IT RUMBLES IN THE SAG by Richard Karsmakers
"It rumbles in the world of Public Domain software," so I was
able to read in the Dutch "Atari Magazine" that recently landed
in my hands. With growing interest I read the article that
started with this passage, until I came to a part that made me
feel like just having been hit in the guts. But before I will
talk about that more extensively, it might be useful to give some
THE VICIOUS ARROGANCE OF A DISK MAGAZINE TO WANT TO START MAKING
You'll probably know that I am quite active with the disk
magazine ST NEWS. Since this magazine used to be Public Domain,
you'll understand that I saw back real little of all the trouble
I put in it (which may be called considerable - about four to
five hours a day), and when the third volume of ST NEWS started I
decided to write all commercial Dutch PD libraries a nice letter
in which I pleaded to be able to receive one Dutch guilder per
sold copy (which is about 30 pence, or about 50 dollarcents) -
and this would ONLY apply to the COMMERCIAL Dutch PD libraries
that sold PD and made a fair profit of these sales. In the
letter, however, I also stated that I would welcome any
alternatives of theirs, and I closed down with a friendly request
not to spread ST NEWS Volume 3 Issue 1 and up if they didn't want
to come to a 'royalty' agreement of some sort. That guilder per
sold copy might then enable me to pay some our most faithful
contributors something for their efforts, and was arranged to be
paid to me by making it necessary for the meant commercial Dutch
PD libraries to sell ST NEWS with a sticker on it that could be
bought at yours truly at the price of (you guessed it) one Dutch
guilder. But, as I clearly mentioned already: Alternatives were
welcomed with open arms!
This way, I hoped to be able to get my hands on about fifty
guilders a month; I should have known that this astronomical
figure (about £15 or $25) would not be taken up lightly by a
certain foundation that I will not yet mention...
About one week later, I received the first reactions to my
letter. The Foundation ST ("Stichting ST", publishers of the
magazine "ST" in the Netherlands) even decided to pay me with
inclusion of some months that had passed already, the VEST-ZN
bought some stickers and the Atari Computerclub Nederland
(publishers of the 'newspaper' magazine "Atari ST Nieuws") also
came to a satisfactory royalty arrangement (without stickers
even). The only other Public Domain library that I had written to
- the one of the Stichting Atari Gebruikers (English: Foundation
Atari Users, later in this article to be called SAG) - didn't
write back until after about two months. Their answer: "Since we
are opposed to hidden commercialisation of the Public Domain, we
will not spread ST NEWS further through out PD service." To be
perfectly honest, I hadn't expected otherwise, because the
relationship between the SAG and myself had been a bit fragile
lately (the people at the SAG have something against members of
the board of directors of ST Club Eindhoven, so it seemed - more
about that later). So I was hardly surprised not to find any
alternatives whatsoever in their reply, either.
Unfortunately, I thought the SAG would leave it like it now was:
No ST NEWS sales through their PD library anymore. No hard
A MINOR MISTAKE
How wrong my conclusion had been, became known when I read the
article in the aforementioned Atari Magazine. The first, rather
suspicious fact, was that I did not receive the Atari Magazine
myself - I had to find it at a friend's. Was I beginning to have
senile tendencies rapidly, or had I not myself been able to look
forward to receiving the magazine regularly for over a year now?
"Oh well, it'll probably be a mistake with the administration", I
thought. So I read the article, as stated earlier, with growing
However, on a certain moment I read the following sentence:
"Another one of those little rumbles is ST NEWS". Did I read that
well?! Yes, I'm afraid I did. The SAG was busy kicking once the
victim was already down - something that I had never been willing
to believe when other people told me of their own, juicy
experiences. In further sentences, I could read that ST NEWS was
added to the SAG PD library 'for the sake of completion' and that
I was trying to commercialise the PD system 'through complex
techniques involving stickers'. The SAG would therefore not
spread this 'kinda disk magazine' anymore. Had I then looked over
something in their reply letter? An ALTERNATIVE for this 'complex
technique involving stickers' maybe? After reading this letter
again, however, I didn't even find small letters or hidden
stipulations. Was it perhaps not clear to the SAG guys that I did
not want to commercialise the PD, but that I merely wanted to see
a minor royalty payment? The consumer would not notice anything
of these 'complex techniques' anyway - only twenty to thirty
guilders would be deducted from the SAG's profits. But it has to
be admitted: Such amounts of money are indeed a bit on the high
In an idle gesture to put things right, I called Mr. Eli Maas
from the SAG that very evening. Mr. Maas, so I had been assured
by many of my acquaintances, usually turned out to be the brain
behind sentences like the ones I quoted earlier from Atari
Magazine. Slowly but surely, I began to believe all the stories
that had been told to me in the past. Stories about childishness,
deceit and more like that. This couldn't be true?! "Not spreading
ST NEWS anymore was a decision of the board of directors, and was
allowed to be elucidated in the magazine," was the comment I got
from Mr. Maas. When I asked him why he had found it necessary to
do so in this highly rude manner, Mr. Maas answered my question
like any politician would: "Oh, sooner or later I will buy an
Amiga or a clone (PC-Clone, ED.) anyway...". Indeed, Mr. Maas
would have done better to become a politician. I closed down the
telephone call with the announcement that I did not entirely
agree with his way of handling things. "This will by the katalyst
to a polemological war of which the dogs won't like the meat," I
told Mr. Maas - "Do whatever you feel you have to do!", was his
answer to this.
