History is like a peanutbutter sandwich.
ST NEWS - A BRIEF HISTORY PART II
At the occasion of ST NEWS Volume 3 Compendium being launched,
we again got the urge to write something about ST NEWS' history
for you; something that we already did in the Volume 2 Compendium
earlier. After all, history is something you should not be too
modest about, as ST NEWS is about the only disk magazine that
actually has a history - unlike all other disk magazines except
maybe for "F.A.S.T.E.R." that nobody has heard of for such a long
time (maybe they are history?). So we decided even to brag a bit
with it - since nobody else can, and since we really wanted to be
grotesquely immodest this time.
First, for the people that have difficulties getting impressed,
I'd like to mention some statistics of all the ST NEWS issues
that have been launched before this one:
We published over 700 articles in over 6 Mb of documents in 21
issues and two compendia, containing about 180 reviews and just
under 50 adventure solutions or walkthroughs. In these same
issues, 12 excellent pieces of music programmer's craftsmanship
have been offered (thanks to Jochen from TEX!!). This was all
brought to you on 20 disks, of which only one was double-sided.
ST NEWS is at the moment spread officially in fifteen countries
(or were it sixteen?) and is known to be read in over twenty
countries by an unestimable number of people. The larger part of
all the articles were written by ST NEWS authors for our
magazine exclusively, whereas some copyrighted stuff was also
used with permission of the copyright holder.
A Brief History of the ACC-"ST NEWS" (July 1986 - April 1988)
by Richard Karsmakers
When Frank and myself bought the Atari ST, back in the grey
times of March 1986, the machine was still in its growing times.
There was virtually no software, virtually everybody could do
virtually nothing on it, virtually nobody knew virtually
anything, and everybody was virtually bored to death.
I had my first ST computing experiences with "Synth Sample I", a
music'n'pictures demonstration program for monochrome monitors
that I finished on May 20th 1986. I only had a single sided disk
drive, a monochrome monitor, half a megabyte of memory and TOS on
disk at the time, so it was quite poor working on the machine.
It was on a hot summer's night of that same year when I suddenly
startled and looked around quite annoyed as some light had
mysteriously appeared above my poor and bored head. After looking
around a bit, I eventually discovered that the light seemed to
come forth from a little light bulb hanging above my head in a
tiny, fluffy cartoon's cloud: I had an idea!
Next day, I sat down with a word processor and starting making a
disk-based magazine document to be called ST NEWS. Wasn't it a
good idea to write a magazine document that could be spread on
disk? This would cost the readers nothing more than a certain
amount of disk space, thus producing the most perfect (and, as it
would later turn out, the most underrated) medium on which to
spread knowledge. I even went as far as thinking I was the first
to do something like it in those days, but it turned out that
Apple MacIntosh users had known the disk magazine principle a
longer time already. By now, disk magazines are present on about
every computer system you can think of (providing that it
supports a disk drive at all). And ST NEWS got some competition
as well: "F.A.S.T.E.R." (from Canada), "STOP" (from Germany,
already deceased), "CIP ST" (from Germany), "ST Info" (from
Holland - a document file) and, most recently, "News Channel"
(also from Holland).
Anyway, the first issue of ST NEWS saw the light of day on July
26th 1986. It was just a plain 30 Kb document to be loaded into
"1st Word" or "1st Word Plus", and that was the way ST NEWS would
appear throughout the first year of its birth. Back then, the ACC
used to be 'an independent section of the one and only Desaster
Area', and the mag was highly illegal insofar that it offered
lists of cracked/soon to be spread software, and even a greetings
section in which all notorious hackers'n'crackers were greeted.
The second issue, published on August 9th 1986, was not only
written by yours truly, but also contained some contributions by
someone calling himself DSP - Jos Schilders. The magazine still
hadn't gotten rid of its highly illegal image, in spite of the
fact that I had been contacted by Data Becker for spreading one
of their drawing programs with my phone number in it. An article
about "Hackers'n'crackers on the ST" completed this.
Back then, there were times of considerable optimism. In the
"Did you know that..." column, it could be read that we
anticipated the launch of "Biggles", "Summer Games II" and "G.I.
Joe" at around September or October of the same year. They never
appeared up to now.
The old (later to be called: "Vintage") issues were mainly
launched on the meetings of the SHN in Nijmegen, Holland. I used
to go there regularly, and ST NEWS turned out to be quite popular
soon. I got a lot of good friends there, and made a lot of
enemies, too, with my Anti-Amiga proverbs and sayings. Some of
the guys back there have helped ST NEWS considerably: Nijmegen
was the place where I met Mark van den Boer, who would later also
get me into touch with Lucas van den Berg. These two belong to
some of our most celebrated authors.
