ACNews #67
01 марта 2017

How it was in Leningrad - Year 1992-1993. Meeting Amiga

<b>How it was in Leningrad</b> - Year 1992-1993. Meeting Amiga
                Year 1992-1993. Meeting Amiga

I found an interesting computer shop at the ground floor of
"Subscription publications" store at Liteyny avenue. A room 8 by
10 metres contained three departments.

First department sold Spectrum-compatible computers and tape
games. I'm not sure about disks, but disk drives were certainly
sold as a unit with power supply. Later some Speccy books were
also sold there.

Second department contained Amigas. Namely Amiga 500+. I didn't
know anything about Amigas by the time, and just stared at a new
strange computer. A demonstrational Amiga was attached to a
colour video monitor. Sometimes it was installed on the counter,
sometimes on a shelf behind the salesman. Amiga runned demos. I
remember Technological Death and State of The Art with a dancing
girl. That was cool. Amiga also runned games. I remember
Settlers, Walker, Cannon Fodder. The first one had marvelous
ambient sounds (bird chirping, axe and construction sounds), the
second one played animation while loading. I started to respect
Amiga for its power and attractiveness. Besides Amiga, you could
buy there a monitor for it, mouses, joysticks, and game disks. I
thought to buy an Amiga when I would find a job and gain a lot
of money.

The first and the largest department sold IBM PC compatibles.
Depending of size of your pocket you could buy a complete
computer with 286 to 486 CPU. The latter was worth an apartment,
so people mostly bought 386's. Complete sets stood on the
counter before the salesmen, facing the visitors. You could
approach them and type something on the keyboard when a salesman
looked aside. I did that frequently. I looked at his actions
then tried to repeat them after him. Norton Commander was loaded
on the computers, so I had something to click :) So I worked at
PC for the first time. Sometimes they ran games. I remember
Goblins. It had a funny opening. Goblin family sits at a table,
and an evil wizard pokes a voodoo puppet with needles, the
puppet to represent a head of family, so the victim yells and
makes faces. I remember that while the first run, the game had
music without any sounds. A salesman explained somebody that you
need more memory to hear voices. He opened the case and adds in
it (in a sound card) some plaquets with chips. Then he ran the
game again, and the voices and other sounds appeared. Once I
played second screen of Goblins a little. The game is amusing
yet hard. Sometimes a music demo was shown instead of games. It
moved sines on screen with music, i.e. visualized the waveform
of sound. A rocking techno track played. There were many in the
program, but they didn't let them all play. Before selling a
computer, a hard disk test was mandatory. The testing program
could scan the disk for hours, and the poor customer had to
tolerate that. Some displays showed a nice screen-saver that
drew stunning kaleidoscopic patterns. The patterns slowly
changed colours. I liked to watch them. Besides the computers,
multimedia sets from Creative were sold. A set contained a
soundcard, a CD-ROM drive, and basic loudspeakers. Such sets
were named Creative Sound Blaster Discovery. That costed huge
amount of money I hadn't. But I wanted...

The same department also hosted a lonesome Apple Macintosh. I
can't understand today, how that model appeared there, it was
very old and certainly out of production. The only thing I
remember about it is that it made a "boom" sound when it
released a floppy disk. I wasn't impressed, only puzzled - one
button mouse, monochrome screen no larger than a packet of
cigarettes, no disk release button. Why have such a scarecrow?
Nevertheless, I moved the mouse around a little. The only "Mac"
I wanted was Apple IIc that I had read about in a colour
magazine "Information Science in Life of USA", from the
exhibition of the same name conducted in late 80's in our city.
One of the articles had Isaac Asimov telling about his Macintosh
experience. And the photo in the article showed Apple IIc with
external disk drive and a printer.

This store later became the base of city first specialized
computer store named "Key" (pronunced as "kay", but don't mix it
with KAY computer! - Ed.), later a big trading network. Salesmen
in "Key" were former "Subscription publications" sellers. "Key"
store was opened within few meters of old store.

