On January 4, 1995, in NL 2, Grand Admiral Thrawn appointed General William "Ronin" Call the CMDR of Alpha Squadron, one of six squadrons in the wing that would eventually become the glorious Emperor's Hammer Strike Fleet. Founded in an era when few homes had dial-up access to a Unix shell account, much less direct point-to-point connection, Alpha has endured for over twenty years. That's 20 years of ups and downs across four vessels and, I suspect, at least two dozen commanders. While we have a few old veterans in Alpha today - COL Talons Pryde joined the squadron in '99 - we're mostly young whipper-snappers by the Corps' standards. Even in the greater TIE Corps, there are very few pilots who remember the EH before 1999 (one of them being former Alpha CMDR Valic), and none aside from Ronin who were around in the beginning. So in tribute to my squadron's long history and this newsletter's new beginning, I present a portrait of the world when Alpha was first formed.
The internet was just starting to enter the popular consciousness, with appearances on Good Morning America and PBS. Compuserve was still the king of ISPs, and Mosaic had recently taken the crown as most popular web browser from the text-only Lynx. The Emperor's Hammer had one of the first sites dedicated to Star Wars, predating both TheForce.net and the official Lucasfilm presence at StarWars.com.
Somewhat oddly for an online gaming club, the EH largely predates gaming over the internet. The club was founded around the same time as the DWANGO service for multiplayer doom, which worked by dialing in directly to a server located in your city. It wasn't until Jedi Knight in 1997 and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter in 1998 that it was possible to play Star Wars games with each other. While TIE Fighter itself has held up well, PC gaming was still fairly primitive: 1995's Dark Forces was one of the first games to allow you to look up an down, albeit with keybindings as mouselook wasn't available.
The Legends EU was in its infancy. Oh, there had been licensed products since the 70s, but most of what predates the EH is a foggy memory for most: the Ewok TV movies, the Jedi Prince kids book featuring Palpatine's three-eyed mutant son, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the Marvel comics series. Before Thrawn came along in 1991, licensed Star Wars works were infrequent and usually aimed at young children. By the time Ronin put together the EH, Bantam and Dark Horse had started pumping out as much material as fan would buy, but much of what we think of as the old EU hadn't been codified yet. GA Ronin was a character before Kyle Katarn and Corran Horn, and the EH was exploring the Minos Cluster before the Tales of … series and Decipher's Customizable Card Game had charted out every nook and cranny of the galaxy. The idea that Lucasfilm or its license-holders would kill off Mara Jade, much less Chewbacca, was unthinkable. Lucas was just working on incorporating computer-generated special effects into a theatrical rerelease of Star Wars, and it would still be several years before fans eagerly started camping out for the premier of The Phantom Menace. Formed in 1995, the Hammer's Fist was roleplaying Stormtroopers online before the 501st Legion started putting together tangible armor.
In many ways, my Alpha Squadron occupies an entirely different world from Ronin's. Yet the continuity between us is what make the Emperor's Hammer unique. That's a tradition worth fighting for.
CMDR-TCS/CM Archenksov/Alpha/Wing I/ISDII Hammer