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The Scene Is I
by Mihai/Paradise

No, this is not the despotic quote of Louis XIV, it's the reality I'm living in. Cactus asked me to write some words about Commodore's adventure here in Romania. So after I read that article about the Peruvian C64 scene I didn't wanted to waste any more time, fearing that some lone scener from another exotic country will do this before me and cover me in shame. If this would have happend I would have stopped blaming US citizens for beliving that Romania is a country that grows bananas!!!

First I must begin by telling you that there is no C64 scene in Romania and it never was one. I am the only soul in this country that still maintains an active interest in this computer. How is this possible? Some of you may ask, after all, we are 22 million citizen here. It is very possible and you just need the right leadership. I guess some of you still remember Ceausescu, our famous communist leader. Well, this genius woke up one day in the 80's and decided that Romania will stop importing foreign techology and become the "Eastern Europe Japan". We had to do everything here, locally. So bye bye Commodore, Atari, Amiga, etc. All the brains from this country were gathered to mastermind and manufacter a Romanian computer. To fully understand the stupidity in which we lived back then, they chosed to produce Spectrum clones. During 15 years some cheap lame Spectrum clones were produced, most of them worse than the original ZX81 machine. You may think now that we must have had a flourishing Spectrum scene here, dong, wrong again! We didn't! They were so expensive that only very few people could afford them, mostly programming teachers that didn't had any underground interests.

1989 came, we made the revolution, we detronned Ceausescu, we executed him and we hoped for good things to come. But that didn't happen. In the first years of "freedom" and "democracy" we experienced only anarchy and looting, just like in Iraq after Sadam fled. We were still poor and we couldn't afford any computers.

From 1996 computers (x86 PC's) started to get cheaper and people started buying them more and more.

I think now you understand why I said that there wasn't any Commodore scene here. We jumped straight on the PC's, we didn't follow a normal evolution from 8-bit to 16-bit, and finally to 32-bit PC's, and so no bond could have formed between the user and his computer. Now, here 99% of the computer users will stare at you if you ask them about Commodore and Amiga, they don't know shit. Games, games ("Counter Strike") and "Mirc" (notice how Romanians call IRC, that's because all the Internet caffe's here use only this program for ircing).

This history has many consequences now in the present. In 1997 some guy from here visited "Assembly Party" and was amazed. When he came back he wanted to do a party here too. It was called Reunion party and magically it managed to bond and create a small Romanian demo scene. Some demos were made, gfx, tracked music, but then the organizer fled to US in hope of a better life, everything died. The only legacy left now is a chanell on IRC (on Undernet, most Romanians think that Mirc is Undernet and Undernet is everything out there) called #rdemoparty. There I met the ruin of what was once a joke scene. There is a dude who tries to create a demo portal, after many promises it's still not ready. There are some lame trackers that think they are the best. And there is a nice surprise, there are some very skilled graphicians (3D). They are the only ones that can compete on world level, very talented. Now the only party left here is Best PC Party that is considered lame even by the few sceners left, it's the meeting place of "Counter Strike" and Flash lamers. I plan to make myself a "If you can't bang your whore get your Commodore 64" T-shirt and shock them this year.

The Commodore scene here is made only of me. :) I am Mihai Barbat (pronounced in English as Mehigh Bharbath), a 19 years old guy from Brasov, Romania. My story began in 1990 when my grandpa didn't know what to do with his money. Being 70 years old he felt he needed a challange in his life and because girls were out of question at his age (Viagra wasn't avaible back then :)), he wanted to buy a computer to create something. So he bought a C64, monitor, tape deck, printer. It costed a fortune, half of a new car back then. He couldn't do much with it, he said it didn't satisfied him. I wonder what he expected. :) What if he would have seen the Soft&Wet part of "Dutch Breeze"? :) I guess that he would have really licked the joystick port, hehehe. I was just a kid back then and on Sundays after a big ceremony he used to let me play on it for 1 hour only, because he was affraid I might brake it, damn fascist! So after a few years he ditched it, he sold it to my father. Then he bought a C128 that he ditched later for a Hungarian 386 computer. Now at 82 he owns an Athlon XP 1700 with every gadget you can imagine. I wonder how he arrived here with absolutly no English at all. Yes, nature is still very surprising.

So I found myself in posession of the C64 with the datasette. I had 2 or 3 tapes with games that I used to play every day. I used to call my schoolmates at home to play on exchange for hours to ride their bicycles. There were some tragic moments back then. I remember how the tape broke and although I glued it back, I lost that game forever, it was called "5th Axis". Or how some "peasant" classmates got overwhelmed by a game and broke my joystick once. I wanted to kill them for this. So much anger. Slowly all those feelings got me very close to my Commodore 64. During this time a bond created between us, a bond that still exists and will never dissapear. Of course my kids will learn to play and program the C64, and ofcourse I'll take it with me when I'll die.

