Interview with Pot-Noodle of Anthrox

Ghandy of Darkage, Faith, Gods & Chemical Reaction

Pot-Noodle of Anthrox is one of the best known oldskool toolcoders for the BBS-program Amiexpress. Amiexpress, or called /X, or AmiEX is the leading Amiga BBS-software for illegal boardsystems. His now four and more year old utilities are still used by the majority of system-operators. Usually if somebody brings out a new utility it's forgotten after a short while. Why? Simply because most new BBS-tools are plain copies of older programs written by somebody else. Nobody would have an advantage using them. In case of Pot-Noodle this was totally different because his utilities were real innovations or brought a never seen speed to an old idea. Including Byteandi/Trsi, he's one of the most appreciated and innovative programmers even though it's a long time ago that he released anything. The older guys of the illegal Amiga Scene will never forget his nickname.

In this interrogation we've talked a lot about the differences of the two computer platforms and his attempts to make money out of his hobby - the computer, to be more concrete inventing software on a computer.

But read it yourself...

Hi Pot-Noodle! Feel welcome in our hall of fame... Do you want to get some food? (Virtual one.) A cup of tea maybe, as you're a member of the British Kingdom, hehe? (Or maybe a bit Coca-Cola or some fish'n'chips first?)

Coke would be nice. I've been quite a Coke addict for many years now... It makes up for hating the taste of it when I was younger, I guess. I try not to drink too much of it (on an empty stomach, at least) since the bubbles tend to go right through me...

Please introduce yourself to the public... name, age, brothers, sisters, job, studies, future plans etc. (Any own family plans?)

I'm Leo Davidson, about to turn 21 years old. (Yes! I can drink in California, without pretending to be older, and *Oh, darn, I forgot my ID*.)

I have four half-brothers, two half-sisters, and two step-sisters. Unfortunately, only two brothers and two sisters are in the same country as me, the rest being spread around America and Australia.

I'm in the third, final year of my degree at the University of Oxford. I'm at Keble College for those who know about the college system here. The course is called 'Computation' and is a very mathematical look at the theory of programming. It's quite removed from a computer science course or anything like that.

After my exams (gulp!) I should be flying to Venice, California to work for a company called eLogic ( that develops web sites (not just HTML, but databases and so on as well). It's a good place to get experience since I get to deal with a lot of different technologies.

As far as the future goes, I am not completely sure what I want to do. It's obvious that I will work in computing as it's what I'm good at, but apart from that I don't know. While I love playing computer games, I do not like writing them (at the moment, anyway).

I don't care much what I do, so long as it's something useful or fun which makes the lives of other people better, and something which doesn't drive me crazy. Before I started at University I thought I would like to become an academic and do research, living off the state, for the rest of my life and never have to get a 'proper job'. Going to Oxford is quite a high dose injection of academia and, having done a few months of work during holidays, I'm very much looking forward to getting a job now! I actually quite enjoy working.

What are you doing when your computer is switched off? (Or if you have a power breakdown.)

Ugh, nasty. Well, a while ago I was playing QuakeWorld (surprise, surpsise) and my monitor went crazy and had to go off for repairs. No computer for about 10 days. I went insane. Started wearing lipstick. Let's not think about it too much!

But seriously, when not using my computer (which isn't as often as it should be, really), I guess I just do the things everyone else does. Sit around, chat to people, watch TV and films, go to the pub and get drunk. Nothing very exceptional.

I like reading but don't do very much of it. I'd like to get around to reading more Aldous Huxley. Brave New World and Point Counter Point are two great books. But when I can boot my machine, click on button and be launched into multiplayer Capture The Flag (QuakeWorld), it's all too easy. The problem is, when you stop playing you haven't achieved anything. Quake is my soma.