It was also on an SHN computergroup meeting, but this time in
Venlo, Holland, that I met adventure guru Math Claessens. This
man has proven to be one of the main sources of ST NEWS' success,
solving adventures like regular people drink a cup of tea.
On August 16th 1986, a mere week after Volume 1 Issue 2 had been
launched, the next issue was published. This time, I had taken
quite a radical decision: ST NEWS was to be become fully legal.
The authors, including myself, still used pseudonyms, but we also
featured a correspondence address through which people could send
in articles for use in ST NEWS, enquiries, PD orderings (we must
have been one of the first FREE PD libraries) and lots more. We
started right off with a "Synth Sample II" competition, and the
same issue also saw the publication of our first adventure
solution (to "Zork I"), though not yet written by Math. Further,
we used to copy large parts of system documentation into ST NEWS;
info about the BIOS, XBIOS and GEMDOS and stuff.
Fitting neatly onto one disk with the three earlier issues with
its 90 pages in size, ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 4 was made ready on
September 7th. The project was now really beginning to look like
a disk magazine, also featuring 'contents' and the first "ST
Software News" article in its original form. Some more columns
and initiatives were also introduced, that would not last long,
however: The "Hi to..." column and the "ST Userbase" initiative.
The first "Computer Story" was also written, but no second part
was ever to be seen since we later stumbled upon quite some more
professional novels. It was but a slight hint at the introductory
novelettes that would appear over a year later.
Around that time, we discovered the Canadian disk magazine
"F.A.S.T.E.R." that had published two issues already, and that
turned out to have been started only a little time after ST NEWS
(so we still were the first on the ST - though quite closely
followed by this Canadian disk mag). "F.A.S.T.E.R." was a
commercial disk magazine, published once in two months and
looking very well due to its own GEM environment and its
incredible userfriendlyness. Thus it came to be that we became
dissatisfied with our own setup. And I slowly started working on
ST NEWS' own GEM environment.
The first ever programs, though written in "ST Basic", were
added to this ST NEWS issue as well.
The next two issues, of which the first one arrived at October
5th, 1986, were not yet to feature this GEM program and still had
to be loaded into "1st Word", "1st Word Plus" or a compatible
word processor. ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 5 did, however, fill up an
entire disk: Documents and programs, as well as other files were
added. Around this time, I established contacts with Rastermouse
(later to become Commedia). This company was the first to give ST
NEWS review status.
In this issue, Mark van den Boer also wrote his first article,
"Something about Interrupts", that would lead to his MC68000
machine language course that he would start in Volume 1 Issue 6
and end well ahead in Volume 3. The "Did you know that...."
mentioned the fact that Commodore was said to be broke (Uugh!
What a joke...), and the official PD service was introduced.
Still free of any charge. Later, due to lack of time and the
enormous amounts of work it brought with it, the PD service would
turn out to be cast off to ST Club Eindhoven, which still
maintains this service to day - though not free of charge.
ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 5 also saw the introduction of Rufus
Camphausen's (Canopus Esoteric Research) writing. This director
of a Meditation institute wrote article about less apparent
computer use. Sad to say, Rufus would not write into the next
Volume anymore, probably due to lack of time. One of the worst
games ever, "Super Huey", was also crushed to death in a review
that Antiware and Cronos (Frank and myself) wrote. Jos Schilders
had also introduced an acquaintance to our working circle:
Someone called Bitbuster (Paul Kolenbrander).
The boundaries to foreign readers were officially thrown wide
open with our first official Italian distributor, Gerardo Greco,
to be announced in ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 6, the last document
version of ST NEWS that was finished on November 15th 1986. This
issue had a size that barely fitted into my half megabyte (with
TOS on disk) system. Jos had now officially entered the ST NEWS
editorial staff to join Frank and myself. Further, Mark van den
Boer's machine language course started and Stefan wrote his first
article: "How to write your own adventures". Stefan would soon
turn out to become one of the most devoted writers, combining
intellect, knowledge and humour into a sparkling waterfall of
articles and all kinds of small contributions on the software
side as well. Later, Stefan would turn out to do more and more,
even to rewrite much of ST NEWS' code into assembler; of course,
I didn't know that then, nor did I anticipate it. Soon, he was to
become one of my best friends.
ST NEWS now wasn't the hacker's magazine of old anymore. It was
ripening into a true disk magazine, and I had fun doing it all
along the way - and so had the other authors. Limits were beaten
all the time: More people read ST NEWS, more articles were
written, and we got more satisfaction out of doing it.
