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Interview with (Carl-Henrik Skårstedt) Alta/Pohlman, previously of Heptagon


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

My current alias is Alta, but that is a name that I initially reserved for the Amiga scene since everyone I knew changed their handles when they bought the new machine, except for Viper who didn't buy a new machine, but changed from Galactus anyway ;). My c64 handle has always been Pohlman. I was quite young when I chose it so I thought, what could be cooler as a handle than the weather-man on TV? Which is also the main reason why I changed it in the first place.

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

My second last c64 demo had a character (8x8 pixel square) in one corner flashing with my Amiga handle "Alta", but that was more to promote my Amiga name than to change it. When I started in the Amiga Scene, I used the name Alta. When I later realized that Alta was a small town in Norway and a name of not so good milk in USA (Alta-Dena Milk) and a name of a mall in Japan, I changed it for a period to Asterix. But after Melon Dezign's complaint about my change (they liked Alta better), I took it back. I also realized that "Alta Road" is the first road sign you see in Beverly Hills when you drive from central LA.

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

I was born in Kalmar, Sweden, where I also met up with the guys at KDK (Kalmar Dator Klubb) where we arranged "The Kalmar Party" and where many groups met, including Heptagon. Today I temporarily live in Källby, outside Lidköping in Sweden. I plan to move to Huntington Beach, California soon =)

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

My first computer was a c64 bought for me and my brother by my Father, that was late 1983 or early 1984. I don't quite remember the exact date. The day I got a c64 to work with my life changed a bit.

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

I got into the scene gradually. In the start, I only knew two persons, Silicon and Zeta, and they were not in the scene by then. In 1984-85 there wasn't very much of a demo scene going on, at least not around my part of town. Later on I met the people at KDK and after I had coded 3 demos, Galactus of Heptagon "discovered" me, which meant that he asked me if I wanted to join Heptagon. And then everything rolled on!

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

Huge demo
Just a big picture of garfield with a little scroll below. The whole thing seems a bit lame today, but back then I thought it was brilliant to be able to split a multi-color graphics screen with a text-mode scroller on the bottom of the screen.
TBLC demo
Opened up/down borders for sprite-scroll and had some ugly colors on the screen. I also had a lot of graphics scrolling inside characters for a cool effect on the middle of the screen.
TBLC-Heptagon demo
Had a lower border + sideborder sprite scroll and the music from some PD game, r2d2 or something. The demo looked like I had planned the design, which I of course had not.
Favourite #1 (Heptagon)
Contained some raster-sprite-scroller and 16 kilobytes of scroll-text. I don’t remember much more.
Heptagon/The Untouchables Intro Maker
Wrote an intro for the Commodore 64 and an intuitive User Interface for customizing the intro for various presentations. Intros we’re at this time used as preludes to bigger demos or for simple announcements to the scene.
Favourite #2 (Heptagon)
Blinking 8x8 Alta logo in one corner And a big sprite scroller in the middle of the screen with some colors and rasters and stuff… As I remember it, I think it looked quite good
Favourite #3 (Heptagon) mistakenly released by Viper as "86blx"
This is more like a mega-demo… Or a collection of intros.. Anyway, this is actually my first demo on the Amiga which I decided to convert to c64, plus a few specific c64 demos. It was based on The Electronic Force demo #1, including a heptagon intro and an intro I created for "The Untouchables". In the end part, I have a hires scroller from right to left on the screen (including side-borders) which I was VERY proud of back then. I think I was the first who made that.
Ok, I guess my amiga demos or games are not as exciting in this interview, but I'll list them here anyway:
The Electronic Force demo #1, #2 and #3. (TEF/Amiga)
ZYX music disk. (ZYX/Amiga)
New Beat Megademo (New Beat/Amiga)
VESC (Rebels/Amiga; means "VectorScroller". Party competition demo at same party as Celebrandil's "My Room", was it Arboga?)
Rebels Megademo 2 (Rebels/Amiga)
AMEd (Amiga music editor, not released)
Blue House the demo (The Silents/Amiga)
Sweetest Perfection intros (Rebels/Amiga)
Blue House Cruncher (Rebels/Silents/Blue House/Disney/SEGA/Midway/Funcom - all 68000 machines)
ECES Slideshow (Rebels/Razor 1911/Conqeror and Zike/Phenomena/Amiga)
Blue House the demo 2 (Rebels/Amiga)
Joyride #2 mag intro (Voice/Amiga)
Joyride #3 mag intro (Voice/Amiga)
Joyride #3 - new mag code (Voice/Amiga)
Intro competition intro at Assembly '93 (Movement/Amiga)
Gathering 1994 party invitation (Pornos/Amiga)

And in addition to that, many smaller intros and bootblocks and unreleased routines. To be honest, I am currently working on an Amiga demo!

I have been programmer on the following games:
A Dinosaur's Tale (SEGA Genesis)
Daze Before Christmas (SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive)
Samurai Shodown (SEGA CD)
Fatal Fury Special (SEGA CD)
Pocahontas (SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive)
Nightmare Circus (SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive)
NBA Hangtime (SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive)

And a few other not released titles on other formats.

