July 1998

8-Bit-Welt / Meinungen, Programme & Hardware

Tests über Software + Hardware

Autor: Sven Friedrichs

Interview: Joe Forster - the programmer of "The Star Commander" (english)

Friddy: Hi Joe.

Joe: Hello!

Friddy: What was your first computer?

Joe: In 1987, my father brought a C64 from West Berlin. It was a C64-II, with a 1541C drive and ten disks. This is how it all started.

My uncle, a programmer, helped me with learning Commodore BASIC. Then I bought lots of books and learnt assembly and machine code on my own. I started including 'infinite lives' into games, then came fast loaders and, at the end, my own cracks.

Friddy: Which computers followed?

Joe: For a long time, this was the only computer I had. When I became a university student, in 1993, my father bought a 386DX40.

At the university, I had free access to Internet so I downloaded some programming guides. This is how I learnt x86 assembly. Pascal and the other high-level languages were a lot easier to learn, I only needed help from my friends sometimes.

Friddy: In which computer-system have you invested most of your time?

Joe: I'm not sure. I've done several little projects on the C64 but I've been working on the same project now for four years on the PC. I would say I spent almost the same time with coding on both systems, perhaps, a bit more on the C64.

Friddy: Which projects have you fullfilled?

Joe: On the C64, I wrote lots of small utilities (e.g. a disk turbo, a packer program and a file verifier) and a music collection of my absolute favorite game, The Last Ninja 2.

On the PC, again, I wrote several utilities to make my life easier. Currently, I'm still working on The Star Commander and my other big project is LFNDOS, a LFN driver for DOS. These are not finished yet.

Friddy: What was the impulse to make StarCommander?

Joe: Back in the early days, there were programs like X1541, C642C64S and Disk64E. These were too slow, buggy and hard to use and they only copied files or disks between the PC and the Commodore drive.

There were also some small utilities that converted file formats to others but there was still no program that could do everything related to C64 emulation on the PC: accessing the Commodore drive and converting between file formats.

So I started doing some kind of a Norton Commander-clone, using Turbo Pascal and Turbo Vision. Early releases were very lame but they were constantly enhanced during those years. In the meantime, I learned a lot about the PC hardware and software so that I could solve the problems I encountered.

Friddy: StarCommander is giftware. Don't you want to get money for your invested programming-time? What is your philosophie about this?

Joe: I always preferred free software, I never liked having to pay for the programs I use. So I felt it would be nasty to make people pay for my program. This is my philosophy.

However, if someone is so rich or likes my program so much that he or she feels the need to pay for it then, oh well, why not let him or her do that? This way everyone will be happy: I get some money, the users get a program for free and they pay for it only if they are willing to do that.

Friddy: Do you belong to a coder-group?

Joe: Not really. I founded STA a long ago when I saw in C64 intros that everyone has a coder group, except for me. There's only one member of the group, me. So it's not really a group but I won't change it now.

Friddy: What are you studying? How long? Very hard? Technical enviroment O.K.?

Joe: I have just finished the university, I became a Programplanning Mathematician. It was a five-year course and, honestly, I didn't like it very much because there were too many theoritical subjects, which were quite hard to learn, and we weren't given much practical knowledge either so I had to learn useful things myself.

Friddy: What are your future planings?

Joe: When I passed my final exam, I got a job the same week. I never had a real job before so I can only hope that I'll be successful. Of course, I won't stop developing the Commander but I'll have less time for it.

Thank you for this interview.