The way to international 'fame' was laid out when the first GEM-
based ST NEWS version appeared: Volume 2 Issue 1, launched on
January 3rd 1987. Heavily inspired by the Canadian "F.A.S.T.E.R."
mag, a pull-down menu program was written using "GfA Basic" 1.0.
Now the compiler was ready, nothing stood in its way. Each tiny
bit of the program was fully Basic, and some things therefore
were quite slow. Jos never agreed with this setup, and editorial
differences would be the main reason (as well as him buying an
Amiga) that he soon was to leave the editorial staff.
Together with the launch of this issue, we launched a world wide
offensive, sending ST NEWS to many usergroups and magazines
abroad, thus e.g. laying down the basics for a good relationship
with the English magazine "Page 6", that was later to become our
English distributor. ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 1 also featured a
picture and some Xbios 32 music, that would later disappear, not
to come back again until the fifth issue of that year.
ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 1 was the first to be described in a
foreign magazine: "68000'er" of June 1986 (a German magazine).
Math also displayed some of his true potential now, offering the
solution to "The Pawn" - thereby giving ST NEWS a world wide
But not all was fun. One of our more recent authors, Rob de
Swaan, had died at too young an age. A small "In Memoriam" was to
put some seriousness in ST NEWS, too. Frank and myself dedicated
our other recent product, "Synth Sample III", to his wife,
Debbie, and his son, Bruce.
Some days after Issue 1 of 1987 was launched, I received a
phonecall from the guys at Commedia. "Why not publish some of the
best articles of 1986 in a seperate issue?" Thus, the idea for an
ST NEWS Volume 1 Compendium was born, which was eventually
brought out on January 18th 1987.
On February 28th, ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 2 was completed. There
were five official foreign distributors now, the first interview
appeared (with Jeff Minter of Llamasoft) and the "Word Plus File
Save"-option was included. The review of "Flightsimulator II"
that would eventually lead to a full stop in the co-operation
with Commedia was also written for this issue.
Things went to go smoothly from ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 3 on,
that was published on April 11th 1987. Following Stefan's example
(in his program "The ArtiST"), I decided to dedicate this issue
to a girl called Maryse, a girl that I was very interested in
back then. The Forth course started, and Lucas van den Berg also
started writing his "Crimson's Column" articles, which for a long
time excelled among the other articles through use of brilliant
English. The Forth course is still running (although it was
omitted twice), and Lucas still shows no signs of getting tired
of writing his exquisite "Walthrough" articles either.
Around this time, Rob Hubbard started programming music on the
ST (he seems to have stopped already for about a year now,
too...), and therewith started the development of a new music
programmer's talent in Germany that was later to increase the
quality of ST NEWS considerably: Jochen from TEX.
But that's another matter entirely.
A longer time than usual passed on until the next issue was
launched, which happened on the second birthday of the ACC (June
13th 1987). Jos had, in the mean time, definitely quit. Paul was
to follow in Jos' steps, too.
The concept of "human interest" was brought to its first height
here, as I found it more and more necessary to tell people about
which bands I liked and, more interesting, which GIRLS I liked.
But it was nothing compared with what soon was to be introduced
to ST NEWS: Willeke. But that's still an issue off, so let's not
talk about that, yet.
It turned out that people found some "human interest" very nice,
although I am afraid that both Stefan and myself sometimes
excelled to such enormous heights doing this that it sometimes
went too far. But people even liked that. And I think that's our
small secret in the formula of ST NEWS.
Then it happened. I fell in love. Not just, ordinary in love,
but VERY MUCH in love. And the consequences for the ST NEWS
reader were not to be underestimated: ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 5,
launched on July 25th 1987 was dedicated to Willeke (as would be
the four next issues), and I could not seem to resist writing
about her ALL the time. How she looked. What I thought of her.
How nice she was. Talking about 'overdoing' something: This was
A stream of very nice, sometimes plain lovely reaction poured
down the post. Obviously, people found this kind of human
interest very nice, and they sympathized sometimes to an enormous
Stefan was doing some re-programming now, and had succeeded in
speeding up the scroller to great extend. And that was but his
first thing he would do! Also, the picture returned (never to
leave ST NEWS again), and some GREAT music was introduced:
Jochen's "Monty on the Run" (that unfortunately only worked
properly on color systems, and that "News Channel" issue 1 also
used - over a year later...). The text files were now also
compressed (about 25% off), so that more data could be stored on
the precious disk space. The display and de-compression of the
documents now took an awful long time, since that was still done
in GfA Basic.