           Years 1992-1994. School class with UK-NC

My classmate Anton and I used to hand about information science
room on second floor. That was because a whole computer class
network was hidden from us there. The computers were Elektronika
МС-0511 or UK-NC. The class consisted of some 10 student
computers with monochrone displays, and one teacher's computer
with a colour monitor and two disk drives. OS was loaded from
one of disk drives, another was used to save programs from
student computers by net. I didn't know that by the time. We
just looked through the open door, at breaks when our next class
was nearby, that was chemistry, physics, or math. Sometimes we
shirked physical training, and went to the information science
room door to hear what the teacher tells, and peeked in a
half-open door. We dreamed of working at these computers, but
the class started at 1Oth grade, so we had to wait for two

At the same time, an 8th form parallel to ours was turned to an
experimental "A" form with math and physics bias. All the best
students from other classes were collected there, and they have
information science from the beginning. I envy them. One of the
"A" students wrote a game like Scorched Earth during the lesson.
Screen showed a random (but smooth) relief with guns. The guns
can rotate their barrel and shoot each other. The projectile
obeyed the starting speed, gravity, and wind. After a hit, a
filled circle was shown that looked oval. Then the circle
disappeared together with background features. Sometimes Anton
and I could play the game at breaks.

Once the information science teacher (mistress in fact) caught
us behind the door, and offered programming studies after
school. We couldn't express our happiness, and we agreed. We
arrived after school and occupied one of the computers near a
window. The mistress gave us a big book with Basic program
examples, to choose any of them to type and run. If it didn't
run, we should wait for her to fix the program. She went out. We
turned over some pages, found something, and started typing. The
program didn't run, so we waited for the mistress. But before
she returned, we managed to clear the program and even quit

I don't remember how it ended, but there were no more studies
like that. And when I was at 1Oth grade to work with UK-NC
officially, it turned to be unneeded. In the years passed, I
learned not only Basic, but also Turbo Pascal. The same year a
modern progressive information science teacher came in our
scrool, and at the very first lesson he chose me and said I
could skip lessons because I wouldn't learn anything new here.
So I did. However, I visited one lesson about some graphics
editor, and received a "poor" ("2") mark as a joke - it didn't
affect my final "excellent" ("5") mark at the end of the year.
Next time I visited the information science at final exam at
11th grade. I had chosen this exam because it was a freebie for

The interesting thing was, when information science classes
started in our form, the school program changed, so everyone,
not only math and physics-biased students, started to learn
information science from the 7th grade or so.

               Years 1994-1995. A Business club

Starting from the 9th grade, once a fortnight, we went at
Training-Production Centre (Учебно-Производственный Комбинат)
instead of lessons for whole day. Our training centre was at
Konstanin Zaslonov street where was smell of chocolate and other
sweeties, from nearby confetionery plant of Nadezhda Krupskaya.
Field training was thought to help us with future occupation.
Not for me.

At the 9th grade, we disassembled street lamps there, and also
produced loose-leaf binders. The teacher told us about
electrical safety, sometimes slipping under the table. Later I
found that he kept a bottle of strong drink under the table. I
didn't like such classes, so I missed most of them, in spite of
money they paid us for our work.

At the 1Oth grade, completely new studies started there, a
Business club. So I signed up for it from the beginning.

The classes were held by yound well-dressed teachers, and they
required the same from us. We learned basics of business and
market economy to become businessmen. We learned business
custom, so at discussions we must address each other as "dear
colleague". For example, your opponent tells something, and you
counter, "Dear colleague, let me disagree with you," and start
to put in your viewpoint. In theory. In practice, I sat quiet in
a corner.

The lessons were interesting, and we were thought as an elite of
the Training-Production Centre. There was a room for
psychological relief organized for us, where we could sit with a
cup of tea and crackers together with a psychologist. However,
the most interesting for us was a brand new computer class
presented for us by a sponsor - Computerland.

The computer class wasn't large, but it was modern. There were
five or six machines. We sat at them by two, even changing
groups, because there were many of us. We learned utilities,
graphic editors, drawing posters. When we studied Norton
Commander, I already knew what keys to press, because of
"Subscription publications" store. So I was considered the
smartest in our group. I remember one lesson where we should
draw anything in CPen graphics editor. My workmate and I
couldn't invent what to draw, so I stole and evolved an idea
from neighbouring girls. They drew Moon seen from space. I
turned it into an unknown planet, with lava volcanoes instead of
their craters. There were stars, meteorites, and the stuff
around. When the teacher came to evaluate our works, he thought
that ours is the original, and the girls stole the idea. So we
got "excellent" mark. There were few lessons because of changing
groups, and I don't remember the others.

