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Preview

                             The 3rd ALT Party!
                       
                      Now the full story can be told!
                    
I'm sparing you all most of the pre-amble bit. Aren't you pleased with me!?

Well  not quite all of it,  as there is an all-new feature to this  familiar 
party landscape, that is, a brand new currency to get used to!

Outside  of  the Euro-hubbub,  views here in the UK are rather  mixed,  some 
people  get all defensive,  seeing it as some sort of 'attack' on the  great 
British way of life.  Others are rather more enthusiastic,  and look on with 
regret, wishing they could join in with the Euro fun. 

Now  I've come up close and personal to this new funny money for  the  first 
time,  and  my  first impression is of feeling distinctly  underwhelmed.  It 
seems  that the designers of the Euro have decided to make it  as  charisma-
free as possible.  Firstly, the notes themselves are on the small side, even 
the  higher denomination 50 euro note.  The 5 euro note could easily slip by 
without being spotted.

Secondly,  I  have a real problem establishing the country of origin from my 
UK-acquired  monetary spoils.  I see that there is a standard design on  one 
side,  something  like a map of Europe and a bunch of bridges,  to prove the 
'Euro' part of it. The other side gives the individual euro zone states free 
reign  to express its proud nationalistic and artistic tendencies.  But  the 
other side of my notes seem to continue the blandness from the  standardised 
cross-border 'bridges n' harmony' motif.

I  really  can't  tell where these euro-notes originated from..  Hang  on  a 
minute,  now I remember that the notes are the same wherever, it's the coins 
that are freeform on one side, and I don't have any of those as yet..

There  are several anti-forgery devices built in,  some of them are a little 
bit  scary on first viewing,  and I seriously thought that I had been  given 
dud notes initially!

There is a weird 'see through' gadget,  which only prints part of the number 
on  one side,  and the 'missing' bit on the other.  so what you see at first 
glance,  looks  like something went horribly wrong in the printing  process, 
and it is only when you hold the note up to the light,  that you can see the 
rest of the number, then it all becomes clear.

Near  the top of the note,  something that might be a signature of the chief 
cashier  of the central bank,  which looks at first glance,  like a clerk or 
teller  has rudely scribbled on your brand new note,  and at second  glance, 
like  a  very roughly sketched concept for a replacement for  Concorde,  but 
drawn by someone on bendrezine...

The  watermarking  is good and going on for brilliant,  and I like the  neat 
little metal strips at the side.  But I've got a feeling there might even be 
too much of a good thing there,  whilst people are still getting used to the 
new  currency,  they may not be able to pick up all the anti-copying gadgets 
at once, which gives the counterfeiters a momentary opportunity?

But I look at the small,  forlorn,  if very neat and new pile of euro's, and 
never has 100 UKP Sterling never looked so small! 

I hope that isn't a prophecy for how far my money goes at 3 Alt?

Okay, that's your lot for this one, see you back after the party...


 DAY 1, Thursday January 10th.

09.00ish,  and CiH struggles free from the Northampton rush hour traffic, to 
rendevous  with  Felice and John H.  (the being known as 'Asteroid'  in  the 
realtime  text)  at  Felice's place in sunny St Neots,  the town  that  time 
forgot. An incident free journey, with some old thing by Depeche Mode on the 
car stereo,  leads to the premises of the Felicing one. Both he and John are 
in  the throes of packing,  with stuff in various states of confusion in the 
hallway and bedrooms. My SCSI hard drive (the smaller 400 meg version) is to 
join  Felice's Falcon,  in a big hardened suitcase,  and suitably padded out 
with (protective?) clothing.  John has brought his own item of rare hardware 
with him to take to 3 Alt, an Acorn Archimedes laptop, known as an A4. 

There  is an idea to host a Maggie or Alive!  realtime on this,  so cleverly 
avoiding the more normal sort of 'A4' that we tend to use, as in paper...

That  is  if  it  chooses to work,  as it hasn't reached John  in  an  ideal 
condition.  It  has been abused by several years use in a school  situation, 
apparently  works when it feels like it,  and is generally starting to  fall 
apart.  John switches it on to run some funny little game or other. It seems 
to  look  okay to my eyes,  apart from some damage to the  external  casing, 
caused  by a determined schoolchild and a piece of sandpaper?  He is looking 
forward  to trying out some more Acorn software I've brought on my SCSI.  As 
it turns out, the Archie based realtime party log is one of the successes of 
the party, as the accompanying realtime report of over 70k in size reveals.

The  fact  that we are travelling by air means that baggage is kept  on  the 
sensible side,  and Felice's car loads very easily for the next stage of the 
journey to Stanstead Airport. This passes by painlessly, and we park up at a 
long stay car park,  seemingly going halfway back to Cambridge.  Checking in 
at the airport goes by in a haze of routineness, apart from John having some 
screwdrivers confiscated.  Fortunately,  the security people didn't take any 
further  action with reference to John's possible Bin Laden tendencies,  and 
so we are left to pass the couple of hours or so to our flight unmolested.

Looking  around the shopping area,  and eating pricey and so-so quality food 
help  to  ease  the  time lag.  We also make our first stab  at  the  Archie 
realtime, and get a little distance until the battery gives out. (The Archie 
had  a  "brilliant" low battery warning widget,  which was supposed to  give 
around  five  minutes warning,  which actually turned out to be just  enough 
time  to  fumble frantically for the 'Save' command,  and not quite make  it 
before the machine died altogether!)

At  the  departure gate,  there is more success with the realtime,  as  John 
locates a 'spare' power socket,  normally used by cleaning staff, so we were 
able to make a renewed attempt on it.  No-one dropped by to stop us. Nearby, 
a  loud-voiced American person lets us know that he owns a  high-end  mobile 
phone.

The flight is on a bright yellow Buzz aircraft, and is totally unremarkable, 
apart from an in-flight sandwich cunningly disguised to make it look  larger 
than it is.

Some  later,  at  a locally adjusted mid-evening sort of time,  we arrive at 
Vantaa,  the Helsinki  international airport.  We know it well,  the ancient 
Fokker monoplane,  possibly the first member of the Finnair fleet,  is still 
dangling from the ceiling,  the customs and security people have seen it all 
before,  and  we are to meet up with Q-Funk,  the former fellow traveller to 
the first ALT Party. He is not there waiting for us. 

John H. and Felice attempt to call him on the phone numbers he has left with 
us,  but they  fumble,  and are still trying to figure it out,  when the man 
himself arrives suddenly in our midst. He looks remarkably like he did, when 
we  first met in person,  back at Heathrow airport,  on the way to the first 
Alt Party,  all those years ago, a large amount of facial hair, and throwing 
out a constant stream of humourous mannerisms behind him.

We  are  to  head  back  to his place,  across town,  in  the  not  entirely 
unfamiliar  suburb  of Espoo,  the former residence of the big man  himself, 
Setok!  A  series  of  buses follow,  firstly from the airport to  the  city 
centre,  then a breath-takingly bumpy drag across town, particularly for the 
suitcase  containing  Felice's Falcon.  It is wheeled,  so Q-Funk charges on 
ahead  with  it,  over  cobbles,  and down kerbs with a thump and a bump.  I 
remember my external hard drive is in there as well!

We pick up the final bus to Q-Funk's place at the other bus station,  and it 
is  only  a short,  snow-covered distance to his place.  The weather was  in 
traditional  winter  mode,  but  not as cold as I had been  led  to  expect. 
Temperatures  as low as minus 25 degrees centigrade had been experienced  in 
the  period after Xmas.  These were temperatures more typical of the  north, 
than downtown Helsinki,  but right now,  the winter weather was more in line 
with that of a middling day in the UK. I was prepared for the colder harsher 
scenario,  bringing  extra clothing,  and wearing much of it for the journey 
over.  So  I ended up sweating into most of it by the time we got back to Q-
Funk's place.

A  perilous scramble up some hilly,  and uncleared icy paths gets us into Q-
Funks  apartment.  We establish crash spaces for the nights sleep,  then set 
off  to sample some localised version of that  international  burger-monger, 
Macdonalds,  a branch of which was handily located a short distance from Q's 
apartment complex.  A close encounter with a local burger,  described in the 
realtime  follows,  and clean-up squads with high powered hoses are summoned 
to take care of the aftermath, or something.

A quick stop at the nearby garage to top up on chocolates and  carbohydrates 
follows,  then  back  to  Q-Funks for more general  reminiscing,  with  some 
interesting  personal  information  given out.  (Now I know the  full  story 
behind  the  origin of the scene nick of 'Felice'!) Eventually,  we head  to 
bed,  as tomorrow promises to be an early start,  with us spending the early 
hours at one of Q-Funk's workplaces.  We bed down in two rooms, Felice and I 
in Q-Funk's room,  and John H. in the sitting room cum other bedroom for the 
presently missing housemate.

