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To Be Or Not To Be #1
by Derbyshire Ram/Remember

Handle: Derbyshire Ram
Group: Remember
Country: England
Real Name: Barry
Age: 62.5 years old
Status: Married with five grown up children, and eleven grandchildren
Previous Groups: Ikari, Dominators, Deadline, Illusion, Aantgarde, F4CG, Alpha Flight.
Scene: Bought my first 64 in December 1982, entered the scene as such in 1985.

I have done many interviews over the years for various magazines, I think the main interest in me was my age and my activities, so far as I remember only 'Jerry of Triad' was anywhere near my own age, about five years younger than me if my memory serves me correctly. Many sceners were and still are fascinated by the fact that I was 'so old', in effect I got the impression that most people thought I was too old to own a 64, nevermind use it as I have done over the years, maybe if I were younger I would have been asking similar questions, but it is time for a few answers to those questions, not the ideal situation, but I will try to explain my actions, reasons, motives, call them what you will.

Back in September 1982 I was Production Manager in a gas cylinder manufacturing factory, at the age of 43 that was a good position, the money was good, I enjoyed my work, I had a work force of 118 production workers and 14 staff, things were really booming, or so I thought. In October of that year I did not have a job, something went redically wrong with my balance system and I was forced to retire from work on ill health grounds at the ripe old age of 43!!. It was an experience that will stay with me for ever, the worst scenario I could have imagined, and it was the last time I ever worked.

This explains why in my wildest dreams I would never before even have contempaleted purchasing a Commodore 64 computer, but I just had to have something to keep my mind occupied as I was not a cabbage as such. On impulse I bought a 64 along with a C2N datasette for L200, and even at that time I really had no idea what I was going too do with it, I could have had a 48K Spectrum or an Atari ST, but there seemed to be more programs for the 64 at the time as it was beginning to take off in the UK. It sound funny in a way to say I bought a c2n datasette, but at that time disk drives were like gold here in England, and there was a waiting time of up to one year to get your hands on one, admitted, at the time there was a package on sale like 64, MPS801 printer and 1541 disk drive, but we were talking L500, a price you can now purchase a decent PC for.

The worst was yet to come, games were not cheap, they mostly came out on tape, and loading time was half an hour on average, like load a game, get your dinner, and with a bit of luck the game had loaded into the 64, I say with a bit of luck because c2n's were far from reliable, and there were no alignment programs available at the time, the adjustments were done by trial and error with small screwdriver. At this time most games loaded to basic, or were even 100% basic, hence the loading time. I got to thinking that somehow there must be an easier and quicker way, I bought all sorts of little programs that were suposed to make loading faster, not many worked then I came upon the old 'back arrow turbo' program, this proved to be a god send and cut loading time down to around 3/4 minutes, but first you had to save out the original tape program, and the only monitors available were on tape, not like a cartridge where things stayed in memory, in fact many times it was far easier to do everything manually, like using pokes to stop programs actually running, save them out at that point and use the turbo to load them again, I suppose you can only liken the turbo program as a packer or cruncher as such, as that is exactly what they did to a tape program. I hate to think how many C15 blank tapes I bought in those days, I borrowed originals , 'cracked' them, and cut down the loading time. Luckily most of the old US Gold games had the same start address SYS2061, (no hex in those days), but 080D these days.

Eventually in 1985 I managed to get my hands on a new 1541, a blessing as I had 20+ contacts in the UK at the time and we were swapping on tape, the thought of that now makes me shudder, copying from tape to tape was a long drawn out job as no doubt most people know, but here was a new beginning, or so I thought. It is strange to think that most commercial games were mage in the UK, but even stranger is the fact that very few were sold as disk based games, the disks were intended for the rest of the then Western Europe and America, whilst 99% of all games here came out on tape still, something that continued until the demise of the 64 software houses in the early 90's. This applied to all 64 formats, both single and multi-load games, and to this day a lot of sceners around the world cannot crack games from tape, not particularly because the program is on tape, but the loaders got so sophistic towards the end, it was almost impossible to even crack the tape loader. As most people know, disk based games had little or no real protection unless 40 tracks were used, then it became a challenge.