THE POOP HITS THE FAN
After this rather not so positive collision with the SAG, I
decided to dig a bit deeper in what has happened at the SAG in
recent times, and to get in touch with several people that had
earlier tried to convince me of them being right in quarrels with
the SAG. A lot of my friends and acquaintances have lost the
SAG's favour and I had taken all their stories with a fair bit of
salt: Where two people fought, two people were to blame, weren't
there? Besides, I also wrote for the SAG's Atari Magazine, so
that I didn't feel the urge to draw arms against them: The
computer users are then the people who eventually suffer and not
the people actually having the quarrel. Coincidentally, the Atari
Magazine in which I was treated like I have described above was
the first one for which I had not supplied an article in time.
But you're right. That will probably be just that: Coincidence.
THE USERGROUP THAT SIMPLY WAS TOO ACTIVE
Some of you will probably have heard of "ST Club Eindhoven" and
the quarrel it had (and has) with the SAG. According to a
publication in Atari Magazine of autumn 1987, "ST Club Eindhoven
cannot hold itself to any agreements, whereas the sale of illegal
software seems to flourish there." Could there be more?
This explosion had a fuse that had been alight since the SAG day
(a big usergroup day) of the spring of 1987: ST Club Eindhoven
was too active, ST Club Eindhoven published too professional a
magazine, ST Club Eindhoven produced and sold software that was
produced by their members. ST Club Eindhoven could impossibly
work together with the SAG, unless it would arrange a fusion
between its magazine, "ST Clipboard", and Atari Magazine. Also,
the production and sales of own software had to be stopped. Just
think: A very specific and highly up-to-date magazine that used
to be published once a month would have to start working together
with a general Atari magazine (8 bit too) that appeared only once
in two months and for which articles had to be submitted over one
month before the date of publication! ST Club Eindhoven
recognized that this would mean a significant loss of face: "ST
Clipboard" was one of the main reasons for people to become a
member of ST Club Eindhoven in the first place! Many meetings of
the Club's board of directors (where yours truly also was
present) were spent composing a letter to the SAG with
alternatives that would assure our working together as closely as
possible. It turned out to be but wasted time: A reply was
received after a while, in which could be read that "ST Club
Eindhoven cannot work together optimally with the SAG."
Therefore, they had decided to point the Club to the door. Since
this was a decision of the SAG's board of directors, this also
had to be clarified in their Atari Magazine. All Holland could
then read that "the sale of illegal software seems to flourish
there." Another example of kicking once the victim is down. Of
course, it is known that some software is copied on many
usergroups, but I knew for sure that NO illegal software was sold
there whatsoever. Maybe the SAG referred to the sales of the
software that we produced ourselves? Obviously, the SAG did not
realise that it not only brought pure nonsense in the world, but
that it also jeopardized the trust in a company like "STRIKE-a-
LIGHT", that worked closely together with the ST Club Eindhoven.
Truly, it is no strange thing to THINK about whether or not to
publish such remarks before they go to the press.
Later, former SAG-man Henri Keyzer told me that "this was the
one argument that justified the SAG to kick out a usergroup,
which I had already heard while I was still working with the
SAG in the context of ST Club Eindhoven." Henri Keyzer used to be
a big guy at the SAG, up to the point that he began to think that
the SAG did not treat the ST Club Eindhoven like he found just.
"Activities have to be stimulated, and not killed," he comments,
"and I thought the board of directors of the SAG was way out of
line. Producing your own software is excellent!" Within a matter
of days after the SAG-day of 1987, Mr. Keyzer had to leave the
SAG, to say it bluntly. That was the starting signal for...
THE STALINISTIC PURGES AT THE SAG
Getting rid of Mr. Keyzer was the starting signal for a range of
purges at the SAG that put the activities of a certain communist
head of state in earlier times of this century in the shadow.
Plans to make a VAG from the SAG (Vereniging Atari Gebruikers
instead of Stichting Atari Gebruikers, which would translate to
Association Atari Users instead of Foundation Atari Users) were
put back in the fridge: In a foundation, of course, it is much
easier to remove someone from the board of directors whereas this
needs to be done by democratic ways when an association is
concerned. This didn't quite fit in the policy of purges.