To  help John get a poor nights sleep wobbling on a razor edge of  fear  and 
uncertainty,  Q-Funk  mentions that his housemate is something of a paranoid 
delusional alcoholic, with violent tendencies! Sleep tight John!

 DAY 2, Friday January 11th.
 
But  it  isn't any drunken blatherings that rouse us,  rather the  insistent 
tones of Q-Funk's alarm clock,  at some ungodlike hour of the morning. Lying 
still  to make it go away works for a short time,  but we have to get up  in 
the end.

A  twilight bus whirls us into the city centre,  luggage and all,  and so we 
end  up  at  the first,  and plushest of Q-Funk's  various  workplaces.  The 
pleasant sight of a blonde uber-babe receptionist smiles at us,  and we make 
our way upstairs,  in the very hi-tech lifts with the inner workings exposed 
for all to see.  Before he disappears,  Q-Funk is considerate enough to show 
us  the  coffee  machine,  and a free classroom with some  internet  enabled 
PeeCee's running. And we keep ourselves quietly amused, well apart from when 
Felice  tumbled on some anti Bin Laden animations,  until lunchtime when the 
bearded one returns. (Q-Funk, that is, not B-L!)

Lunch  is in a high quality staff restaurant.  The menu choices vary between 
some  intimidatingly  heavy  Finnish winter food,  and a curried  stir  fry, 
cooked on the spot, so we decide to give the latter a go.

This is good, and we are refreshed, so the final stage of the journey to the 
partyplace, Gloria, begins. A mad-arse taxi driver spins across the icefield 
at the side of the workplace, this is our transport there...

Getting  to  Gloria is straightforward,  and we drag our gear into the  main 
hall.  Already  present are some of the organisers tables,  someone else who 
unloaded,  set up and left,  and the Reservoir Gods,  sitting in a very dark 
corner. There are four of them this time, the strongest 'Gods' showing for a 
long time.  regulars such as Mr Pink,  MSG,  and Sh3 are complemented by the 
fair presence of Ripley,  for whom this is her first major coding party. She 
is  here  with  a traditional reporters notebook,  in a disturbing  echo  of 
previous  Maggie  attendances,  and  is looking for a story for one  of  the 
magazines  she  writes for back home.  The others are hard at work on  their 
various projects, and I get to see a nearly completed 'Godpee' in action, as 
well  as an early version of another conversion being done in  collaboration 
with  a well-known French Atari crew.  There was also another so far unknown 
project mentioned,  which was being done with another Res Gods member 'Neo'. 
but I didn't get to see any of this last one.

At  this  very  moment  of arrival,  only Mr Pink  is  working,  having  the 
advantage  of  his Sony Vaio laptop,  the others have brought more  orthodox 
'Alternative' hardware,  but are stuck impatiently awaiting monitors to turn 
up.

Meanwhile, Felice makes a disheartening discovery, as he unpacks his Falcon. 
The  casing  has picked up some scars and gouges from the trip  across  town 
last night,  and several of the keys have come off.  All but one of these is 
put  back  easily,  the  '3' key on the top row is broken though.  For  now, 
lacking  monitors ourselves,  we have to wait and see whether the damage  is 
more than on the surface? The Archie based RTA seems to be coming along fine 
though. Q-Funk goes away to his next job, to reappear in the evening.

In the afternoon period,  more people gradually arrive,  and start to set up 
their gear. In this fashion we get to catch up with fellow Atarians, Wiztom, 
Baggio,  and ZPQ.  Wiztom seems to be planning on making some sort of return 
to Atari coding.  For the demo competitions at Alt, he is getting ready some 
kind of record breaking shadebob screen, and for something more interesting, 
he  is apparently investigating a 3D texture map world engine for  the  STe. 
Ultimately,  nothing  appeared  from  either of these in  the  competitions. 
Baggio  has a bit more to show off,  some new and so far unseen effects from 
Wildfire's long forthcoming Falcon demo.  These are seriously good,  and the 
finished demo, hopefully will be out at some point this year?

Also in this 'lull before the live music power tool specialists' period,  we 
get  to check out the rest of Gloria's facilities,  the small cafe/bar,  and 
the  rather useful internet connection.  Also,  there is the small matter of 
purchasing  the  official  3  Alt  t-shirt,  which  continues  the  slightly 
paramilitary theme of the party website.

The time for the opening ceremony approaches, a certain amount of tuning up, 
or is that last minute repairs to the stage?  commences, with the live music 
acts,  who  are to pleasure our ears a bit later that evening.  A revival of 
the C64 deejay is promised as well.  The opening ceremony passes off quickly 
enough. Q-Funk reappears, decides to move his kit upstairs onto the balcony. 
About this time,  thoughts turn to meeting Pahartik,  due in from Tampere at 
around 19.30,  and getting some more food in.  Q-Funk,  myself,  Felice, and 
John  H.  head  out into the city,  and we opt for a nice pizza place by the 
railway station.  Q-Funk goes to fetch Pahartik whilst we eat ours, and soon 
I  spot  the distinctive silhouette of a small person under  a  strange  hat 
drift past the restaurant window. I correctly conclude this is Pahartik..

We  head  back  after our food is finished,  back via a series  of  slippery 
hills,  with John H carrying Pahartik's monitor for him,  what a great bloke 
John is!  Still,  no accidents on the way back, so that was alright then. Q-
Funk whisks off upstairs with Pahartik, we remaining Maggie/Alive people opt 
to stay where we are.  Q-Funk and Felice head back to pick up some more gear 
from Q-Funk's place,  his 486 Debian Linux box, and a portable telly for use 
with  Felice's  Falcy.  The  rest  of us stay behind,  as the first  of  the 
evening's live music acts is gearing up to begin performing.

The  quality  is  variable,  some  of it is rather good,  some  of  it  most 
charitably  described as "experimental",  and not so much music,  but more a 
series  of  noises.  By this time,  the main hall is rapidly filling up,  in 
contrast to previous Alt parties, where there always seemed to be some table 
space left,  and soon,  a couple (male-female, what were you thinking?!) are 
sitting next to us. Among other items of older hardware, they have a Vectrex 
running! This was one of the cool machines of 2 Alt, and a reappearance here 
is very welcome! He has a devkit going from a PC, to the Vectrex itself, and 
he  is working on a small demo for the competitions!  In the meantime,  more 
classical  Vectrex  fare,  such as a vector version of Scramble is  running, 
there is even a rare transparent coloured plastic overlay on the screen.

In  our  corner meanwhile, John H.  takes a break from the realtime,  to get 
some image files working on his Archie. We manage to get some demos running, 
but  these seem to be from an era when scrolly texts ruled,  and they  don't 
look that great on a blurry LCD screen. 

About  22.00  hours, the live music flips over,  almost unannounced,  to the 
Commodore  64  live  DJ set.  This is variable in quality  too,  going  from 
'good', to 'blummin' excellent!'  The length of the set is more satisfactory 
this time too. In my opinion, it was over all too quickly at 2 Alt.

This is seriously cool, and we are entranced, but what follows after, is way 
too  loud,  so  we  retreat  to the lobby area,  and take cover  behind  the 
internet  terminals and coffee bar for the following hour.  By the time that 
volume  levels in the main hall have returned to a safe level,  it is nearly 
midnight,  Felice and Q-Funk have returned with the rest of their gear,  and 
Felice  is about to check to see if his Falcon internals have  survived  the 
journey better than the casing did? 

An initial attempt with the wrong sort of aerial lead is inconclusive, but a 
second go with the correct connection shows us the good news,  that Felice's 
Falcy isn't dead after all!
 
 DAY 3, Saturday January 12th.

Midnight creeps up,  and is gone again.  I head upstairs,  to see how Q-Funk 
and  Pahartik are doing,  and also to establish a base camp for the sleeping 
area. They seem to be doing alright, with a tri-machine local network, based 
on  the Debian box,  with Q-Funk's TT,  and Pahartik's ancient Sparc Station 
running  off it.  We pause to ask ourselves the question,  is Q-Funk's nudie 
desktop a paen to sexual frustration, or what?

Setting up sleeping equipment here seems to be a good idea initially.  It is 
clean,  and  relatively  quiet,  if you discount the noises coming from down 
below in the main hall, which ultimately, you couldn't. 

I'm  guessing,  it was around two or three am before I attempted to get some 
sleep.  Stepping  over  the  slumbering corpses of Felice and  John  H.  The 
solitary  figure of Pahartik still at his Sparc,  I settled into my sleeping 
back, gratefully, for a nights rest....

Unfortunately, although the live music had finished downstairs, the music in 
general  had not.  Eventually,  the loud and upfront bassy tunes gave way to 
something more 'ambient' and soothing, but truth be told, still a bit on the 
loud  side.  I manage some sort of half-sleep for around a couple of  hours, 
before  it  gets too much,  and I get up again.  By then, the main music has 
stopped,  but  someone is using one of the big display screens to play  some 
beepy  chippy sounding MSX game.  A case where YM chip sounds really WERE  a 
racket!  What  motivated  me to get up,  was a loud English accented  voice, 
which may have belonged to the Oric enthusiast known as 'Twilighte'  talking 
to Setok. So I get up to see if I can find him.