I love music and my taste is wide. I really hate the way a lot of people listen to only one type of music and hate all others. It's almost always some kind of fashion statement, or snobbery, or whatever. There is not a single genre of music which has everything to offer, and there is not a single genre of music where every artist is good. If someone says *I like x and every other type of music is shit* they are usually just closed minded, whether x is heavy metal, pop, classical, or whatever. What you actually like is up to each individual, it's a matter of taste, but I think you've got to try different things with an open mind, even if you don't try everything. Of course, there are exceptions. I can imagine that some people get so involved with a style of music that they don't have time for anything else.

I'll listen to thigs from John Coltrane to Jamiroquai to Bjork to Bowie to Metallica to Chemical Brothers to nine inch nails. I also like Public Enemy and the Fugees. To me this doesn't seem a very wide range. I mean it's still all western culture, mostly recorded after 1980 (Coltrane only pushing that back another 30 years). But it does keep me happy, and there's almost always something for whatever mood I'm in. There's certainly too much music in the world for anyone to know and listen to all of it, so you have to stop somewhere, but I would like to know more about classical music. It's a style which, done properly, is so powerful and emotional. Problem is there's so much of it, and some of the best pieces have been spoilt by over familiarity. I hear them and think *oh, it's this thing which was used in that commerical, or that cartoon*. It's too much of a cliche now and doesn't draw me in as much as it should.

I don't think any of the artists I listen to are cultish (anymore, at least), but that doesn't bother me. People who won't listen to something just because it's popular are idiots. If that's your way of feeling superiour to the sheep-like masses, get a life. Conversely, just because something is popular doesn't make it good, and I hate the large number of people who only listen to what's in the Top 40. OK, less popular stuff is more difficult to find out about, but not *that* much more difficult, and most of these people forget about what they used to think was *cool* when the Next Big Thing comes along.

So going back to the question after my rant, I often make my room pitch black and put a CD on so that my only sense is the music, everything else is removed. I like that. (And it isn't some sign of being some angst ridden, depressed teenager. I just like it, OK?)

How did it happen that you got connected to the BBS scene? Was it a friend who introduced you maybe? If yes, who?

I got a 2400 baud modem for my Amiga when I was 13 (1990) and stumbled on a few places of interest. I installed AmiExpress and decided that I'd like to be in control of my own place, and at the end of 1990 I'd got a 14.4k modem, a phone line and CAL was born. The name, *the seventh Churth of the Apocalyptic Lawnmower*, is from the band Lawnmower Deth who are a heavy metal band with stupid lyrics.

How the fuck did you find your handle? What the heck is a pot-noodle??? Heheheh.

This is a long story which probably doesn't make much sense. When I was 12 or so I used to write on my school bag and stuff like that. I decided to write a word on my trainer (shoe, sneaker) and the word which came to mind was POT. I have no idea why. I don't think it was anything to do with drugs, or at least I am certain I was taking none at the time! Perhaps something to do with plant pots. Anyway, having written that on the left shoe, I needed a word for the right. Beauty is symetry, you see. There is a type of student food over here called a Pot-Noodle. You just add boiling water to all these chemicals and gunk and get something which tastes like chemicals and gunk. But the word worked, so on it went.

I had quite a few German friends while running the BBS and one, I think it was Sigma Seven (hi Stephan!) who started calling me Nudel as it's the German word for noodle. I liked the word and used Mr.Nudel every so often instead of Pot-Noodle. When I started using the Internet, Pot-Noodle was too long for an IRC nick, so I used Nudel instead. The old handle is pretty much a thing of the past.

I would like to point out that when I started using P0T-NOoDLE, it was intended to be a parody of all the eLiTe ScEnE tAlK, but people started using it and it kinda stuck. Oops. Bite me.

Did you open your own BBS or why did you start coding Amiexpress utilities? It often happens that people start installing their own BBS system and become quite unhappy with the utilities which are available...

I ran CAL for three years and at the start I couldn't code my dick. The extent of my abilities was writing stupid programs in C64 Basic and doing DOS scripts. I'd tried to learn Assembler before but never managed it. There were not enough short term goals to keep my attention. When AmiExpress gained ARexx support I learnt that by looking at SpaZm's scripts, but while Rexx is a great language for tying programs together, it sucks for writting applications in. After a lot of hassling me, Thrash/ATX eventually got me to learn 68k Assembler. Thrash is a great teacher and I wasn't the first person he got started.