Democracy?! A word that is obviously not present in Mr. Maas'
Someone that soon had to follow Mr. Keyzer was SAG boss Casper
Jansen. He was accused of being careless, whereas it was also
thought to be impossible for him to seperate work and hobby (his
computershop and the SAG respectively). When Mr. Maas decided to
butt in on too many occasions, Mr. Jansen decided to leave. And
one should take into consideration that the wife of Mr. Kijlstra
(the man that followed up Mr. Jansen, and that has now also left
the SAG) also has a shop called "Jotka Computing" - which has
several adverts in each issue of the Atari Magazine! Speaking of
'being able to keep work and leisure time apart'....
The next one that was kicked out of the SAG by Mr. Maas (in the
mean time strengthened by Mr. Kijlstra) was Mrs. Lies de Jong,
the woman responsible for the Public Domain library there.
Subject to an ever increasing urge to meddle with more, Mr. Maas
started to penetrate into the PD service as well. From now on,
all orders had to go through him, and the choice for Lies was
simple: "Stay and participate" or "be against it all and get
lost". The woman that had managed the fastest PD service in
Holland (when paying by cheque, a three day's term was usual) was
told that she "didn't do her work properly". The SAG's board of
directors had decided: She had to get out. Next day, the PD
library was collected from her house. Their board of directors
then existed of Rien Vink, Pieter Sturm, Wim Denie, Jan Kijlstra
and of course Eli Maas; later, Mr. Vink, Mr. Sturm and Mr. Denie
turned out not to have known from this decision but it was
already too late. Mrs. Lies de Jong had hit the dirt.
Now, Mrs. de Jong does not receive her SAG magazine anymore -
just like yours truly and probably all those other people that
have lost the SAG's favour.
After Rien Vink had to resign, too, now Mr. Kijlstra left the
SAG. "I was a temporary chairman, and it was my time to go," was
his comment. Several rumours go around about the actual reason
why Mr. Kijlstra left, reasons that made me think back of a
"Dallas"-version of a certain non-agression pact that was signed
on August 23rd 1939 - and even more to its violation. But since I
do not have any certainty with regard to any of these rumours, I
will not specify them; it is my target to produce an article that
is as close to the truth as possible, after all, so I won't start
At the moment, Mr. Maas is treasurer, chairman and secretary of
the SAG, while he also has considerable input in the production
of Atari Magazine (hence his position to kick with the victim
down already) - senior editor Pieter Sturm really can't say much
and gets the magazine once it's ready - the press tests also go
to (you guessed it, pal) Mr. Eli Maas. Isn't it the task of an
editor to check whether a magazine is ready to be published? Mr.
Maas' wife, by the way, takes care of the administration (hence
their position to send Atari Magazine only to the people they do
not dislike). It seems that the other 'members of the board of
directors', Pieter Sturm and Wim Denie, are only still present
because they are indispensable: Will they also disappear when Mr.
Maas also knows how to be a magazine editor and an excellent
software reviewer respectively? Will they then also hit the dirt?
The only positive remark to be made here is the fact that Mr.
Maas shows himself like a thousand-handed work-a-holic.
While doing the research for this article, it slowly became
clear to me WHO had made the 'decision of the board of directors'
not to spread ST NEWS any further, and who had found it necessary
to clarify his views in such an animal way in the last Atari
Magazine. While doing this research, my ears went red several
times while I was trying to write down everything that I heard.
Many matters do not even get my attention in this article...
A DESOLATE WASTE
The above has all happened in just over a year. During that
time, I was very objective: I didn't choose sides, presuming that
both sides were to blame, and I even wrote articles in the
magazines of ST Club Eindhoven and the SAG in which I pleaded
everyone to stop fighting and start working together. The ones
bound to loose most just happen to be the computer users, and can
they do anything about this all?!
A fact was that the SAG would not tolerate the presence of ST
Club Eindhoven on the recent 1988 SAG usergroup day (ST Club
Eindhoven could only spread some promotional material outside).
Isn't that slightly strange? The members of ST Club Eindhoven
that stood outside were barely allowed to get inside, and then
they weren't allowed to give away promotional material. By the
way, I'd love to have had a camera to immortalize the expression
on Mr. Maas' face when I came in with some of the people who had
hired some space (just note: I am a member of the board of
directors of that strange little usergroup in Eindhoven where
everybody sells illegal software and with whom you just cannot
make agreements of any sort - it's of course better to get rid of
these people, as you'll understand).
To clarify things: The SAG also didn't allow the ST Club
Wageningen to be on the SAG day - for similar reasons. Other
departments of the SAG that have been kicked out are Almere and
Lopik, whereas Texel and Friesland got out on their own accord.
