about new beat  
New Beat

New Beat started out as a group of three guys (Daniel Hedberg, Thomas Bergström, and Anders Olsson) from Falun, Sweden with a passion for demos in the late 80's.

Over the years we have worked on many projects for the Atari 16-bit and 32-bit series of computers. While most of these projects were successfully finished, some were abandoned, and a few of them are still in progress.

To say that New Beat is still active would be a bit of a lie. With that said, we still do write code on rare occasions, and once in a while we even experience periods of high activity and release stuff. The latest period of high activity was initiated in May 2017, and is still happening! So buckle up, and prepare yourself for more New Beat releases!

Interview with Daniel Hedberg

During the fall of 2018 I was interviewed for the third and final volume in "The Atari ST and the Creative People" series of books: "Return of the Borders". Unfortunately only fragments of the interview were published. For anyone interested, below is the complete interview, with the full answers to all of the questions.

What was your first encounter with the Atari Falcon and the reason you bought it?

At the time the Falcon030 was released I was a die-hard Atari fan, so whether or not I would buy one was never a question. Back in 1993 I lived fairly close to Evil/DHS and he got ahold of a Falcon030 before me. I paid him a visit and he showed me some of the early Falcon030 demos (I remember Papa was a Bladerunner by EKO and Terminal Fuckup by Sanity being two of them). I bought my Falcon030 a few weeks after that.

Have you had any relation to the ST demoscene?

My first Atari computer was a 1040 STFM. I had been bugging my parents for almost a year, and in November 1988, on my 12th birthday they finally gave in. I spent the first year playing games on it. Most of the games I received from a friend that actually was part of the ST demoscene CCK/Flexible Front). Once in a while he would also send me some demos. I had no idea what to do with them, but some I found kind of fascinating; they did things I had never seen in any games (such as displaying more than 16 colors on the screen and removing borders), and by the time I received the Cuddly Demos I was interested in the demoscene for real. I now spent more time watching demos than playing games.

When and how did you start with programming?

I got my first computer when I turned 9, a VTech Laser 210. It had a built-in BASIC interpreter which I used to write some simple programs. When I received my Atari ST, I started programming in GFA Basic but as my interest in demos and graphics programming grew stronger, I concluded that assembly language was the way to go, so I bought a book on programming the 68000. This was sometime around 1989-90.

At the same time, my friend CCK/Flexible Front decided to sell his Atari and kindly gave me all his disks with sources and the Atari ST Internals book. I spent a lot of time reading those books, but being only 13-14 years old I honestly had a hard time wrapping my head around binary and hexadecimal numeral systems, instructions, bitplanes, exceptions, etc. By the time I started getting the hang of it, the news about the Falcon030 was out and I more or less abandoned the STe demo I was working on. When I finally bought the Falcon030 it took me a while to find information about the hardware, so I had kind of a slow start on that machine as well.

You are a member of New Beat. What can you remember about the foundation? Why did you want to make demos for the Falcon?

We actually wanted to make demos for the Atari ST. The Falcon030 hadn't even been heard of at the time New Beat was founded. I met Anders Olsson when I was in 7th grade (1989). He was a great demo lover and had lots of ideas. As we both shared a common interest, we started to hang out. We quickly concluded that if we wanted to be part of the demoscene, we needed a name. Anders eventually came up with New Beat which I thought sounded great. The only thing left was to create a demo. But we had no musician! Luckily Anders was friends with Thomas Bergström, an Atari owner with a great interest in music and MIDI. I think Thomas was considered a member even before we asked him whether he was interested.

You started to develop a great platformer called Willie's Adventures. When did it start, what were your aims and how come you didn't you finish it?

Willie's Adventures actually started with Thomas wanting to learn assembly language. He was tired of being just a musician and I wanted someone to discuss code with, so I was happy about his sudden interest in programming. I provided him with everything he needed to get started and did my best teaching him the basics of assembly language and the hardware. We spent many nights in my room in front of the screens. I still remember when Thomas got his first pixel to light up on the screen. After that he was hooked, and it didn't take long before he had some odd-looking character moving left and right on his screen. Willie was born.

We didn't really plan on making a game from the beginning, it just happened. Thomas was not just a quick learner, he was also great when it came to graphics. So, while we both started to work on the game engine, Thomas also created graphics and music. In February 1996, we had enough to release a preview. We wanted some feedback to see if there was any interest in a platform game for the Falcon030. The feedback we received was fantastic so the decision to continue developing the game wasn't a hard one.

Our goal at this point was to finish the game as quickly as possible and release it as a commercial game. The programming went pretty well, but we had completely underestimated the effort involved in creating the graphics and designing the levels. A year later the game engine was pretty much complete, and we released the second preview. I kind of lost interest in the game at this point as I wasn't really able to help out any longer. Thomas kept going with the graphics, and I started to work on demos again.

I think that the fact that Thomas at this point became the sole developer of the game, with an overwhelming and tedious amount of graphics work left was the main reason we failed to complete it. A few months after the second preview was released, Thomas began his university studies which obviously limited the number of hours he could spend on the game. But there's still hope! Willie is still alive! Thomas has during the last 20(!) years actually kept on working on the game. Last time I played the game it had multiple levels, end-of-level bosses, multiple playable characters, and it all played very well. So maybe, one day, Willie's Adventures will be released after all, although slightly delayed.

You also did the graphics for Willie's Adventures?