Downstairs,  there  are a few people moving around,  and a sizeable chunk of 
porn on the local cable teevee.  I decide against waking Felice. Looking for 
some kind of breakfast reveals the coffee bar shut,  so I end up chatting to 
one of the organisers, a big untidy looking bloke, who remembers me from the 
other Alt parties.  Another chap, a member of a PeeCee crew, and employee of 
Wiztom's workplace, Housemarque joins in. His (real) name is Sami Koistinen, 
and  he works as a coder there.  We get into a discussion on how long  we've 
been into the scene.  I seem to get extra credibility points when I say that 
I've  been interested since the late 1980's,  and even incur some degree  of 
awe,  when  I  mention  that I was involved with a diskmag  for  ten  years. 
(Maggie, of course!) 

Eventually, foodless, I drift back to bed, around 06.00, to attempt to sleep 
once more.  The music has all but stopped, but the ingame annoying soundchip 
racket still goes on.  Sleep is starting to catch up,  may even yet win out, 
until  the final surprise of the night blunders into the  adjoining  balcony 
area,  and starts crashing about drunkenly and yelling down to the main hall 
below.

That did it,  I am awake,  there is no going back now,  and the curse of Alt 
Parties past, lack of sleep, wins out yet again!

The scene around 08.30 - 09.00 finds me,  and John H.  awake,  and borrowing 
back  my spare power cable off MSG's currently switched off monitor.  We are 
reviving my SCSI hard drive,  getting it to talk to Felice's Falcy, which it 
does, grudgingly at first, more willingly when we get HD Driver on the case. 
Transfer  the contents of my '3 Alt temporary' partition to one of  Felice's 
unused  IDE virtual drives,  and update on things like the Archie  realtime. 
Also update on things like coffee,  very welcome after such a long and noise 
packed night.

Eventually,  Felice rouses himself up and joins us,  so we make an executive 
decision  to go out for some food and check out the local Macdonalds at  the 
bottom of the street.  Instead,  we find that at 10.30hrs, they STILL aren't 
open yet,  presumably never heard of a breakfast Macmuffin? Instead, we head 
to the adjoining mini-mart or convenience stall. These seem to offer a range 
of  quick cheap things to eat that mirrors the sort of thing a  garage  shop 
sells,  but without petrol,  or windscreen defroster. They happen to serve a 
hotdog, which turns into one of the nicest snacks of the whole weekend, with 
a lightly toasted bun, ketchup, mustard, and an onion dressing, yummee! 

Suitably snacked up,  we get back to Gloria,  and one of the first things we 
do,  is  to check out the neat display of several of the other old computers 
at the party. On a slightly disappointing note, unlike the second Alt party, 
they do not seem to be doing too much,  and the majority of the hardware has 
a  little caption card with it,  a bit like a museum in fact?  (Could be the 
Arctic  Computer  Museum.)  This way,  we get to see a rare  Finnish  badge-
engineered  version  of  the Dragon 32 (where literally only  the  name  was 
changed!) I pick up and lovingly fondle a ZX81, rekindling ancient memories. 
The SAM Coupe is back, but sits silently. The Telmac is picked up, and feels 
very lightweight, but there is going to be no demo written for it this time. 
Almost passing unnoticed,  is some very new hardware,  the next gen Nintendo 
console,  the Game Cube.  This is playing the rather filmlike intro sequence 
to  some Star Wars game.  (I found out shortly after writing this bit of the 
report,  it  was  actually  playing back a ten minute 'short'  feature  film 
called 'Troopers', about a day in the life of a couple of Imperial Troopers, 
done in the style of a reality teevee police documentary.)

Of  other  hardware  around  the party.  A fair  number  of  Commodore  64's 
predominated,  not  so  much  MSX stuff this time.  A Commodore Pet did  its 
tightly looped textual thing next to us,  and the MC6800 evaluation kit made 
a welcome comeback!  We learnt earlier at the party, there was going to be a 
return to demo amazement form from Viznut,  the coder of the Vic 20 entry at 
the first Alt Party.

For  now,  someone  is  demonstrating  an enhanced C64,  which has up  to  4 
megabytes  of RAM,  and a 16-bit version of the 6502 CPU (which is the  same 
CPU  used in the SNES!) clocked up to 20 mhz.  They are showing a very  nice 
demo,  written about a couple of years ago with this expander in mind.  This 
super-C64 was based on a C128 chassis, and it looks like the 'dual' Z80 part 
of  the machine got lost with the upgrade!  Although it was possible to have 
the same sort of expansion done to the Z80 half if you felt so inclined.

Really,  apart  from  one  or two isolated showings,  and  some  interesting 
related material a bit later on, this party underplayed the exposure to demo 
material  from  diverse  platforms.  A  promised Falcon  specific  spot  got 
scrubbed,  and  it  was  mainly through one-to-one  viewings  of  individual 
machines, that I saw much of interest before the competitions. We didn't get 
to see any MSX demos,  and I'm sure there were releases since the second Alt 
Party for that platform?

Note  for  the next Alt Party,  we need more demos from  diverse  computers, 
maybe lose one or two of the dodgier live music acts?

After that,  I am talking to Wiztom about his planned 3-D world demo for the 
STe, which seems to sum up as a quite simple main bit of code, but a hell of 
a  lot  of  ancilliary sounding stuff.  Whilst he is doing this,  I feel  my 
concentration  going  rapidly  as lack of sleep catches up,  like  the  mean 
motherfarmer it is. So I make my excuses and leave to crash out for a bit.

This  is  right back in the spot which I abandoned earlier,  and  everything 
seems to be alright at first.  Q-Funk and Pahartik are silently tapping away 
on their screens.  I recline back in my sleeping back to relax,  which works 
until people start stepping over me to get to the control desk for the  main 
projector.  With  this  third attempt at sleeping killed off prematurely,  I 
relocate my bedding in the side corridor, a hopefully quieter location.

Back downstairs,  and I finally meet Twilighte,  the other British Alt Party 
attendee,  and keen Oric fan.  He initially catches sight of us,  and I show 
him around Felice's Falcon,  and Maggie and the Hmmm demo in particular.  He 
is  suitably  impressed,  and reveals that he was a closet ST owner  in  the 
past,  along with other machines such as the C64,  and of course, the famous 
Oric.  Today, he has not brought any real hardware, but is able to give us a 
pretty  good demonstration of what he's been up to,  on the emulated version 
of Oric, known as 'Euphoric', on his PeeCee Laptop.

Twilighte  has been doing the odd bit of demo coding,  namely in cooperation 
with  Dbug  of NeXT,  but with a little demo all his own,  whose main  tweak 
seemed  to  be inventing new colour modes with cunning combinations  of  red 
green and blue pixels. The Dbug demo, was a follow on from the STNICCC demo, 
for  some French party last summer,  and quite possibly even more impressive 
ñthan  that  earlier  demo, featuring more enhanced screen modes  with  many 
colours,  and  fantastic  zooming.  Even a clever use of hi-res mono got  in 
there,  with  a better than average greets section,  which included a lot of 
Atari people, as well as Oric dudes.

We also saw a couple of games that Twilighte had been working on. These were 
to  a very high standard for the 8-bitter,  and we semi-seriously considered 
if 'Chu Chu Rocket!' could be converted Oric-wise, then we saw sense! (Check 
out  'Mini-Mag'  in  this  issue for another  viewpoint  on  the  wisdom  of 
converting  Chu  Chu for the Oric!) Also,  we got to see,  or hear a modfile 
tracker for the Oric.  Don't forget the Oric has practically identical sound 
hardware  to  the basic STFM,  so clearly the difference in CPU power  makes 
life easier for the ST. So the Oric was doing well, to be kicking out sample 
replay at a humble 5khz.

Twilighte  has been interested for a long time,  but has only started  doing 
things  of a scenish nature relatively recently.  With a view to dropping in 
and checking out his Oric setup at home,  I urge him to stay in touch, as he 
only lives an hour or so's drive away from me.

Afterwards,  back to the Alive!/Maggie table,  where Felice seems to be into 
past glories of Falcon Maggie, and John H. has been loaned a VGA monitor, so 
he can run his Archie laptop in glorious full colour.  At this moment, he is 
running  the  vastly ambitious 'Star Fighter 3000',  a game  which  combines 
elements  of  Star Glider and Cybermorph,  with touches of some SNES mode  7 
thing  as  well.  This looks way cool,  but John gets trashed by the heavily 
opposing forces very frequently,  with lots of polygon shatter.  Eventually, 
all this fiery death gets too much, so we go and look for some lunch. 

