Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The demoscene is a computer sub-culture that came to prominence during the rise of the 16 bit micros (the Atari ST and the Amiga), but demos first appeared during the 8-bit era on computers such as C64 and ZX Spectrum.
Demos began as software cracker's 'signatures'. When a cracked program was started, the cracker or his team would take credit via an increasingly impressive-looking graphical introduction called a "cracktro". The first time this appeared was on the Apple II computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Later, these intros evolved into their own subculture independent of cracking software. These were not initially called demos but rather letter, message, et cetera. Ironically, quite a few of the young talents that spent their time "coding" demos and thus gaining in-depth experience programming computer graphics later ended up working in the games industry, whose products they had initially cracked.
Since any given computer platform before the PC age meant every computer of a given line had identical capabilities, a comparison between demos on earlier platforms was directly possible. This created a competitive environment where demoscene groups would try to outperform each other creating amazing effects. Demo writers went to great lengths to get every last ounce of performance out of their target machine. Where games/application writers were concerned with stability/functionality of their software, the demo writer was typically interested in how many CPU cycles a routine would consume and how best to squeeze as much effects and activity onto the screen. This went so far as to exploit known hardware errors to produce effects that the manufacturer of the computer had not intended, giving the demo-groups a feeling of having gone into extremes that nobody else had reached before.
Recently, computer hardware advancements include faster processors, more memory, faster video graphics processors, and hardware 3D acceleration. With many of the past's challenges removed, the focus in making demos has moved from squeezing as much out of the computer as possible to making stylish, beautiful, well-designed real time artwork - a fact that lots of so-called "old school demosceners" seem to disapprove of. This can be explained by the break introduced by the PC world, where the platform varies and most of the programming work that used to be hand-programmed is now done by the graphics-card. This gives demo-groups a lot more artistic freedom, but can frustrate some of the old-schoolers for lack of a programming challenge. The old tradition still lives on though. Demo parties have competitions with varying limitations in program size or platform. Different series are called compos . On a modern computer the executable size may be limited to 64 kB or 4 kB. Programs of limited size are usually called intros. In other compos the choice of platform is restricted. Only old computers, like Commodore 64 or Atari ST, or mobile devices like handheld phones or PDAs are allowed. Such restrictions provide challenge for coders, musicians and graphics artists and bring back the old motive of making a device do more than it was intended for.
One of the best known demoscene productions outside the demoscene is "fr-08 : .the .product", made by the German group Farbrausch. fr-08 is a 64 kB intro. Some of its technical merits were far above most earlier productions -- for instance, it features a full seven-minute sound track (using a full-featured real-time software synthesizer) and lots of 3D environments within the given 64 kilobytes. This is a good example of demoscene mentality: breaking the rules by doing something everyone thought was impossible.
- Alternative Party; a party for the fringe and the old geezers who don't like crowds.
- Assembly: One of oldest demoparties in the world. Held in Finland annually.
- BCN Party: Small demoparty held each year in Barcelona, Spain.
- Breakpoint: The world's most "scenish" demoparty, successor of the Mekka & Symposium party-series, held annually in Bingen, Germany.
- Buenzli - The Swiss Scene Event
- Euskal Encounter
- Evoke: Demoparty organized by Digitale Kultur e.V. which takes place annually in Cologne, Germany.
- Function: Small, but growing demoparty in Hungary.
- The Gathering
- Pilgrimage: North America's annual demoparty; held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
- React: The Greek annual demo party.
- PixelShow: The new Greek demo party.
- Solskogen: Small scene-only summer party in Norway.
- Scene Event
- The Ultimate Meeting
For a list of demos, see Commodore 64 demos, ZX Spectrum demos, Amiga demos, Atari demos, Apple IIgs demos, and Text mode demos. The demoscene still exists on a lot of platforms, for instance the PC, C64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga and Game Boy Advance, although the large variety of hardware makes it harder to compare demos. Several of the 3D benchmark programs also have a demo or showcase mode, which also derives its roots from the days of the 16 bit platforms.
There are a number of categories into which demos can be informally classified; while intro generally refers to a demo where all action is endlessly running and based around a single graphical screen (although this definition has extended to include any demos written within a strict size limit, regardless of presentation style), a megademo consists of many independent parts in sequence, usually with a separate soundtrack for each part and often requiring user intervention to skip from one part to the next. Less common variants of these terms include kilodemo (a multi-part demo considered too small to be called a megademo) and dentro (a hybrid of an intro and a full-scale demo). Since the early 1990s, however, the predominant demo format has been the trackmo, in which visual effects follow a set timeline, synchronised to a continuous soundtrack, much like a music video.
Popular demoscene portals
- pouet.net, Comprehensive demoscene database containing links, screenshots and reviews of many demos for all sorts of platforms
- ojuice.net, Demoscene community and information portal
- scene.org archive, An expansive and comprehensive FTP archive of demos and demoparty releases
- slengpung.com, Pictures from parties and demoscene related events
- 256b.com, The 256bytes demos archive. Demoscene productions under 256-bytes in size for various platforms
- demoscene.tv, Demoscene Television
- demoo.calodox, A sortable collection of impressive PC demos throughout the ages
- Amiga demoscene
National demoscene sites
- demoscene.hu, Hungarian demoscene portal
- demoscene.no, Norwegian demoscene portal
- polarboing.com/scene, Demoscene news in Norwegian
- escena.org, Spanish demoscene portal
- scene.pl, Polish demoscene portal
- demoscene.gr, Greek demoscene portal
- demoscene.ru, Russian demoscene portal
The scene explained
- pc demoscene FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions about the present-day demoscene
- DEMOing: Art or Craft? 1984-2002 (PDF), Write-up by Shirley Shor about the demoscene
- Principles of Demo Spirit
- The Demoscene (PDF), Flyer by Digitale Kultur e.V. about the demoscene
- What is the Demoscene?, What is the Demoscene? by Rich Thompson
- Definition of the demoscene Everything2.com demoscene definitions by multiple authors
- demoscene.info, Information about the demoscene
Other demoscene-related pages
- Atari ST demo history
- C64.CH - The C64 Demo Portal, The #1 site for Commodore 64 demos
- mindcandydvd.com, MindCandy: PC Demos - showcases old and new PC demos on DVD (Volume 2: Amiga is pending)
- PAiN, One of the longest operating diskmags
- sceneish wiki, A scene related wiki, covering other subjects also.
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