The Business club classes were intended for two years, with an
exam at the end of the first year. I prepared for it very
seriously and worried, but I didn't come because there were
rumours that there would be no more classes next year. So it was

         Year 1994. First Pentagon and first Scorpion

In September of 1994, my friend Slava and I went to Yunona
market to buy him a Scorpion ZS 256. We knew about that model
from Piter press books, where Zonov's ads usually were between
the last pages. So we knew what we needed when we went there.
There were rumours that a pirate Scorpion in Korvet case with a
Soviet floppy disk drive costed 225000 roubles (there was a big
inflation in 1992-1994). I have no idea for how long Slava saved
so much but we went for Scorpion just as he had built a money.

We were unlucky. We were caught by pseudo-inspectors in a tram
going from Avtovo subway to Yunona. We wanted to stowaway, and
they dropped us one stop earlier. Not only dropped but also
fined us. That was frightful to show a roll of money to these
rocketeers. I had no money, and Slava paid for me, taking up one
note after another from his pocket. Losing a part of our money
we had an option: either return home and resume saving money, or
buy something else. We wanted to watch demos, so we bought a
Pentagon in the same case, in the same kiosk, but for 180000

First time we watched demos. Slava fetched them on floppies
somewhere. There were Lyra-2, later Insult and so on. Then we
started to code a little. Namely I coded the most, and Slava
drew pictures and wrote lyrics. We made a small animation film
in Laser Basic with Slava's poetry. It was obscene, so I will
not show an example. Then we began to write demos under the
influence of others.

The first demos were very simple - such as twitching scroll with
ripped Sound Tracker music, or music analyzer balls. I mastered
interrupts then, and I freely wrote things like rotating screen
characters in Basic etc. But my scroll was twitching because I
scrolled it by characters. Later I implemented pixel scroll but
the letters still apeared as a whole. Once I visited Slava, and
he proudly showed me a nice smooth scroll. I couldn't believe
that he wrote it himself. I tried to elicit an explanation but
he didn't say. Only after few days he showed a secret ZX Review
magazine from where he typed the routine. I was delighted with
the magazine, and began to buy all the issues I could find in
"Subscription publications" store. There were all issues since
1994 and fat filings of earlier years.

Pentagon was good but we still wanted a Scorpion. And Slava made
a second try. He went to Yunona with a friend of his, taking the
Pentagon for exchange. He returned without Scorpion, and without
Pentagon. He didn't want to say what happened, he explained that
only after years. It appeared that he ran into robbers again.
That time they were not pseudo-inspectors, just a street gang.
They robbed him of the computer and all the money. Slava
overcame dispair, saved money again, and in 1995 went to Yunona
again and that time returned with Scorpion. Of course, it wasn't
original onem and it was buggy, sometimes removing the first
track on disks. But it had a cool debugger, so we digged into
programs to study them.

Slava made an obscene hack of Dizzy X, rewriting dialogues
directly in Shadow Monitor. That was funny. Then we took an
interest in sampled music. In Instrument editor, I played notes
by ear, and we made remakes of famous compositions such as
2Unlimited, Scooter, and remixed them. We recorded them on tape.
Slava learned to remove the erasing head to overlay tracks. Then
I learned to sample sound from tape in memory to make
instruments and loops. We used them on Spectrum and added on
tape. Above all that Slava was reading his obscene lyrics or
told obscene fairy-tales, like Sektor Gaza album "Kaschey", or
Krasnaya Plesen' group. It appeared very laughable. I remember
how I made a fake digital track with Scooter Move Your Ass
music. In fact, I just copied tape input bit to TV speaker,
adding border stripes for effect. That produced a characteristic
digital noisy sound, so Slava took that on trust. I invited him,
loaded the program from tape but didn't stop tape. The song was
recorded just after it, so it played on TV through the computer.
Slava was shocked. Maybe he understood that he can't compare to
me. Probably I never explained him how it worked.

I found a fragment of sampled music I made on Spectrum, on a
tape saved by a miracle.

>You are so rich to save money for a computer three times in one 
year! At the university, I had only a scholarship of some 50 or 
80 "new" roubles (equal to 50000 or 80000 in 1997), and my 
mother didn't give me money. And my first pay in 2002 was 2800 

Slava lived with grandparents who made fancy-work. Grandfather
carved beautiful pictures of wood, wood figures, dolls,
matreshkas. Grandmother sewed nice clothes for dolls, made
samovar dolls, painted matreshkas. They sold that as souvenirs
to foreigners by Katerina's garden near Nevsky. They received
hard currence, so Slava didn't suffer. He also worked himself at
summer at Apraksin yard as a master loader, and received 10000 -
15000 roubles a day. I don't remember if that was before
Scorpion or after that.

