ACNews #70
02 мая 2018

Computer clubs of Saint-Petersburg - history of russian computers clubs

<b>Computer clubs of Saint-Petersburg</b> - history of russian computers clubs
               Computer clubs of Saint-Petersburg
                          by AmoNik

                   Part one. Tractor drivers

Perhaps I learned for the first time about the existence of
computer clubs from the magazines Computer Price and Computer
Business Market. Their last pages contained catalogs of clubs
with quantities and configurations of computers, taxes for an
hour and for time packages, addresses of clubs, and phones.
These magazines could be taken free of charge in the computer
stores of the city. They were brought once a week and laid out
on racks or on window sills. Every week I went to the city
center to the stores "Kay" and "Computer World" for the
magazines, because we did not have large computer stores on the
outskirts, and the publishers did not bring the magazines to
small magazines. Earlier I did not pay attention to this page
with clubs, and I became interested only after my friend Dimka
Tokarevsky told me about one such club.

Computer clubs appeared in our city in 1996 (for example,
"VIRTUS" club). But as a mass phenomenon, they began to appear
in 1998, when I learned about them. The printed ads appeared in
magazines and on the walls just then.

Dimka then often told me on the phone, or when he visited me to
play Spectrum, that a small computer club was opened not far
from the educational institution where he studied, in the
"Zenith" cinema, and you could play on computers there for
money. These computers were brought from home by enthusiasts and
linked in a peer-to-peer network running Windows 95. Computers
were all different in their configuration, from 80486 to Pentium
processors. All were equipped with graphics accelerators ЗDFX.

After the classes, Dimka went to this club quite often, and
watched people play. Most often Quake was played, in network
mode. Dima then told me on what map they played today and where
they were hiding. So, still never playing, Dimka already knew
where to find a gun. In general, he told me so interestingly
that I decided to look at the thing personally and, perhaps,
play.

Therefore, on October 11, 1998 Dimka and I met at the metro
station Park Pobedy and went to the "Zenith" cinema.

(I remember the exact data, I was missing Spectrum then, my
power supply in Scorpion got burned, and I got into debt to
replace it and repair the board. If it was functional, we would
play with Dimka at my home, and not in the clubs :))

The club rented a part of the cinema building, near the entrance
to the first floor and to the left of the staircase leading to
the foyer of the cinema. Along the wall there were several
tables, on which were installed 4 or 5 personal computers. When
we entered the club, all the seats in front of the computers
were occupied. In addition to players there were also spectators
- and there were many of them. Mostly middle school students
from the seventh to the ninth grade.

The cost of an hour of play was 10 or 12 roubles (about one
third of the US dollar). We decided to take an hour for a
sample.

But then it turned out that the first free computer would appear
only in two hours. We needed two computers to start playing at
the same time. We knew in advance that it might not be possible
to play, since those who wished to play had been recorded for
several hours ahead. Therefore, Dimka and I were not
particularly upset. In addition, Dimka recalled that there was a
house of young creativity nearby, with computer courses where
one could also play. And we went there.

It turned out to be in vain, because everything was closed for
the weekend. Dimka again remembered that Zanevskaya Square has a
game club where fans of AD&D table games gathered and played
something of their own fantasy. And they had two or three
computers at the club and, perhaps, we would be able to play
there. We went down to the subway and drove to this club.

This club was quite famous in the circles of fans of table
battles. I do not remember what it was called. It was located in
the basement of an apartment building with a separate entrance
from the corner of the building. Inside stood tables and glass
display cases, behind which were boxes with board games. And at
the furthest wall there were three personal computers, only
turned off for some reason.

We asked the local administrator, could we play on computers and
was there a game called Quake? Admin answered that you can play,
but there is only Quake II. The cost of an hour of the game, he
said, was 16 roubles, so Dimka and I became thoughtful, is it
worth it? Admin looked at us and asked, what's the problem? I
explained that in the "Zenith" club the cost is much lower, but
there is a queue, and now we think: to play here or return
there. Admin said that, alas, he could not offer us anything
cheaper. In general, after a little consultation with Dimka, we
decided to try it here, so we paid for an hour. And it was that
rare case when I paid for myself. Later, most often, Dimka was
paying for himself and for me, since he had a job and, while I
still was a poor student, he bought himself a powerful gaming
computer. But that was later.

The time count seems to have started even before we booted the
operating system. Quake II shortcuts were immediately on the
desktop, and did not have to search the game for a long time.
First and foremost, of course, it was useful to customize the
buttons. Now it sounds funny, but then I had no idea how to
control, moving the mouse on the table and pressing the buttons
on the keyboard at the same time. Therefore, I (and Dimka)
refused to use the mouse. I redefined buttons as I used to at
the Spectrum, i.e. QAOP Space. It turned out that this was
enough to move, but not for aiming. I had to add a few more
buttons to control the camera (sight) in the game.

