Interview with Xerud of Pyrotechnics /
BBC / Automation 26th May 2003.
To kick off tell me about your computer history , e.g. first computer
My dad came home one day in 1982 with a ZX81 & wobbly RAM pack.
a little bit of BASIC coding but not much else. Totally hooked
on computers after that though.
The next year I got a C64 and the games were far too good for the time
and so I didn't do much else.
Got an ST in 1986 and again despite good intentions did very little
but play games until a few chance encounters led me astray ;-)
I'm onto yet another self built PC. Athlon XP2000 and half a gig of
ram. The scary thing is its not even top of the range.
How and when did enter the ST scene ?
I discovered by chance that Dack used to live near my parents in
wild North of Scotland. From there I had a chance encounter with
someone who knew EGB in a computer shop in Edinburgh. I think everyone
involved in Edinburgh sort of knew each other.
I'm slightly confused with Sub Humans in Turkey
and the Pyrotechnics, were
they the same crew ? A member list would be useful....
We ate curry together... But from memory:-
S.H.I.T. were E.G.B. who did everything. ARN who came up with the jokes
BISC who was doing other things by the time I encountered the guys.
Pyrotechnics was The Igniter me. I think I got to do gfx as he couldn't
get anyone better.
An early Pyrotechnics/Sub Humans intro for Automation
with GFX by Xerud.
Was there much comaraderie or rivalry with fellow
Scottish crews ? e.g. TMB,
Zippy (or clogg or whatever he called himself that day) was a really
decent guy. He's still around if you know where to look.
You seem to have a wide range of talents, graphics,
coding, music ripping
(shock!) and hacking, can you explain a bit about each ?
Graphics started off during my 1st summer after starting uni when I
was sitting around bored and just picked up degas elite & started
drawing. I got the pictures to Law via Dack and he amazingly used
them. I only had a portable telly so they looked a bit weird on a
Music ripping followed. I cant remember
how I got into this. Possibly I wanted to get involved. Once started
though it was a natural
progression onto hacking and from there ASM coding.
Which do you prefer ?
I don't draw anymore although I had a few unfinished works on the ST
that were way better than anything else I'd done. Music ripping was
stepping stone and I was crap at hacking so it'd have to be coding.
Are you a self taught hacker ? or did other members
assist you in the early
I sat & learned. Watched Andy, Law & EGB, all of whom usually
offered advice, even Law. I started off hacking music and understanding
programs were put together and went on from there.
Replicant / Fuzion buster!
Do you remember your first crack ?
First game was probably California games. I did some demos before
What was the hardest game to hack and why ?
I was never much of a hacker to be honest, EGB helped with anything
remotely technical. I remember making a real hash of Nigel Mansells
GP, took ages to get working as I'd left an interrupt turned on when
exited my intro.... The intro was my favourite one I'd coded, I've
seen it on a compilation disk somewhere.
800 Lemmings in a frame, who needs hardware sprites
Who in your opinion was the best hacker on the
Atari ST ?
Another obvious answer of course, has to be RobC / Was (Not Was)
/ Vapour etc. When you see the tool he used (SID) which was primitive
comparison to the stuff everyone else used you really have to admire
How did you end up joining Automation ?
EGB knew Vapour and asked I think.
Did you meet most of the other members ? Any stories
There was the well known meet at the CES show which was a laugh.
I remember a stand refused to serve one of us as they had the Automation
The other meetings I remember were at
Apollo's house in Middlesborough (round the corner from the Sulphuric
Acid factory no less) Vaps just
seemed to sleep a lot. EGB's infamous chunk loader was cooked up at
one of these with Dack.
The H.Q. of Automation ?
Did you play any part
in the Automation < Pompey
No, I think that was mostly Vaps & Law. Luckily for Law word
out about him liking Duran Duran as things could have turned out
different! Alien phoned up EGB once and they were perfectly civil
Why did you leave the
Pyrotechnics and join the
BBC ? (at least I think you
I think I did too although the Igniter being what he was I generally
just hung about EGB and annoyed hom instead. Law asked me to join the
BBC, I think even after he'd met me the fool!
Were you ever on the verge of been nabbed by F.A.S.T.
or the cops ?
I was a very small cog in a very busy scene in Scotland. They hit
Barras market in Glasgow now and then but I doubt I was even noticed.
Were you one of the members
wearing the Automation T-Shirts at the C.E.S show
Oh yes :) Complete with end of term hangover.