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

I have to admit that the Amiga scene was the best scene I have been part of. The c64 scene never grew very big. Perhaps that was a good thing, the amiga scene was maybe a bit simple to get into because it was more anonymous. I think it was better because so many people managed to get so much done, and I also have my personal favourite OS on the Amiga. I didn't think so initially, and kept making one or two c64 demos while I had my Amiga. The only thing that I thought was funny about the Amiga in the beginning was Deluxe Paint 2. But I have to say that the friends I made in the c64 scene are the ones I remember the best. Generally, the c64 scene people are easier to relate to than most Amiga people, efen if that is more or less because of the huge amount of annoying people (don't misinterpret me, there are many good too) in the Amiga scene.In my case, I see the c64 scene and the Amiga scene as very related and almost the same. I think you can say there is a scene in game programming as well, but it isn't very developed in Scandinavia.

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

Definitely all my friends, but also my employments. I also think the scene has shaped me into a more competetive person. I have had much help from the technological and team-working training from the scenes.

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

I am almost honest when I say nothing. The scene is a great place to meet people with similar interests and it inspires to learn related subjects, like math, electronics and english faster.

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

I started out as a programmer on the c64, with my main inspiration to create better graphics. On the Amiga I was initially a graphic artist, but then I started to program instead.

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

I just needed something challenging to do with my c64 and I started coding.

What are/were your greatest successes/fiascos?

My greatest successes are probably Rebels Megademo 2 on Amiga, Pocahontas and NBA Hangtime on SEGA Genesis and Mega Drive. But I don't think I had a specific highlight on the c64. I don't remember any fiascos, other than going to a party in Sannaskolan in Gothenburg.

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?

Hm.. I started to plan a party once with Viper, which we decided to co-arrange with Triad, but the party was moved to Stockholm and held by Triad only. Other than that, I was a member of KDK, Kalmar Dator Klubb, which was a weekly meeting place for local crews in Kalmar. Later on I was a member of "Blå Huset" which was more or less the same thing in Kungsbacka, south of Gothenburg, Sweden.

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

Not only did I attend, but I also helped arrange quite a few. My favorite party was Summer Conference 1990 arranged by The Silents and Red Sector Inc. when I was a member of The Silents. That party, in Glostrup, beat everything. The first party I was involved in was the Kalmar party in 1987 or something which I helped to arrange. I have lately talked to some friends who admitted to having attended that party.

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

Not in Heptagon or TBLC.. In Heptagon it was more or less chaotic, and during my years in the group, I think I was the only one who coded demos. This all changed on the Amiga, in TEF, we all went to the same class in school, and we met every day. We even started programming a quite advanced game, a real time strategy viking game in 1986-87. We cancelled the game because we would have needed 3-4 graphic artists to pull the project off. And when I became in involved in Rebels, we were all part of a big party group and everyone was working together. In Silents, everything was great too, but the group had a bit too many members not doing very much so I joined Rebels again. During 1988-1991 I was also part of a subgroup to both Rebels and Silents calling ourselves "Blue House" because we sat in a blue house. I still work with Fuzzac and Mogwie from Blue House!

If you are not a C64 scener anymore, when and why did you leave the scene?

I bought an Amiga and all my friends became part of the Amiga scene. I did make 2 demos on the c64 as resistance to the Amiga scene after I had bought the Amiga, but then I just had to give in.

What were your favourite groups/artists/coders/productions? Why do/did you like their work/these programs?

I avoid judging particular groups against each other, mainly because I find all the "vote charts" so annoyingly ridiculous, and therefore I only judge groups that I have been a member of. Since I only was a member of Heptagon on the c64, I have to vote for that group. And since I can only remember my own Heptagon demos, I think I would say Favourite #3 (86 blx). My favvo program on c64 is Seven Cities of Gold.

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

The scene is something great that brings people together. I have talked to a lot of people who, even some sceners, are convinced that computers and the scene are unsocial. But I'd rather say that the scene brought a lot of people who had tendencies to become very unsocial in any case together.

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?

I am a game programmer, mainly on consoles, and it has a lot to do with the scene. In one of my previous projects I had an all-scener development team, with me and Colorbird and Alfatech and Henrik Holmdahl (I never remember his c64 handle) and TMB Design and Colin McMahon. In the start, Stein Pedersen (Prosonix, I think) and Henning Rokling (no handle) was also a part of the team but they left early. Olav Mørkrid (did he hav a handle or not?) joined the team some time after Stein Pedersen left.

How did your attitude towards computers change during the years?

Not very much other than that I have realised that you can make money from them.

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

Chopping wood. Generally socialize (which may, or may not, involve beer). Playing computer/video games.

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?

Ahhh.. those hours of unpaid work, that money spent on equipment, of course I get nostalgic! When I get nostalgic is generally when I talk to other c64 sceners, like Slaygon, Robert, Damir, Holmdahl, Danko and all the others, and when we get critically nostalgic, we buy another beer.

What are your plans for the near/far future?

I'll go to Huntington Beach, California!

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

I hope to live my days one after another making the most of it as I go along. I would like to make a brilliant console game that everyone would play and remember for a long time.

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