Of course, the control turned out to be uncomfortable and we
could not navigate the level, aiming at the same time. From the
outside, it must have looked ridiculous, but sometimes we even
managed to get into each other, and we were having fun. Until
the third player joined. He perfectly coped with the
simultaneous control of the mouse and keyboard. So he started to
hurt us, like blind kittens. I started to yell at him to get
away and let us play. In the end, the administrator heard this
and asked the third player to get away from us. He was offended,
and left the game, killing our game server. Damn cheater.

The paid time expired quickly, and we were trembling in our
fingers and happy, leaving the walls of that club forever. Then
we remembered for a long time, who was beating who that day and
how cool we were. In general, it was fun to play.

                       Part two. "Unreal"

Some time later, computer clubs began to appear everywhere and
grew like mushrooms after the rain. And they were solid clubs
with the identical machines, normal administrators with time
tracking programs, and not a bunch of home computers under the
stairs of the cinema and a man with a notebook for recording
time.

One day, leafing through a magazine in search of a club cheap
and close, I found "Unreal" club at Prosveshcheniya Avenue near
the "Festival" cinema, now abandoned. Actually, this, of course,
is not quite close to home, but not like in "Zenith" - almost on
the opposite end of the city. I called Dimka and offered him to
play in the new club. He agreed, and I explained in detail how
to get to the club.

The club was located in the basement of a multi-storey apartment
house, with a separate entrance from the end of the building. We
met in front of the entrance and came in. The entrance was
closed with a metal door with a peephole, and an intercom with a
bell button was hanging on the door. I pressed the button, but
no one asked us anything, the door just opened. From the inside
it became clear that the door was locked to a remotely
controlled electromagnetic lock, and the peephole was a video
camera. Behind the door there was a security guard with darkened
glasses. We did not see what was behind the glasses, we just
walked past the booth into the games room. Nowhere else we have
seen such a serious security.

Structural walls of the building divided the gaming hall into
three parts, with a common passage between the halls. In each
hall there were several computers. I don't remember the club's
administrator. Prices were moderate, and computers were
powerful. One hour costed 12 roubles. But there were also
packages. It's just a few hours in a row, sold at some discount.
For example, a package of three hours was worth 30 roubles. The
largest package was six hours for 45 roubles. We took an hour
for the first time.

We played Quake 2 and Quake 3. The games ran smoothly, and we
really liked the third Quake, so colourful it was.

This time we tried to play like people, i.e. with mouse. I had
time to practice a little in such control at Andrew Arsentiev. I
also played Quake 2 at his home, and I began to get something.
Players didn't hunt for Dimka and I, seeing us playing maybe for
the first time. They just tried to jump in front of us and
quickly hide until we took a proper aim. In general, I got more
fun of the game this time.

We liked the club. The atmosphere was cozy, the people were
friendly, and there were girls. Dimka and I often went to this
club. Of course, every time we took packages for three or six
hours. We first stood for the night in this very club. In
addition, at one time there was "one hour free" policy. You had
to buy as much as you want and get one more hour for free. But
this action operated exclusively in the morning, after the
opening of the club.

                     Part Three. "Bristol"

Once I walked past the Institute of International Educational
Programs and saw a sign on the wall. It said that a computer
club "Bristol" had opened at the courtyard of the Institute's
hostel. I immediately drove in the new club.

The club was located on the second floor of a two-storey
extension to the hostel. They were connected to the hostel with
a second floor high transition. On the first floor of the
building there was a kitchen, and the second floor was partially
leased. Inside, there was always a smell of ready-made food and
pastries.

At the time, the club consisted of one room and around 15
computers. On the right of the entrance there was a soft sofa,
on which sometimes I saw some persons squeezing girls. Opposite
the couch (to the left of the entrance) there was a bar, as
behind the counter of the bar, the administrator of the club
sat, who also was a cashier. Only the top of his head was
visible. Behind him was a small room with network equipment. The
playroom itself was further, after the bar counter.

The room was long and ended with a single, but large window.
Computers stood by the walls on both sides of the window. At
sunny days, the whole hall was flooded with light, and there
were no curtains for some reason. There was still a passage to
the next room, but it was filled with barriers, and behind them
there was some rubbish. Later the club opened a second hall in
that room, with more modern and fast computers. The second room
was larger and the windows were on the two sides of the
building. At the price of the difference there was no place to
sit, but we tried to occupy seats in the second room when it
opened.

Dimka and I visited "Bristol" quite often. Several times we
stayed at night. The night costed 40 roubles, and there were a
lot of people who wanted to play. Mostly schoolchildren. In
addition to the games, a film library appeared and you could see
pirated copies of films. But I did not.