You joined Cynix late on, whose idea was it ?
EGB & Zippy cooked it up. I kind of tagged on for the ride.
Do you still have any Atari hardware, if so do
you still crank up your ST ?
I still have my original 520STM with 2meg upgrade an STE with
no floppy drive.
What are your favourite ST games ?
Populous, Civilisation and Rainbow Islands
The "god" father ?
AND worse ?
There was so much it'd be hard to choose.
What are your favourite ST demos ?
Cuddly demos naturally. Oxygenes stuff is very nice (his pc stuff
worth checking out too)
I remember a disk mag called E.G.B's smelly
sock... are they really that
smelly ? and did you have anything to do with this mag ?
I think it got made just after the big meet in bradford in the summer
of 92. Lots of beer got drunk and someone had a digitizer. My
recollection of events is rather hazy, cold kebabs & pizzas spring
mind and I wrote an awful version of the snakes game nokia bundles
with their mobiles.
Which coders (demo and commercial) did you admire
I have to admit that Andy was pretty good and probably never quite
the credit he deserved. However we both suffered from a fondness
the pub, hence the Total Apathy demo. SO lazy it never got finished.
Nic (TCB) is another obvious contender, what is he doing nowadays?
I'm sure there were good commercial coders,
Andrew Braybrook springs to mind. Another is Doug from the Pixel
Twins who went on to do some
nice stuff on the Falcon and let me beta test his morphing s/w.
However, there is an interesting story
of a certain commercial coder asking a well known hacker to rip the
scrolling routines out of the
cuddly demos.... make of that what you will.
Have you seen any of the more recent ST
demo releases which utilise the chunky yo planar techniques (e.g.
EIL3 releases eil.atari.org) , what's your impression ?
You'll have to enlighten me. I saw a
few things that looked like a 2600 doing texture mapping...
Are you still intouch with the ST scene ?
I look around from time to time.
Have you used any of the ST emulators ?
All of them. Pacifist was a great 1st attempt with very modest
hardware requirements, what is the author up to now? The others all
have rather quirky GUI's which could use improving.
You were one of the first persons with an Atari
Falcon , were did Atari go
Hmm, how do you know all this...It was underpowered & overpriced
at a time when the PC platform was beginning to look really good.
I kept mine for a year, cut my losses and got a 486 dx-50 system with
Did you ever slag off anyone you wish you hadn't
Plenty but we were young and foolish if you consider 20something
What's the most innovating thing you ever saw on
the ST ?
Dull answer but it has to be the sync scrolling in the Cuddly Demos.
It really set a standard at the time.
Hardware scrolling on an ST ? Only TCB makes it possible!
What's the best ST crack you've ever seen ?
I was there when Vaps cracked Anarchy. So I guess it must be that
Fave TV show ?
At this very moment its ER. The child in me likes Jackass however.
And fave music ?
I got converted to Detroit style
techno in the mid 90's. Used to go clubbing a lot. Derrik May, Juan
New Order are my favourites out of music
that people might have heard of.
If you could travel back to 1988 would you do anything
Nothing really, I started uni that year and barely touched the ST
it stayed at my parents.
Do you know what the other
members of Cynix, SHIT, Pyrotechnics are doing now
EGB is living in America and Zippy is doing neat stuff with DVD's.
Law to my knowledge still likes Duran Duran.
What handles did you use and why Xerud ?!
Mostly Xerud, sometimes MikeW. All Cynix stuff as Supernova was
me. XC-99 in Quakeworld and more recently 3l3ktr0 for those rare
excursions online... the old reflexes arent quite what they used
really lame thinking back but it seemed a good joke at
Fave software house ?
iD produce consistantly good engines but patchy games. Valve showed
what you could do with it and the previews of HL2 look stunning.
What do you think of the current Computer/Console
I have a decent array of consoles (Saturn, ps1, Dreamcast & Xbox).
Some games grab me like Halo, Crazy Taxi and Tony Hawkes but there
still so much rubbish coming out that I haven't bought any new games
for months now.
What are you upto now ?
I work as a DBA for a large financial institution. I get to play
a myriad of DBMS's and OS's. It pays the mortgage and allows me to
take enough holidays to keep me happy. I'm an incredibly bad
snowboarder too, 2 broken bones and counting!
Anything else to add , final message ?
Its nice to see some of my other projects still being used. I
sometimes wish not losing the code to them as it would be nice to
the odd contribution to the scene now and again.