Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

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Demos, and being an oldbie

Slashdot featured an article about the demo scene, which talked about

the absolutely incredible Mind Candy DVD, where a very dedicated group of people from "the scene" have spent two years painstaking recovering demos from obscurity, finding the old 286 and 386 hardware, installing the needed (obsolete) cards, and capturing them perfectly in full digital glory. They also have information on what exactly the "scene" is, in case you've missed this incredibly creative use of computers from the past 20 years. This whole process cost them thousands of dollars and untold hours. Check it out, see what you missed... or never forgot.

That link to the scene also brought me to a link called Computer Demos - The Story So Far, which brought me to a MOD FAQ.

That all brought back lots of memories... from when I was still a trainee and the person who had started at the same time as I was into the demo scene (and also warez and stuff) and introduced me to some demos. I watched some stuff on an Amiga at his house and also had a couple of PC demos I had downloaded from BBSes. I remember watching Unreal by the Future Crew, and other graphics and music demos, and being impressed.

I remember reading about big demo competitions with prizes, big parties in Scandinavia, prolific groups, showing off what they could do, greets to other groups...

Now, when I read about the demo scene, it seems as if it's not the same any more. That makes me a little sad... even though it's been ages since I had my 486SX25 with DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 which had a bunch of MOD files and half-a-dozen different MOD players... I don't remember when I played my last MOD file.

Still, it pains me a little to see that time going past. That the demo competitions are turning more into LAN parties, that sponsoring is dictating the format of such events away from the showing-off of technical prowess. Maybe the time is over, much like BBSes are getting very rare. (Though I still visit one every once in a while, or did until reinstalling my system on another hard drive; I haven't copied over the dialup application yet. I even have a FidoNet address there, though I don't know it by heart and never received a single message there yet.)

I am glad that I was able to be a little part of that scene, to know of it, to be able to sample MOD files and graphics demos and cool intros and scrollertexts.... I sometimes regret not having been able to live through the earlier times of computing when people would use a teletype over a 75 Baud connection to dialup to a mainframe and then on via Datex-P (packet-switched networks). But now I feel that what I did live through is also an experience that not many of today's youngsters went through.

It makes me feel a bit old, but also proud. Yes, I'm glad I was able to see it while it was still going strong, in the early 90's, and that I didn't grow up with Internet in every household and Instant Messenging an essential part of life.

I didn't cut my teeth on a C64 or Amiga, as many programmers of my age did (at least judging by those who went to vocational school with me), but I learned Z80 assembler by myself and wrote some small programs on my CPC464 and my dad's Joyce. It gives me fond memories of those times.

I also remember dialling long-distance into BBSes in the United States where my co-worker was looking for warez. Back in the time when people competed to bring 1-day or, if possible, 0-day warez. Cracked games that weren't for ripping off companies but mainly to get respect from other groups for being the first to release a certain game. I think most people who downloaded such games or couriered them from one BBS to another didn't play them. They might have hundreds of floppies lying around the house, but it was more for the "props" they got from it. I remember reading an article recently indicating that that scene still exists but is a lot further underground and more secretive because "outside" people too gladly look on the fruits of their labours as a way to get cheap software, rather than for respect or technical ability.

I also remember the ANSI scene. People making colourful, sometimes animated little textfiles that exploited the ANSI.SYS possibilities of the PC (basically, a VT220(?) emulation IIRC). People would work hard and created literally works of art. That also seems to be past... probably due at least in part to the proliferation of graphical user interfaces which don't place such emphasis on plain text, or even marked-up text with colour. ASCII art is still alive to a certain extent, perhaps because it's universal: you can look at it on a C64 box the same as on a Linux desktop, a Sun 64-way server, or a Cray. But ANSI art is, I'm sure, hard to find.

Times change. I am glad for the chances I had to live through what I did, and the glimpses I got into what people did then.

List of demos on the DVD ... oh my, that brings back memories. I only saw one or two of those myself, but that sounds like something to have for those who remember those times. Makes me wish I had a DVD player.

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