By Richard Felice of the Maggie team...
For some months now, we had been eagerly anticipating the trip over to Germany for Symposium '96, which had replaced the Fried Bits and other parties that were normally held around this time.
At Victoria Station, we met up with Leon O'Reilly (Mr Pink of Reservoir Gods) [see Sky-Fall review in this issue - FFF] and Steve Tattersall (Tat of Digital Chaos). After a few minutes or so talk, sorting out just what time the coach was leaving (it turned out that we had all been given different info) we decided to walk into the main departures point at Victoria station, where we met up with Mike Noyce and Kev Davies. Shortly after this, a new face, belonging to Neil Jones-Rodway, joined us. His scene name (or rather on IRC) was Arnel - despite the fact that most of us hadn't seen him or spoken to him before it was nice to see him. We then stood in a little queue until our tickets were checked, then, while some of us grabbed some sandwiches and ate them totally minus any chairs, the coach was prepared for us.
The coach was an hour late in departing Victoria Station, this was because of an engine fault, which nearly resurfaced again during the journey - but you'll read about that later!! Eventually, we got on our way. It took about 2 hours or so to get through South London, travelling through some very seedy-looking parts indeed ... it made us feel pleased to be on the bus at that moment and not on the streets in these places! We finally got out of London and over to Dover in a fairly quick time. Unfortunately the seating arrangements on the coach were not too good .. while Leon, myself, Chris and Arnel got seats together, Mike and Kev ended up somewhere at the front, while poor Tat sat all the way by himself! I don't think this was how we were going to travel, but we had to put up with it, I guess.
The ferry trip from Dover to Calais was OK, not too rough, even though some people did look a little green during the entire journey. We mainly sat in the bar [what a surprise! - FFF] with our drinks and started the Maggie realtime article here .. but resorting back to basics with a trusty pad and pen. Nevertheless, the ferry trip was over pretty quickly, and once again we were on the coach - well, up to a point, anyway. Just as we were about to go over the top of the ramp off the ferry the driver managed to stall the engine - and couldn't start it again!! A bit of cheering followed here, but soon the driver got the bus going again and we entered the port of Calais.
It was starting to get pretty dark now, so conversation soon started to give way to sleepy ZZZZZZZZZZZZ's, broken very frequently by the lurches of the coach as it wended its way through the French and Belgian borders. The coach stopped a few times for a break, during one of these stops some of the seats including the one where Chris was sitting was converted into beds. However he managed to get a seat alongside Mike Noyce and close to 'Pendulum Kev' Davies, so that was OK. In the very early hours of Friday morning (about 6.30am) we arrived at last at Hamburg coach station, whereupon a wide-awake Tat guided us down to the 'Hauptbahnof' main station, which consisted of a shopping mall and rail links to various parts of Hamburg city.
A largely uneventful morning passed at Hamburg's main station and no, boredom did not rear its ugly head either. We decided first to head for MacDonalds, only to realise when we got there that it was only small and it would look a little odd for a big group of people to wander in. So, after standing around MacDonalds for a while trying to blend in with the German crowds (and not thinking 'What the hell are they on about ??) listening to various people etc, we finally went into an American Dinerstyle restaurant, and ordered several rounds of coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic drinks. Apart from a minor incident involving a more than slightly drunk German fellow with an attitude of 'I'm German and you're not' who approached us while we were sitting in the diner, everything went OK. We eventually got on the train and went to Harburg, whereupon we waited around 2 hours for the coach to take us to Hittfeld, where Symposium '96 was being held.
The place where Symposium '96 was held was in a massive sports-type complex, with a big main hall (together with a big screen), a smaller room which was occupied by the Atari scene and other small passages where people on various systems were set up. There was also a main entrance, where a little C64 contingent were set up on some tables, plus a mixture of Atari and PC people. There were also some people there from the Acorn scene. The main hall (which was described by the organisers as being not dissimilar to NASA's Mission Control in Florida) was largely occupied by Amiga and PC scene-members.
As soon as we got into Symposium, we paid the standard 35DM to the organisers, most of whom were on the door. We were given tags to enable us to walk around and even go outside without having to pay again on our return, which was a big help. A good idea by the organisers - saves using stickers etc on people's jumpers that can easily get lost or torn off!!
We were all amazed at the sheer size of the party once we'd got sorted out at the main entrance. Before us the big screen loomed inside a massive hall, to the left in a smaller room was the 'Atari Area' - where most of the members of the famous coding and demo crews whose productions we have seen on the Falcon for a few years now were based. The first people we met up with, however, were the Dutch guys (Sentry) and the DBA, or Disk Busters Association, with the incredibly tall editor who had been looking forward to this moment with pleasure (I hope) in the form of Slimer! It is difficult to describe who he actually looks like, the only consolation is that he doesn't look anything like Robin Askwith from the Confessions movies, which is what Chris first thought on his entry to Symposium! Later on, after much talk with DBA, they set up their realtime article, the STF keyboard on which it was being typed on was quickly grabbed by Chris and the rest of us.
