Alternative Party 2009

Alternative Party was held once again at the end of October, from Friday 23th to Sunday 25th. I like the event – it’s sort of a demo party but something totally different as the name suggests. Digital culture festival as the web site puts it. This year’s theme was cyberpunk, and Sophie Wilson and Jeri Ellsworth were invited as special guests. Together with the usual exotic and offbeat programme there was again strong music line-up. I was sure to get my ticket early on, and now I’m writing my blog several weeks after the party. So, what did the Altparty deliver this year?

Music

I went to Alt on Saturday, but the only thing I missed from Friday was some of the music acts. Dope Stars Inc. was the event’s main artist and performing on Friday. The band is apparently a somewhat big name in cyberpunk scene. I don’t know – completely unfamiliar for me. Of Friday’s live artists I was sorry to miss Byproduct and The Microkorgs. The Microkorgs was something new for me, but the stuff they have on their MySpace is quite nice retro-nostalgia electro game remixing extravaganza. Trio DStruction would have also been somewhat interesting. While not being there I was listening Scenesat live show from the event. I must say that Byproduct’s gig was top stuff! Luckily you can reLive or download the gig from Scenesat’s show archive.

On Saturday there was more retro electro live music. 64Mulasixty four-mula – was playing on main stage live with C64 mixed with vinyl scratching and stuff. Not bad at all. However, my main interest was Tero‘s gig. He hasn’t been very active the last years so it was awesome to see him play live. I’ve always liked his C64 music and it had been many years since I saw him live last time. Too bad there were some fuck ups in the organizing and the gig was literally cut off. The bar where the gig was held closed down in the middle of the gig. Apparently the reason was some confusion caused by the switch of daylight savings time that night.

Exhibition

As every year, there was many kinds of interesting things to see and experience other than the event programme. I usually hang around a lot at the hardware exhibition area. Collectors and retro hobbyists are welcomed to bring their stuff on display. There is always some rare, unusual, historic and weird hardware to be seen. And not only to be seen – the stuff is there free to examine and play around.

One of the most curious things was a pong game that you could play against MSX controlled robotic arm playing the other joystick. That thing humiliated many human players.

Robotic arm playing Pong

Special Guests

This year’s special guests were most interesting choises – two nerdy and extremely talented women. Sophie Wilson and Jeri Ellsworth. Both of them micro chip designers, but that’s about the only thing they had in common – two very different persons. Sophie had two seminars, topics ranging from history of Acorn and ARM to modern day ARM architecture developement and even future of embedded technology. Very interesting listen all in all.

And what can I say about Jeri? She’s just awesome! I already knew her as a sort of a celebrity in the C64 hacking scene and now I sure know why. After seeing her, I don’t wonder why she’s called the crazy Commodore girl. And by crazy I don’t mean anything negative here – quite the opposite! How can you not like that race-car-building violent self-taught chip designing pyromaniac Commodore lover?

Image from Altparty website

Of course I had a little chat with her and asked her to sign my DTV (She has designed the pimped Commodore inside it, you know).

C64 DTV with Jeri's signature
Hack Me! Now I really need to mod this baby.

Competitions

The competitions held at Altparty are generally more or less unusual. This year a little less I think. One of the most potentially interesting competitions this year was the supercomputer demo competition. Cray had provided an entry level supercomputer to the event. Sadly it was not a surprise that the few entries in that compo were not very interesting. One very basic looking 64k intro and two mandelbrot applications. Surely they were using up the available resources but they just did not look impressive at all. After all, you don’t need a supercomputer for fractal zoomer, do you?

The main demo competiton had some nice oldskool demos, and they ranked on top to their merit. The organizers were being proud to run the oldskool stuff on real hardware. That’s nice, but maybe they should have put a little more effort to get a decent picture on the screen – the output from the old hardware was pretty horrible. All the demos including the ones running on contemporary platforms and supercomputer were competing in the same series. Even still the 8bit and 16bit productions were victorious. The three awarded oldskool demos were: 3rd: Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society on Atari STe, 2nd: Unsigned by Byterapers on C64 and 1st: Bold by Dvik & Joyrex on MSX.

Also, Bad News from kooma – from the Dynamic Demo competition:

This year I also decided to participate into one of the compos for the first time ever. I made a picture for the Retro Graphics competition and ranked second. That of course added to the overall Alternative experience, which was once again very good.

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