"Only that day dawns to which we are awake."
Henry David Thoreau
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAMIEN M. JONES
by Richard Karsmakers
Somewhere on my hard disk is a fairly big list of people worth
interviewing. Most of them have in some way contributed to the
ease of an Atari user's average day of life, especially when it
comes to using his computer. Damien M. Jones is one of these - he
has, for example, written the text/picture/other-stuff file
viewer "View II" that is distributed by the FaST Club in the UK.
I reckoned he'd be an interesting person to set up some kind of
interview with, so that's what I did.
Within the nick of time he got in his replies, because he'd eben
off-line for quite a few months (I did this interview, like quite
a few others, via electronic mail).
I was glad he was a little more verbose than the other person I
was interviewing on and around that time, Terry Pratchett...
Can you give us a short biography of your life?
Damien: I was born on February 19, 1972 in Buxton, England, the
fourth of ten children. When I was nine my parents moved to the
Omaha, Nebraska where I stayed until I was eighteen. During my
final year of high school, my parents moved to Germany (my father
is with the US Air Force), and I planned on going to college.
Unfortunately, through my own stupidity and laziness I lost a
full-tuition scholarship and ended up working full-time flipping
burgers for a living. Figuring something had to be easier than
this, I moved back in with my parents (in Germany). While there I
went back to school, and discovered that school isn't all it's
cracked up to be - most of what I wanted to learn I'd already
taught myself, and I didn't learn much of value there. While in
Germany I took the time to see some of it, and to make a trip
back to England to visit my brother (now THAT was a weird trip).
I left Germany last year (1993) and moved to Texas, where I now
Can you give us a short description of the surroundings there?
Damien: Where I live, most of the time, is in the middle of
nowhere. To be precise, it's Carl's Corner, Texas. See, Carl, the
guy who owns the truck stop by the highway, wanted to sell
alcoholic beverages. He couldn't get one (it wasn't allowed in
Hill County, or any of the cities in Hill County), so he came up
with this crazy scheme to incorporate the city of Carl's Corner,
make himself mayor, and grant himself a liqour license. He sold
little 1-inch square plots of land to the truckers who came
through, so they could claim residence; he got the minimum number
of people to incorporate, and Carl's Corner was born. Carl got
his liquor license, and his was the only place for miles that
folks could buy alcoholic beverages.
Of course, everyone _else_ in Hill County saw how much money
Carl was making selling alcohol, and how much tax revenue was
being lost, so they quickly forgot their principles and allowed
the alcohol to flow freely. Everybody started selling alcohol,
and getting a liquor license was easy; the whole point behind
Carl's Corner became moot. But Carl's Corner persists to this
day, and that's where I live.
Well, actually, it's about a mile down a dirt road from the
truck stop. Which is fine with me; my nearest neighbors are
considerable fractions of a mile away. Most of the folks here are
friendly, and will wave at you as they drive past you walking
your dog and splash mud all over you. But they're decent people.
As a matter of fact, Milford has a sign posted outside of town
that you see as you drive in; it says, basically, "Welcome to
Milford - a town of 300 nice, friendly people, and 3 or 4 old
grouches" (I probably got the population wrong, but you get the
Where's Milford, you ask? Well, see, Carl is not only mayor, but
he's also postmaster. And although I have a mailbox at Carl's,
I'm not overly fond of having to drive a mile to Carl's truck
stop to pick up my mail. Carl's not overly fond of handling the
bulk of mail I normally get, either. So instead of driving the
mile to Carl's, I walk the quarter mile to a mailbox posted along
the dirt road, which the mailman from Milford happily fills. So
although I live in Carl's Corner, I have a Milford address.
What's really ironic is that for me to call Milford on the
telephone is a long distance call, even though it's only ten
miles down the road. Hillsboro is much closer, and much larger
(thousands of people), but because they're larger, they can't be
bothered to deliver mail to a beat-up mailbox a mile down a dirt
road in the middle of nowhere. And Dallas, of course, is an
hour's drive north of here - just about anything I _really_ need,
I can get in Dallas.
