THE FIRST LUSTRUM ISSUE OF ST NEWS
REFLECTING BACK AT FIVE YEARS OF FREAKING OUT
by Richard Karsmakers
A rare occasion like this, a full-fledged lustrum I mean, of
course calls for drastic measures with regard to 'getting the
people to get some historical awareness'. That's why I have taken
upon me the honourable task of reflecting the past five years of
ST NEWS, starting at its birth, in this article.
I fully realise that this is not the kind of stuff that the
average reader would like to wade through, but as I really don't
care much what people think with regard to this, I considered it
necessary anyway. Also, I just felt like writing something like
Then again, you may like to read it anyway.
ST NEWS has been a part of my life. As a matter of fact, I have
spent over one fifth of it dedicated wholly or partly to this
magazine, I'll have you know. That's no longer peanuts or
something. It's a bit like a child, but less oppressive, and
without dipers. Throughout the years it also made me feel proud.
I felt great when once again we gained another distributor, or
when people just wrote to say they liked it.
But before I continue with this lesson in historical awareness,
I would like to pay tribute to some of the other disk magazines
that we saw grow up and crumble away. Need I mention the
brilliant Canadian commercial disk magazine "F.A.S.T.E.R." that
ceased to exist by the end of 1988? Need I mention "ST Info",
"Disk Magazin", "MAST Newsdisk", "ST Digital", "STOP", "CIP ST"
and "News Channel"? I am sure there are even more that we being
born - only to wither away after too brief an existence.
Even though it was for such a short time, they have joined us in
the fight for acknowledgement of the disk magazine medium, and we
are grateful to them - even though in some cases we may have had
are individual quarrels and envies.
As far as I know, the only decent disk magazines around now are
"Maggie" and ST NEWS - and "ST Klubben", of course, but as that
is written using Norwegian one really can't let that count no
matter how excellent it is. And I'd rather not include "STampede"
because I've been told it's complete and utter crap of the lowest
order (and it's commercial, too).
I have actually been hearing hopeful news from a new magazine to
be made in Holland, due any moment now. Let's all hope they will
For those among you who are not easily impressed, please allow
me to bestow upon you some statistics of all the ST NEWS issues
that have been released excluding this one: We published
almost 1000 articles in about 10 Mb of uncompressed documents in
28 issues, containing about 250 reviews and just under
approximately 70 adventure solutions or walkthroughs. In these
same issues, 22 excellent pieces of music programmer's
craftsmanship have been offered. This was all brought to you
on 25 disks, of which 4 were double-sided. Just to tease you, we
also did 13 hidden articles - each of them more or less cleverly
hidden (refer to another article in this lustrum issue of ST NEWS
for more info on those, and on how to access them). Just to amaze
you, Stefan coded 4 monochrome-and 7 colour demos, whereas ST
NEWS published 4 colour demos supplied by alternative sources.
Additionally, we have also published three regular compendia, of
which two were supplied on double-sided disks, and one Final
Compendium which came on two double sided disks. Some of the
compendia contained new music, some contained the odd new
article, and one contained an update of an existing program.
The early, VERY early days
When Frank Lemmen (a close friend of mine) 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.
This was quite different from the scene on the Commodore 64 to
which Frank and I had previously belonged (up to one day before
we bought the ST, as a matter of fact).
I had my first ST computing experiences with doing "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 seen the light: I had an idea!
Next day, I sat down with a word processor and starting making a
disk-based magazine document that I 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.
In my enthusiasm 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.
ST NEWS Volume 1 - Growing pains and enthusiasm galore
Anyway, the first issue of ST NEWS saw the light of day on July
26th 1986. It was just a plain 34 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 after its birth. Back then, the
ACC used to be 'an independent Public Relation 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. Apart from that, of course, it
also offered Software News, ST tips & tricks and even the first
tips to the magnificent adventure "The Pawn". The first review
was that of Activision's "Little Computer People" (what I nice
game that was).
The second issue, published on August 9th 1986, was no longer
written solely by yours truly, but also contained some
contributions by someone calling himself DSP - Jos Schilders -
and my dear friend and earliest co-conspirator Antiware - Frank.
The magazine still hadn't gotten rid of its highly illegal
image, in spite of the fact that I had in the mean time been
contacted by Data Becker for spreading one of their drawing
programs with my phone number in it (which was very stupid, of
course - but I learned from it). An article about
"Hackers'n'crackers on the ST" completed this. Back then, it
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. These were legendary
games on the Commodore 64, but they have never appeared on the ST
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 (MC68000 course), who
would later also get me into touch with Lucas van den Berg
(Crimson's Column). These two belong to some of our most
celebrated authors, and Mark has been possibly of biggest
influence on my musical taste (he brought me into contact with
Rush, Queensrÿche, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen).