Macdonalds  have roused themselves at last,  so we head there.  encountering 
the  Finnish equivalent of a children's hour,  including one baby Bin  Laden 
suspect, who seems to be incarcerated withing a penal playpen, but perfectly 
happy in there?

In  the  latter part of the afternoon,  the next pre-planned event comes  to 
pass,  this can be loosely described as the 'MSX laserdisk hour'.  Here,  we 
get to see a couple of real rarities. These are games based on a combination 
of an MSX computer, and a laserdisk player. A rare and expensive combination 
in  the  mid-eighties,  pre-CD ROM,  when a lot of us were still using audio 
cassettes.  As  the  realtime admirably describes,  these seem to combine an 
awful lot of work in areas like background rendering,  with a really crummy, 
lightweight,  sub-VCS  game.  The second game is based more on the "classic" 
Dragon  Quest style,  with its arcade rooted potential for sudden  premature 
death. In fact, watching the many different variations on the violent ending 
theme proves to be the most entertaining part of the experience!

The  live  games  competition  springs  into  existence  amid  a  blaze   of 
incomprehension.  Some kind of combat or tank game features, but without any 
shooting,  as  far  as  I could see.  This was running on  an  Intellivision 
console,   the  ñearly  80's  Sega  Saturn  equivalent,  to  the  Atari  VCS 
Playstation. 

Shortly  afterwards,  I  manage to corner Setok in the organisers  tent,  to 
round  up  the latest rumours for this evening's competitions.  He is  in  a 
confident mood,  claiming up to eight good quality demo releases,  a mixture 
of  anything from Macintosh to Vectrex,  with a good helping of Commodore 64 
in the middle. The Vic 20 is to return to centre stage too, courtesy of that 
talented  young man,  Viznut.  It all looks rather good from this viewpoint, 
although  there  is no sign of any Atari badged entries,  not even  Wiztom's 
trace of shadebobbing code? 

We are also able to view the results of the analogue graphics competition in 
the  lobby.  These  have been created via the medium of paper  and  assorted 
crayons,  and a large number of interesting entries are on view on the wall. 
Out  ahead  of all of them,  is Lance of Aggression and his depiction  of  a 
'Cyber  Fish in Space',  which does not look too different from how he might 
have  done this with computer paints?  We guess that this will be the likely 
winner.

Another  'Alternative'  competition next,  and one with only one taker,  the 
eternally excellent overhead projector compo comes up. A group called 'Taat' 
(no relation to you know who?) manages the seemingly impossible. To create a 
demo  without  computers!  This  is done with a clever  use  of  transparent 
acetates,  some effects,  particularly things like overlapping acid circles, 
came out very well indeed. Others, including a 'rendering' section done with 
a set-square, were hilarious in the extreme. Surely this was how the eastern 
bloc countries used to do demos,  even before the first Atari 8-bits reached 
them?

Somewhere  before  the live music,  and the first major competitions of  the 
evening start,  we grab some food from the ever-handy Macdonalds,  as we are 
told the doors are going to be locked during the competitions.  The Res Gods 
also go out to grab a pizza, and just about make the return deadline.

Back  into  the main hall,  and just as the live music acts are starting  to 
gear  up for their instalment of the evening's fun,  a middle-aged  American 
drops  by  to  check  out the Vectrex set up next to  us.  He  seems  to  be 
radically different from the normal run of Alt party guests,  apart from old 
farts such as Twilighte and myself,  and is taking a keen interest, but from 
an  outsiders  point of view.  This person turns out to be the famous  guest 
speaker,  Robert  Michal,  creator of the Amiga and Lynx (not to mention the 
3DO).  He is in our bit of the hall,  and even when talking to him, we don't 
realise who he is!

As the realtime reveals, he did also look at what we were doing, principally 
with the Archie laptop,  and I managed to run a demo which he thought highly 
of.  Meanwhile  the live music competition was starting to get going at this 
point in time.

Most  memorable moments from the live music compo.  One guy trying to play a 
digeridoo,  and not succeeding too well.  Also Setok with a vocal style of a 
sea  mammal in its death agonies groaning "Boring buggers suck!"  The  scary 
thing  is,  that I'm still not sure if Setok was taking himself seriously up 
there!?

More musical hell follows,  with the modfile competition with no samples! Oh 
great,  and  why  not follow that with an electric chair execution  done  by 
candlelight!?  The end results are done in very little time, "live", meaning 
about  an  hour  before,  and with whatever scratches and  clicks  that  the 
composers have been able to 'make' themselves.  Some of them sound passable, 
but  not  the  sort  of  thing  that takes  pride  of  place  in  a  modfile 
competition, let's face it.

A  4k graphics compo gets in there somewhere,  then we're almost on the last 
leg,  waiting  for  the  main demo competition.  Felice starts showing  some 
camcordered  excerpts  from  the STNICCC party,  about five  minutes  worth, 
taking  us  back  to a time where warm luxurious rooms,  with  Atari  people 
enjoying  sumptuous  catering,  ran  riot.  We  didn't  sleep  there  a  lot 
either....

Just one more thing before the demo competitions,  as our guest speaker, the 
recently  blissfully  unknown to us Robert J Michal,  creator of the  Amiga, 
Lynx and 3DO goes to the front of the main hall to speak.  At that point, we 
connect  with the middle-aged but youthful sounding American person  in  our 
midst  earlier!  He  goes on to a rapturous reception,  in the manner of  an 
elderly  and past his best form rockstar playing a gig to his  most  diehard 
fans, and lapping up every last nano-second of the experience.

The realtime gives quite a good summary of the main parts of his speech,  so 
I'm not going to repeat them here. Needless to say, every word is lapped up, 
and Robert is invited to take some questions afterwards.

Initially he takes some questions from the floor, and gives some interesting 
answers  including  the disheartening possibility that  Microsoft  might  be 
around for a very long time to come yet (if current multi-national companies 
in  other areas,  like the car manufacturer Mercedes are a guide.)  Although 
they may be tempered by the growth of Linux in its forthcoming  easy-to-use-
for-newbies  incarnation  'Lindows'.  There is also an interesting  sideline 
which  picks  up on his relationship with Atari,  in the very early days  of 
Amiga,  which  was  not so great.  Indeed,  Robert was only latterly able to 
bring  himself to mention 'Atari' by name,  and still wasn't able to mention 
the dreaded 'first family of Atari', the Tr*miels, unless really pushed!

The  formal  part of the meeting breaks up,  then Robert is surrounded by  a 
heaving  mass  of interested bodies,  including just about all of the  Atari 
kids  of  the UK contingent.  This close-up probing goes on for a very  very 
long  time  indeed,  and  Robert  finds  himself  fielding  pretty  detailed 
questions  about  the Atari Lynx in particular.   It is a typically Felician 
'curved   ball'  question  that  solicits  some  of  the  most   interesting 
information  about  the  status of the Tramiel family.  "Are  Jack  and  Sam 
Tramiel  still alive?" gets the response that,  yes they are,  but not doing 
too  much  else  at  the moment,  opting for a profile  that  is  positively 
subterranean  these days.  Indeed,  this eager pushing close and questioning 
continues, and it is well past midnight, by the time the demo competition is 
clear to go. 

 DAY 4, Sunday January 13th.

The  much  anticipated demo competion,  with loads of high quality  entries, 
begins  at last.  It doesn't start off too badly,  with a conventional solid 
vector  3-D  'dentro' production,  produced on a fairly bog-standard 386  SX 
PeeCee by the overhead projector people.  The grins on people's faces become 
rather   more   fixed,   and  start  to  blur  into  a  frown   of   worried 
incomprehension, when the iMac entry comes on next. 

This  is  a clever parody of 'advice of an intimate nature,  given to  young 
women  of  a certain age,  in bygone years',  with some 'artistic' or  truly 
fucked-up  video.  A  return of the 'Ego demo' of 1st Error in Line  infamy? 
Quite possibly!  On further reflection,  this would have suited our visit on 
Tuesday to the Kiasma museum of contemporary 'ars' in central Helsinki  very 
well.   A good and funny fake or joke demo from a famous C64 group 'Extend', 
is next,  then something called 'Megademo' on the MSX, which turns out to be 
one  of  those  2  Alt five minute creations,  then  the  C64  follows  with 
something  very similar.  An endless black pit opens up before the screaming 
audience... Another BASIC demo on the supercharged C128, better than the two 
entries  preceding  it,  but purely of dry technical interest keeps us  from 
falling in totally.

The  last  three  entries  reintroduce the  missing  factor  of  ass-kicking 
coolness  into  the  competition.  Viznut  blasts out with  another  Vic  20 
masterpiece, shorter than his first one, but with a gorgeous 'truecolour' or 
palette-faking  screen reminiscent of Dbug's Oric efforts.  The applause  at 
the  end  of  that one included a large and heartfelt  chunk  of  relief!  A 
classic  Gameboy demo starts slowly and confusingly,  then all of a  sudden, 
classic effects, well executed, can be seen, this one goes on to finish well 
and keep interest levels bubbling.