Very little. I did the font for the second preview, the options dialog in the first preview and perhaps some minor contributions to in-game elements. Thomas created essentially all of the graphics.

What can you tell about your experience in the Falcon scene?

I think what characterizes the Falcon030 demoscene, and the Atari demoscene in general, is the friendliness. There's some competition among people of course, but almost always with a friendly touch. People help each other out, share their knowledge, and most importantly, have fun together.

Was the Falcon scene more ambitious than the ST one? What characterized this new 32-bit demoscene?

I don't think it was necessarily more ambitious, but demos certainly evolved during the time-frame of the ST and the Falcon030, requiring more skills and work in form of design and transitions between effects. In general terms, ST demos were more about squeezing everything out of the machine in a single screen, while at the peak-time of the Falcon030, people expected more from a demo. Great code, graphics and music were no longer good enough. The flow, design, transitions, and sync to the music became important and naturally required a lot more from the creators. To me, demos became more of a true art-form and even though I can still appreciate an early ST demo, I prefer to watch a well-designed demo that flows from one effect to the other.

In 1994 New Beat organizes a demo party in Bengtsheden with some old and new crews. What do you remember from this event?

I remember being surprised that so many people actually showed up. First of all, Bengtsheden is a tiny place, located 250 km north of Stockholm. Also, at this time I don't think New Beat had released anything. We had attended quite a few demo parties though, and I was very active on various BBSs, so I was in touch with quite a few demoscene people. I guess that's why they came. I can't recall everyone that attended, but Evil/DHS, An Cool/TCB, Green Tommy/2-Life Crew were there, along with members of DHS, TOYS., NoCrew and IMPonance. I remember it as a great gathering with a very friendly atmosphere and a lot of anecdotes told.

With "Bitte Warten" your crew won the 1st Place in The Nordic Atari Show 1995 in the Falcon demo competition. What did that mean to you then?

Bitte Warten was a quick production put together at the party with DHS and IMPonance. I don't think we had any plans on releasing anything. We all just happened to have a few routines on our hard disks and realized that if we joined forces, we could have something for the demo competition. So we did, and we happened to win. It was a fun event and of course great to win the competition, but the demo itself is not anything that I'm particularly proud of. It was rushed.

A big project of yours was FlexTrax which merges into the Ace Tracker later on, right?

No, I wasn't involved much in FlexTrax and not at all in ACE. They're both the work of Thomas. I wasn't active on the Atari at all during the time when ACE was developed.

Did the DSP in the Falcon satisfy you?

Yes (although a bit more DSP-RAM and faster ways of transferring data to/from DSP-RAM would have been useful). I'm very glad that Atari included the DSP in the Falcon030. It's what makes the Falcon030 so unique. The DSP is great, there are other aspects of the Falcon030 hardware that crippled the machine. With just a few changes, the Falcon030 could have been so much better, but that's already been talked about many times so let's not get into that.

Your best achievement until 2000?

It would have to be Willie's Adventures. I contributed to a few demos together with DHS and IMPonance, created the Falcon intro for Maggie 24, and released a few utilities, but most of my time I put into Willie's Adventures, and a demo that was never released.

Did you feel to have learned something important from the Atari scene experience?

Yes, it's essentially what made me into who I am today. It's what motivated me to learn how to program and work together with others as a team. It's an experience I wouldn't want to be without!

What are you working on currently?

Falcon030 demos! I started programming the Falcon again in 2017. Between 1999 and 2013 I was completely out of touch with the Atari demoscene. My Falcon was stowed away in the closet. In 2014 I attended the Sommarhack party in Hedemora, Sweden and had a blast. I returned in 2015 and 2016, and for the 2017 edition of the party I coded a little intro for the demo competition. That was the big turning point for me. During the years I'd forgotten how much fun it is to program demos in assembly language. The active scene people attending Sommarhack inspired me to do more, so during 2017-2018 I spent a lot of time developing a Falcon demo for Sommarhack 2018. It was received well, and I won the demo competition. Now I can't stop, another demo is on the way…

What are your wishing for your future?

That my family and I can stay healthy and that what remains of the Atari demoscene will be around for many years to come!

What do you miss the most of your Atari times?

Well, I don't miss it anymore because I'm reliving it! What I miss from the good ol‘ days is the more active demoscene with lots of releases. Nowadays, there are a lot fewer active people, but it doesn't really matter. As long as there are enough of us, I will be around.

Do you have any anecdotes that you want to share with us?

We've all been beginners at one point, right? When I first got my Atari ST I was used to machines with built-in BASIC interpreters such as the Commodore 64. The graphical OS of the ST was all new to me. My first take on programming on the Atari ST was using the bundled ST-BASIC. I wrote some small programs in it and they ran just fine, but hey, how do you get your programs to run from the Desktop without launching ST-BASIC first? I had noticed that all executable files had a PRG file extension, so I figured that all I'd have to do was to give my source files the right file extension. How easy!

Double-click the PRG file and… TOS Error #35. What the heck? TOS Error? I knew the OS was called TOS, so the only natural explanation to this error message must be a faulty OS of my machine, right? I explained it all to my dad and asked him to bring the computer back to the store for repairs. He did. The people at the store were completely clueless and were about to accept the return when a guy waiting in line walked up to my dad. The guy told him that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the computer. He explained what a compiler was to my poor dad and he recommended that he buy GFA Basic that came with a compiler. My dad managed to relay this information to me and that's how I found out about compilers.