Can you give us a description of your home, most specifically
the room where you do your work or another room that you perhaps
think deserves to be known better?
Damien: Well, the home is easy to describe. It's a two-story
house with no first floor. Originally there was supposed to _be_
a first floor, but for some reason the second floor was finished
first. And the bottom hasn't been finished at all. Although a few
boards have been nailed to the bottom, they don't make much of a
wall, and the rest of the house is basically on stilts. Since
this house is on the top of a rather exposed hill, the wind comes
whipping across here at a good clip and gives the house a unique
swaying feel that's quite unnerving.
This room is easy to describe. It contains my bed, a couple of
dressers, a bookcase, and a table that holds my TT and my PC.
However, a much more important room is the toilet, conveniently
located next to my room, where I spend lots of time after eating
at Hillsboro's Taco Bell.
What do you look like?
Damien: I'll send you a "Spectrum" piccy...Other than that, I'm
about 6' tall, 205 lbs, I wear glasses, and I have little
patience with stupidity. Ignorance, willing to learn, is one
thing; inability to think is something else. I have a sense of
humor, although it's a bit warped (and no, I don't mean "Monty
Python", I can't stand "Monty Python"). I also have no tolerance
for dishonesty. Other than that, I can get along with just about
What is your worst habit?
Damien: If I don't like someone, I tend to let them know.
Quickly. Without much tact.
Do you have any pets?
Damien: One dog, Chester, a cocker spaniel. A very energetic and
excitable mutt. He has a habit of peeing on the floor if I move a
grandfather clock down the hallway where he can see it.
There's also a cat here which a former roommate left. The cat
will be sent back soon, although its owner is reluctant to take
it back. He was hoping I would fall in love with the cat and want
to keep it; while I like the cat, I don't like the litterbox,
which this cat fills rather quickly.
Why, do _you_ want a cat? ;-)
If I were ever to visit you, where would you take me for a night
Damien: I'm not your type. <g> Seriously, there really isn't
that much interesting to see in Hillsboro, let alone Carl's
Corner, but Lake Whitney is a nice lake, and it's about a twenty-
minute drive from here. And there's everything in Dallas and Fort
Worth just an hour away. Lots to do, if I ever had any time.
Do you do any other work except for that through which most
people tend to know you?
Damien: That depends who you ask. If you mean do I do any work
other than Atari programming, yes. Right now it's rather
difficult to make a living by writing Atari software, so I have a
"day job". I put that in quotes because I work sort of irregular
hours, usually long. Most days I don't even bother coming home to
Hillsboro; I just stay in Dallas. Sometimes I'm lucky and I get
to be home for three or four days.
As for what I do, well, I write "Windows" software. I do
graphics. I write instructions. I build PCs. I troubleshoot PCs.
I troubleshoot PCs. I troubleshoot PCs. Soon I'll be getting into
What is your local ST/TT/Falcon scene like?
Damien: There's a smallish user group in Dallas, which holds
meetings once a month. Usually I can make those. There's also a
smaller group in San Antonio (four hours' drive), and they
managed to organize an Atari show this summer that was a lot of
fun. There's even a group in Houston (also four hours' drive)
that is putting together an Atari show for February 18.
Which book have you read recently that made most of an
impression on you?
Damien: That's really hard to say. Let me look at my
bookshelf... um, the "STeno" manual? Oh, no, I guess it would
have to be "Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus", for non-
fiction; it reminded me of both the flaws and features of Atari
As far as fiction goes (which is where I think this question was
really aimed at), that's a really tough question. I'm one of
those weird people who can actually read a book many times and
enjoy it every time. More than half of the books I have are
science-fiction / fantasy, and the rest are programming books.
I'm particularly fond of Raymond E. Feist's "Riftwar Saga", David
Eddings' "Belgariad", and Orson Scott Card's "Ender" series. I
have lots of other favorites, too, but I don't have _all_ my
books here in Hillsboro.
What's your favorite season?
Damien: Well, here in Texas I really miss winter. And I don't
mean the drizzly, cold, miserably raw weather Texas has; I mean
the wind howling, bone-chilling, snow-burying winters I'm used to
from Nebraska and Germany. Winter just isn't winter without six
inches of snow and temperatures that spend all day climbing up
What's your favourite music for flipping out (if ever you do)?