I wrote my first utilities because there was nothing else which did the job, not because what there was sucked. However, I designed the original Amilog, which was written by Retaliator/ATX before I knew what Assembler looked like, because I wasn't happy with the other similar utils. I was very into doing ANSI graphics at the time, you see, so I wanted my own design in a util. The blue and yellow bars were born! (Pity they didn't work on the PC... Oh well.) Super-AmiLog was the second Assembler program I wrote, which is why the code is so bad, even in SAmiLog2... But it did work and a lot of people liked it and adopted it. It's nice to know that there are still a lot of people using it after all these years, although I shudder at the thought of the code!

I stopped running my BBS when my harddrive controller failed and the scene more or less died (it was in a state of decay already) by the time I had a replacement. I continued writting utils for other people on request, writing quite a few little things for Hydro & Sweet Thing, and notably doing Super-DupeCheck for Picard (I still think DupeCheckers are a complete waste of time, but enough sysops seem to want one), but what with the Internet, no board of my own, and a dead scene, the desire to code utils died. SAmiLog3 was never finished, which is a shame as it would have been very powerful.

When I came to Oxford the only language we really used in the first year was Gofer, a functional language like Miranda. This took a while to get used to, but meant that I didn't have the time to bother with Assembler any more. At the end of that year I learnt C, because I wanted to, my course didn't start using it until the next year. I got a summer job programming in C a week after I learnt it and that formed the basis of my job in California next year . But anyway, now that I am used to languages like C and recently Java there is absolutely no way I'll ever write a full program in Assembler again. It just isn't worth it. You can do so much more with C in so much less time. I've never written anything time critical in my life, and now that I'm not using a 68000 based machine I don't really give a damn if the code is slightly slower or larger.

After I'd stopped writting BBS utils I bought a copy of Directory Opus 5 when it came out. I'd read about it and really wasn't sure if the new ideas would work, but I'd been using a pirate copy of Opus 4 for so many years that I thought these guys deserved my money no matter what. When I got 5.0 I saw it had a lot of potential, but there were a lot of things I thought could be improved. I noticed an email address and sent a long list of suggestions off to Greg Perry. After a while I joined the beta testing group and more and more of my time became devoted to Opus. I've written a few add-ons for Opus 5 which I still work on, when I get the time. Unfortunately, what with getting a PC and having QuakeWorld only a mouse-click away, I've been seriously neglecting my Amiga and Opus. (Opus, CygnusEd, and bitmap graphics are the only reasons I still have my Amiga.) Over the recent christmas break I took just my Amiga home to London with me and devoted some time to it. (Not that I could have carried my PC on the bus home even if I wanted to...)

One great thing about the Internet is that you can easily talk to developers by email, and you see them chatting on IRC. You notice that these are real fucking people who you are ripping off, really cool people as well. I think that a lot of people in the scene view developers as the enemy. It's as if The Developers are the people who are trying to stop you getting The Program which is an entity in itself. But this isn't true, the program is the baby of the developer, they've invested their lives making it, and if they go into another business because all the pirates have been assholes to them then nobody wins. There are some pirates out there who are not just content with ripping off software but also feel the need to insult the developers for trying to protect their work, or for adding things which they don't personally like. These people really need to think about themselves and their behaviour. /It's not big, and it's not clever./ And you look like pricks.

OK, almost everyone pirates something, but dammit, if you use it a lot then buy it. You can spend more money going out on a friday night than it costs to buy most software. This is more important on the Amiga where development companies are very small and vulnerable, but ultimately the issue is about respecting the efforts of others. I don't care if John Carmack at ID software does have a hundred sports cars. I paid only 30 pounds for Quake and have got HUNDREDS of hours out of it, he can have all the money in the world for all I care. (At least Carmack is a developer who gives a damn about his product, not just about his profit... Bill Gates almost does have all the money in the world and he certainly doesn't deserve it for anything more than being good at business, marketing and fucking people over. What a total cunt he is.)

