The Amazing Waldemar, King of All Polish Game PiratesPosted on February 9th, 2010 7 comments
I spent the past few minutes reading this interview with one Waldemar Czajkowski, a man who made a living in late-era Communist Poland selling and distributing compilations of pirated Commodore 64 games.
He had a pretty spiffy small business going at the height of it, producing thousands of tapes and distributing them all over the country in his Volkswagen minivan. The operation was successful enough that he was able to buy a new car and condo with the proceeds — nothing to sniff at considering how far a zloty got you (or didn’t) at the time.
Waldemar’s biggest problem? Procuring the cassettes to meet the demand for his game compilations, no small feat in a regime that didn’t exactly smile upon people recording things by themselves:
In the first years of my business, getting any clean cassette was a real art! There was only a possibility to buy only already recorded tapes. If any of the music band from Poland during 1988-1990 period has won the Golden Plate, including the sale of cassettes, I can say that it is partly caused to me! [laughter] When I had some connections I’ve heard that in Szczecin on some street there is a shop selling haberdashery, where you could buy the cassettes! [laughter] Seriously! In the haberdashery! I went there and stood in the queue. At the counter I’ve asked for audio cassettes, thinking also, that for the moment the saleswoman will kick me out, but she came with a question: „Which ones? 60-minutes, 90-minutes long? [laughter] In such strange places I had to buy tapes for my production! When there was the possibility of placing an order in Stilon, it turned out that it was necessary to come with a lot of formalities, to write applications and wait for weeks to process the application. There were problems, for example questions like „Who are you? What is the company?”. Hence, in Stilon was really hard to order something.
Waldemar kept his C64 pirate business going until 1994, when Poland finally got around to passing modern software copyright laws. He spent a few years afterward selling legal software, but — predictably — sticking with the law led to smaller profit margins and he eventually gave it up in 1997.
Read the whole thing — it’s in kind of fractured English but is an endlessly fascinating peek into a scene people like me never had a taste of.
The fact that this fellow was able to procure a car and shelter from C64 piracy reveals, hmmmmm… how troubled the economy of Poland was? That’s my best guess, anyway.
One of my favorite bits from the interview is the concept of “themed compilations”:
“…from what as I know, I was the pioneer in creating thematic compilations of games called for example „War games”, „Programs for drawings” etc. It was caused by the fact that on the exchange there was a little time for the copying of software, and people are impatient and often even suggested that I should come with a second set of computer! Then I did some thematic tapes and when people were asking me about specific games, such as „For children”, „For two joysticks”, „Sport games”, then I suggested to them my compilation of games created personally. The first 20 parts of tapes I knew exactly very well – every game…”
I wonder if he had any shoot-em-up compilations. He must have. 🙂
A similar kind of thing happened with Pegasus AFAIK – it was an insanely popular Famicom clone released when Nintendo had no official presence in the country, much like Russia’s Dendy. they even ran TV adverts featuring people playing blatantly pirated copies of games like Super Mario Bros and whatnot, which I believe are on youtube. The Pegasus distributor later (presumably ’94) switched to selling legally licensed games, mostly from Codemasters, but other companies continued importing pirate carts.
As an author of this interview and all photos I please you to remove image and quotes which was located here WITHOUT my permission which is against the law. You can still keep information about this interview, but without copying datas from my site.
But no source of quote is given. Atleast visible address of my page should be written. In Poland we can quote text from other sites, but only with giving the source of original text. Thanx! Cheers!
HAHAHA oh wow, the IRONY!!!
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