Snout
This page was last modified 14:39, 5 January 2013 by Snout. Based on work by FiXato and Wolf and others.

Contents

Biography

Snout (Sander Zuidema, October 16th 1979) spent his childhood in the Northern part of the Netherlands (Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe). During the first ten years of his life, snout moved about ten times as well. With his father having an interest in home computers, snout was introduced to them at young age. After owning a ZX-Spectrum and two Commodore 64s that had a rather short lifespan the time was ripe for something new. In 1986 snout and his father set out to buy a new Commodore 128, but came home with an MSX instead: a Philips NMS 8245. In 1990 the family moved to Kropswolde, a small town near the city of Groningen, where he would settle down for 12 years to come. Here he met Michiel de Vries - a fellow MSX user who lived in the vicinity. They found out there was an active group of MSX users holding meetings nearby, so they started attending MSX meetings at the MSX-GG in Groningen.

Flying Bytes

It was here where many members of the new MSX group Flying Bytes would meet and show their latest skills and developments. After saving money for an FM-PAK and a Music Module, snout started composing music in FAC Soundtracker - amongst which a remix of the then popular house tune Poing (Rotterdam Termination Source). By sheer coincidence one part of the upcoming Flying Bytes demo MEG featured a Poing demo with another Poing remix. After demonstrating his version of the tune, members of Flying Bytes decided the snout version was better and used it in the demo. And with that, snout became a member of Flying Bytes. The other version of the poing remix can still be found on MEG, by the way, in the music player at the end of the demo disk.

MEG was released on a large MSX fair in the Netherlands (Zandvoort?/Tilburg?), so snout just had to go to the fair. Upon arrival at the fair the Flying Bytes booth was not hard to find, as Poing was playing there at high volume. According to the fellow Flying Bytes members the demo sold best when the Poing demo played, so it was played almost continuously throughout the day - much to the annoyance of surrounding standholders.

Having had the first taste of success - and being completely overwhelmed by the amount of people and activity during 1990s MSX fairs in the Netherlands - work on future productions started quickly. Instead of remixes and rearrangements snout began to write his own musc. After a remark from Latok that his songs were kind of okay (and we all know what that means :P), but did not have the impact of... well... Impact songs, snout became determined to do even better, and within weeks a pile of songs that were heavily inspired by Impact were composed. At the same time Latok had also made a nice amount of FAC Soundtracker songs, resulting in the production and release of Bananenvla. The slogan "cool bewaren" was suggested by snout during an MSX-GG Groningen meeting.

Michiel de Vries, in the mean time, had started working on a full fledged game, a breakout clone called Not Again!. Snout composed several Moonblaster songs that were used in this game. Development of Not Again! game took a lot longer than planned, though, and in order to keep releasing at least something under the name of Flying Bytes the idea arose to release yet another music disk. Snout teamed up with Richard Smit and made the demo/music disk Move the House. Due to a minor mistake, the first batch of this music disk was labeled Move the Huose.

Flying Bytes continued to grow, as a letter from the Japanese Club GHQ had led to Flying Bytes managing the distribution of European MSX software in the Takeru software vending machines. Several Japanese titles were brought to the European market by Flying Bytes as well. Being a foundation - and having professional aspirations - there were frequently held meetings. Several of these were held at snout's home in Kropswolde.

After the successful release of Not Again! plans were made to release another game: the Final Future. The idea was to create a game that combined different types of gameplay in each level. Initially a platform shooter in the likes of Contra, then a Metal Gear like mid-section and finally -if I'm not mistaken- a vertical scrolling shooter. The game was to be targeted at either MSX2+ or turboR. Besides composing several Moonblaster tracks of the game (which can be found at the Moonblaster section of the Downloads database) snout also started writing a storyline - which in hindsight was very bad and is luckily missing in action - and signed up on helping out with the actual programming. Martijn Dekker was to do main programming of the game, glueing optimized Assembly routines and libraries together in Turbo Pascal. snout visited Martijn Dekker several times to start and learn coding Turbo Pascal, which were essentially his first steps in becoming a programmer.

Inactivity part 1

As with most MSX groups in the late 1990s, Flying Bytes' activity grinded to a halt - Final Future proved to be a project far too large for the increasingly inactive crew. Not knowing any other people to form a group with, snout quit developing for MSX, but submitted one final song that was still on the shelves to Sunrise: Konamix. Sunrise in their turn released the song on one of their disk magazines. Only years later snout found out that a MIDI conversion of this song was widely spread all over the world wide web.

