The Beauty of the Demoscene

In this uber-connected, social media driven world, it seems like the time between when an idea is born and when it completely saturates the Internet twenty times over is almost nil.  While this does mean seeing Dramatic Chipmunk and Nyan Cat until the point of retinal damage, it also has the benefit of introducing the masses to really cool ideas and projects from all around the globe.  It means more people sharing their creations, which is a win-win for everyone.

Because of this mass spread of information, it always surprises me how many people are unfamiliar with the demoscene.  Having grown up a Commodore 64 (and later Amiga) kid who hung out on BBSes, intros and demos were always a part of my computer world.  At that time, they were amazing, mysterious creations, made by programmers with futuristic-sounding handles from far away countries.  As I grew older, I started to not only befriend many sceners, but also think more about both the Computer Science and art that actually went into these – and my amazement only increased.  Now I do everything I can to show off these programmatic, musical, and artistic feats to anyone who will watch.

The Scene

To quote Wikipedia, “The demoscene is a computer art subculture that specializes in producing demos, which are audio-visual presentations that run in real-time on a computer. The main goal of a demo is to show off programming, artistic, and musical skills.”  Originally, they started as shout-outs and other introductions in game cracks on 8-bit computers, showing off programming skill.  They quickly bloomed into an entire culture of demogroups, competitions, parties, boards, etc – and is still going strong today with a strong European core (though still prevalent in the US!).  I encourage you to learn more about all the awesome history behind the scene – there is more than can be covered in one blog post.

Favorite Demos

While the history is interesting, what is more important are the demos themselves!  Below I’ve included 4 of my favorite demos.  The first two are 64K PC demos.  When I say 64K, I mean the entire demo is 64K big.  Graphics, music, code – everything.  This is procedural programming on steroids – artistic and algorithmic wonderment.



 

The second two are for the Commodore 64.  While they are more limited by the hardware, the talent still shines through.  The first is a great example of an amazing musical score, and the second is unbelievable coding and use of the C64 hardware, making it look more like a 16-bit machine.




This is just a taste of what has come out over the years – I encourage you to take a look at sites like pouet.net and The Commodore Scene Database for some more examples.  Be prepared to be amazed!

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