As for me, I was at school. My first scholarship in 1997 was 125
roubles, and 145 roubles next year. My first salary in 2003 was
8700 roubles.

                 Year 1995. IBM PC at school

Several times a year there was a disco in our school. It was
visited mostly by school children, sometimes from neighbouring
schools. Entrance was paid. I went there with friends a couple
of times. Information science teached told me that money
received from visitors was used to buy few IBM PC compatible
computers. As I remember, at the end of the year he approached
me at a break, and boasted that together with one student he
would go for new class computers. They would be 48бDX2-80, just
well for the time. I responded "oho!" and the teacher added,
"Yes, one of them will be for you."

The same day the computers were delivered and installed on
tables in a small room. There were four system units with
displays, and one dot-matrix printer Panasonic that we would use
for printing jokes, game walkthroughs and examination questions.
One display died while delivery, but this hadn't overshadow my
joy, so I ran to my classmate Ilya to share news. It appeared
that Ilya already knew that because the teacher invited him.
Besides us, there were two more students that the teacher
thought to be smartest in computing.

Once a week we stayed after school in our programmer club. In
theory, we perceived new technology. In practice, we did lame
things. We wrote no programs but we brought porn games (Tetris
and Xonix), of course with viruses. Ilya brought ЗDStudio on
floppies, and for a long time installed in on a computer. Then
we quickly rendered a video. I don't remember exactly, it
probably contained some rotating titles. We set that video to
autoload, and after some time the teacher required us to remove
it because he thought it violated the hard disk. He also told us
to remove all running kitten and flying guitars from Windows
3.11, because he is incomfortable to teach students while a
kitten tries to catch a mouse cursor. I also managed to add a
string "Cracker by AmoNik" on Windows boot screen.

Together with Ilya, we also installed Norton Utilities for DOS,
and with bundled disk editor, learned to hide our directories
from strangers. For that, we changed the name of a directory to
"..", so the directory disappeared and didn't show by any means.
And disk check programs didn't think that an error.

To avoid malware, we installed ADInf inspector on every
computer, and it saved us often. Nevertheless, the club was
disbanded soon, and the classes ended. The teacher even freed
Ilya and me from information science lessons with IBM PC.

> What was Ilya's full name? 
We had only one PC at school, other computers were UK-NC. We 
went to play that PC with Andrey Viktorov after math tests (that 
we finished before all others). We also played Goblins, I still 
have passwords and walkthroughs on pieces of paper. I didn't 
know that there are the same Goblins on ATM Turbo before 2005 or 

Ilya Zagrebel'ny. This possibly doesn't matter for him because
he was killed in an automobile accident with another classmate
Vasya Yudenich and our common friend Pasha Sidorov.

The only school PC before the mentioned class stood at
principal's office. It was a genuine IBM PS/2. I saw its
horizontal slim design.

I like Goblins very much but I still can't solve them. In the
first part, I just reached screen three. I have it in my todo
list, so I'll solve it sometimes.

Here is the "Subscription publications" store:

The ground floor, to the right of a wooden door, contained the
computer store with three departments. Second floor had
bookstore. I bought ZX Review magazines there. The first "Key"
appeared to the left of the entrance. The neighbouring shop (the
door to the right) had the catalogue and sold disks from
Welcome. That was in the latter half of the 90's.

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Как это было в Ленинграде - компьютерная история: 1988г. Первое знакомство

Как это было в Ленинграде - 1992-1993 год. Знакомство с Амига

Как это было в Ленинграде - спектрум в Санкт-петербурге в 1996 году

Как это было в Ленинграде - 2011 год. Настоящий ZX Spectrum

Как это было в Ленинграде - 2001 год. Commodore 64

How it was in Leningrad - Year 1988. First computers

How it was in Leningrad - Year 1992-1993. Meeting Amiga

How it was in Leningrad - Year 1996

Темы: Игры, Программное обеспечение, Пресса, Аппаратное обеспечение, Сеть, Демосцена, Люди, Программирование

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