Damien: I don't ever flip out. I am always in complete control
of myself. However, I like pop music as well as classical. Be
warned, though, that I'm allergic to country music; I tend to
puke if it gets too close.
I usually play music when I'm working, unless I'm concentrating
on something incredibly difficult where I have to mentally juggle
multiple pieces of information. I also prefer to listen to music
while reading reference books, but not when I'm reading good
What computer hardware do you have?
Damien: I was wondering when you would get to this question. At
the moment I have a TT030, with 2M/16M of RAM, a 15" monitor, a
105M hard drive, and a Beetle Mouse. What's unique about this
computer is that it is stone colored. It's basically a dark grey
with lots of flecks of white and black in it; it also has a stone
texture to it so it's not flat. The monitor and TT have black
trim (knobs, drive face, etc.) and all the LEDs have been
replaced with blue ones. There's a square lens cut in the front
of the TT, with a 48/32 display (to indicate whether it's running
48 or 32MHz), which also lights up blue. Even the mouse and
speakers are stone colored.
Oh yeah, there's a Falcon in the other room, which is a loaner;
the 1224 and 124 attached to it are mine, as is the Beetle Mouse
attached to it. And somewhere around here I have a 2.5M 520 with
a dead floppy drive which I'm supposed to send to my father
sometime. And the PC, which in most ways is technically superior
to my Atari equipment. Except that it runs DOS and Windoze.
What computer tools do you use for your work?
Damien: Mainly "GfA Basic" and compiler, and "Devpac" 3. I don't
recommend "GfA" to anyone, because of its quirks, but for trying
out new ideas quickly it's the best I've found. "Devpac" I use
because assembly on the 680x0 line is very, very nice, and
"Devpac" lets me do it the way I want to do it. I use "Interface"
for dialog editing, although I don't like the interface (no pun
intended). I have some custom graphics and programming tools that
I use, too.
What programs in your AUTO folder or ACC directory would you
rather not be without?
Damien: "Geneva", because I like multitasking and "Geneva" is
very compatible. I also like a new, better-than-Atari's AES 4.
"NeoDesk" 4, because it looks nice and works better. Wish I had
it on the PC. "Data Diet", because to me it's the most sensible
approach to real-time data compression. "Data Rescue", because
it's the most intelligent delete protection I've ever seen, and
it works with _everything_. "Squish II", because it's the nicest
program packer I've seen. "MemWatch", because I like to keep an
eye on memory fragmentation under "Geneva" (it's not just a
"Geneva" problem - it occurs in "MultiTOS" too. But I use
What is the latest program you've done?
Damien: Hmmmm. It's been quite a while since I released
anything, because I've been very, very busy with PC stuff. I
think the last thing I released was "MemWatch", which is a
PRG/ACC which graphically displays memory usage. This shows up
memory fragmentation pretty easily, and it shows ST and TT RAM
What was the first program you ever wrote?
Damien: Now that's a question that begs specifics. The first one
I ever wrote was a silly little graphics program on an Apple ][
more than ten years ago, while I was still in elementary school.
The first thing I wrote on the ST was a strategy game that I'd
ported to several different BASICs and even PASCAL. I don't have
these programs any more, in case you're wondering; I do have lots
of other stuff hidden in my source code collection, though.
What program(s) can we expect from you in the near future?
Damien: Greg Kopchak has asked me to do the update to "Photo
Show Pro", which is what I'm doing. "PSP" is a Kodak(R) Photo
CD(tm) viewer program, with the ability to let you create
presentations with photos on a disc. I've redesigned the
interface to make it look more modern and take advantage of newer
machines. I'm converting most of the graphics routines to
assembly, which makes them compete favorably with high-end Macs
with regards to speed. And I'm adding support for _all_ Atari
computers, including those with graphics cards.
Will there soon be a Falcon (VGA) compatible version of "View
Damien: No comment.
