Unit A

From ExoticA


UNIT A was an Amiga cracking group based in Germany and founded around 1988. The group consisted of three members, all located in the geographical area of the 'Ruhrgebiet'. They did 50 cracks on the Amiga (as always counted up to in their crack intro scrollers), which where spiced with several cracktros and sounds. The best known one was the intro for the game 'Interceptor' which is still referenced to. There were no member changes in the lifetime of the group. It started with the three and it ended with the three of them. Unique handles for the members were not usually featured in their intros, so they only communicated as 'Unit A'.



None. The group ceased to exist in 1988.


Member 1 - created commercially distributed and successful games on the Amiga. He has also built a Hardware Fastloader for the C64, which locally got pretty famous, since it was much much faster than SpeedDos).
Member 2 - same as member 1, but also wrote the most used copy program on the Amiga (X-Copy)
Member 3 - just learned in depths coding techniques from the beforementioned and did the tunes for the cracktros.

Group History

Unit A did the 50 cracks they promised. They've been to several german parties, one in switzerland and some in the netherlands. They met many really nice people and lots of people with technical expertise. They've been to some game company parties as well (one worth to mention was the legendary Baden-Baden new years day party, which was sponsored by 'Rainbow Arts').

Unit A never had any 'corporate structure' and actually the reason they stopped with Crack Nr. 50 (which for some seems to be a mystery :)) is easy to explain. In their opinion it was easy to forsee at this time, that 'modern' group infrastructure will take over the old school style, which uses 'snail mail' as a transport vessel and uses phones just to talk. There was not anything other at this time. For the group, the new organisation types got rough (tight, strict hierachical structure, modem trading, 0-day releases, on stage cracks, flame wars... and so forth) at the same time and they knew, that they didn't wanted to be part of that. One member came up with the idea 'lets stop with 50 cracks'. That was at a time, when they already passed the 20th crack. Since for two of them three, the job career began to start as well, so they decided to just stop and use the 50th crack as a funny way to play with the ending of Unit A.

Personal comment of a member

Ok, some personal notes about Unit A. I can not refer much to the other two members, since we haven't met for a long time now. This is not because of 'beef' we had, it is just the way life's gonna work. We 'drifted' even geographically over the years and it was not really possible to keep up the contacts over the years. Every one has a family by now and what you might call a real life. So I try to tell some things from my perspective of the whole time, Unit A lived. Maybe one of the other two finds this site eventually and will post here to.

The beginning of Unit A was in the last months of the C64 Area. At this time I was not really deep into programming, while the others have been working on the internals of the C64. One of them even did a Hardware accelerator which was much faster than the then famous SpeedDos. This connection got tighter, when we all bought an Amiga (1000).

While they worked on getting into the internals of the Amiga I got me a copy of Soundtracker and all the tunes I could get a hold on. All of these sounds had pretty much the same feel to it, which started to bore me a bit and I had the feeling that this program is able to produce much more than this. I wanted something fast with an overweight on major cords instead of the minors everyone seems to use. This was the birthday of 'unit a.mp3' found in the filesection. At the same time, the first crack was ready and we had a player for the mod files already.

So this tune made it into the first cracktro. It was reused several times and besides that 'Interceptor' tune it was one of the most successful tunes for our cracktros. With this first crack out, contacts could be easily made. And so we met a lot of nice and clever guys and groups. Many unique characters and personalities. I treat this time still as a very valuable since there where so many outstanding persons there in many different regards, that you hardly meet in real life.

Some of them which left an impression over the years where for instance the following (sorry if I miss some): At one copy party in the Ruhrgebiet we met the guys of Tristar briefly. We didn't talk much, but the impression they left was of a bunch of nice, unique and strange guys in the most positive way. At another party (don't ask me which one) we met 'Lord Blitter'. He wrote the cruncher almost everybody used at this time, which took eons to pack the files but was pretty fast in decoding them. He came from Belgium and he was an interesting and nice person too.

