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Interview with (Kovács Balázs) Joe Forster of STA

What is your alias? If you find the story interesting, then let us know how you came up with it?

When I was about 13, me and a schoolmate of mine wrote a little sci-fi short story. You know, aliens, piff-puff, we saved the Earth and stuff. ;-) Of course, we two played in the main roles and we had to choose a more international name for that. I was called Joe Forster there and my friend's new name was Fred something. I assume the name "Forster" was created from the BASIC instruction FOR and the word "Foster's" seen all over Formula-1 car races.

Have you changed handles? If so, give us the reason(s) and your previous nickname(s)!

Well, I once changed the name of my group. First it was called TurboSoft which is quite lame. When I saw an intro from a group "LDA" then came the big idea that I would call my group "STA" instead. Hopefully, noone knows that I even translated "STA" to "Software Trading Association". <:-) Forget it, it was a very stupid idea...! By the way, it had always been a single-person group, cool, eh? ;-)

When and where were you born and where do you live now?

I was born on 11th January, 1975, in Budapest and, as for 1998, I'm still living on the same housing estate in the suburbs with my parents and my sister.

When did you get your first computer and which computers do/did you own? When did you get your C64?

When my father once went to Germany and West Berlin, he returned with a C64C and a 1541C, as far as I remember, in 1987. Fortunately, I never had a datasette... ;-) I never had any other machine, like a Spectrum, Enterprise, Amiga either. When I became a university student, we bought a 386DX40 which has been upgraded quite many times since then...

How did you get to know the scene? Who was your first contact (person you knew) on the scene?

I would say I've been living in a desert for a long time... Noone around me in the school knew anything about computers so I had noone to talk with about what I did... :-( But everything changed when I got to the university. I think, first I got acquainted with Edhellon of Resource and he and his groupmates helped me. They carried me to parties, they always pointed at persons unknown for me and told me who he is... ;-)

Describe your scene career, including all groups you have been a member of! Keep chronological order please!

I don't think I ever had a carrier in the scene. Being no member of any group, I never took part in creating demos. Probably the only thing I wrote is The Star Commander. It was a really lucky choice and, in my opinion, this is the only reason why I became a known person... :-/

Which scene do/did you consider best and why? If you have been only on the C64, then give us the reason(s)!

I would call myself an outsider when it comes to the real scene... But this gives me the opportunity to give you a more objective reason. The Amiga and PC scene must be also very cool but how can you tell what machine you need to play e.g. the demo that won this or that party? No, you can't say "you need an Amiga" or "you need a PC", unlike with the C64! Yes, there have been a couple of C64 demos that needed support from "bigger" machines because they used up too much memory or they needed lots of precalculated data which was processed or stored in a PC... But, on a PC, you have to specify the CPU, the amount of memory, the type of the sound card, maybe, even the type of the video card to tell the end user exactly what he or she needs to be able to run the demo. And I assume it's mostly the same with the Amiga, too. On the C64, you only have to know how many disk sides the demo eats up, probably nothing more.

What do you think you gained by being a member of the scene?

Back when I was in that "desert" I always wondered how those cracker, hacker, demo coder guys look like, what they like doing etc. Here, in Hungary, really lots of crack intros showed the name "Chromance", they were some kind of gods for me. Now I can talk with them personally. This is something I could have never dreamed of...!

What do you consider lost, wasted or meaningless during the years you have spent on the scene?

I consider a big loss that I have not been a member of the scene before. Perhaps, then I would have understood those tricky routines and do some myself, I could have become a coder... :-/

What is/are/was/were your main interest(s)/function(s)?

Well, after all, I wasn't interested in those raster tricks that much... I liked doing hardware-related programming, like communicating with the drive, that is, disk turbos. I also cracked and hacked some games and wrote one or two intros but my main interested always remained the same.

Even now, that I program on the PC, the programs I do for companies are still in the same topic: serial port programming, remote control, file transfer...

What made you start doing graphics/composing/swapping/coding/modem trading organising or whatever you did?

First, I learnt BASIC from my uncle and played my brain out... ;-) Then I got a bit bored about playing all the time so I tried to find out what exactly happens inside the C64 when I run a game. After having learnt assembly I started disassembling machine language programs. Then I put infinite lives into the games I had. I spent about a year with taking several disk turbos apart and understanding what they do. Then I wrote Star Turbo, a 6-block program that speeds up LOAD, VERIFY and SAVE (!) to about 8 times the original speed. When it was finished, I built it into some games that were damn slow without it. Then I bought an Action Replay MK7 and continued cracking and hacking... ;-)

What are/were your greatest successes/fiascos?

My greatest and probably only success is The Star Commander that has been written for several years. I don't remember of any fiascos...

Was there any special connection between you/your group and some other people/groups on the scene (co-operation, war, friendship etc.)? If so, what made it start and stop?

Nope, no wars. But the members of Resource are my friends...

Have you attended parties? Tell us about your favourite conferences? You can even mention some fiascos.

I haven't attended parties before the university... But Resource took me a couple of parties here in Hungary and I liked them. Unfortunaely, I never remember what happened on a party after a month, so I have no favorite either... <:-)

I wouldn't call that a fiasco but it was quite frightening when Bigfoot of Breeze found me on one of the parties and started shouting at me that the Commander is a big pile of shit...

Is/was there any special feeling in your crew, something more than just being in a group?

Chromance is, perhaps, the best Hungarian cracker group or, at least, it has been the best one... Because of my friends, I like Resource, too.

Give us a brief description on the development of the scene as you experienced it and computer society in general!

I think the scene is going to the wrong direction. With the introduction of those bigger machines, there's no point in creating good programs because you only need better hardware and a poor software will also run on it.

There are also less and less coders who know what a C64 is capable of and know how to push it to its limits. Perhaps, because most of them are leaving their childhood, the school where they had enough time to play around with coding demos and optimizing code... If you have a job then you probably have a lot less time for other things... :-(

This gives the chance to people who think they know a lot but, actually, they don't. These are called "lamers" but, of course, by other people, not themselves. But they're still young and they want to show off with their non-existant knowledge... :-/

What is your profession? What do you do for a living? Does it have to do anything with computers? Is there anything you do in real-life that is similar to what you have been doing on the scene?

As for 1998, I'm still a university student. I'd like to do hardware- related programming as a job, like programming microcontrollers or stuff like that...

How did your attitude towards computers change during the years?

It may be interesting that I like my PC very much, even if it's based on a completely fucked up architecture. Under DOS, noone tells me what I can do and what I can't. It also has a text screen so it's quite similar to the C64, after all. The compilers and assemblers are different and a lot faster, too, but the feeling is similar, at least, for me.

And I love some games on the PC, too. Just as I loved action games and car racing simulators on the C64, now I have a couple of 3D action games and simulators on the PC. And I play with them all the time, except when I code... ;-)

What do you like doing in your spare-time when not computing? What is/are your hobby(ies)?

I've got no real hobbies. The computer is my life, I listen to computer music, I read news on a computer, I play with computer games, I code program for computers. But do I need more? ;-)

Are there moments when you feel nostalgic thinking back to the past years of the scene? If so what do you do when it happens?

I feel bad sometimes when I think about what more I could have done if I attended those C64 clubs in the 80's and early 90's... :-(

What are your plans for the near/far future?

Continue coding the Commander. This has become my current goal of life. ;-) But it will also end some time... :-(

What is your goal in life? What would you like to achieve?

All I want to do is code useful programs! Programs that look nice, are easy to use and a lot of people like it. All the same what they actually do, how big they are, on what machine and under what OS they run...

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