What is your opinion on Amiexpress? (Have you ever had a look at one of the new BBS systems like Fame, Daydream, Millenium etc.?)

I've not seen it in a long time, but the good thing about AmiExpress was its simplicity for the user. I hated a lot of things about how AmiExpress was designed and at times I was probably a bit too vocal about that, but hey, I was an asshole ! I never looked at any other system in much depth. At the time I was running my board there wasn't really anything else to consider. I did start to design my own BBS software, but that didn't get very far because of the timing of things.

Are you still connected to the boardscene in any way? Maybe some local British boards or Telnet systems?

Not really. To be honest, I find BBS don't work now that there is the Internet. Why have small systems of email and files when you can have global ones? It's also a pain in the ass to leech from a BBS running off a modem when you're on a fast LAN connection. People who write software can put their things on a single web site and make it available worldwide, direct from the source with no delay, no bloody BBS adds, and no missing files or viruses. (BTW, that is the correct plural form of virus in the computing context. At least, that's what I read. Probably just illiterate computer programmers covering their tracks .) Sites which are really busy get mirrored around the world so you can usually get a decent connection to them.

I do sometimes miss the close community feeling which there was with BBS, but it wasn't *that* much fun!

Your tools were quite known for being a real experiment (miracle, misery?) to install them. But as a user, if you managed to do so, they were well-known for their speed and few bugs. Why were they so little userfriendly? How did it come? I'm sure you expected a much higher average intelligence of the system operators... haha! (You also brought me some sleepless nights with your lastcaller util.)

It certainly wasn't done on purpose. Something which I always hated was people who put up their own boards but didn't have a clue about how to run them. If you can't be bothered to learn how to use the machine to do what you want, you don't deserve to run a BBS, it's as simple as that. You can't be a good sysop if you've always got to run to someone else to get something done. So yes, in my instructions I always assumed that people knew how to use the AmigaOS. Perhaps I assumed too much, I can't remember, but I certainly didn't want to write an AmigaDOS manual to go with every tiny util.

I did go back and look at some of my old creations a while ago and I was a little surprised quite how far I went at times, but hey, I was an asshole! You all have my appologies for the sleepless nights!

I do have some sympathy. Although I like a lot about Unix as an operating system, I find using it a real pain in the arse. You can tell that all the software is written by geeks because it's all so damn unfriendly, ugly as sin, yet so powerful if you can just work out what the fuck you're meant to do. You can always tell when a GUI was designed by a programmer rather than a designer. Most X-window based programs feel like they're about to fall apart at any moment (not that they ever do), and you can tell that the GUIs are drawn with a bunch of lines and squares without even the pretence of being real buttons and windows. But more importantly, the programs are written by people who assume you know their programs as well as they do and that you have the time to read the source code to Unix. I just cannot be bothered to figure it all out. I only want to use Unix to do a few key things which do not justify spending the rest of my life becoming a Unix Guru.

Of course, using Windows 95 is the other way around. You know exactly what you want to do, you even know how it's done internally, but you have to play with and trick the operating system into asking you the questions so that you can give it the answers you want. It really is a pile of shit for power users. But why should computing be the only industry/technology not set back by the powers of big business and market forces?

Do you still own an Amiga?

I've still got my A1200, although I don't use it enough. My two A500s are in boxes in my house in London, unused. I've got a Siamese card for my PC which means that (since I don't have a 15hz monitor) I have to run the Amiga at VGA frequencies. On an A1200 this means that the graphics DMA eats most of the CPU cycles and the whole damn machine runs like a dog. When the other machine you use is a P200, this kinda sucks. That said, I set my Amiga up on the Siamese system yesterday and decided to use the Multiscan screenmode instead of DBLNTSC. This seems to run faster, so maybe I was just stupid and didn't know what I was doing before .

Do you think the platform Amiga is dead or does it still have a chance with the PowerPC accelerator cards to survive?