On one party I was introduced to two guys which where said to be members of Anthrax (I'm a bit hesitating since I think there is a popular group Anthrax still out there, which I doubt have to do with each other). I remember how strange I found to name a group after a desease. One of them both was a very special guy who did fiddle with the hardware of the then famous PC-Engige (a small console type of entertainment system), where he ripped of almost anything usefull like sound and graphics. He then knew another guy with handle 'Mark II'. We've gone to his home and he showed me his self written Soundtracker like program also named 'Mark II'. It had a lot more features than soundtracker, especially in the effects section and the format was able to reuse smaller chunks of sound data, than the raw 'pattern copy' of soundtracker allowed. He played one song to me, which I instantly loved. I think I'll put it in the file section too ((Amiga) - Mk2-Jtg_(Original Mark 2 tune - my favorite).mp3), without even asking for permission :). (Hey MarkII, if you read this, I had the disk with the song and tracker for all these years and 5 years ago I was able to read it into the PC.The Amiga disk was still readable in the areas where this song was on. I used deliplayer to create an MP3 of it and since then it got onto every MP3 Player and computer I could get a hold of. I still do listen to it. You said, you dont like it that much yourself, but for me it is one piece of my 'personal alltime favorite 100 of _all_ music' and I still do not get bored while listening to it. So I guess, It should be a bit promoted as I did now :) Besides, if you can find it in your heart, would be nice to have a new mix (not remix) of it with new high quality samples <hint> :) ). I somehow got a hold of him and the other guy one year ago by email. It was nice to talk a bit about the old times, but at the same time it is strange to see the pictures of the past, while knowing, that these pictures do not relate much to the present since most of the guys have a carrier and family now :). Hm, it's true for me either :).

Another remarkable person was the brain :) of ECA. We met him first on the Switzerland party (i think :)). Really nice and has an incredible knowledge . . . and a hangup with displaying and moving as many BOBs on screen as possible :). He also did a very famous game on the Amiga. He held a tighter contact to one of the other members then. As far as I know he did study IT as well and I'm sure he got very successfull in the business. The switzerland party was very special by the way. everybody who was there will remember one event which is so simple to read, but was pure horror, when it happened. On evening the mother of the guy who arranged the party wants to do us some good and she invited us to have an 'original suisse cheese fondue'. She was very, very kind, but it tastes unbelivably horrible. Now, since she was so nice, everybody ate it. We spoke about it 'for years'. Trust me, I'm not overdoing it when saying, that this is still the most disgusting meal I had. I wouldn't have told this here, if I wouldn't be sure, that anybody who was there and reads this, will definitely remember this event! :)

On the way we met some other well known groups, like HQC and Factor 5. We had no big relation to HQC, just some small contacts, but we knew each other as a group. They were respected as we were. Factor 5 (not sure if they where running under a different name back then) was an interesting story. I only remember one event where we met them and there was lots of information exchange. At that time they where already developing professional games. One of the guys told me, they where using a PC (at this time an AT I guess) as a cross-platform compiler even for the amiga stuff. At that time I had no clue what he was talking about, but it sounds interesting :). I remember me asking this meta-intelligent question, how they transfer the stuff to the Amiga when he said 'We do it by *ByFootCopy*' Me then asking what that is supposed to mean, he said, that they write it to a disk on the PC and read it from that disk on the Amiga. At that stage I decided, not to further ask :) He was quite cool about it :) Ok, these guys had a story from that point onwards which is completely different... 'skyrocketing' is a word that comes to mind.

While still meeting new persons, we also met some of the 'phreaks' scene which was strange to us (and for me still is :)) at that time. All the phone guys with blue, black and brown boxes, calling cards and the like. We had not much ado with them, but I got into a contact that got me into a conference call starting from the US and had quite a list of known persons from all over the world on the line. I remember a guy from Sweden and Japan and finally one from the US which was Headbanger. The funny thing about him is, that this was the only contact we had to him, but while he lived in germany, he was living just 10 KM away from us. With this conference I met a guy from sweden (whose name I do not recall, sorry) who had a, I guess it was called, 'brown box'. This allowed me to call him for 3 min. for free. Line was broken afterwards, but then you could call again. This was cool and we really spoke much in broken english. For me this was a nice experience as well. Remember that at this time, there was no internet, there was no conference call, there was no digital line for the ordinary telco customer. there was even no modem trading. So this was as much high tech as it gets :). Really nice.

