Author Topic: Interview with Bifat / The Electronic Knights  (Read 1872 times)

Offline 4pLaY

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Interview with Bifat / The Electronic Knights
« on: August 22, 2020, 07:05:31 PM »
Hello Bifat. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, my name is Timm, I live in Berlin, I started as a member of TEK in 1991 on the Amiga. I did graphics for a few weeks, then I switched my main profession to coding. I left TEK in about 2004 with my then girlfriend Blue to do Playstation 2 demos as Neoscientists. In 2016 I returned to TEK to do demos on the Amiga again. In 2018 I joined K2 as my second group.

When did you get interested in computers and what was your first computer?

I got interested in computers because my uncle was a construction engineer, and he had a PET in his office. He used a sort of finite elements method to calculate the hulls of nuclear power plants with it. I was promised to be given the PET when it would be taken out of service. Then the C64 came out and seemed more appropriate. It was some kind of a family effort to finance the C64 very early.

What Amiga(s) did you have in the past and if you remember, what were the(ir) configuration(s)?

My first Amiga was an Amiga 500, Kick 1.2, soon with a 1.8mb memory expansion, then I replaced the ROM with Kick 1.3, so I could add an ALF controller and a second-hand 30mb harddisk. In 1990 I got an Amiga 3000, which was extremely expensive. It was an early model shipped with a SuperKickstart disk and very buggy Kick 2.01. Initially it had 6mb RAM, a 210mb SCSI harddisk. This became my main computer for more than 10 years. Over the years Blue and I had about five A3000s altogether, most of them expanded with 68060s, gfx and network cards.

Do you still have any Amiga(s) today? If yes, which ones and what configuration(s)

I have an A500, Rev. 5, Kick 1.2, 0,5mb fake fast, 1084s monitor, no other extensions or modifications. This is my machine for final testing of my stuff for "OCS" compliance. I have another A500 with an ACA500+ and an XSurf500 network module. My main computer for coding is an A600 with 2mb of chipmem and a PCMCIA network adapter. Also I have two A3000s, of which one is in regular use. Also I have an A1200, but only for testing my OCS stuff for AGA compatibility. All Amigas except one are in my network, and I use real disk drives and disks on all Amigas.

Can you tell us how you got involved with the demoscene?

I lived in a small town in Hesse, Germany. In this town there was an uncanny concentration of early computer scene people. Most of them were two or three years older than me. They founded TEK on the C64. I didn't know them at first. In my own grade there was a very active Amiga guy running a BBS since 1987/88 or so. He supplied me with manuals and tools and so I learned C and assembler and did "serious" programming on the Amiga first. In around 1990 I got to know the other scene people in this town, and being among the more proficient, I got nice support from the others and was well integrated when TEK took off on the Amiga. Also noteworthy is that from the same town our C16/Plus4 section originated, with people who were slightly younger than me.

Can you tell us a bit about the story behind your group TEK?

It was founded on the C64 in 1987 by White Knight, Banana, and Mac and possibly a few others, who were all from this town. From White Knight came a part of its name. TEK was more on the creative side of things, known for great music, funny ideas and weird humor. TEK also did cracks and was very active in swapping, and on the C64, the group went into hibernation due to problems with the police, but reappeared shortly thereafter on the Amiga, when I and a few others joined.  We brought some new, different attitudes into the group, but Banana's and Mac's punk-like, brazen spirit and humor were still alive and continued to shape the group. With Blue I shared some interesting times, as I introduced her to assembler and demo coding on the Amiga, and when she got it, she asked me to join her making demos on the PS2.

Do you remember which tools you used back when you started out, and what are you using these days for development?

Early: Aztec C, Seka, DPaint, AsmOne, Noisetracker, Protracker. Middle ages: DevPac, SAS/C, AsmOne, PPaint, TVPaint, Protracker. Now: Linux, vasm, Lua, PPaint, Protracker, Inkscape, Grafx2. I'm using a toolchain that I mostly wrote myself, plus shell and editor. I use vasm (with a few modifications) for cross-coding, and run the stuff on a real Amiga on fixed addresses using a TCP server. I also wrote a cross cruncher, which later got released as 'Cranker', and I use my own Lua-based macro
language 'DemoPHP'. In DemoPHP I can for example calculate tables and do on-the-fly image processing. My workflow is often that I prototype an effect in Lua, which I then slap into an assembler source.

Do you have some tips for anyone that might want to start doing Amiga productions in 2020?

Yes. I recommend getting a real Amiga and connect it to the network. Then you can work on the real machine using an assembler like AsmOne, or you can use vasm on a PC and start your work directly from a network share, e.g. using smbfs. Use for example an A500/ACA500+, A600, or an A1200. You can use an emulator as an additional tool, but do not code against it primarily. Don't let yourself get distracted by too much framework stuff, IDE integration and PC side peculiarities, that's
beside the point I think.

What would you consider the best production you worked on and why?

Elevation, 2016 slideshow. Here everything just worked perfectly. Artistically and technically it fell into place like never before, thanks to Blue (pictures and texts), Blueberry and TTY (help on compression). It was finished literally on the last day.

Can you tell us what you consider the best Amiga demos back in the golden years? as well as now

There are too many good, underrated, even mostly forgotten works, not only the usual suspects. To give you an idea: Vector Exterminator, Sound Vision, Absolute Inebriation, Boundless Void... I don't want to name recent productions, because they are too fresh to put labels on them, and it might hurt some people if their productions are not mentioned also. There is not the one and only way of making demos, part of the fun is the multitude of formats and approaches. And by the way, I also appreciate Atari ST/STe demos a lot.

What do you think of the state of the demo scene today?

It was in a good shape until the Covid-19 craze, to which most governments reacted in the wrong way. It remains to be seen if we can get back on our feet and what the repercussions are. The parties make little sense without demos, and the demos make little sense without parties. In the long term we are losing people to "getting a life", which is actually an euphemism for something closer to death. But there are also people discovering (or remembering) that making demos and showing them off at international parties might be one of the finest hobbies they'll ever find.

What do you feel you got out of the whole experience of being active in the Amiga demoscene? for example, did it lead you to code professionally in any way?

From the demoscene emerged a certain mindset in me as much as I was attracted to it due to this mindset. Optimization and the desire to try impossible things are deeply engrained into my thinking. I hate wasting resources. I like to spend huge amounts of time and work for all sorts of crazy research, but practicability always wins in the end. This was all very helpful in life. I have been working with computers professionally from a young age, and I never really did something I didn't like.

Is there anyone you would like to send some greetings to? Or perhaps you have some other last words?

Greetings to all. Thank you for keeping the demoscene alive. This especially goes to the organizers of parties. Your work is appreciated, too.

That is the end of this interview, thanks for taking the time to do it Bifat, I am sure our readers will appreciate it :).