Smith reports from Helsinki
I was woken at
04:30 of Friday 9th January. My dad would
be taking me to the airport, where I would be
flying to Helsinki for my first ever Alternative
Party. My flight was at 07:30 so I had plenty
of time to double check that I had my passport
and everything I needed.
to Heathrow at about 05:15 ,as my dad's place
is only a stone's throw from the airport. It
was so early that passport control and the security
checks weren't even open. I checked in my luggage
and ticket at the British Airways Euro Traveller
desk. Then outside for a much needed cigarette
departures was painless, which is one good thing
about travelling so early in the morning. It
was now about 06:00 so I had some time to kill.
I didn't bother to look in the duty-free as
you can no longer buy cheap cigarettes. Apparently
if you are a member of the European Parliament,
one of the perks is that you can still buy duty-free,
to Pink Floyd's The Division Bell while on the
plane. It took just two and a half hours to
get to Helsinki. The flight was only about a
quarter full so I had three seats to myself.
It was a very smooth landing, which along with
taking off is something I'm a bit apprehensive
about. My uncle would be picking me up from
the airport. He lives about half an hour by
bus from the city centre.
The party itself
to eat at my uncle's bungalow he gave me a lift
to Helsinki's centre. One thing I love about
Helsinki is the accessibility of everything.
Coupled with a very good public transport system
it's the complete opposite to crowded London.
Plus it's a seaside city so the air is clean
and in summer it's great to go swimming at the
was being held in an old cinema called Gloria.
Nowadays the venue is used for gigs and stuff
like that. I arrived at about 15:00, went down
the stairs and paid my €25. I was very early
as the show proper didn't start until 18:30.
I decided to listen to my Walkman and wait in
the smoking area until Felice arrived. There
were a few people setting up their computers
in the balcony area and some also downstairs.
I immediately noticed were: an Oric complete
with a programming manual, a couple of Amigas,
a couple of Commodore 64s, an Apple iBook,
plenty of PC laptops and my own Apple PowerBook.
I didn't bring any of my Ataris as it wasn't
really practical coming from England. Some of
the people I spoke to at the show thought the
same way, so they just had laptops.
a lot more people had arrived, Felice and his
friend Chris had, too. Felice had a laptop equipped
with a WLAN card. So he would be able to
take advantage of the free wireless networking.
Chris had brought his Atari Falcon with him.
the opening speech by the organizer. He thanked
Apple, Sun Microsystems and Epson for help with
the show. These companies had all provided practical
act to appear was an electronic orchestra, about
12 of them sitting on a circular table with
their computers. Standing in the middle of the
table was the conductor. Just like a conventional
orchestra, he waved his baton when they were
to make their sound and how long they were
to hold it. The sounds they made were very interesting,
space age and techno-like. At the end of their
set they got a very loud applause.
many people where getting into their coding
for the competitions. I was going through some
CD-ROMs on my laptop. Unfortunately I didn't
have a wireless card in my Apple so I couldn't
browse the web. Felice got his working after
playing about with the settings on his PC. Chris
was showing some quite amazing demos on his
Falcon, most of which I hadn't seen before. He
also had a demo which he was entering into one
of the competitions.
act on stage was a three-piece band. The music
they played was kind of black metal combined
with techno. On the projector next to where
they played were black and white films of atomic
bombs going off, the Third Reich and soldiers
going off to war. I think most of the footage
was from the second world war. I couldn't work
out if the soldiers were Germans on the Eastern
Front or Finnish soldiers from the 1939 war
of independence with Stalin's Russia. The lead
singer of the band had one half of his face
painted white and one half black.
were busy on their computers during the acts.
But, it being an old cinema, you could be on the
balcony or downstairs, and watch the entertainment
at the same time. I thought it was a brilliant
venue for such a party. It had atmosphere as
well because it was dark, just like at the cinema,
but for some red lights and disco lights.
upstairs corridor which was the smoking area
there was a guy with a double bass connected
to his computer. He was making all sorts of
experimental music and pulsing sounds. Being
a smoker I was in and out of this corridor a
lot. I spoke to one Finnish guy here who did
demos on his Commodore 64. He spoke very good
English. I asked him is it hard to learn programming
when many of the books are in English. He said
that it was easier as all the keywords
and function commands are in English. Can you
imagine an English person learning programming
in another language, very few and far between
were speaking another act came on downstairs.
I think he was kind of a comedian who played
guitar and the harmonica. With him was a guy
who played the sitar and didgeridoo.
I couldn't understand him as his songs and speaking
were in Finnish. I was told he had some kind
of ethical or political message. The way he
was dressed and his short hair reminded me of
the nutty boys themselves, the band "Madness".
this party there were plenty of people taking
photos and filming. I think maybe the Helsinki
papers were there. I know last year's event got
into the papers.
the end of the night there was a DJ in the smoking
corridor. He started just towards the end of
the comedian guy's set. He played some brilliant
house and techno records, some that I even recognized.
I thoroughly enjoyed this night. The DJ was
great and it was a brilliant way to unwind from
all the computing.
at about 01:00 and got back to
my uncle's at about 02:00. I was absolutely knackered
as it had been a very long day .I slept like
a log that night!
The second day
was Saturday, I got to Gloria at about 13:00, I had slept in. I didn't bring
my computer this day as I thought I'd see what
everyone else was doing. Many of the people
had spent the night there.
with Commodore 64s downstairs were still beavering
away at their demos. I wondered if they had
slept or taken a break at all, as I hadn't seen
them pause once. Chris of Maggie fame was writing
about the event for his disk mag. Felice, I don't
think had much sleep, but was alert as anything.
My eyes were still very bloodshot from the first
the day when there were all sorts of competitions.
There was a poetry competition, cartoon drawing
and the demos were judged. I stayed about three
hours this day but found myself falling asleep
listening to computer generated music. A lot
of people were still there and I was talking
to a French demo writer and Felice's friend Martin,
whom I had met the night before. Martin's a
French Canadian who lives in Helsinki with quite
a story to tell.
all it was a very good and interesting event.
A wide variety of computers were on show both
old and new. People were very friendly and I
definitely hope to come to next year's event.
I'll find a way to bring my Atari next time.
Maybe I'll have a Stacy by then and the load
won't be so heavy, hope so!
make the finishing party with the sauna and
beer. I got an invite from my cousin who I hadn't
seen for a long time, so I went there. Next
year maybe the sauna, if I've lost weight!