Finally,  a demo on a most unusual platform for demos,  the Vectrex demo, or 
'Vecdemo'.  This has no video output, but the screen is filmed, live and the 
result  beamed onto the big screen.  The Vecdemo actually benefits from this 
method  of transmission,  as otherwise mundane vector effects seem to gain a 
brilliant blue lense-flare at crucial moments,  and I'm sure,  fooling a lot 
of  people into thinking it was a natural and intentional part of the  demo! 
Now  if  someone  were  to reproduce this in  a  'normal'  demo  on  another 
platform.  Right,  are  you  lot taking notes,  brilliant blue 'sunburst' or 
flare coming from common vector line objects, how about it, mainstream? What 
we  actually see,  seems to be a specially adapted version of a trailer  and 
credits for a forthcoming game.

With that,  the demo competition is over, but not a single entry with a Fuji 
badge anywhere near it, not even a Senior Dads 'GEM fake demo'.

I  manage  to get to an internet terminal,  a very lonely 'first'  with  the 
news,  or non-news,  for the Dead Hackers pages, on a weekend where everyone 
else in the Atari scene seemed to be on holiday.  Afterwards, there seems to 
be  some expression of regret from a Godlike corner of the hall,  that given 
the prevailing standard of some of the middle order entries, they could have 
pulled  off  something  better on the Falcy?  Indeed,  the world  is  keenly 
awaiting the next ñ128 byte-tro, or better still, the follow-up to the 'Snow-
tro'! 

It  is  damn late by now,  and the post-competition collapse  into  freefall 
madness  is well underway.  At some unnamed hour,  some of us attempt to get 
some sleep, denied to us the previous night.

This proved to be nearly as complicated as last night...

When  I  get  to  my  newly appointed resting place,  in  one  of  the  side 
corridors,  Felice  is  already out of things,  along with a number of other 
sleep-anonymous Finnish bodies.  John H. comes to join us, and my inflatable 
pillow  seems to have gone on a unilateral world tour,  without telling  me. 
Still,  it seems to be quieter, and more settled than the noisy central part 
of the hall, so John and I settle down. 

But a constant flow of pedestrian traffic, shuffling back and forth, none of 
it  feeling  able to shut the doors to the central  gallery,  provides  just 
enough  interest  to keep us awake.  Some of it is packing to leave,  as  an 
intensive  torchlit  search for stray goods and chattels,  also keeps  sleep 
just at bay. At one stage, a possible wild competition entry consisting of a 
man  in  a  black binliner hobbles about purposelessly.  Unlike  MSG's  ever 
popular  'worm-bag' style,  this guy is wearing his bag over the top half of 
his body! It may have been real, or it could have been a rogue hallucination 
from lack of sleep? 

Eventually,  I get to sleep, don't know when, and wake up around 09.00, look 
around for a bit,  clean up,  and go back to sleep for a short time, until I 
properly awake a bit later on.

This  late morning part of the day mumbles inaudably into  life.  Presently, 
the  others  join me.  Large amounts of lazy relaxed adding to the  realtime 
article, web-browsing, and watching what the Vectrex fan next door to us was 
up  to,  follows.  He  is  working  on  a small demo,  based on  a  Windowze 
screensaver,  which  was  an early work in progress to something bigger  and 
better?  Some food,  from the ever-ubiquitous Macdonalds, makes its presence 
felt.

I  turn to packing my stuff for the journey home,  relocating the major part 
of  the missing pillow in the far corner of the corridor.  A missing  shirt, 
which  didn't  move  out  with  me  after  the  first  sleepless  night   is 
rediscovered, and that is that.

It is wearing on to mid afternoon before the results of the competitions are 
announced. Here they are, reproduced in full:

THE ALTERNATIVE PARTY 
11th-13th January 2002 Gloria, Helsinki, Finland 
http://www.altparty.org/

RESULTS

Classic Gaming Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. Shocky 
2. Kameli

Overhead Projector Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. tAAt: Valoköysiviljelijä

Live Music Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. Epävire                      55
   Nosfe + kumpp.               55 
3. Bass Cadet                   41
   Analogia                     41 
5. Die Rebels                   38 
6. Pilvisten herrasväki         37 
7. tAAt                         20

Realtime Music Competition With No Samples 
---------------------------------- 
1. Deetsay: Prop Eller Paeae    80 
2. Tripper: Vaihto(ehto)kalsari 52 
3. Ravel: Irresponsibility      37 
4. tArzAn: Viidakon huoltomies  26 
5. Hooligan/DCS: Kyrpae         25
   Cahva: Gauheeta scheissea    25
   Skrebbel: Lapzwans           25 
8. Stonda: Medium                0

Pi kB Graphics Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. Uncle-X/MFX: Metropolis      80 
2. Electric: Meiju Suvas        46 
3. Nosfe/MFX: Sceneboylove      31 
4. Random/Armada: Kebabelaein   30 
5. Marquee/Rapbisse: Hilsemutki 17 
6. tArzAn/tAAt: Media           15 
7. Scoopr: Scp-alt              14
   Zeroic/Details: Steve McQueen14
   Stonda: Stonda               14 
10.Kameli: Downhill              7 
11.Ravel: Pizza-man              6 
12.Nosfe/MFX: Tuijotus           5 
13.Sauli/Jumalauta: Saulin penis 4

Analogue Graphics Competition With Colours 
---------------------------------- 
1. Lance/Aggression             

Alt-machine Demo Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. pWp: THOH                   109 (Vic-20) 
2. CNCD: ALT TOO                65 (Game Boy) 
3. Pelikonepeijoonit: Vecdemo   44 (Vectrex) 
4. tAAt: Partaitiö              41 (386SX) 
5. MFX: Space Cadet             31 (iMac) 
6. Extend: Hunger One            9 (C64) 
7. Jumalauta: MSX-megademo       7 (MSX) 
8. Pihtisoft & pWp: NMNMNA       5 (C128+SuperCPU) 
9. Extend: Cafe Lamer            1 (C64)

Obscure Machine Competition 
----------------------------------
   Pelikonepeijoonit

Poster Placement Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. Marquee

The Unofficial NetHack Competition 
---------------------------------- 
1. Tokio                    534409 


No  surprises  for  the demo competition,  with Viznut as top dog  with  his 
wicked  Vic 20 code,  and honourable second and third places to the  Gameboy 
and Vectrex demos respectively.  The rest of the results won't mean too much 
to you non-Atarians and non-Finns out there?

A  barely  awake or alive Setok concludes the closing ceremony,  for a  fast 
disappearing third Alt party.

It  is  over,  bar the going home part,  the party rapidly reduces down to a 
small group consisting of the Reservoir Gods,  with Partycle,  our favourite 
vampire,  ourselves,  Wiztom,  and  a  small  band of Gloria staff who  were 
starting the clear-up operation,  sparing us the table moving traumas of the 
second  Alt  party.  Thoughts,  and phone calls turn to getting a taxi,  the 
bigger the better,  as Q-Funk and Pahartik's stuff,  in combination with our 
own, is really quite an impressive floorful.

An initial taxi turns up,  but this is too small for our huge luggage needs, 
and  it  is sent away again.  Indeed,  it may not even be ours in the  first 
place?  Mucho taxi confusion with Q-Funk follows.  Several times,  he phones 
the taxi firm,  with different and ever more entertaining excuses given when 
the  taxi  concerned,  seems  to have been mislaid.  Eventually,  a suitable 
vehicle  turns  up,  but this is the one that the Reservoir Gods booked,  so 
with a whoop of vegetable headgear inspired joy (don't ask!) They rush  off, 
leaving a small group of us behind. 

A  further  long wait ensues,  with more casual backchat passing between  an 
ever  more  irritated  Q-Funk,  and the taxi company.  A long time later,  a 
station wagon sized vehicle arrives.  We charge with armfuls of monitors and 
bags,  taking the taxi driver by surprise,  but he bravely helps out, and we 
stack ourselves, and the gear as best as we can.

Back  at  Q-Funk's,  he  persuades the driver to go most of the way  up  the 
slippery  ice covered hills next to his bit of the apartment  complex.  This 
just leaves the final bit of path,  and steep stairs to go. Still, with five 
of  us  on  the job,  we soon clear away the gear upstairs,  and  thankfully 
collapse.

A thoroughly pleasant evening follows,  where sauna's are taken, in Q-Funk's 
minature  hotbox,  which  seats three people.  Interesting design feature of 
even this humble Finnish apartment, as it manages to fit a half-decent sauna 
in.  Pizza's are ordered,  via the ever reliable Pizza-Taxi, fondly eaten at 
past Alt events.  These arrive whilst we are still sauna-ing, so a gaggle of 
us  hide in a naked fashion behind the bathroom door,  goading each other on 
to  peer out,  whilst Q-Funk answers the front door,  presumably in a not so 
naked  fashion?  (Well,  where would he keep the money to pay for the pizzas 
otherwise?!)

