Okay, Matt asked me to write a bit of a dit about the Pompeys, so here we go. Or go back.

Basically the Pompey Pirates started off as just traders - the members that ended up being known as Juggler, PP Sledgehammer and Genie were the originals, and did no menus or anything, just traded etc. I (Alien), had been cracking for a good while and finally came to the attention of the boys and they invited me to join the group and start making menus. I couldn't think of anything else better to do, so said yes :-)

The first menu was produced within a matter of days from then - with the help of source code for the basic scrolly menu coming from Was (Not Was) of LSD (aka Rob C.). The games on PP 1 were a mix of other people's single cracks; none of my cracks because my most recent crack at the time was of a game that was already old news - I wasn't getting too many originals! But from that very first menu we made it our aim to include only games worth playing on the menus, not just every piece of crap that came out.

The menus came out quickly from then on, and became more sophisticated; bigger scrollers, music, nicer graphics, etc. We were also including documentation for the games on the menus - so you actually knew how to play them - no other group was doing it at the time so it was definitely our big plus point, along with having cracks that worked. As Des/Juggler's spreading efforts became ever more successful and word got around, our menus started becoming sought-after items and our range of contacts just grew and grew. Soon we had people offering graphics, music, originals to crack, and then... a packer. Instead of using other people's packers (e.g. the LSD/JEK packer) we began using JPM/Camouflage's Pompey Packer. This became progressively superior to other packers in many respects and as our packing efforts became more sophisticated, other groups seemed to get a bit pissed off with our success.

The Great ST Slagging Wars erupted, with Automation members doing their best to tell the world that we were scum etc. Other groups joined in and soon it was like World War III! Insults were constantly being being hurled in scrollers. We gave as good as we got, and had some great times completely embarrassing people when they made stupid claims (e.g. 'X game is impossible to crack and get working on a 520ST!'). The slagging even extended out of the group scene - magazines like ST Action and Personal Computing Weekly (PCW) did features on piracy which just talked complete crap (e.g. "pirates spread viruses" - yeah right, like we wanted to destroy our massive software collections!). So, of course, we fought back :-) I myself wrote a letter to PCW and had it published, though they edited it a fair bit. Bullfrog software responded and called us pond slime, which was pretty cool. And meant that we went out of our way to pirate anything they ever produced. ST Action's stance on piracy was especially funny considering they took bribes to give games higher ratings in reviews! Pirates were hardly averse to a bit of bribery of course - a number of games never got cracked because we were made very nice offers... I still have one of the T-Shirts from a company that is still producing software now. Wonder if they still bribe crackers? I doubt it!

But even while the slagging was going on we were forging ahead with ever higher quality menus and made contact with other groups, ending up with the formation of The Corporation, which was basically us, the Medway Boys, Flame of Finland/Superior and Sewer Software - what we thought of as the top ST groups when it came to quality cracks and documentation to go with them. The Corporation really didn't do much together - we just co-operated a bit with Medway to try and stop any duplication of games on our menus and plastered the logo on a few menus. We also had a good relationship with Superior, which resulted in us using their code for floppy disk file access without using TOS, and later meant we even cooperated on creating a hard disk version of it, complete with support for SCSI, a bit of a rarity at the time!

By now, though, the ST scene was getting boring for crackers. Instead of the ever-inventive efforts of the protection writers, it seemed all you saw was the same old crap time and time again. A certain chap called Rob Northen, who probably did the protection for about 75% of ST games, gave up trying to improve his code and just made minor tweaks to it - so we (and other groups) actually coded programs to automatically crack his stuff. The supply of originals began to dry up, and so did the slagging once we realised who was the major party behind the stirring. It turned out that certain individuals we dealt with had made it their business to basically lie about us, telling other people about things we had supposedly done etc. Once all the warring parties knew about this, we were soon cool with our arch-enemies Automation and settled into producing a fairly slow trickle of menus. While there were a number of highlights and particularly impressive cracks or menus, the ST scene was really quietening down. Many of the old timers began to drift away and lots of new groups sprung up. We did our part to help out a few of them and hopefully they went onto greater things.

By the time ST games were being released at the rate of only a few a month, most of the Pompey guys had moved onto the PC. We did some cracking on the PC to start with but the rise of CDs soon made it pointless; not only was most software not protected, it was so easy to get CDs full of stuff that by the time you got hold of an original, everyone else would have the CD with it on already! And that's that really... the PP core members in Portsmouth itself (a city known to locals as 'Pompey', giving us our name) still meet up for drinking sessions but that's about it. Very rarely do we do any cracking, though we do keep our hand in :-)

All this is from my increasingly damaged memories of the time, so excuse any errors or omissions. I've missed out a lot of people and a lot of incidents and glossed over some stuff but it's basically what I remember. It was a good few years, and stood me in good stead for the future - if you can crack the best the ST scene could throw at you and code tight-as-hell 68000 routines, programming PCs for a living is a piece of piss!

Alien, for the Pompeys.

The group would like to express our appreciation to Matt for putting together his PP pages - a brilliant site, and marred only by the fact that there isn't a big ALIEN logo on every single page... :-)