On August 16th 1986, a mere week after Volume 1 Issue 2 had been
launched, the next issue was published. Still, it was over 50
Kb long. 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 our adventure
wizard Math. Further, we used to copy large parts of system
documentation into ST NEWS; this particular issue featured all
about the BIOS.
We still regularly receive post at the correspondence address we
invoked in that issue...
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 a 'list of contents' and the
first "ST Software News" article in its original form. Some
more columns and initiatives were also introduced that would,
however, not last long: 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 we decided to
use instead. It was but a slight hint at the introductory novels
that would appear over a year later.
It was also on an SHN computergroup meeting, but this time in
Venlo, Holland, that I met adventure guru Math Claessens. This
man has by now proven himself to be one of the main sources of ST
NEWS' success, solving adventures with the speed regular people
use to drink a cup of tea (and, indeed, the same frequency). In
ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 4 he wrote his first adventure solution -
that of "Zork II".
Around that time, we discovered "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 these
Canadians). "F.A.S.T.E.R." was commercial, published once in
two months, and looked extremely slick due to its own GEM
environment and its incredible userfriendliness. Thus it came
to be that I became rather dissatisfied with our own setup. And
I slowly started working on ST NEWS' own GEM environment.
By the way, the first ever ST NEWS programs, though still
written in that ghastly old and clumsy "ST Basic", were added
to this ST NEWS issue as well. One of them belonged to a new (and
quite long) series we started: "GEM VDI Calls" by Manus
(psuedonym of Herman de Vrees).
The next two issues, of which the first one (Volume 1 Issue 5)
arrived at October 5th, 1986, were not yet to feature this GEM
environment I was working on, 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 in
Amsterdam (later to become Commedia). This company was the first
to give ST NEWS review status. They supported us a lot, and I
think we owe them our early success.
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 2. 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
probably still maintains this service to date - though not free
of charge (bummer).
ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 5 also saw the introduction of Rufus
Camphausen's (Canopus Esoteric Research) writing. This director
of an Amsterdam Meditation institute wrote articles about,
let's say, 'less apparent computer use'. Sadly enough, 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 (i.e.
Frank and myself) wrote. Jos had also introduced an
acquaintance of his to our working circle: Someone called
Bitbuster (Paul "Oh Hell." Kolenbrander).
A very ironical thing was the fact that Jos wrote a very
humorous article about "Are you a good ST owner?" in this issue.
He slagged off the Amiga real bad there. Not many months later he
was to switch to that system, leaving the Atari community
(together with Paul, actually).
The boundaries to foreign readers were officially thrown wide
open with our first official foreign distributor, Gerardo Greco
from Italy, 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
good ol' Stefan wrote his first ST NEWS article: "How to write
your own adventures". Stefan, who joined in because I had
written about my hamster and he had one too, 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 rewriting 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 hackers' magazine of old any more. 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. In this issue, we also used our own names for the first time.
Gone were the times of Cronos and Antiware, Bitbuster and DSP.
I spent more and more time programming the GEM setup. "GfA
Basic" version 1 was still having child's diseases and that
didn't particularly make things any easier for me...
ST NEWS Volume 2 - The year of our breakthrough
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 environment, 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 written in Basic,
and some things therefore were quite (or VERY) slow. Jos never
agreed with this setup, and editorial differences would be the
main reason (as well as him buying an Amiga) that he was soon
to leave the editorial staff.
Together with the launch of this issue, I launched a world wide
offensive, sending ST NEWS to many user groups 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 "Popcorn" music. The
presence of music in ST NEWS, however, was to disappear until the
fifth issue of that year.
ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 1, by the way, was the first to be
mentioned in a foreign magazine: "68000'er" of June 1986 (a
German magazine). It was mentioned very favourably, actually.
Math also displayed some of his true potential now, offering the
full solution to "The Pawn" - thereby giving ST NEWS a world
wide exclusive! We even broadened our perspective to cover the
beautiful world of video and music around Fairlight computers.
But not all was fun. One of our authors who had started
working with ST NEWS only a short while before, Rob de Swaan,
died at the age of 34. A small "In Memoriam" was to put some
seriousness in ST NEWS, too. Frank and myself dedicated our
other current product, "Synth Sample III", to his wife
Debbie, and his little son Bruce.