In "Bristol" we played Quake 2, Quake 3, Delta Force, Delta
Force 2, different games of the Need for Speed series,
Carmageddon 2000 and Half Life. And when the early beta versions
of Counter Strike appeared, we switched to it completely. In
this club, we first encountered a clubmind system that warned
that the paid time was coming to an end and then forcibly closed
all windows and blocked the ability to launch. Prior to the
appearance of this system, the administrator had to run
independently through the halls and drive players who had run
out of time. Dimka and I once managed to oversit our time for
almost 20 minutes. The running admin was evil, but he did not
demand money from us for extra time.

Most often, I went to the club only with Dimka, but sometimes we
managed to collect a crowd of friends. So one day, there were 9
of us. And all but Dimka and I were playing for the first time.

There was no security in the club, and they have paid for that
once. One day I came to play and found a closed door. There were
no ads. I knew that Denis often went to the club with his
friends and had a familiar administrator working there. I went
to Denis to find out what had happened. Denis said that the club
was robber at night and all the computers were carried out.
After that, Bristol was closed for several months. And when it
opened again, it changed its title to an Internet cafe. I have
not came to this club anymore.

In the form of an Internet cafe, the club did not last long and
was soon closed finally.

                      Part four. "Berserk"

After the first closing of the "Bristol" club, I started to look
for other clubs within walking distance from my home. I found
one such newly opened club "Berserk" in the building of
research-and-production factory "Elektronmash". On the reverse
side there were some back rooms with high ceilings. That's where
the club opened.

At first, the club "Berserk" attracted the players with free
hour in the morning from 8 to 9 am, after the nightly
merrymaking. Dimka and I, and later Vadim, was using this
special offer with pleasure. I came early, because I lived
closest to the club, I took a place at the door and fought off
schoolkids. Then Dimka and Vadim struggled with me and we went
to the club first, just at the opening.

Like it was in "Bristol", there were two halls, initially one
functioning. In the first hall computers stood in four rows -
two rows along the long walls and two more rows between them in
the middle of the hall. The configuration of the computers was
Celeron 333-433 / бЧMb RAM / Riva TNT. There were a lot of
games, but some problems with the network.

Sometimes it was not possible to find game servers, or the
server dropped from the network during the game. And when the
second hall was opened, they installed a few more powerful PCs:
AMD Duron 700 / 128Mb RAM / GeForce 256. This room was called
"VIP", and it was worth more to play in it. 18 roubles per hour,
against 10 roubles in the first hall. Since most of the players
were schoolchildren from the fifth to the ninth grade, none of
them had any money to sit in the VIP lounge. This was used by
Dimka and me. If there were no more empty seats in the main room
and the people occupied the queue before entering the club,
Dimka and I quietly passed into the second room and played in
relative silence, without schoolchildren in a large spacious
hall. We usually played Unreal Tournament there. Later in the
second hall cheaper computers appeared, and the hall ceased to
be "VIP".

We visited this club until 2003. After graduation, I did not
pass my student card and bought a student's travel card for it
to our acquaintance Kolya. Kolya in gratitude led me every month
to the "Berserk" club, where we played with him. Kolya gave me
money for a ticket and paid for playing time. Later Kolya was
caught several times in the subway, when he tried to go through
the turnstiles in manual mode and did not show a student card.
My card was blocked, and we stopped visiting the club.

                      Part Five. "Arktika"

Once, Dimka and I did not manage to book seats at nearby clubs
for the night. All the seats were occupied. We called the clubs
from the list in the magazine, and found their places in the
"Arktika" club at the metro station Primorskaya. The path was
not close. But we were promised air conditioning, a refrigerator
with drinks, a lot of computers and a bunch of games. We were
not deceived. But we could not sit until the end of time, and as
soon as the metro opened, Dimka and I left the club and drove
home. In the subway, I began to cut off. About a thousand times
I fell asleep for a few seconds and then woke up, and then fell
asleep again, and so on ad infinitum. Of course, I missed my
station, and I had to return. And when I got out of the subway
and walked towards my home, I several times managed to fall
asleep on the run. I nearly broke my head on the asphalt and
hardly reached home. Then I fell on the bed and slept until
evening. The day was lost.

After such adventures, I decided that I would not go for the
night again. That's what Dimka and I decided.

            Part Six. "M19" and the closing of clubs

Very close to my house the club "Gluck" opened, on the second
floor of the shopping center "Bublik". The club existed for a
short time and was not popular at all. I was there once, and I
was alone in it. Now (for April 2018), the former existence of
the club is only marked by the inscription "LUCK" on the windows
of the room where the club was. The letter "G" is lost
somewhere. A veterinary clinic and a shop of engineering
plumbing opened there. After "Gluck", "Berserk" closed, and
there were no more game clubs near my home. However I still
wanted to play.