In the mid/late 1990s snout found his way to the internet. In 1996, at age 16, he had founded a company selling self-assembled Personal Computers and related hardware. During the first years online, his MSX related activity amounted to no more than lurking around on IRC, reading and occasionally writing on the MSX Mailinglist or newsgroup and visiting MSX websites. On his Korg N264 synthesizer he composed several rearrangements of his MSX music, which were released under the uninspired name Moonsynth. An embarassing website created in Frontpage is still somewhere around there on Tripod - but snout does not particularly like to be reminded of that. Snout also contributed a bit to the MCCW and started making plans to create his own MSX website.

MSX Resource Center

Everything changed around 1999/2000, when Sander van Nunen, founder of the MSX Resource Center, posted a message on msx.org, asking for people who wanted to help him rebuild the website. If no one would sign up, the website was to be closed down forever. Snout signed up as one of the people who wanted to keep the website alive, playing a minor role while Sander van Nunen and Bart Schouten developed the first dynamic, database driven website in ASP. Soon after the release of this new website snout slowly started collecting and writing news. Inspired and motivated by his teammates and reactions from visitors he became more and more active until he was the most active content manager of MSX Resource Center.

Driven by the success of the website - and running into bugs and missing features frequently - snout slowly took up programming again, changing small parts of the ASP code every now and then - with Bart Schouten still being the main coder. In 2001, the need for more features and a more structured framework led to a complete rewrite and redesign of the website, based on Postnuke and phpBB. By now, Bart had less time on his hands, resulting in snout becoming the main developer of this platform and all its new features, including the migration of all old content to the new framework.

At the same time, the MSX Resource Center crew felt the need to protect its future and decided to raise a foundation. Already experienced in financial administration, snout became the treasurer of this foundation - which he still is to date. The foundation was initially named MSX Resource Center Foundation, but changed its name to the more generic Microcomputer & Related Culture Foundation in 2010. December 18th, 2002 marks the date that the foundation was announced and the newly developed MSX Resource Center saw light of day. The new framework would remain the core of MSX Resource Center for 9 years to come.

MSX Revival: Bazix, Guru Logic and more

In his role as a content manager at the MSX Resource Center, and always on the hunt for news, snout quickly got to know more and more active MSX users around the globe. The Tilburg 2001 lecture of Kazuhiko Nishi sparked a special interest in the commercial MSX Revival and since then he got in touch with several active MSX fans that were involved with this new movement.

The addition of Japanese graduate Sama to the MSX Resource Center crew and contacts with Bernard Lamers (also a Japanese graduate, living in Japan) allowed easy communication and direct feeds to the latest information about the MSX Revival. Not only did snout write about this on MSX Resource Center, he also contributed several articles to the Dutch magazine Dealer Info, distributed by Luc Sala - who previously had distributed the MSX Info Magazines.

The connections with Japanese MSX users also worked the other way around. Together with Bernard Lamers he rounded up a group of active MSX users around the world who would contribute to the contents of ASCII MSX Magazines, either by submitting articles and pictures or software. The release of an MSX version of Compile's GBA game Guru Logic, developed by Chaos of TeddyWareZ did not go unnoticed. The game was demonstrated to Niitani - president of Compile - who was so impressed that he stated "if you can do a better remake, Compile will release it". Together with Chaos, snout formed a team of highly talented MSX developers (GuyveR800, BiFi, Grauw, Sonic_aka_T) and they set out to make an as good as possible port of the game to MSX. But more about that later.

The announcement of MSX Magazine Festival was the opportunity snout was waiting for. Finally, he had a reason to go to Japan. During the festival, Niitani of Compile and snout were interviewed about Guru Logic. Later that trip, everything seemed to fall in place. Before he knew it snout met Kazuhiko Nishi in his luxorious office in Tokyo. After a long conversation about all kinds of MSX related activities Nishi spoke the words "I think you can sell MSX in Europe". One handshake later it was all set: the MSX Revival was coming to Europe.

Back in the Netherlands it seemed only logical to separate these commercial MSX activities from the hobbyist activities. Together with Sama and Bart Schouten, snout founded the company Bazix which would represent the MSX trademarks outside Japan. In cooperation with MSX Association and D4 Enterprise, they received several licenses to distribute MSX software, resulting in the development (by Bart and snout) and launch of WOOMB - the English counterpart of Project EGG. Most of the games were (re)translated from Japanese to English, including their manuals, thanks to the hard work of Sama and several reverse-engineers. Bazix was also to distribute the One Chip MSX, a new FPGA based MSX computer.

Development of Guru Logic also progressed very rapidly as snout took care of all the in-game music and SFX while GuyveR800 and his co-developers were working miracles on the game engine and music replayer. The bankrupcy of Compile did not affect the project, because Niitani founded Aiky and most Compile copyrights (including those of Guru Logic) were transfered to this new company. The first demo versions of the game made a great impression on Niitani, who offered suggestions to further improve the game. In his enthusiasm, he even hinted that after the development of Guru Logic had concluded, he might have an idea or two about a new game: Aleste 3. The in-game cutscenes were starting to get shape and a promo version of Guru Logic was released on the CD-ROM that came with ASCII MSX Magazine 2.