What do you like and dislike particularly about the computer
Damien: I'm not happy that the PC dominates. Some will say the
PC offers cheap speed, and it does; but if the market had been
different, I feel more pressure would have been placed on
Motorola to speed up their chips more.
I'm even less happy that it's "Microsoft Windows" that
dominates. The more I learn about this operating environment, the
less I like it. It's clunky, it offers kludge upon kludge, and it
isn't even consistent with itself. It foolishly wastes CPU time
with a bloated messaging overhead, and it places too many layers
between the programmer and the hardware. The fact that Microsoft
uses their position as operating system and applications
developer to squeeze out other, better products stinks.
But what bothers me the most is that the ethic of quality is
rapidly vanishing from the PC industry. Most programs that ship
are buggy and poorly tested. Technical support is usually no
longer free, and is usually unhelpful anyway; most of the time
you'll get charged if you're just reporting a bug, because the
companies that produce the software aren't the ones doing the
tech support. Companies are quite happy to shovel schlock on the
user, and the average PC user is too stupid to realize they're
paying through the nose, again and again, for garbage updates.
The Atari market is in twilight. Developers are leaving by the
score, and new products don't compare, feature-wise, with what I
use on the PC every day. I'm not sure how long I can hold out,
but I will as long as I can.
What is the computer game you play most at the moment?
Damien: Erm, "Club Drive" on the Jag, but only because I just
bought it. Before that it was "AvP", and "Doom II" on the PC.
"Club Drive" is fun, despite its problems of frame rate and
What's your all-time fave game?
Damien: If I had to choose one, it would have to be "Dungeon
Master". I like good adventure games, and I have yet to find
anything like "Dungeon Master" that was as fun, compelling, and
challenging as DM. It had a nearly perfect mix of strategy,
puzzle-solving, and action that made it thoroughly addictive.
I've also been known to like some other classics on the ST, like
"SunDog", "Time Bandit", and "StarGlider 2"; I've enjoyed a great
many games on several different platforms.
What is the film you've been to recently that made most of an
impression on you?
Damien: "Stargate". It's been a long time since someone made a
science-fiction movie that didn't focus on the science;
"Stargate" is not just SF, but also an action movie. And the
special effects were nice, if not totally stunning (but that's
just me--other people say the FX are awesome).
Do you remember a film that struck you as being especially crap,
a film you was tempted to get a refund at the cinema for?
Damien: There's only one movie that I actually went to go see,
when I was much younger; I think the title was "Metalstorm: the
Destruction of Jared-Sin" or something like that. Totally lame.
After that I was much picker about the movies I went to go see,
and I don't see all that many.
Who do you think is the most stunningly beautiful female to roam
Damien: That's actually quite impossible for me to say. I
appreciate such a wide range of feminine features that about 1/4
of the female population fits into my definition of
"exceptionally fine". The other quarters basically fall into
"okay", "plain", and "arf!"
Do you play any musical instruments?
Damien: Does belching count? I belch very well.
You are connected to the Internet. What would you advise other
Internet users to check out without further ado?
Damien: Netiquette. I see so many people who think just because
they're on the net, they have a right to irritate, aggravate, and
just plain annoy everyone else. It's a good thing those folks are
on the net, because if I could get to them physically, I would
irritate, aggravate, and just plain annoy them _physically_. Know
what I mean? And it's not just the Internet - EVERY big network,
small network, or local BBS has its share of infantile flame-
spouting idiotic morons.
When, in many years, you'll eventually die, which song would you
like to be played at your funeral service?
Damien: Well, I'll be dead, so it won't really matter. Honestly,
I hadn't thought about my own funeral enough to think about
music, and I'm not entirely sure I'd want anything special
played. I don't quite have that high an opinion of myself to
think I merit some special music.
What is to you *the* music release of 1994 so far?
Damien: Hard to say. My answer would be analagous to that of the
"stunningly beautiful female" question you asked earlier.
What is your favourite holiday destination?
Damien: I usually spend Christmas at my parents' home in
Jacksonville, North Carolina. I go home twice a year to remind
myself why I don't go home more often. ;-) Seriously, if you
think I'm messed up, you should see the rest of my family. At
Christmas they all come out of the woodwork and we get to annoy
each other for a week or two.