Having a curious father paid its price one day. Trying to fix a small problem he burned my C64 in 1996. I had another "killer moment" back then, but after some months the grieve disappeared. I tought I lost it forever, but 1998 came and I got into high school. So on one day I was in the city with my dad looking around, I don't know what happend, I guess divine inspiration drove us to enter this pawn shop. There it was a shiny new C128 with 1541 floppy and 40 col. green monitor. We didn't buy then and it got sold, but when we returned the following week, my jaw dropped on the floor, there it was back on its original place. The buyer brought it back because he didn't know how to use it. Hehehe, unworthy sucker, voices laughed in my head. Ignoring my mom threats "don't spend the money on crap!" we bought it without blinking. So from here on, a new Commodore chapter starts in my life.

I began hunting/stalking all the Commodore owners I could find. I launched tons of messages in the local news papers. I remember I found a freak, he was living alone. God, his place was such a mess. After practically begging him, he accepted to lend me his disks to study and copy. So one by one I think I went through some 500 disks during some weeks. I couldn't stop myself from stealing him the disks I couldn't copy. I took 2 disks, his and mine, which had to replace his disk. I used to sit for so many minuted trying to unglue the lables from his disks to put them on my phoney disks. In the end my disk looked just like his, hehehe (damn copy protections), and I sweated so much when I had to bring him back the disks, knowing that somewhere in them were some false disks. I guess that if he would have looked closer in my eyes he could have seen how they sparkle, just like Jim Carrey's eyes did in "Dumb and Dumber" after he put all those laxatives in his partners cup, hehehe. After I finnished with this guy, my dad found a woman at his workplace that had a C64 too. She lent us some disks. Then it was the first time I saw some "Swedish gay porn" games made in basic, I think. I had to stroke my joystick very fast to see some action. Anyway I did one mistake and I sat on a disk full with all those sick AMJish type of games. I replaced the disk again, using the same techique, but this time I wasn't so lucky. She verified the directory and the next day she rushed to my dad calling him a pervert and that he shouldn't steel her those games. Hahaha, I laughed the whole day, keep in mind that I did all the disks replacements in secret and my dad had no idea. So she refused to collaborate with us from that day. But the funniest moment had to be when I came across a german C128 book, although I didn't understand German I began looking in it. So here I was one day on my toilet playing "squeeze and let loose" and looking in this book. My attention was caught by this "Go64" command. I screamed from the toilet to my dad to turn on the C128 and type "Go64". After I rushed out I couldn't believe it, this was so cool, I typed "Go64" and the C128 reseted in C64 mode. Wow!

In 1999 in my first year of high school I began to slowly use the Internet, just the email service back then. After learning some LISTSERV commands I launched a search string to the mailing list server. I searched for Commodore and to my surprise I found 1 mailing list, called COMMODOR. There was one American that answered to my call and for some months he had to answer my questions. I went on with my questions further improving my culture about this amazing machine. In this time I managed to make tons of great friends. They helped me a lot with C= equipments. Thanks to them I got a SCPU, FD, 80 col. monitor that I couldn't afford here and much more, so now I can keep up with every technical challange out there.

One program I abused a lot in this period was "Big Blue Reader". I used to go to school with an extra bag of 5.25 disks. I carried on average about 50 of them weekly. After school I went to the computer terminal and I skimmed for hours through the C64 ftp sites downloading everything I could. I spent hours with this. Some looked at me like I just came from Mars or something, they never seen such disks. Anyway I came home shaking because I used to get very hungry and I worked on those disks all night. I used "Big Blue Reader" to transfer them on CBM 5.25 disks and another program made by an old Australian lady to extract the ".d64". All in all I needed 30 minutes for one side. Yes, you can say I was a pretty massochistic feller back then. And you didn't hear my story of how I managed to copy 300 Geos fonts using "Geos v1.2" and with only 1 disk drive, my hand shaked after so many disk flips I made.

After finnishing with the games, and after an US friend sent me a disk with the demo "ONEDER" I knew what I wanted next. The demo frenzy followed and I downloaded lots of them which to all emu haters happiness I watched only on my C128.

From 2001 I began to get online with my C128 using "Wings OS". Using "Ajirc" I came across #c-64 and I made some more friends and my interest regarding the scene grew even more. I used to know everything about everybody. Soon scene mags followed and I got the full picture. First thing I did was to release all the Ml tutorials I found online in all this time. The first version was entirely done on my C128, the zipping too. It was 1 MB only. The second version released later was 10 MB. This is how I tried to help everybody that had the will to learn Ml for this computer. The third release will be very soon.

So here I am, it's 2003 and I am writing this article for "Attitude" mag. I began to learn Ml, I am working on a small/lame intro and I hope one day I'll be as good as Crossbow, nice looking like Jeff, elite like Fade and horny like AMJ. :)))

Fuck all the Spectrum lamers and enjoy the C64!!!

MIHAI

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