In 2005, at the MSX Wolrd Fair in Tokyo, snout gave a lecture about Bazix and its activities. He demonstrated a version of MSXPLAYer for Nokia series 60, which basically consisted of a single application with a simple graphical user interface from which multiple MSX games could be bought and played.

It appeared that nothing was standing in the way of a bright future, but then things started to fall apart. The friendship between snout and GuyveR800 was put to the test due to a series of conflicts between Guyver800 and the MSX Resource Center crew. At a certain point in time, snout felt he had no other option than to leave the Guru Logic team and Guyver800 behind and so he did. Abruptly.

Bazix struggled to get a foot on the ground. The One Chip MSX was postponed repeatedly and attempts to bring official MSX Emulator MSXPLAYer to mobile phones failed. Negotiations with a large American company that was interested in distributing MSX software did not result in a deal either and when the One Chip MSX was finally ready, the July 2006 RoHS directives presented a problem because RoHS compliance could not be guaranteed. Importing a substantial amount of One Chip MSX computers under these circumstances was a risk Bazix was not willing to take.

Due to these events, Bart Schouten decided to leave Bazix. After this, Sama and snout explored the possibility to produce a One Chip MSX specifically for the Western market. Together with a hardware specialist, steps were made towards an improved One Chip MSX that would be capable of hot FPGA reconfiguration, booting gateware from SD-card and safe flashing thanks to a second flash bank. As an added bonus, an RTC and IR receiver were added. Even replacing the FPGA chip with one that had more gates was taken into consideration. No announcements about this improved One Chip MSX were made, though, until it was absolutely sure that Bazix could really make it happen. Needless to say, this moment never came.

In Japan, D4 Enterprise and MSX Association ended their collaboration and the MSX trademarks were transfered from Nishi's First Class Management to MSX Licensing Corporation, a subsidiary of ITNY & Partners. Sama and snout met representatives of all parties involved and upon their findings decided to break with MSX Association and continue their partnership with D4 Enterprise. Two years later, Bazix was dissolved.

Inactivity part 2

Due to a series of setbacks in his personal life - and failing to make the activities of Bazix successful - snout gradually quit his MSX (related) activities, going in MSX hibernation from roughly 2007 to 2010. During these years he worked at the Dutch chain of gamestores Nedgame for which he developed a complete point-of-sale system, a website and order processing software.

MSX Resource Center and Flying Bytes

Late 2010, snout returned to the MSX Resource Center crew and gradually started posting news again. Jorito had by then become the main programmer of Drupal-based MRC 2k11 and snout merely contributed to this website with the occasional brainstorm, bug report or feature request. The launch of the new website had to be celebrated in style though and so the MSX Resource Center crew - most notably Latok, Sama, Sander van Nunen and snout - organized the launch event Event Eleven. The new website gave snout the motivational boost he needed, significantly increasing his activity on the www.msx.org domain once again. By the end of 2012 snout also resumed contributing to the source code of the website.

2012 was also the year in which Latok and snout decided it was high time they learned to code something cool in Assembly for the MSX. Both had tried to learn Z80 Assembly before, but so far they had always stumbled on lack of time, motivation and perserverance. They decided they would meet every week and just explore the Z80 and VDP - just to see how far they could get. It quickly turned out they had quite some combined knowledge and reviving the Flying Bytes brand only seemed like the right thing to do. The anything goes theme of the #msxdev compo 2012 turned out to be just the motivation they needed. Soon it was clear they just had to make a 1990s scene style scroll and logo demo with at least some cool effects. Gathering documentation from all over the internet (MAP, V9938 documentation, Stefan Boer programming courses, MILC, ...) they slowly worked towards the release of No Pressure, aided by Jorito and Sander van Nunen for graphics and music. Given how well this demo was received it is very likely that more Flying Bytes material will be released in the future.

To be continued.

Credits

As musician

As coder

As something else

  • MSX Resource Center (content manager/coder)
  • Microcomputer & Related Culture Foundation (treasurer)
  • Bazix (founder/coder/marketing)
  • ASCII MSX Magazine 2 & 3 (contributing to articles and software from MSX users around the world)

Trivia

  • Worked in "last recordstore standing" Plato Groningen for 6 years, frequently wearing an MSX T-Shirt behind the counter (and getting plenty of positive comments about that)
  • Managed the Dutch band LPG in the years before and after the release of their debut album I fear no foe, which received worldwide coverage after their song Belly Rollercoaster was selected for a worldwide TV commercial to introduce the Nokia 6280.