We also met up with Stallion of Aura/Independence, who was busy coding much of the time. His new demo, called 'Hydroxid' looked very spectacular once he had ironed out all the little annoying bugs that had appeared!! Leon, Mike Noyce and Kev Davies then managed to get some unpaid experience as teachers with Stallion, as he had some English homework to do. I think he also got it completed at Symposium, with a lot of help from us Brits! It's probably just as well as we are not all good coders as the crews there!! A little later on, we had a chat to Lazer, who you may remember were responsible for 1995's demo of the year, 'Lost Blubb'. For those of you who have not yet seen it (Colin..I think this includes you as well! [I hope it will be on 42BBS soon? - FFF]) you are missing out on a great experience. Harald (Energizer) of Lazer was a nice guy, being able to speak slightly better English than the other Lazer members. However, even the other members were not unfriendly, ie they were able to say hello and ask how we all were. They were busy with their various bits and pieces of work, unfortunately they had the misfortune to suffer a hard disk crash just a few days before the party. Also some news regarding Martina: she was due to have an operation on her knee just after Easter so was taking a break from dancing, etc. Lazer do have plans to produce a sequel to Lost Blubb at some time in the near future, I suppose it depends on Martina's health and other things.
Another crew who were at Symposium were NoCrew, from Sweden. They spoke very good English, and happily allowed us to copy both issues 18 and 19 of Maggie onto their hard disks. One of the guys was sorting out some probs with Vidi ST-12 on his Falcon, so I helped him later on during the party. They were promoting their 'Nordic Atari Show' that is due to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June, 1996. I'm not quite sure if any of us will be there however ... we will have to wait and see about this.
Most of our time spent at Symposium was filled with talking to members ot the crews who were there. On the first morning of the party an Internet cybercafe was set up for anyone in the party to use, with 3 PCs linked up to the World Wide Web, together with some basic PCs linked up to the text-only IRC server. I must confess I spent a fair bit of time here browsing like never before!! We also surfed on DBA's new site, which was very impressive, and managed to find out the winning National Lottery numbers for that weekend, which Neil was keen to find out. However, with a bit of searching, we were able to find them. Unfortunately Neil still hadn't won anything - a fact he was miffed with, I think!!!
Showing on the big screen in the main hall was a selection of animations from 1996 and years gone by from such crews as the 'Nuclear Age Resident' and others. I'm not too sure whether these were coding crews or whether it was people fiddling around with Unix machines, but the animations certainly looked very impressive. There was also an excellent 3D-cell type animation of Bart and Homer Simpson, those of you who watch Sky TV will know who these two characters are!!
Several times during the party, Falcon demos were shown on the big screen ... these started up with Lazer's 'Lost Blubb' demo which, incidentally, looks even better on a cinema screen than on a standard monitor, Obnoxious by the Independent was shown, followed by Digital Chaos' Are You Experienced??, together with some invites and competition winners from past Fried Bits and other Atari parties. Some stuff from POV (UK) was also on show here occasionally.
Towards the latter part of the party, the competition entries were collected in by the organisers, with Sentry successfully buying time to complete their 96Ktro, which should hopefully be being distributed by the time you read this. Bonus of DBA was also hard at work on their 96Ktro and most Atari crews had also coded up entries for the 4K intros. Some people on different formats were responsible for the large amount of Soundtracker tunes that were entered in the music competition, most of these did sound similar to each other featuring a techno-beat, but there was one which sounded pretty good, featuring the 'Oi, nutter!!' sampled from Britain's infamous late-night adverts for Dime Bars, featuring Harry 'Loadsamoney' Enfield.
One of the 96Ktros featured the work of a new group called 'British Software Entertainment' or 'BSE' for short ... this certainly raised a lot of laughs when the logo came up, for the BSE crisis and the ban on British beef had been in the news about a couple of weeks or so before Symposium '96. The graphics competition was very good, with some fantastic screens being shown. One picture reminded me of the late actor, River Phoenix, whilst another, called 'In Memoriam' contained the morphed faces of several now sadly departed from this earth Hollywood actors.
All in all the competitions were very good, with many superb entries.
Food at Symposium consisted largely of pizza, pizza and more pizza, [just a normal everyday diet then - FFF] together with the obligatory 2 (or was it 3, Chris) cans of coke from the willing and very much used Coke machine.
All in all, Symposium '96 was an excellent party. It is nice to have a get-together to meet all those people who we regularly speak with via the Internet. It was also nice to get over to Hamburg in Germany, a nice part of the world (compared to some areas). Let's hope we all meet up again soon (same time next year, eh??)
And next time, Colin Fisher-McAllum and Kev Beardsworth ARE going to come.......... aren't you, guys!!! [...that's a definate posible maybe??? - FFF]