, could buy a BIG (and I mean it) 3,5" floppy!!! Yes, a big, impressive "floppy-table", with a moving metal protection as seen on the real 3.5 inch disk. A true design.

Finally my time has come. One of the most important moments in my scene life has arrived. I had a pure pleasure to find myself, together with all present Quartet members, and Silver Dream ! (who arrived to Gdansk saying nothing to anyone, what a big surprise! - thanx Silver!), on the same scene in front of the crowd. Man, that was something =). Patryk (Silver Dream !), never the less, decided to not to be on the stage with us. He joined the public to follow the event from the spectator's point of view. However, from time to time, he did add something to the discussion from himself, thou.

The granddaddys of the Commodore 64 and Amiga Polish scene were talking about the times where buying a computer was something equivalent to a challenge (economically and organizationally speaking). Not mentioning that the access to the specialized literature (what literature?) was quasi-null, or even negative ;).

During the almost two-hour discussion one could learn what the Quartet groups was doing (on the computer scene and beyond), why, and for what. We have learnt the secrets of Kebab magazine, its evolution way from-disk-to-newspaper shops. Why and who was responsible for C64+4 & Amiga paper commercial magazine. We even gave a try to contact Duddie/Quartet in a real-time but our wireless Internet connection was really wireLESS ;). Thus we could not successfully connect with him and talk. That's the only small issue.

After an exciting (and also sometimes funny) meeting with the legendary Quartet group, all the people who were interested in, in fact ;), went to the concert scene. There, the specially prepared „RetroKomp Star 2014!” statues were about to be given. Sachy - the party organizer – was in charge of handing this precious distinction. To whom? Well, the prize of RetroKomp Stars 2014 was unanimously given to the guys from... QUARTET! Jemasoft, Polonus and Hi-Man were sincerely surprised by this fact and did not hide their emotions. It was a great moment for everyone.

But it was not the end of surprises (also for Quartet), oh no. On the GAK music scene we were surprised one more time - Władysław Komendarek – a real personality – came back to enchants us with a pure eccentrics, outstanding gig. The concert with a flow of a cosmic energy. An electronic sound-storm, full of improvisation and laser-light came and was felt by all the RetroKomp 2014 participants. It had to please. Really. Just short before the concert's end, together with Silver Dream ! and the dudes from Quartet we decided to have a small rest. Ohhh… the blissful rest...

We came back just after the "Night with the Demoscene" has just started. Yolk, Tfardy and Johny - the funky Vee-Jays - pleased the crowd by presenting the videos of many classic demos for a various number of platforms (Commodore Plus/4, ZX, Amiga). When the demo presentations were over, the mixing table was occupied by DJ.ARRGH!BYTE who was giving his best to make us move!

The party slowly was reaching its small end. Step by step the party place became less and less populated. The exposers started slowly pack their sweet and precious machines. And at about 4 AM, or later, the RetroKomp 2014 party could have been considered as ended (and successful).

Our way back to Szczecin was full of new memories and anecdotes =). Especially those coming from Wladyslaw Komendarek concert ;). The „RetroKomp Star 2014!” statue was also there among us. All the time on the compartment table. It was a nice view and feeling =).

After a few hours, and few teas, I said to Silver Dream ! and Quartet dudes goodbye. I hope I will have another great opportunity to dig some other memories, coming directly from those who started the Polish C64 scene, as well as from the deep parts of Quartet's members minds.

See you next at the next pardey!

V-12 of Tropyx (14.12.2014.)

Translation: Sim / Wanted Team, Lamers, Resistance, Titan...