At that time, both Dima and I already had personal computers at
home. But the Internet was not there, and anyway, to play
together, we had to either drive our PCs to each other for a
visit, or go to a club. Several times Dima actually brought his
PC to me, because he had a car. But he lived on the
diametrically opposite end of the city, and the journey through
the traffic jams took hours. It was very uncomfortable, and we
decided to find a club in a neutral area in the center of the
city.

We met on the square at the Technological Institute. There were
three clubs nearby - the well-advertised "Ladoga", "M19", and
the completely unknown club of Voenmech institute. We tried to
check them all.

We could not get in "Ladoga" because of a long queue of those
wishing to go there. In the club of Voenmech there were no
players at all. Dimka and I came to an empty hall, played an
hour in Starcraft and left there. But we liked the club "M19",
and then we were visiting only it.

This club was located on Moskovsky avenue, 19 - in the building
of VNIIM on the second floor. During our first visit there were
only two gaming halls, but later two more halls were opened.
There were many people, but there were always vacant seats.
There was also a VIP-hall, where Dimka and I once played
surrounded by a local club team.

The set of games was standard, but everything was more beautiful
and more convenient. There were no shortcuts on the desktop.
There were beautiful menus where games were sorted by genre.
Instead of a harsh admin running around the halls, there was a
system of "clubbing", and reports of the imminent end of playing
time were given in a voice in Russian, and not a half-screen
message, as was the case in Bristol.

In M19, we played probably a dozen times, and then Dimka began
to disappear in months of business trips, and we completely
stopped to visit computer clubs with him.
And now we play through the Internet. But this is a completely
different story.

                                                     April 2018

                             * * *

Alone Coder> 
I never played in such clubs, I only knew one near my Radio
university, where my classmates played a couple of times.
I first played a network game (Doom) with Cyberdaemon, at
Crutch's home.
When did you usually play? And what did the girls do there? Were
there any contests? We once held a tournament for Carmageddon,
although not in a computer club, as far I remember.

AmoNik> 
Most often we played during the day on weekends. But in
"Berserker", we usually walked in the morning and for some
reason on weekdays. I can assume that I had a military course on
that day at the university, and I did not attend it. Vadim,
respectively, also came with me. But Dimka by that time already
had a job, and I can not explain how he managed to play with us.
I would ask him, but the only contact with him is via VKontakte,
and he appears there twice a year. The night games almost always
were from Friday to Saturday. Although I remember cases when
Dimka immediately went to work after a night in the club.

Game tournaments were conducted surely, but I never attended
them. Every week one of the clubs organized contents. I do not
remember the name of the club. A couple of times I passed by,
but never dared to go to see the tournaments. They possibly
played Quake 3.

The girls at the Bristol were just for furniture. Only once in
"Unreal" we played with a girl and stayed pleased. She played
well in Quake 3.

It turns out that "Ladoga" club exists until now. I am quite
surprised at this fact.

Destr> 
We had a type of "clubs" - cellars with Spectrums, where they 
you could play for money. 
Well, at the stations in big cities in the 90's I saw Spectrums 
next to the Sea Battle and Gorodki. But there was nothing 
remarkable (of course, it did not seem so then). 

Cyberdaemon> 
Once, somewhere in the early 00's, in the basement of the
covered market - now "Dashkov Fair"
(https://yandex.ru/maps/-/CBqJyPVj-D)- there was a game club.
It even was official, there was a sign 'as it should be',
indicating the requisites of the private firm. Friends called me
there. There was some kind of action - you could play all night
for the price of 3 hours. In general, I somehow did not really
like it, because the games there were all exclusively for
network playing - like Counter Strike. Subsequently, the club
somehow quickly disappeared from there.
And herehttps://goo.gl/maps/TpЧPgUsj9zJ2was one more game 
club. Not just games. Advertising of its activities can be seen
on the windows. It has closed last year (photo for July 2017). I
never was in it, because my inner introvert does not like and
does not want team games, and my house is already full of
different devices for single player gaming. (I mean computers
and consoles, not what you thought.)

I will add, although it may not be necessary. In the "Cosmos"
cinema, in Prioksky, there were gaming machines (all what is
left of it ishttps://yandex.ru/maps/-/CBqЧFбtfwA). At the 
preschool age (first half of the 80's) I was often taken there
for cartoons, and often played before the session. There were
many different games, but I remember only the Sea Battle, since
I only played it. Other games were too complicated for me.
In elementary school (mid-late 80's) I sometimes played with
friends in the Prioksky Palace
(https://yandex.ru/maps/-/CBqЧFKClcD).In the lobby there were
also many different Soviet arcade machines. In the summer of
1990, I moved from Kanischevo to Dashki-Pesochnye and began
another era in my life, about which I already told.



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