The disk drive as I said was a blessing, it made it possible to use the new cartridges appearing on the market, like Action Replay, Final Cartridge and in particular the Expert cartridge, unfortunately the latter two went off the market to comply with game copyright regulations, the cartridges still survive, but there were to be no more updates, unlke Action Replay which was still available commercially until 1997. the problem with any 64 hardware these days is finding someone to repair it, consequently laods of this stuff has been binned in the UK in recent years. But back to reality, after I got my floppy I started to crack games, more for fun and challenge than for real, but as I was still swapping my cracks were getting around the UK at least, but I was still in awe of the big groups and notorious crackers, a totally different scene which in my wildest dreams never thought I would ever become a part of. I was asked from time to time to join some UK groups, but I had that awkward friendship with a lot of different group members, and I stayed sort of 'solo' as not to offend the others, and mainly because I always thought I would never be good enough to become a part of them. It was flattering to me to say the least, but wht did these guys want from a guy in his late 40's ??, but as it happened it seemed age did not matter, most people knew then how old I was and just accepted me as just another scener. I cracked for a few years using a 'Derbyshire Ram' intro and a lot of people thought that was the name of a group, and I even got into some charts as a cracking group!!. In 1987 I eventually (under pressure), joined Ikari as supplier and part time cracker as I did not think I deserved the title cracker, I had two good years in the group before all the English members quit, leaving it basically a Danish group. Nik was the final UK member, and when he quit the group, I did the same.

I plodded on for a while for some months on my own again, but with a far wider knowledge of how the scene was operating, and by now was in contact with many other Europeans in many other groups and was approached by quite a few of them to join their groups. I admit I was wary at that time as things were hotting up on the scene, and first releases were the order of the day, I had no modem and no real wat of communicating with other other guys other than 'snail mail', a slow job which was useless if first releases were needed. I got an offer from 'Dominators' to join them with the promise of a modem and cash for originals, as up to ten per week were being released at that time, something I could not afford to buy without assistance. To cut a long story short, I spent almost two years in the group, never saw a modem, never got any cash at all, cracked 148 games for them, only 12 first releases because the modem never arrived, then quit because I found I was almost the ony member cracking games, Dogfriend did the odd one here and there, but that time in 'Dom' cost me a small fortune.

From there I joined two more English guys, Rebel and Jade (later NME), we formed a group called 'Deadline' and had some real success with games both as first releases and mail cracks, some got duplicated as both lived a long way away, and communication was still a problem, we had a short co-op with the German group 'Arcade', but this was not to last long, as always things did not work out, like we would do a crack and 'Arcade' would release it without the co-op intro, not a new scam by far, but again we did not get the credit for mush during that co-op, I guess a guy known as 'Tyree' was responsible in the main for that. The group only lasted six months, it would have continued but we got an offer to join 'Illusion', a group I had admired for ages, so we joined them straightway.