Back to the group activities. Unit A was not only cracking, the other two members did program lots of commercially distributed stuff like games and tools. XCopy I mentioned already, but I will keep me from naming other programs for obvious reasons. One of them was so successfull with writing games, that it did finance a new car and brought him almost completely through studying economics. There was no need for him to take a job aside. This was true for the other one as well, but he did not do that much (but he still did known programs). At that time we met very often and I started programming on my own. I asked almost every stupid question about the Amiga and its internals and about C at least 3 times and they never gave up on me. Finally I did some games too. All very bad :), but at least it made me some money. What was more important to me was, that this knowledge I got from them is usefull even now. I learned more of the internals, how a computer, a processor, a compiler works and that helps a lot to understand even nowadays technologies. You have a mental path how developers might have solved a problem and how it is rebuild into the very architecture of the machine. This even helps, if you're not really close to machine level in your daily programming and this is a kind of knowledge that current programmers often miss. It has been a job advantage for me more than once, to put it shortly, and still is.

And back again :) On the way one learned a lot about code of other people which was even at that time hardly optimizable. Many Amiga guys remember the rendered demos, especialy 'the juggler' is widely mentioned. This one came from Leo L. Schwab and the infamous 'starfield simulation routine' which almost every second intro had in it. This was a 20-liner in C from him, almost every routine was derived from this one. A nice story aside. I used to read a newsletter 'Internet Oracle', where I suddenly saw him in the staff list. I wrote him a mail and asked if he is 'the' Leo L. Schwab and he was. We exchanged some mails and it turned out, that he still is in graphics stuff. He was programming device drivers for BeOS. This is only two years ago, so basically everybody seems to stick to their domains :).

One thing about the music. I really lost many many tunes over time. After the tracker period I started with cubase and a midi keyboard. I lost all these tunes over the years, nothing left (well, who knows what this is good for). Right now I have the feeling to start this all over again, but am not quite sure, if technology is far enough. What I was missing is a 'Cubase' like program that works with samples and is able to change the pitch of them in real time, without using the Amiga 'trick' to just change the play-frequency. This is highly processor intense and was not really possible on machines, when I stopped making music. Maybe there is something out like this now, I don't know. So (thanks to another cool group which I never had met, but I enjoy there realeases much. This is H2O) i stick to play some e-guitar in my spare time, but thats it.

That brings me to the end. I've seen and heard almost nothing from the other two for at least 10 years, so I'm a little bit cautious with info about them. The last thing I know is, that one did finish his studies in economics and got a good job as a Delphi programmer in a local midrange software company. Since he was the most structured thinking guy, I have no doubt, that he will have gotten much further with his carreer by now.

The second finally got a job at a major cell phone company working on high end security network systems. He was in a managing position already at that time, so I guess his career went well too.

I 'tried' to study IT, but it was just that, a try :). Nevertheless I got me some really interesting jobs to do (still using much of the knowledge I got with Unit A) and worked in a development team for an OO database compiler for Windows. I then worked on an Internet programm similar to 'second life' (only that this was at least 10 years ago, much better and... to early to see the light, it was no success). I worked a long time in the US and only in the last years I got back to what I myself would call an ordinary life. Right now I'm Project manager in a healthcare company, working on specialized .Net Applications, which is ok :). Gaming is in the evening and yes, I'm still a games addict :).

I hope this is enough for now. There is much more to tell, but this should be enough for starters and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I was 45 at the time of this writing and became not a bit wiser :)

(added): I was pointed to the bitworld.bitfellas.org page where I learned 2 things :). First, they have a much better history than I could present here and they hopefully have some of the old pieces I already miss. Second: Heck, we _did_ have handles! :) Well, all three where so stupid names, we really used them rarely and just came up with them, as handles where requested at some point and forgotten really fast :). (I hope that another page will not prove me wrong in this regard too :)) I was the 'handle' DIZ. The guy who wrote X-Copy was Dreamforce.
- Member 3