demo (dem'o) n. a recording made to demonstrate a song, the talent of a performer, etc.
Demos are about showing off. The performer, in this case, is a particular group of hobbyist programmers, musicians, and artists. The demo group's talent is demonstrated by your computer; that humming case that can perform only one task at a time. In that limitation lies the allure of demos. Computers have limits, and demos explore them. They experiment with the possibilities of graphic and sound production. They are real-time productions, meaning that everything you see and hear is calculated, conducted, and produced in the moment, as you watch it. Essentually, they are the opposite of animations. They are live performances.
These immensely talented demo groups comprise what is known as the demo scene, a group of several thousand world-wide. They congregate at large annual parties to release their new productions. A friend once compared these parties to film festivals, and the similarity has since been obvious. They gather to exhibit their work, examine what others have accomplished, meet legendary scene members, and most importantly, be surrounded by hundreds or thousands of like-minded people.
The scene was born about a decade ago, and has since evolved and matured in fascinating ways. Demos were initially coded by groups of software crackers to show off and advertise their skill. Soon, music was added, and the demo scene slowly continued to grow into an entity of its own. Old-school sceners look back upon the early years with great idyllic sentiment. At the time, since computers were exponentially slower than they are today, demo coding consisted of making the computer do things it technically wasn't supposed to be able to do. Demo coders would access the hardware in unique ways, and use "tricks" to produce images not thought possible. Today, computer games have more or less surpassed the demo scene in pushing computers beyond their limits. Demo coding now consists of making the computer do things people simply haven't seen before. In doing so, demos are quietly evolving into a new art form.
I have never been to a demo party. My experience with the scene has been completely objective, from the standpoint of my computer screen and a connection to the Internet. It has only been since I started this page that I've come into contact with scene members, and other members of their audience like myself. Interest and enthusiasm in demos is uncommon, mostly because they are principally esoteric and aesthetic by nature. Like all forms of art, it takes time for each person to develop his or her own interpretations. For those who will appreciate a maturing visual and aural computed art form, they are an absorbing hobby. I have been fascinated by them for over six years, and I humbly welcome you into an underground world that has given me enormous amounts of pleasure and inspiration.
DISCLAIMER: I have no experience coding demos or tracking songs. I revere those who have, and hope that my opinions do not appear naive to them. If I provide mistaken information, please inform me so that I may remedy it.
Jeremy Williams, 12/17/97
P.S. Here's some feedback I've received on this site.
_____Introduction to PC Demos (www.globaldialog.com/~jer)
Ask yourself, "What is a hobby?" Usually it centers around something tangible: collections of objects (baseball cards, model trains) or activities (soccer, skiing, role-playing). In either case, these hobbies are almost always locally based. You can make some strong personal bonds that way, but something is missing.
The demo scene is a very different sort of hobby. For the first 3 years of my involvement, I never met another scener face-to-face. Unlike other hobbies, this did not detract from my enjoyment. There is just something so satisfying about interacting with a small, tightly-knit international community; a community whose hobby is not based on collections of objects or even activities, but on contributing self-made works of art to the world.
The scene is composed of highly intelligent, creative, and talented people. Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and orientation is unheard of. In our online world everyone is equal; judged and treated solely on their behavior. And because we come from all around the world, our different real-life experiences shape and diversify our productions. Our hobby is like no other. Welcome to PC Demos.
Christopher G. Mann
(ftp|www).cdrom.com - Webmaster & Technical Support, Walnut Creek CDROM
(ftp|www).hornet.org/pub/demos - Hornet Archive Maintainer
Demos are not for everyone. I have yet to personally meet someone who appreciates demos as I do. Therefore, I will not be surprised if you don't take to them. Likewise, if you find that you do enjoy them, don't expect friends and family to acknowledge your visionary brilliance. Demos are an obscure art form that have both mathematical and aesthetic qualities. Their audience is still very small.
If you're interested in learning how to code demos, or if you'd like some useful resource links and e-mail addresses, I suggest you take a look at the DemoScene Starter Kit v3.0 (555k).
In order to watch PC demos, there are a few things you will need.
Most demos require that they be run from MSDOS. By this, I mean Win95 must be restarted in MSDOS mode.
This is because most scene coders grew up on DOS, understand it, and find Windows to be
intrusive. Be sure your sound card is initialized and all necessary drivers are loaded, proceed to
the demo directory, and run it. Dim the lights, boost your volume to the point just before it cracks,
sit back, and enjoy.
|Recommended demos for virgin sceners|
|Stars (1.1 Meg), by Nooon, 1995.||Juice (848k), by Psychic Link, 1995.|
|Inside (2.1 Meg), by CNCD, 1996.||Jizz (251k), a Windemo by TBL, 1998.|
This web site has become very important to me, and I am extremely happy to be able to contribute something to the scene. I owe much thanks to a number of people, without who's influence and assistance this wouldn't be possible. Greets fly out to the following.