Tomcat's professional life


If you're a scener, or even just a computer lover, been involved deeply enough in this and that, then you're very likely to become a professional sooner or later. It's only up to you to decide if you want to work in the computer industry or not - however, I don't know many people who have chosen the latter option.

Would you believe that my computer career started in a smoky lowlife pub? It was the eighties, I was a little kid, and I was fascinated with those flashy videogames. I was grabbing every opportunity to play: as soon as I could get some coins, I headed to a game hall to play Pac-Man, Asteroids, Gyruss, or other famous titles that have become classics by now. But as game halls were rare that time, I usually went to a nearby pub, where there were some videogames and pinball machines. It was a really poor, battered place, with a lot of Gypsies and alcoholist scum, sometimes there were heavy fights, but I liked the place, along with my schoolmates, and we always went there to play. We were kids, no one cared about us, no one wanted to harm us.

Needless to say, while I was grabbing every opportunity to go there, my parents did the same to keep me away. I can't count how many weeks I've spent grounded for this. Actually they thought I am playing gambling machines, however, there weren't any there. It seemed I would get cut forever from my beloved games, until something great happened to me. I met computers!

One of my friends' father was a programmer. That was a mystic, esoteric profession those days, so when my friend asked

if I'd like to visit a computer fair, I felt like being invited in a sorcerer's ivory tower. But it really happened, I visited one of the first computer fairs in my country, the famous Compfair - within some years it became the Eastern European counterpart of CeBit, but unfortunately it's a pile of crap nowadays. There I saw miracles, called Prince of Persia, Sherman M4, Titus the Fox, and others - early day PC games, running on huge "supercomputers". I remember first seeing a mouse there, and I couldn't figure what is that. I turned it upside down, and rolled the ball with my finger. Finally my friend showed me how to use that.

Here, seeing the numerous great games, we decided with my friend: we need a computer! A Commodore 64, naturally. These machines were already available in our country, as import restrictions has just been cancelled. This was my first great purchase ever. My parents denied any help, as they never wanted to "that brainsucking machine" in the house, so I had to save every single penny. I sold everything I had, my walkman, my books, finally I started working illegally as a paperboy - I was just 11 years old that time. That was a hard job, I even got to hospital because I'd been bet up by an adult newspaper seller, who claimed that I was working on his territory. (If you're interested, no, my parents never did anything about it. Lovely parents.) But finally, after a year I had the money and went to buy my first computer! It costed 13,000 HUF, which was serious money that time, almost a month's salary. Finally my parents gave up trying to get me away from computers, and bought me a datassette for Christmas. (For the young: a data storage device using regular cassette tape.) See their generosity, it costed 500 HUF, the price of a lunch. My friend also got a C-64, but with floppy drive, his parents bought the entire thing for him.

From the first day I knew that I wanted to work in the computer industry. I wanted to become a programmer. Well, let me not to tell my entire way from simple programs in BASIC through machine code, and some years later, my demand to have a bigger machine, a PC. Actually I was not aware of the fact that the PC is a piece of junk. I just remembered seeing PCs on computer fairs, using them in the school, and they were the "big" computers in my eye. This unawareness of the Amiga's power was actually an important step in becoming a professional instead of just playing with the compy at home. My parents noticed that I had very good marks in school from computer science, so they finally realized that my computer was not simply a videogame. They finally decided to help me getting my first PC, a 286. Well, later I was told a thousand times, for years, to be grateful for such a great gift. This was in 1992.

My way ran straight into the world of the demoscene. I knew and loved demos already on the C-64, but I could never fully enjoy them, as I had no floppy drive, so I had to watch them at my friend, who was more interested in games. Vectordemo, Panic, Timeless, Second Reality, I saw them all. I was constantly upgrading my machine myself, as I again received no support from the family - luckily I was older now, so I could get simple jobs. Finally, some years later I became a known member of the Hungarian scene, which was flourishing those days, and became the main organizer of one of the best known Hungarian parties, FLaG. I started experimenting with 3D graphics, and I found that I was better than the average beginner. Sounds conceited? Maybe it is, but this was not only my opinion, but also more experienced 3D'ers of that time. And as I am a relatively experienced 3D graphician now, though I am still not ready to work at Pixar, I'd also say my first pics are very good from a beginner. Meanwhile I was learning at a programmers' course after the secondary school, so I finally became a graduated programmer in 1997. But it was not what I imagined: the world has changed, programming was not an elegant profession any more, but living on crumbs and rushing for deadlines. I turned myself towards graphics, which I started to like more and more, and finally, met the the Web.

It was my scene career that put me in this trade. I was hanging around after my army service without a job, when a friend called me asking if I know anything about web design, because he knew a little company, a computer shop that wanted to create an online store. This was in 1998. I said no, I hadn't yet done too many websites, but I knew how to program databases, and I could do graphics. We took the job, although I was worried about the result, but finally I figured that it's not that hard at all. This was my first web work. As the company saw how popular the website was, they had the idea of starting a web workshop, and they asked me to organize it. This is how I became a web designer, head of a newly founded web studio. I ran this studio for two years, until the owners' other business - the hardware shop - ran bankrupt, and this ended it.

Now I am working as a creative artist and Flash programmer at a known studio in Budapest. Actually I got to this place by my scene activity - the company manager saw the Flash-based website of FLaG 2001 Party, and decided that they needed me. My former and current scene contacts have always been most useful for me, there's perhaps no IT company in the country where I don't have at least one friend working. Some are even top managers at the largest companies. Many of the Hungarian web designers are former demosceners, who I have known since ages. By organizing FLaG Parties, and still doing 3D graphics I've built contact with most Hungarian companies dealing with anything related to 3D - training centers, art studios, book publishers, and so on.

Currently I am trying to get a job abroad, which would be impossible without having scene contacts, people who know my work, know what is the scene. The only obstacle is the country I am living in, Hungary - unfortunately it's quite hard to get out of here, we're far from everything, both geographically and morally. Hey, anyone care for an experienced web designer? :)