Vol 3 Issue 7


Jochen Hippel
Fiction by Richard Karsmakers


Since I started dedicating individual articles to several people [...], I think it might be highly appropriate to dedicate [the review of "To be on top"] to the best sound programmer on the ST ever: Jochen.

"Good morning. This is the news service bulletin of seven o'clock. Early today, it turned out that the plane that recently crashed on the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing almost three hundred people, was most probably sabotaged by Li...." The music programmer turned off his clock radio, vaguely attempting to open his eyes after a good night's sleep. It seemed ages since he had slept well - more hours and hours seemed to have been spent programming music rather than sleeping, and it turned out to be killing him. He slowly dressed himself and put on his spectacles after having washed himself. As he noticed some fluffy long hairs being present under his chin he made a mental note to ask his parents to buy him an electric razor for christmas. He went down and ate some cold pizza that was left of last weekend's programming orgy at Erik's place. He didn't really taste it at all, because there was a tune present in his grey cells that needed to be worked out. The sooner the better, as a matter of fact. So he took a piece of paper from his pocket and scribbled something on it. When he had done so, he nodded approvingly. He put it back in the pocket where it had come from.

He noticed a cold wind blowing as he cycled to school. His long hair made waveforms in the air behind him. Had he had eyes in the back of his head, he would have seen the waveform that would create the perfect "Knuckle Buster" sound. But he hadn't, so he couldn't. However, the wind made certain noises in his ear that he remembered to write down some time. Might be a nice tune in there somewhere. He arrived at school a bit too late, as usual, humming a tune that was nagging him. He sat down in his bench and put some chemistry school stuff on the desk. His mind wandered off in the mists of music programming the very next second, however, so that he didn't even notice that the old moron that used to teach maths last week had retired and that his new math teacher was a gorgeous young blonde piece with curvaceous breasts, a very, very, small mini-skirt, stunningly high heels and a figure that most men only dare to dream about. He scribbled something down on the piece of paper that he retrieved from his pocket. Due to a miraculous reason, a piece of cold pepperoni pizza appeared to be stuck to it.

The whole day in school was boring, but the music programmer didn't have time even to notice such a thing. He was busy thinking, working out a piece of program code. At irregular intervals he would get a small piece of paper from his pocket and scribble something on it. Even if the whole school's staff would have been replaced by the most lustful females, he would not have noticed any such thing. Deep in thought, he even bumped into his new maths teacher later that day. The only thing that she triggered in him was the terrible urge to write down something on his paper about a revolutionary new waveform that looked most like two large round objects with a valley in between them.

When he cycled back home, he suddenly got a weird look in his eyes. He suffered sudden muscular spasms and his pupils opened wide. He knew what was happening to him. It always happened around the time that he drove back home from school, and he knew that if he wasn't getting off his bike soon he would fall off. He got off. Just in the nick of time. "Aaaarrggghh!!" our poor music programmer yelled, "No! No! No Richard! Aaaarrrgghh! I cannot put all those damn Rob Hubbard tunes on the ST at once! No! And especially not that damned 'Knuckle Buster' tune! Please leave me alone! AAAAARRGGHHH!! Get off my back!" The poor music programmer rolled over the ground in something that his close friends knew to be the "B.I.G. Demo" trauma syndrome. These fits of mental unstableness bothered him about twice a week, and were there since the time he got this weird request to start making a truly big demo program on the ST with all Rob Hubbard tunes in it. Damn that ST News editor (sorry, ex-editor)!

The next moment there was silence. The music programmer sat in the high and wet grass alongside the road, feeling wonderfully relieved but wondering what all those passers-by were staring at. He looked down and saw it. With a face that would have made a boiled lobster look pale, he pulled up his pants that must have dropped somewhere in the process of having these spasms. He got back on his bike. While doing that, he obviously wheeled a geometric figure that had a point somewhere in the middle of the road, so that a driver sounded his horn, turned his car around some 180 degrees (give or take a few) and landed in a ditch. There was muddy water in the ditch. A cow in the meadow blinked with its eyes like only a cow would be able to do. The music programmer looked blankly at the car that was now slightly malformed and its driver that seemed awfully excited about something. He took his small piece of paper, found an empty square centimetre and scribbled something down on it. He cycled on.

As he arrived home, he wanted to examine the contents of the tape in his answering machine. After having burned his hands in the bread toaster, he suddenly seemed to remember that he didn't have one. "I'm gone shopping. Erik called. Don't bother your sister too much. Mum." was written on a small note stuck to the fridge. There were some smaller letters on the note as well, but he first had to clean his glasses to be able to read those. Where for God's sake did that piece of pepperoni pizza in the centre of his left glass come from? After cleaning them sufficiently, he put his glasses back on. "Don't burn your hands in the bread toaster again!" the note further read. I wouldn't like to repeat the word that he then said, but it sounded something like the German word for "soft", "dim", or "light".