The big companies (Microdeal, Psygnosis and Telecom) now started
to be really interested. And they started sending review
The program itself was getting to be more and more perfect, too.
Suggestions of the readers were included, the user interface was
improved, and Stefan did some more machine code programming, so
that the document display routines were also getting faster and
faster (faster than they are in the current ST NEWS, however, is
virtually impossible and surely not measurable).
The first ST NEWS that I really found 'perfect' was to be
released on September 12th 1987: Volume 2 Issue 6. This issue did
not only feature FAST machine code all over, music (Chimera) and
a gorgeous picture, but also included a bonus "pop-up" menu bar
that Robert Heessels of STRIKE-a-LIGHT programmed for us. Add to
that the fact that Erik and Udo of TEX wrote some pretty
exclusive stuff about Raster Interrupts and 'vertical rasters',
and what you have was what I considered to be the best ST NEWS
ever made. I even went so far as to think that it was impossible
to get it better now, and that every issue after this one would
be one more closer down to the drain. I also started my first
real 'introductory novelettes', of which I consider "Tracker" to
be the first.
And then there was Willeke. Present in every alert box...
ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 6 was indeed a direct hit. Very positive
reactions came from all over the globe, and it was very nice to
know that people appreciated what we did. But then there was this
fear: Could the next ST NEWS be equal in quality, or maybe even
On October 31st 1987, precisely in between the birthdays of both
Frank and myself, the answer came when ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 7
became public. Although we had strained ourselves to maximum
capacity, this issue was no real match for its predecessor. Some
of the small things, however, were still improved: EVERY time-
consuming routine was now done in machine code, so that ST NEWS
was now my skeleton with Stefan's organs, so to say. And I got
some more experience thinking out plots for introductory
novelettes. "K-Roget" appeared just in time for me to describe
Willeke as she deserved to be described. Through Page 6, we now
also had distributors in Australia and New Zealand, thus adding
to a total of seven distributors.
The creation of the best demo program ever, TEX' "BIG Demo", was
also announced and advertised in this issue, as the ACC took the
whole advertisement campaign on its shoulders.
The English magazine "ST World" would publish some very positive
remarks about ST NEWS in November of that year, even going as far
as to say that "ST NEWS is better than its rival, "F.A.S.T.E.R."!
The last Volume 2 Issue (Issue 8) was to be launched on December
19th 1987. Something terrible had happened to the ST world, and
ST NEWS was one of the first to cover the topic extensively (as
well as to give the people something to fight this terrible
thing): The virus has appeared on the ST. I fear I really let
myself into an editorial article that would probably have to be
enormously censored when published in another magazine. Curses
all over, hard-core anger. From then on, I started developing a
revolutionary Virus Killer program, "The Virus Destruction
Utility", that was to be my main activity next to ST NEWS.
Since the ST NEWS Volume 1 Compendium seemed to have been quite
a success, it was obvious that a Volume 2 Compendium also was to
appear. This one was completed at Elektronikaland in Den Bosch
(which was in fact quite a hassle), and had to be put on a maxi-
formatted, double-sided disk. All the best articles of Volume 2
were contained - the Magnetic Scrolls Adventure solutions,
Crimson's Walkthroughs, the courses.....much, much more.
Looking back at 1987, I think it was fair to assume that it had
been the year of ST NEWS' breakthrough. The program was now quite
perfect and quite a stable quality was maintained. Microdeal,
Telecom Software and Psygnosis poured out review software and
there was nothing much left to wish for.
The new year was entered with fresh energy, though it could be
noticed that my inspiration was getting low. On February 16th
1988, in fact quite late for a first issue, ST NEWS Volume 3
Issue 1 was published. It featured pull-aside menu bars as a
bonus (again programmed by Robert Heessels of STRIKE-a-LIGHT),
and one of the earliest reviews of the "B.I.G. Demo". I was at
the time already desperately seeking for someone to replace me as
I was about to start studying at Utrecht University in August
and my activities had to be kept to a minimum.
Volume 3 Issue 1 contained, by the way, one of Mad Max' most
brilliant musical conversions ever: "W.A.R." from Rob Hubbard. We
now also had distributors in France, the U.S. and Norway, thus
adding up to eleven people. The German distributor was replaced
since he switched to a PC.
ST NEWS Volume 3 Issue 1 was the first issue that was no true PD
anymore. Commercial Dutch PD libraries had to pay some royalties
now in order to be allowed to sell it. Together with some other
factors, this was to lead to the "SAG Wars" that accumulated to
their height two issues later.
