Alternative Party 2011

So, I went and joined the communist party!

I’m talking about Alternative Party 2011 – Red Machine, held at the end of October in Helsinki. This year’s theme was, well, anything soviet. This was also the last Altparty for the time being – at least in its current form. The end of an era was somehow present in the overall atmosphere in my opinion. Even though this year was not special in any way, I think it’s a great shame that this tradition of the untraditional event will end.

The theme was taken into account by the organizers rather nicely. Before getting to the event area, or before receiving the ticket, you had to queue. Several times in different lines. Asking for stamps and presenting documents which were rejected in the previous queue. A fun but slightly annoying number I say!

Queuing is important! (Video in Finnish)

When finally entering the area, you were presented with world’s largest collection as an exhibition. A collection consisting of items from former Soviet Union.

Once again there were all sorts of interesting stuff to see and experiment in the visitors’ exhibition area. Tables full of familiar and uncommon game consoles and computers hooked up to monitors and CRT TVs to be played with 24/7. One setup in particular caught me completely; An old DOS-PC with all-fancy hardware. On top of everything it had Roland MT-32 MIDI synthesizer connected to it. I was absolutely blown away of the brilliant sound quality it offered with games supporting it in native mode! For me it was a revelation of late 80’s computer sound quality when the theme of Monkey Island blasted off from the loudspeakers.

The performing music acts were few and of varying quality, but at least they were loud! Really loud! Ural 13 Diktators played so loud you could literally feel the music a long way down the hall.

In organizing nothing worked the first time or as one would expect and everything scheduled was late. As usual. But this time the fuck-ups in arrangements fit the theme perfectly!

Aside from being late, the competitions were the typical Altparty stuff. Alternative, beginner and dynamic demo competitions, costume and wild competitions and so on. And of course different forms of music and graphics competitions, to one of which I attended.

Like in 2009 I wanted to take part in one of the graphics competitions. I wanted to make something that would fit the theme and had some technique concepts in my mind. I wanted to make the picture using C64 graphics modes.

In Soviet Party Picture Converts You!

At first I didn’t know if I was to make my picture for the “normal” or executable graphics competition. At the beginning it could have been either. But since I wanted to make something C64 I chose to go for executable graphics competition. It may be that the compo organizers were aiming specifically for procedural or generated graphics in the compo, but in the rules there was nothing that would forbid entering with C64 executable program that displays a pixelated picture. The file size limit of 16 kb was not a problem for C64 bitmap image and displayer.

Anyhow, the other entries were pictures generated in code, and made for Windows and Linux. I came second also this year with my C64 picture, yay.

However, I was a little disappointed to the way the competition was held. It started hours late, the pictures were shown once for less than ten seconds, and my picture was the first shown when the compo finally started. In the voting system the thumbnails were not present. Couldn’t help the feeling that I had put a lot more effort to my entry than the organisers to the competition. Oh well… In Soviet Russia competitions hold you or something.

A positive surprise and my personal highlight was James Grime’s presentation of the Enigma and cryptography in general. One might expect that a mathematician having a presentation about cryptography and a history lesson about 1930s cipher machine would be a little … bore. However it was quite the opposite. This lively lad from UK seemed more like a comedian than a mathematician and his presentation was informative, easy to follow and very entertaining!

The audio part of the presentation can be listened over at Scenesat live broadcast archive, and here’s an interview with James and the very basics of how Enigma works:

Also, surprisingly Jeri Ellsworth was there this year too, but this time only as a visitor.

One interesting show was Helsinki Hacklab‘s nuclear reactor meltdown simulator, which they were building the whole weekend. Finally after ending ceremony they were switch on their reactor and let the core melt. The sound of nuclear warning siren at the very end of the event was like a cherry on the topping!

Here is a nice video report that gives a good coverage of the complete event:

And then some photos:

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