The departments of Breda and Oss are at the moment still arguing
with the SAG, whereas Hoorn, Amsterdam and Heerhugowaard are
planning to start an own organisation. So please don't think that
ST Club Eindhoven is the only usergroup to cause havoc!
At the recent Brabantse Computerbeurs (a CES-like show, only
much smaller), the SAG could not be found. The reason: ST Club
Eindhoven chairman Hubert van Mil was there with his own little
company. The organisation of the Brabantste Computerbeurs had not
agreed to SAG requests to boycot ST Club Eindhoven and Hubert van
Mil, so the SAG decided to stay way themselves. Isn't this
something strange, too? After all, the SAG is the biggest
organisation of Atari users IN THE WORLD?
THE BIGGEST USERGROUP IN THE WORLD?
I don't know for sure if this is still the case. The bigshots at
Atari Corporation in the United States (like hardware man Shiraz
Shivji and software man Sigmund Hartmann) still seemed to think
so when I talked to them recently. But it appears that the SAG
is going down the hill rapidly. Henri Keyzer: "The SAG is digging
its own hole!" A fact is that more than half of all SAG donaters
are users of the Atari XL/XE type of computers. At the recent
"Personal Computer Magazine Show", they had not brought a single
PD cassette for these systems and this might mean potential loss
of a lot of members. And what ST users wish to find with the SAG?
Don't ask me. I only find it a pity that the biggest Atari
usergroup organisation will go to hell due to the ambition of an
individual. Also a pity for the talents of the man that's
probably the best software reviewer in Holland, Mr. Wim Denie.
This man doesn't even recognize Mrs. Lies de Jong nor yours truly
anymore. His talents are wasted there.
NEWTON'S THIRD LAW
According to Newton's third law (action = - reaction) I now
anticipate the foulest articles imaginable about me, the ST NEWS
disk magazine and the other people I interviewed for this
article. The next Atari Magazine will probably be filled with
them. Also, Mr. Maas will no doubt come up with all possible (and
impossible) reprisals. I am quite interested in what he will come
up with next - I won't be surprised if he finds some evidence
that I am the biggest software cracker of Holland, using ST NEWS
as a cover for his foul proceedings. Maybe I am the guy that
sells software illegally at that particular usergroup where this
trade seems to flourish? Maybe he'll find ways to make nobody
ever speak to me again. Maybe he'll say that he hindered my in my
nasty setup to commercialise the entire PD software library? I
can't say otherwise than that I don't care for a tiny bit. I just
hope that all Atari users in Holland will know better (don't tell
me I didn't warn you when it's too late!).
In any case, Mr. Maas now has the polemological war he sought. I
startled several times when I saw the dirt that came floating
above, and the rude and vicious ways in which people like Mrs.
Lies de Jong were kicked out of the SAG. I still found I had to
go through with it. I felt strengthened by all the positive
reactions I received from all the people that I interviewed -
cheers to you all! - and the fact that the truth should now
finally become visible to all.
I wish to take full responsibility for all that I have written
in this article. It is an own initiative of myself, and not of
whomever else. I have had tried to submit it to several Dutch
magazines, but they were afraid of the consequences - they'd
rather preserve the fragile peace in a cold war. So I think I'm
alone in my battle.
Just for clarity once more: This article is meant as an offence
at the board of directors (read: Mr. Eli Maas) of the SAG and not
against any of the donaters of this foundation.
While interviewing someone for the research I did on this
article, I was told that someone else (whose name unfortunately
slipped my mind) is currently trying to have the SAG eat dirt
through the English magazine "ST World". So I might not be all
alone after all!
I have put special effort in spreading this issue of ST NEWS to
some of the Atari buffs in the U.S., so that these people will
finally become aware of all that's going on here. It's about time
that it's brought to a screeching halt!
DEAR MISTER MAAS,
Satisfied? This article will sooner or later probably end up
under your nose, so I'd like to add a personal note to you.
So you can see that I don't like kicking after someone -
especially if that 'someone' happens to be me! You told me I had
to do whatever I felt I needed to do - well, I have done so. Your
little joke in Atari Magazine was the droplet that made my bucket
flow over considerably.
If your knowledge of English fails to grasp everything that I
wrote here, please let me direct you to any of the big Bulletin
Board Systems in Holland, whereto I have uploaded a Dutch version
of this article as well (it's called "SAG.ARC"). I will also try
to get it published in some smaller magazines (such as "De
You'd better start thinking of some tricks to get back on me
right now, Mr. Maas; maybe you have some information on me that
might be sufficient for my death penalty in the world of the
Atari ST?! I'm confident you have.
I hope it's now very clear what I understand under "a
polemological war with use of all the media that I have to my