There are still a lot of enthusiastic Amiga users out there, it's certainly not dead. But I would have considered myself one of the most enthusiastic Amiga users and I've all but gone PC now. To be honest, if you want to do something, chances are the PC can do it better than the Amiga. (Except for bitmap graphics, which the Amiga is still unbeaten on, unfortunately... Oh, and file management/general OS niceness, thanks to Opus!) Yes, using the PC is a pain in the butt at times, and sometimes I find myself screaming at Microsoft for being such a bunch of cunts, but you just deal with it, get used to it, and get on with what you're doing. I have no doubt in my mind that if the Amiga OS were brought up to date and the software ported to it it would be a million times better than using Windows 95, but that hasn't happened and I have my doubts whether it will ever happen. Win95 is pretty enough and easy enough to use by the average person. Machines are getting large and fast enough that the extra overheads it and WinNT need are not so important.

While Microsoft have made a large number of stupid descions about fundamental features of their operating systems, a lot of the blame for poor user interfaces on the PC goes towards the people who make PC programs. Look at WinZip for one of the worst user interfaces in the world, and none of that is Microsoft's fault, as much as we all wish it were. (Don't get me wrong, I'd kill Bill Gates given half the chance like any other intelligent man with an interest in computing...)

PowerPC can only help the Amiga, but I don't see any reason why it alone will save it. Too little too late, I think. PowerPC doesn't seem to be as fast as everyone hoped, and even if we do get Amigas the speed of PCs for the same price, it's still going to take the Amiga community time to port software. Great, the Amiga has a PowerPC version of Quake now. But Quake 2 is already out for the PC.

The Amiga is a dream, and wouldn't it be wonderful if in ten year's time everything were Amiga. But computing is an industry run by money and power, anything fun and useful which results is just a side effect of this. The people in control don't give a shit if you've got a nice machine or not, so long as they make money. Personally, I just can't see the Amiga coming back. I'd love it to happen, but the world doesn't seem to work like that, the world is a piece of shit. I just cannot imagine utopia.

Everyone who have owned the Amiga have been completely incompetent. As far as I can tell the current owners are no better. There is no big thinking, no desire to say FUCK IT and produce the most amazing thing every. As far as I can see there is no thinking at all. At the WOA show in may, where Gateway 2000 announced they'd bought the Amiga, they said that it was too early to announce any plans because they had only had the Amiga a little while and hadn't had time to think. This is such bullshit because Amiga International had been run by the same bunch of people for the previous year, and AI remains a separate company. In all that time they must have *SOME* idea about which direction they plan to go in. I expect that by the time they decide and act on a direction the entire industry will have moved on. The Amiga has survived this long DESPITE the owners, certainly not because of them. It's got to have something pretty special about it to keep people for that long, and indeed it is special, but I don't think *that* special. If you lock away your Amiga and use a PC for 6 months, you won't really remember much about how much better it was. You just deal with it and get on with it.

Are you still in touch with the Anthrox guys? They are quite active together with Swat releasing Nintendo64 stuff etc.

I talk to TWK occasionally, and am still in contact with Thrash and Ice-D in the UK (although we never seem to be available for ICQ at the same time... I'm always in Quake...), but that's about it. I've never had anything to do with the console side of ATX.

About the only old scene people I still talk to are Hydro, who has been one of my best friends for many years now, and Dreamscape, who still manages to lunch my mind.

Now, if you wish, it's time for some greetings. It's like every time an oldskool scener sends out his greetings, they will probably never reach their target as most people won't read a diskmag or left the scene a couple of years ago, but you can have a try anyway...

You know who you are... I know it's annoying when someone says this, because you don't get to see your name explicitly mentioned, but hey, it's not as bad as if I forgot to mention you!

Thanks for answering my questions... All the best for you and your family!

Thanks for thinking I'm important enough to interview ! If anyone has any comments, email me: If you want, check out my webpage:

Ghandy of Darkage, Faith, Gods & Chemical Reaction