The  pizzas are good,  even better when ordered in a borderline Baggio large 
size  in my case,  and we eat well.  Large scale chat resumes at this point, 
with  Q-Funk revealing that he was dissatisfied with life in Finland,  in  a 
strange  echo of many of the same reasons that had him  escaping from Canada 
three  years  ago,  when we met him on the way to the first Alt  party?  His 
present  escape  route involves a likely looking job in Estonia.  If  Q-Funk 
goes for this,  I hope it works out, but at the same time, I wonder if he is 
going  to be having this same conversation in another three years time  with 
us.  "This place is useless, the women are too proud/dumb/materialistic, and 
they don't like foreigners here.." (??)

It gets later,  more beer slips down,  and eventually, sleeping equipment is 
made ready.  It could have been either side of midnight when we went to bed, 
I'm not sure, but it was close either way...

 DAY 5, Monday January 14th.

Sleep  the  sleep  of the totally shagged out,  fade to black as  the  world 
outside spins away.....

02.00ish,  Intruder alert!  Lights in the hallway,  voices in the next room! 
Q-Funk's nightmare alcoholic flatmate has made an  unwelcome return.  John H. 
is in the chair,  as the flatmate is clearly the worse for wear,  apparently 
covered  in  blood  from a kicking he took at a local seedy  dive  from  the 
friendly  local  drug dealer(!) John opens hailing  frequencies,  with  "Hi, 
we're  the  British  guys!" (Which might translate to  "Don't  shoot,  we're 
British!") Mark,  for this is the drunkard's name,  asks if John has got any 
weed or booze, to which John replies that he hasn't. (Or he COULD have said, 
"No, but we're British, and we've got a nice cup of tea, doncha' know!") The 
initial  tense  period  of misunderstanding is over,  and Mark  now  has  an 
unwilling if attentive audience in the form of John.

Mark treats John to a series of paranoid ramblings, specifically that Q-Funk 
sent him a death threat,  and that Q-Funk wanted him out of the way, because 
Q-Funk  wanted to get to his girlfriend, and was ñconstantly staring at  her 
tits!  He  also complained about his injuries,  saying that he got beaten up 
for no reason,  and that he was such a loser,  he would never hit them back. 
He goes on in this vein for some time, before wandering over to the kitchen, 
finding  the half-bottle of beer that we missed,  which seems to quieten him 
down  a  bit.  Pahartik,  also  in the same room as John,  has his  identity 
queried, "Are you really Finnish?" 

We  are  all awake,  and listening to this very carefully.  Do we get up and 
help  John?  Bollocks,  do  we!  He seems to be handling this situation very 
well,  so  the part of my brain that handles sleep and cowardice  decides to 
leave him to it.  Eventually,  Mark quietens down in a manner which suggests 
he is going to bed. Quietness, darkness, and sleep thankfully resume.

08.00. 
BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP!

09.00. 
BLEEP BLEEP!  - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! - BLEEP BLEEP! Stops for a short 
time, resumes, with the occasional angry sound of a text message hitting the 
memory  banks  of Mark's phone.  Yes,  it is his phone which is filling  the 
apartment with much unwanted mid-morning noise.

Eventually,  John  has  had  enough,  and  gets  up,  picks  up  the  phone, 
practically shoving it in the face of Mark, who is sleeping off the exciting 
events of the night before,  until he wakes up enough to answer it. Poor old 
John,  as if he had not suffered enough already!  The caller turns out to be 
the girlfriend of Mark, fascinating to Q-Funk tits and all.

As it is, in spite of the tragicomic interruptions, we sleep in a determined 
fashion,  only getting up a very long time later, around 13.30. In daylight, 
and without the blood and booze,  Mark seems to be a normal human again,  as 
opposed to one of the paranoid or weird variety. 

Before setting off for town, we catch some highlights of the local community 
cable  teevee  channel,  including  a piece filmed,  live at the Alt  Party, 
featuring  a interviewer aiming in the general direction of that  non-boring 
bugger, Setok. As this is one of those channels which constantly repeats the 
hour's output, we make sure that Setok is warned to look out for it the next 
time it comes around.

Into the city centre,  and we make much needed phone calls (hello Nicky! She 
sent  me  an email to my cih@atari.org address,  just a short time after  we 
finally left Gloria, so I didn't get it until Tuesday, damn...) Get out much 
needed cash from a much used ATM. We go on to a nice cafe to stuff ourselves 
with some very nice buns and cakes,  Finnish style. We then go on to the not 
entirely  unfamiliar premises of Molly Malone's,  to consume some even  more 
needed beer! This takes us up nicely to early evening, when thoughts turn to 
going back to Q-Funk's place,  and then onto the post-party sauna. Some more 
lurking in the metro,  and various record shops follows, John H. is taken by 
a Moomins souvenir shop in the metro shopping centre,  but the shopkeeper is 
out, so he doesn't buy anything.

Back home, we get to meet the girlfriend of scary alky man Mark. She manages 
blondeness  with  a  wry smile that suggests she has seen all  too  much  of 
Mark's more off the wall antics, her name is Margaret. We move everyone else 
into  Q-Funk's room,  in accordance with the unspoken wish that she and Mark 
might  want to be left alone tonight.  This takes some major reorganisation, 
in which I personally end up better off,  swapping a pretty good airbed, for 
an even better mattress. That done, thoughts turn to the after party sauna.

The  sauna  is some distance away,  not at the former (2000  vintage)  plush 
premises of Fishpool, as they have been forced to downsize to some extent in 
the  harsh  world  following  the Dotcom crash.  Instead,  this is  at  some 
municipal  place,  attached to an apartment complex,  and we are to make our 
own way there.

The  journey  to  the after party was memorable,  chiefly for  the  sort  of 
reasons that the last moments of the Titanic were memorable.  Now Q-Funk was 
either a bad judge of distances,  or a very good liar, as he decided that as 
the after party was "only a couple of kilometres" away, we could walk to it. 
Now this sounds nice and reasonable, and even my asthmatic mathematics would 
give  an approximate timing of around half an hour to complete a journey  of 
that length on foot? But the realtime, in all its gory glory, details a much 
longer  journey,  say an hours walking,  and around twenty minutes buggering 
about in a confused fashion,  when we did get to the other end.  So it can't 
have been "only a couple of kilometres",  can it?  I'm not even going to get 
entangled  in  discussing Q-Funk's knack of making 'short-cuts' out  of  odd 
places  where  foot traffic wasn't really intended to go,  as that may  turn 
into a rant too far.

Still,  all abysmal things do eventually pass,  even after a very long time, 
and  so  we arrive at the rapidly gathering sauna party.  This seems  to  be 
filled with a lot of Fishpool and Aggression guys,  and assorted hangers-on. 
Setok has yet to arrive with the Reservoir Gods, but they wil be there soon. 
In  the  meantime,  We take our coats off gratefully,  collapse,  and John H. 
sets  up the realtime Archie laptop that he brought along specially for  the 
evening.  One  of  the Fishpoolers is playing with a laptop of his own  with 
some weird little speech synth program.

Setok and the 'Gods arrive,  bringing with them,  large quantities of potato 
snacks,  crisps,  beer and coke.  Also a selection of nervous humour, as the 
sauna derived tension becomes palpable. We take a closer look at the crisps, 
these are in very big bags, labelled 'Megapussi'. Oh wow, more opportunities 
for sexually based cheap wordplay,  there will be no holding back Felice and 
John  H.  now!  Putting  my  hand  into the megapussi,  I grabbed  a  crispy 
handful...

Soon,  activities turn to sauna,  and we go in the first batch, as the sauna 
can  only  hold  eight  people at a time.  There is  someone  with  a  large 
television  camera  on  the premises who is taking a keen  interest  in  the 
proceedings.  John H. slips into 'Stupid Boy' mode, hoping out loud that the 
camera  doesn't follow us in.  Q-Funk decides this would be a great laugh if 
he did.  So he comes in,  and we're wondering how we might be able to get to 
lynch Q-Funk twice in one evening? 

The  sauna,  well,  it's  just  these guys,  you know.  Just to add an extra 
flavour to the evenings proceedings, John drops one in the sauna. The fellow 
sauna-goers   flinch,   and  it  seems  that  John  had  committed  a  major 
'saunacrime'! (With a one strike, or guff, then you're out, policy!?)

("Hehe,  Hey Beavis, I've got this really cool idea, like, when we're in the 
sauna,  why  don't  we,  you know,  like fart in the direction of the burner, 
then throw some water on it, to make, like, FART STEAM!")

("Now why would you want to do that, Mr President, Sir?")

Anyway, we survive the rest of our sauna, without any more anal incidents or 
anecdotes,  and we dry off and dress in a very relaxed frame of mind, doubly 
so,  after  extracting a promise from Q-Funk that we are going home by means 
other than foot transport. 