He went upside, after taking another piece of cold pizza from the fridge and even eating it.

Note from the author: Some of you readers might be thoroughly disgusted by this total and utter lack of gastronomic taste. Many of those fabulous German programmers, however, have this weird tendency of eating cold pizza (isn't it, Gunter?). Anyway, I think you're totally right when you feel disgusted. When you don't feel disgusted, I suggest you read the old "real time" article about "TEX in Holland" [...]. Then, you'll surely feel disgusted anyway.

The music programmer switched on his computer system and loaded an assembler program as well as some source code. He looked at the screen as if in deep thought, a screen that now displayed many lines containing mnemonics, labels and certain hexadecimal values. The telephone rang. The sound created an urge in our music programmer that expressed itself through taking a small piece of paper from his pocket, carefully looking for some spot where something might still be scribbled down, and then indeed scribbling that down. After a while, a girl's voice could be heard yelling from below: "Jochen! Telephone! It's Holland!" The music programmer inserted the small piece of paper in his disk drive and went down, sticking his pencil up a wall socket. Had he worn other shoes he would have electrocuted himself. But he hadn't, so he didn't. He was completely overwhelmed by emotions, since he knew who would be on the other end of the line: It just had to be that darned editor (sorry, ex-editor) of ST News again. He suppressed some spasms as well as a virtually incontrollable urge to start screaming in desperation, and went down. "Yeah?" he sighed in the horn. "Good afternoon. Have you already finished the 'Knuckle Buster' music? Have you already finished the..." SMASH! Grunt (that was the music programmer; not the horn). One day, he would kill that sucker. He would have fun doing it as slowly as he could. An undefinably sadistic smile wrought his lips into a strange shape.

He went into the kitchen and opened the oven. Where had the damned Cola gone? Someone knocked him on the shoulder. He looked up and saw his sister, pointing her hand in the direction of a large white machine with a note stuck on it. "Ah. Of course." he said. Some moments later, he went upstairs again, now clutching to a big bottle of Coke, a couple of big bags of crisps and a desperate urge to do some heavy coding. For the next couple of hours, all that could be heard coming from the music programmer's small room was the frantic sound of keys being pressed and an equally frantic cry when he found out that his piece of paper produced a read error in the disk drive. Clouds of thick, sweaty mist penetrated the landing through the key hole. The scent of various crisps and coke, mixed with some heavy perspiration odour, could be smelled on the whole upper floor of the house.

Then it happened.

The door was thrown open, and a meagre figure could be seen standing in the opening, in his eyes a triumphant gleam. His glasses were blurred, his hair stuck to his forehead, Cola stains soaked his shirt, paprika and Italian flavoured crisps sat stuck in his hair. His hands looked ragged and hurt, his fingers bleeding. Behind him, a smoking computer system could be seen; some melted floppies on the table, blood all over and between the keys. From the monitor speaker came the sound of music: "Knuckle Buster". "Wow!" was the only thing this unrecognizable excuse for a human being said while folding the small and crippled piece of paper into an even smaller paper airplane and throwing it out of a window. The wind toyed with the paper airplane a bit, as if it was hesitant to let it fly in the first place. Eventually, it let the tiny plane drop down through a sewer lid. He turned back into his room to save his work on the harddisk. He had often found that he was too soon distracted when he saved his work during the process of programming, so that he preferred doing it afterwards. And this achievement was surely worth saving! Finally, he would get rid of the constant nagging of that stupid Dutchman! There was a soft "pop", however. A lamp on the lower floor ceased burning. The music programmer went right back to the landing again. He knew what to expect now. Some moments later, there was a "click". His sister yelled upstairs: "Jochen! Can you help me change this light bulb?" "Women!" he thought (lucky enough for his health, he didn't think aloud). He smiled at himself being right in knowing what to expect when something in the house went wrong for which his technical expertise might come in handy. He made a mental note not to forget saving his work anyway when this stupid light bulb would have been replaced.

He went downstairs, leaving a trace of blood, sweat and tears. Yes; hard work took its toll - especially if it was to satisfy that bloody editor (sorry, ex-editor) of ST News. He took a new lightbulb as well as his handkerchief to turn the old bulb out of its fitting without hurting his sore hands even more. "Silvana, are you sure you put this lightswitch out?" he asked his sister. "Er...no. I just turned off the main power switch. Is that OK?"

This text was published in the Atari ST diskmag "ST News" and is used by kind permission of Richard Karsmakers. Source for this article: http://www.st-news.com