My follower-up had been found, and in ST NEWS Volume 3 Issue 2
(launched on April 6th 1988) it was to be read that this was to
be Stefan Posthuma. This issue was in fact my last issue (sigh),
which Frank and myself decided to dedicate to Jimi Hendrix. After
five issues that had been dedicated to Willeke, it was about time
for some changes.
In this last ACC issue of ST NEWS, the first 'real-time-article'
was to be published: The article about TEX' visit to Eindhoven.
This was to become such an enormous success and was to arouse
such stupefying reactions that we decided to write another one of
these article in a later issue.
But that's Stefan's story to tell.
A Brief History of the DI-"ST NEWS" (April 1988 - December 1988)
by Stefan Posthuma
After drooling over a ƒ699,- Kenwood walkman, eating a lot of
junk food and having to listen to Richard's trash (Sodom) I think
it is time to tell you something about ST NEWS when it was handed
over to me by Richard.
When Richard asked me to do ST NEWS, I did not hesitate for a
second and decided to do it. The first thing I did when Richard
handed me his source files is to take a very, very good look at
the sources and do some really heavy re-programming and some
optimizing of the way the articles were accessed from the disk.
The best thing I did for ST NEWS is to totally reprogram the
pageview mode, and after lots of hours of assembly programming,
it was quite nice. I got a lot of reactions on this pageview
mode, who greatly inspired me.
ST NEWS volume 3 issue 3 was the first one to be created by me. I
completed the issue on May 14th 1988 and it was officially
launched on May 16th 1988, Willeke's birthday. It contained a
quite spectacular article by TEX explaining how to get rid of the
lower border. Unfortunately my video chip is a little crummy, so
border stuff doesn't work. Maybe this is positive, else I would
have spend all my time eliminating borders, and would have
neglected ST NEWS. After receiving quite some positive reactions,
I decided that people liked my style and I was really inspired to
write lots of artciles and do some more programming. Then, about
two months later, it was time for ST NEWS 3.4
This issue was to go down in history as the best and the most
notorious one ever to be created. It contained some brilliant
introductory novellettes and the alternative Obliterator story
(by Piper), that was rejected by Psygnosis for reasons still
unknown. This exclusive story is also featured in this
compendium. We finished this issue at my place when Richard
visited me. This weekend was to be known as the 'Computer Orgy'.
This second and highly original real-time article was created on
a portable Olivetti computer by both Richard and me with a
special guest appearance by my wacky friend Peter. The 'real-time
article' phenomenon is a world-exclusive idea that was born on
the day that TEX visited Holland.
Both Richard and me read J.R.R. Tolkien's brilliant epic 'The
Lord of the Rings' and were greatly inspired to write quite some
articles with a lot of Tolkienish language. We decided to
dedicate ST NEWS 3.5 (october 10th 1988) to this great man. This
was to be the first issue completely influenced by a writer. It
contained the aforementioned Computer Orgy article plus some
special articles about J.R.R. Tolkien. In this issue, the
tendency towards non-computer articles became noticable and this
was to reach its climax in the next issue, issue 3.6
After reading the completely absurd books by Douglas Adams, we
decided to dedicate ST NEWS 3.6 (released november 11th 1988) to
this remarkable man. This issue was absurd. It contained a lot of
non-computer articles like my extremely absurd 'piece of mind',
some articles about Douglas Adams and some other stuff. Maybe we
overdid it this time, but the result was funny. It was to be the
most funny issue of ST NEWS ever.
There was not much to program anymore, and one night, after some
heavy nightlife, I came home, sat down behind my ST, had to
control myself not to slam any Metallica on my CD player (it was
about 2 in the morning) and started programming. Some hours later
(a lot of hours it was) a deafening cry shook the house on its
foundations and a scrolling message plus some rasters were to be
spotted on my greasy monitor. I did it. Finally, I managed to
create some rasters. Some more programming was done, and this
scrolling plus the rasters were included in ST NEWS 3.7. This
issue was a bit more serious than the last one, and I think it is
pretty good. It featured the best review I have ever written, the
Flying Shark review. An article written in a black mood, and
also the first review ever where the main character dies.....
All in all, ST NEWS has been a great thing to do and especially
the positive reactions I have received have been a driving force
for me. Also, writing articles is a great way to get rid of
inspiration that otherwise haunts me in my dreams.
What about volume 4?
Well, I can tell you that issue 4.1 features another ST NEWS demo
which is pretty neat and some other interesting articles. But it
is not suitable for me to predict the future, so I will stop