The Reservoir Gods are still reluctant,  doing their best impersonation of a 
sauna-hating cat on a hot tin roof.  Meanwhile, we gain an unexpected bonus, 
as  we  get talking to a nice Finnish babe,  whom mother would  surely  have 
approved of for marriage!  Her name is Heli,  and we even are as bold to get 
her to type into the realtime before she goes.

One  of  the  'Gods does go in,  the most confident member of  the  team  is 
Ripley,  who  goes  in on her own,  with Partycyle guarding the door,  hmmm? 
Inside the main lounge or post sauna rest area,  a big discussion on weighty 
topics,  such  as  'the future of the scene' is building.  There are lots of 
suggestions, but with no conclusions reached.

 DAY 6, Tuesday January 15th.

It is sometime around midnight,  not too late,  when the five of us head off 
home.  There  is no rerun of the forced march.  An abortive attempt to catch 
the last bus home,  results in a taxi turning up a little later and cramming 
five of us in. The drive back takes a good while, and we wonder just how far 
we actually walked? Definitely more than 'two kilometres'!

The rest of the night is straightforward,  there is no rerun of last night's 
oddball  dialogue,  and  we sleep happily right through until Q-Funks  alarm 
announces the new day.  He goes to work,  leaving us to sleep on, a sensible 
move.  We do get up at a suitably mid-morning hour, and manage to rouse Mark 
and Margaret to let us out.  (A lot of Finnish apartments don't have a pull-
shut  latch  lock,  and  you HAVE to have a key to get in and out.)  We  are 
meeting Q-Funk in the centre, but making our own plans first.

Having got the Helsinki bus service well and truly sussed, we wind up in the 
centre of town,  looking around awhile for a place to eat.  We find one, sit 
back  and  eat,  then onto the Computer Club Bookshop,  in a very ritzy  and 
upmarket development,  near a whole load of other upmarket stuff,  including 
the  place that is to make this Tuesday afternoon so memorable,  the  Kiasma 
Museum of Contemporary Art.

The  bookshop  is  very accommodating,  and very well stocked,  mainly  with 
English language material on many flavours of computing, with a strong Linux 
bias, it has to be said :)

We  meet up briefly with Q-Funk to set up plans for the rest of the day,  we 
are  to  go  on to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary  Arts,  a  huge  curved 
aircraft  hangar of a building often glimpsed from the outside,  during  our 
various travels around Helsinki.  Now we were going in!  One thing which led 
to  more juvenile language-based hilarity,  was the Finnish word for 'arts', 
which was 'ars'. So notices within the hall asking us not to touch the 'ars' 
elicit a gentle titter, apart from Pahartik, who may be just that little bit 
more cultured than the rest of us?

The interior is striking, modern, and the exhibition is organised so you are 
gradually heading ever upwards,  until it culminates in a Volkswagen Beetle, 
cut up and with the bits redistributed around in an artistic fashion,  right 
up  at  the top.  In keeping with the contemporary theme,  the exhibits  are 
'Tate Modern', rather than 'Old masters'. Some of these may be considered as 
'ars'.  There  was  one  which  seemed  to  (unconsciously?)  draw  on  some 
techniques  of  demo coders,  used and long discarded,  which developed on a 
recursive sprites theme!  Other exhibits verged on the impressive, including 
the  huge stack of radios known as 'The Tower of Babel',  which took up  two 
floors.

There  was  an awful lot of the sort of thing,  where the artists  life  was 
photographed,  or videotaped,  and reinterpreted through a curiously twisted 
viewpoint.   I  thought  that  the  iMac  demo,  from  the  Alt  Party  demo 
competitions  would have fitted in here perfectly well.  Speaking of  which, 
there were some smart Macintoshes which were running the museum  information 
service.  A John H. bit in the realtime also goes into pleasurable spasms of 
technoporn  appreciation,  at some of the very expensive kit used to display 
this  stuff.  We considered if it would be possible to smuggle out a 40 inch 
plasma flat screen under our coats, but drop the idea with some regret.

I  would  say  that none of it was dull,  and we whiled  away  a  thoroughly 
entertaining afternoon in Kiasma.  Eventually,  we head back down,  and find 
the restaurant, as taking in all that culture was thirsty work. Then to meet 
up with Q-Funk to collect his cable modem. 

Q-Funk  disappears  to collect some documents from the Canadian  embassy  or 
something, and we head over to the cable modem shop, to wait to pick up this 
modem. It seems that this shop has borrowed its retailing practices from the 
Soviet Union, as we take a ticket, and wait, and wait....

Internet  terminals,  when  one  can be grabbed,  and a rolling  multiscreen 
presentation  of  various  tele  programmes and films,  help  to  break  the 
monotony  a  little bit,  but an hour later,  and we still seem to be little 
closer  to getting out of there.  Q-Funk returns,  leaves us with the key to 
his apartment,  and dashes off back to work, whilst we remain in the waiting 
room.  Empires rise,  civilisations crumble,  glaciers grow and retreat, and 
eventually,  our  number is called.  Pahartik is in charge of the paperwork, 
which  the  counter clerk seems to accept,  and he comes away,  clutching  a 
brand new Motorola cable modem. It subsequently turns out that they accepted 
Pahartik's  handling of the paperwork so much,  there was an imminent danger 
of  him getting all the bills for Q-Funk's cable subscription  and  internet 
useage! At the time we left, they were still trying to sort that one out!

After  a bit of a diversion around the shopping centre known as  the  Forum, 
trying  to get a belt or strap for Pahartik to rig up to carry  his  monitor 
home,  we  eventually  stagger home on a handy bus (number 105).  We make it 
back,  about ten minutes ahead of Q-Funk, he arrives, and much fiddling with 
cable wall sockets, and setting up computers abandoned since our hurried Alt 
party return on Sunday, commences.

Q-Funky  is so happy he is back online again.  This is the event that  makes 
and  defines  his day.  His Debian box is the first to burst into  life  but 
soon, the TT, and then Pahartik's SparcStation join in the fun as well.

We burst back onto the Atariscne IRC,  and surprise a number of residents on 
there. The Debian box is a sluggish but adequate web browser, so we get some 
surfing  in  as  well.  This is going so well,  that when thoughts  turn  to 
getting  the  Pizza  Taxi back out,  it is too late,  and they have  stopped 
delivering.  No-one is too pleased with this development, but an alternative 
plan is forged, that is, a late late pizza show, made possible by purchasing 
and  cooking  the  damn things ourselves.  The local Esso garage  makes  the 
purchasing possible,  and we opt to do the job properly, oldschool style, by 
oven cooking,  rather than the soggy mess that the microwave would have made 
of them.  

 DAY 7, Wednesday January 16th.
 
So we start this final day in Finland with the taste of pizza in our mouths..

It  just  remains for us to bed down,  firstly after another session of  IRC 
mania.  The usual crowd is there,  Grey tries to join in,  several times, as 
his connection keeps dropping,  maybe rainwater or rats got in the telephone 
cables?  Mr  Pink  assures me that the UK is still there,  and it is safe to 
return to it.  I am almost the last person abed, leaving Mr Pink and co in a 
discussion about PS2 development kits.  You need the best part of 15,000 UKP 
for an official one, apparently.

Getting  up is a leisurely process.  Q-Funk has left us with his key,  and a 
plan  for  us to take our luggage to the airport,  leave it there,  and come 
back to meet him at the French school, one of his varied workplaces.

The  leg to the airport is straightforward,  a large and luxurious  station-
wagon taxi takes us to Vantaa, a large and luxurious price is charged by the 
driver! Still, it was worth it, getting our gear out of the way. We make our 
way  back to the city centre by bus,  then pick up another bus to get to the 
French School.  This turns out to be some distance out of town, half-an-hour 
later, and  with  Pahartik looking none too clear,  we are concerned.  About 
where  Pahartik  says, "I think the last stop is where we should  have  got 
off?"  he asks the driver,  who assures him that he hadn't missed his  stop. 
But ten minutes later,  Pahartik suddenly dives off the bus,  we follow, but 
where are we? 

Another  ten  minutes foot travel,  in an uncertain location,  brings  about 
horrible  memories of Monday night.  We stop to ask directions from a  woman 
who  gets  hit  intermittently by a swinging garage  door.  At  that  point, 
Pahartik bravely decides to go on alone to look for Q-Funk,  and the rest of 
us decide to return to town.

It is at the branch of Macdonalds where we ended up meeting Partycle at  the 
first Alt party, where we break our self-imposed famine. Never has a big Mac 
tasted  so good!  (And a couple of them tasted even better!) Afterwards,  we 
search  out the payphones in the Forum we first used,  a couple of days ago, 
and  re-establish contact with Q-Funk.  A much better plan to take the place 
of  the  chaotic  first attempt is sorted out.  We are to  remeet  at  Molly 
Malone's, for a final drink before we set off for the airport.