This was to be the best two years I remember from the old days, I got a modem from them within a week of joining them and was able to call the American boards, a bit like a 'poor man's' website on the net to those who never called them. We had the World's best NTSC fixer, a legend of a guy called 'Pudwerx', a gentleman in every sense of the word. I was purchasing originals from the software houses direct which meant getting them maybe up to a week before they got into the shops, and all the members contributed to the cost of them. Not being at work meant I could crack them within hours of them coming through the post, I would upload them on the modem to Pudwerx to check for fixing, and he would add any additional trainers he could find, then post them on the boards as first releases. Here I have to make a confession, I was never good at multiloaders, I never got much chance to crack them, and there were better crackers in the group, so I transferred the to files and uploaded the files to one of the other members, maybe Pudwerx, Sauren, Fist or Rocky whilst I got on with the 'single filers'. Even at this stage I did not really know what I had let myself in for, it was hours of work on the 64, up to 8 hours each weekday and a few Saturdays, I say this because my wife hated the 64 to bits and I would not use it after she got home from work. My 'claim to fame', which was totally unintended was that I was at #1 in the World's cracking charts, and the swapping charts for over a year in some of the magazines, to be honest I found that more embarassing and frustrating than a claim to fame, but I did not put myself there, and it was never my intention to even get there, all it meant was more and more packages through my letterbox!!. They were really good times, no internal aggro, no malice, no wars, but very time consuming, fortunately something I was lucky to have. Sadly two members of the group got 'bust' for various things and the group gradually died as calling out was a risky business, so in 1992 the name Illusion like many more ceased to exsist.

From the remnants of Illusion, 'Avantgarde' emerged, slow at first, but became the top cracking group in the World, some top crackers, coders, writers and names were in the group, and again like Illusion we had a very good relationship, we got more first releases by far than any other group, and I supplied what English originals were available, my cracking days were coming to an end in the serious vein, and again there were far better crackers in the group than me. I cracked single file games and got some 'firsts', but in the main my swapping activities were taking up far too much of my time, so we agreed Jack Alien would concentrate on cracking whilst I swapped, spead, and supplied the originals, there were exceptions to this as most German guys were not familiar with the old tape programs, so I either cracked them or transferred the files, and JA would improve them where necessary. As time passed and the German software house 'Markt & Technik' ceased to produce games for the 64 we all got a little tired of the poor quality of games available, so inevitably 'AVT' called it a day too, again, some very fond memories, and some very fond friends. The best thing for me about 'AVT' quitting was the fact that Jack Alien and Hok had the idea about forming 'Remember', I had no hesitation about joining them, they were improving much better old games, some of which had never before been seen to work 100%, we work steadily under no pressure as first releases mean nothing to us, just the result, we have a good relationship, both on and off computers, my only regret is having never met either of these two great guys, but who knows..!!

After 'AVT' quit, I joined first 'F4CG' as a second group, second to 'Remember' that is, but the organisation was pathetic, little of no communication even over the 'net', and within a year I quit them and joined 'Alpha Flight' as a second group again, they were a friendlier bunch of guys albeit there was very little in the line of games to release, I did a few cracks for them, but the group had enough crackers already, and with not much to crack it was inevitable that the group would die a natural death, which they did.

I suppose all this is leading up to just one thing, really strange to me. I still have many friends who left the 64 well over ten years ago, a lot of them found again on the internet, the amazing thing is how most are only too happy to hear from you again, and others who leave a quick e-mail and you never hear from them again. For some reason totally unknown to me is that people think I am some sort of icon or similar, I do not know quite how to put it, but I am just an ordinary person, not a top notch cracker, I wish I had been up to a point, but what I did and still do is for me fun, I know I have been on the scene for a longtime, maybe that is why I am known to a lot of people, I never derserved to be put onto a pedestal, maybe as a friendly scener, but never as a cracker. My best experiences I have more or less explained above, but the thing about the 64 scene has been the friendships obtained during those years, a friendship I doubt you would see on any other computer scene, those who never had a 64 do not know what they missed, you only need to see the number of 64 websites on the 'net' to se the interest the 64 generated over the years, like over 20 years and still active.

My regret is that I was never able to work after 1982, (which is how this article started), but that was to be my explanation for even ever casting eyes on the 64, given the choice, which path would you have chosen ??, I would certainly have still been working, I have seen over the years how the 64 has ruined many lives, both at school/college and in the home, as other formats like PC, MSX and other formats are doing to this day, to say nothing of the results of illegal activities which seem far more serious in the present climate. My bit of advice to any young person is to 'put the computer second, not first'.

DERBYSHIRE RAM/REMEMBER

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