Is there something you see everybody likes but that you loathe
Damien: You mean besides PCs? <g> I don't loathe many things
intensely that other people like. But I most definitely am _not_
fond of cinammon - yet it pops up in all kinds of sweet things
that I'd otherwise like to eat.
What do you remember as the worst ever moment in your life?
Damien: I don't think I've had that many bad moments. Most of
them have been the usual types of things; when I lost a job, when
a girlfriend dumped me, etc. Nothing truly tragic. Yet.
What's your favourite food? And favourite drink?
Damien: See "stunningly beautiful female".
Suppose you could be Aladdin for a while. Which three wishes
would you make?
Damien: Where on earth do these questions come from? I'd
probably use two of them for something altruistic and noble,
because I'd feel guilty otherwise; one I might use to have OS/2
and the PowerPC become the most popular PC platform.
Is there a person you haven't met yet which you'd dearly love to
Damien: I'm in no rush to meet people. People seldom turn out to
be what you expect, anyway. Especially if you converse with them
online; they almost _never_ turn out the way you think.
If you were confined to a desert island and you could only take
with you one book, five CDs, and one luxury item, which would
Damien: One book: well, if I must have only one, it would have
to be a Bible. Just in case. For CDs, I'd probably just take the
top five in my CD stack, whatever they are. And one luxury item,
I think I'd take a piano. I've wanted to learn to play for a
while, but never found the time.
What invention do you hope mankind will come up with soon?
Damien: A reliable fusion reactor. Having a clean source of
power that produces in volume is something we could all use.
If you were ever to have the opportunity to have your own
perfume cosmetics line, what would you call it?
Damien: I'm not sure I'd want a perfume cosmetics line. In
general I'm not fond of the idea of cosmetics or perfume. Clean
is one thing, perfume is something else.
What do you think when you look at the moon?
Damien: "Wow, it's a clear night tonight." "What an amazing
coincidence, that the moon is almost the same visible size as the
sun." "I need to take a whizz."
What is your ultimate ambition, the thing you hope to be
Damien: They're not the same thing. My ultimate ambition would
be to have enough money to provide for a wife and family,
completely, and be able to do whatever I want without needing to
worry about whether I can afford it or if it will make me money.
What I hope to be remembered for is some concept or algorithm
that I come up with relating to computer science. Since that
isn't likely to happen, though, I won't lose any sleep over it.
Well, the "words to react to" now...
Damien: Pitiful, that after all this time people can still be so
The ozone layer.
Damien: It thins out, we start wearing sunblock in winter time.
It's probably a little late to reverse the damage now; we just
need to learn to deal with what we've done.
Damien: See my contempt for dishonesty above.
Damien: To each his own.
Damien: I used to think it was a nice idea. Now I think it's a
foolish waste of good software. Even the success stories don't
tell you how many _unregistered_ copies float around - and
pirated copies of registered versions.
Damien: The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the
Universe, and Everything, of course.
Revenge Doc Displayer.
Damien: It has some interesting features.
Damien: It also has some interesting features. I've noticed,
though, that anything a person spends a lot of time doing, they
tend to prefer for personal reasons. For example, some people,
like me, like Beetle Mice. Other people can't stand them. Some
people like "HotWire" and "MaxiFile". Other people, like me,
prefer a graphic environment. Text readers are the same way. I've
had quite a few people ask me why "View II" doesn't run in a
window, and my answer is that I don't feel it's necessary or
appropriate at this time. I've had people ask why "View II"
doesn't do this, or that; often my response is the same (other
times it's a slap on the forehead, followed by a "Doh! Why didn't
I think of that?").
Damien: Religion is something each person must decide for him or
herself. The basic questions of who we are, why we're here, and
where we're going must be sought after when a person is ready to
do so. Lots of people never get around to asking the questions,
or looking for the answers; that's their choice.
Damien: To be honest, I meant to get a copy of the last one, but
never managed to get around to it. I've been to busy. Most of the
time I only glance over AEO and GEnieLamp, because much of their
content doesn't interest me.
Well...that's too bad...
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.