It  is around 17.00 when Q-Funk finally turns up,  with the little  behatted 
fellow Pahartik in tow,  we relax downstairs,  drink,  and slowly add to the 
realtime, in anticipation of the final journey back home.

For  our  final  meal  in town,  we find a very  nice,  but  cramped  Indian 
restaurant.  The food is authentic,  and just needing a nan bread to make it 
perfect. The staff is totally non-indian, being more blonde and local.

We all head back to the airport on the bus.  We're on time, but Felice, with 
a  sad expression on his face tells us that the flight home isn't  going  to 
be!  We  check in anyway,  with a dire warning that there will be no food on 
the  flight,  no  big  loss really.  To while away the additional two  hours 
waiting,  we go and sit in a bar in the upstairs part of the terminal.  From 
there, anything is possible, as long as it involves drink, chat, and a great 
view of the runway, from which, aircraft of all sizes take off and land. 

Time  ambles  by,  and eventually, our flight comes in,  more or less at the 
revised time expected for it. It is finally time to take our leave of Q-Funk 
and  Pahartik.  We  head back downstairs,  and find the airport darkened and 
largely  shut.  There is a couple of minutes of real panic when this lack of 
activity  extends to the security check-in to the departure lounge.  At  the 
other end of the airport, an information desk is still open, and just twenty 
yards  or so further on,  a security check is also waiting,  for a long haul 
overnight  flight  that is due to depart a bit later on.  We say  our  final 
goodbyes, and Q-Funk and Pahartik slide out of sight.

There  is a tax-free shop still open,  we dash around it with ten minutes to 
go  to  our allotted departure time.  We stride purposely to our  gate,  and  
make  it  to  the queue waiting to board our flight,  with,  oh,  minutes to 
spare.

Another surprise,  as 'technical difficulties' have stopped our normal semi-
comfortable  Boeing aircraft from flying.  'Technical Difficulties'  meaning 
anything from a cabin light needing replacing,  to an engine falling off,  I 
suppose?  It has been replaced by a cramped Bae 146 short haul jet which was 
pulled off a flight to Milan at the last minute.

It is a squeeze-in,  and we take off with the "enjoyable" company of a party 
of drunk Finns who are constantly queueing to use the toilet at the back. We 
wonder  if this is some bizarre Scandinavian variant on the mile high  club? 
But not for too long.

I  attempt  to get some sleep,  knowing that the delayed flight will put  my 
personal arrival time in my own bed,  at some very late hour. I am only very 
slightly  successful.  The  seats  recline,  and you can lean back  in  them 
reasonably  well,  but the agitated atmosphere of the flight means that  you 
wake up suddenly,  with your heart pounding,  as if you've jut woken up from 
taking part in a high activity nightmare?

A  while later,  adjusted for a UK time near to midnight,  we arrive back at 
Stanstead.  Fortunately,  luggage  collection  and  departure is  quick  and 
straightforward,  apart  from  some  heavy handed antics  from  the  baggage 
handling gorillas leaving their mark on Felice's case ñ(his Falcon  survived, 
so don't worry.) At this point,  John parts company, opting to see if he can 
pick up an early or late train back to Portsmouth. Felice goes to see if his 
car is still there,  it is,  so the journey home resumes. After stopping off 
at  Felice's  place  to  collect my car,  I'm finally  back  home,  with  my 
comfortable double bed, in my own room, by myself, for 02.30 in the end.

 3 Alt, an assessment and summing up?
 
I'm not sure where to place this one. There was the memorable novelty of the 
first Alt Party, the travelling to Turku, and the great showing by the local 
8-bit scene.  The second party was more up close and personal, to the extent 
where  we  were helping with some of the preparation and  cleaning  up,  and 
we lived closely in Setok's pockets back then.

We saw a return of some of the elements of the first party, with a return of 
certain key people,  missing from 2 Alt,   such as Q-Funk, and the Res.Gods. 
Incidentally,  we would like to thank Martin very much,  for the loan of his 
floor space and his valuable time and invaluable assistance,  whilst we were 
over there.

Impressions  of the party itself were mixed.  From what started as a  fairly 
purist  geekfest,  Setok  seems to be moving to a more diverse  and  general 
definition  of "Alternative",  including things such as live music,  and the 
'arts'  in  general.  3 Alt seemed to be uneasily balanced between  the  two 
sides  of its dual identity,  and it is debatable which way it will go  next 
time, or will the two aspects learn to merge together in relative harmony?

We  were treated to a lot of live music on Friday night,  and a more or less 
continuous  DJ'd soundtrack throughout the night.  So we didn't go short  of 
music.  On  the  other  hand,  apart from what I was able to search out  for 
myself,  there  wasn't  an awful lot of demo showing of any  platform.  Such 
things,  as Twilighte's Oric material, really deserved a wider audience, but 
stayed  locked  away  in the private world of his hard drive.  This  was  an 
aspect, previously  stronger,  and  somewhat neglected this time around.  If 
someone really wanted us to,  we could have arranged a showing of cool Acorn 
Archimedes  material on John's laptop,  as we were getting plenty of goodies 
organised.  Instead,  the  big  screen  seemed  to be mostly used  for  some 
repetitively lame MSX R-Type game or other.

In contrast to past parties,  the 'Alternativeness' of the computer hardware 
itself was less strongly emphasised,  this time around, with less being done 
or  shown  than  before.  Some owners were opting for a  static  museum-like 
display of dead machines,  which weren't switched on at any point during the 
party, which I found personally disappointing.

Honourable  exceptions  did include the Vectrex owners two person  fan  club 
next to us, who seem to be entering a new era of software development! Also, 
the  large number of Commodore 64's seemed to be buzzing with life.  Not  to 
mention  the  Swedish,  Finnish and UK Atari contingents,  who seemed to  be 
coding  or  doing something productive,  whatever time of day or  night  you 
found  them.  I also enjoyed the bizarre novelty value of the MSX  Laserdisk 
games,  and  was  glad  I only got to see that one secondhand.   As for  the 
competitions,  we  did  see  a  wide  range of  amusing  entries,  with  the 
occasional jaw-dropper. In this light, the return of the Vic 20 was welcome, 
and  it  was  cool to see demos for the classic  Gameboy  and  Vectrex.  Big 
disappointments  were  a  non-appearance of the MSX scene,  and  a  lack  of 
anything on that big screen with a Fuji badge to it!
                                                             
What made 3 Alt special,  was the cunning choice of a celebrity guest, which 
was  the not totally unknown Robert J Michal,  the designer of the Amiga and 
Lynx.   His  interesting  speech,   and  the  lengthy  questions  afterwards 
transmogrified the evening beyond a normal party competition viewing,  so to 
some  extent,  the  demo competitions had a very tough act to follow at  the 
end.

More  good points in general:- Free and easy internet access,  good location 
in relation to Helsinki central,  and to local amenities. Also a nice venue. 
The party itself seemed to be more popular and fuller than ever. At previous 
parties,  there  were  always  spare  tables,  but not this time.  Also,  NO 
CLEARING UP, or shifting tables needed afterwards. The C64 live set was even 
better  than  the  last  time.   Before  I  forget,  the  analogue  graphics 
competition (with crayon) was a big success as well. Not to mention that the 
cool  T-shirts were ready for sale at the party,  rather than sometime after 
it. 

Some  not so good points:- The sleeping facilities sucked big time,  if they 
actually  existed  at all?  This reminded me of the waking nightmare of  the 
first  Alt  party,  and  makes  me ask whether there is  going  to  be  some 
restraints  put  on the drunk moron contingent who made the scene  at  05.00 
hours so wonderful!  On a related theme,  there ought be a moratorium, or at 
least a lessening of intensity, of some of the music very late at night, not 
to mention the people playing a beepy 8-bit game on one of the big  screens, 
could be taught to put a sock in it as well?  And a non-party specific point 
for Helsinki taxi firms, when we ask for a big taxi, we MEAN a big taxi, and 
today would be very nice as well!

There  was also the fun and games not immediately connected with the  party, 
such  as the post-party sauna,  with the preceding epic forced march  across 
the  snowfields of Espoo,  and the visit to the Kiasma museum which made  it 
all  as  memorable as past visits.  If I did this third Alt Party  again,  I 
would  choose  to  do less buggering and waiting about,  as things  such  as 
missing taxis,  getting lost outdoors (more than once),  and waiting to pick 
up  cable  modems  were  causing  me to want  to  gnaw  my  fingers  off  in 
frustration by the end of it!

So in the end, I did enjoy 3 Alt. I enjoyed it a lot, and with a great bunch 
of people,  but there is still room for improvements,  or to bring back some 
things which have been allowed to slip to one side perhaps?

If there is another one, will I go? Almost certainly, yeah!!

 CiH - Alive Mag, Jan '02 
w