Some days after Volume 2 Issue 1 was launched, I received a
phonecall from the guys at Commedia. "Why not publish some of the
best articles of 1986 in a separate issue with that new GEM setup
Thus, the idea for an ST NEWS Volume 1 Compendium was born,
which was eventually brought out on January 18th 1987. It was
one single sided disk filled to the brim (and the disk was
formatted with 10 sectors per track).
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 "1st Word Plus
File Save"-option was included in the pageview mode. The review
of "Flightsimulator II" that would eventually lead to a full
stop in the co-operation with Commedia (because they said it
had looked too much like a manual) was also written for this
Things went to go smoothly from ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 3 on,
which was published on April 11th 1987. Following Stefan's
example (in his monochrome drawing program "The ArtiST"), I
decided to dedicate this issue to a girl called Maryse, a girl
on school 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 perpetually excelled among the
other articles through use of brilliant English. The Forth
course remained running for a very long time (although it was
omitted twice due to health reasons of its author, Cees Janssen),
and Lucas still shows no signs of getting tired of writing his
exquisite 'Walkthrough' articles either.
The hottest review in this issue was by our (ex-)Italian
distributor Gerardo Greco, covering the expensive hardware "ADAP
Sound Rack". In the "Did you know that...", Stefan announced the
release of a new version of his monochrome drawing program, to be
named "The ArtiST+" (and what an original name it was...).
Around this time, someone called Rob Hubbard started
programming music on the ST. Rob Hubbard was one of the very
best sound programmers on the Commodore 64, and I was happy to
find out he had done the music for Microdeal's ST game
"Goldrunner". Therewith started the development of a new music
programmer's talent in Germany that was later to increase the
quality of ST NEWS and the entire demo/hacking world on the ST
considerably: Mad Max (Jochen) of TEX.
But that's another matter entirely (yet).
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. Amiga's. Puh.
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 (it was now smooth, too). 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 British Telecom -
the latter of which has been bought up by Microprose in the mean
time) now started to be interested in awarding us review
status. So we got more software to review.
The ST NEWS 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 ST NEWS now,
however, is virtually impossible and surely not measurable).
But let's not forget to mention some of the articles that were
written in this issue. One of the people that regularly sent
review software to us, the software wholesaler Harry van Horen of
Homesoft Benelux, wrote an interesting article about the Consumer
Electronics Show (CES) in Chicago. As Rob Hubbard was active on
the ST, we also published an interview with him.
The first ST NEWS that I really considered quite '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 had
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
then 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 writing real 'introductory
novels' in this issue, of which I consider "Tracker" to be the
first. I also wrote one called "The Story Behind Larry". Quite
naughty, that one.
The "Did you know that..." column also revealed some
interesting bits: "Tempus Word" was announced, Rob Hubbard had
gone to the States to work solely for Electronic Arts on MS-DOS
machines, and RAM prices were dropping to less than DM 2000,- for
4 Mb (!!).
We had in the mean time been contacted by Canadian competition
"F.A.S.T.E.R.". They thought we were great!
And of course 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
single time-consuming routine was now done in machine code, so
that ST NEWS was now my skeleton with Stefan's organs, so to
say. Even the scroller was even better now. 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 - I took the whole
advertisement and promotion campaign on my 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 (quote) "ST NEWS is better than its rival, the
Canadian disk magazine 'F.A.S.T.E.R.'"!
At the time, that was the biggest compliment achievable.
Other notable events in that issue: We got a reaction of a
lovely man aged 62 who really liked ST NEWS: Ken "Ancient
STatarian" Butler. Claus Brod wrote a revolutionary article about
"The Track 41 Protection", and we published a review of the MEGA
ST by SAG boss Eli Maas.
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 probably 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 go in 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 (in the mean time the name of this program has
changed, rights have been sold, etc.).
Finishing this issue had been more than hectic. Some of the
deadline articles had only been supplied the day before. Eerk
Hofmeester, who wrote the "Tune Up!" review, was one of the
persons who came bringing his article that evening - and he
locked himself out of his car!
Ancient co-conspirator Frank Lemmen went into the army to
perform national service as of December 1st. It was the beginning
of a decline of his writing for ST NEWS, even though he would
continue well into Volume 3. Somewhere else in Holland, Amiga
users started "Amiga News", inspired by us...
Since the ST NEWS Volume 1 Compendium seemed to have been quite
a success, it was obvious that a Volume 2 Compendium was also to
appear. This one was completed at a user gathering 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 Forth-
and MC68000 courses...and much, much more.
Looking back at 1987, I think it is fair to assume that it has
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.
Please read Part II now, where all concerning Volume 3-6 will be
read, including reasons behind our death and revival...
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.