Watching Demo Factory (C64)

Let’s do something a little different and look at one of my own demos, specifically Demo Factory on the C64 from 1987. The original idea came about from a brainstorming session with friends and was intended to be a less than serious response to the plethora of bog standard demos around at the time which usually included a bitmapped picture, some music and a sprite-based ROL scroller in the border. We all found the idea of an automated factory churning these similar-looking demos out on a conveyor belt amusing so I set about programming, pausing only to work things out on paper first – something I haven’t bothered doing since – and to read up on how the hardware sprite priority registers worked from the C64 Programmer’s Reference Guide.

Looking back now the code itself is embarrassingly simple – even more so than I remembered it being in fact – but in my defence I was still learning assembly language and indeed the C64 at the time. The music is Rob Hubbard’s Hunter Patrol theme which arrived as a file he’d uploaded to Compunet that had the music located low in memory and started an IRQ to play it before dropping back to BASIC; my code calls that and executes behind it, using timing loops rather than actually waiting for a rasterline or anything sensible because I didn’t know better. I’m tempted to call this my first “real demo” because, despite there being a few releases prior to it including Past Shock, this was the first time I managed to get action on the screen with someone else’s music playing.

The “logic” was, if I recall correctly after three decades, that a parody didn’t have to be particularly well programmed because shonky code could be passed off as part of the joke; similarly, the lack of a scrolling message was absolutely part of the “protest” against bog standard demos and not in the slightest because I couldn’t get one working or anything like that… honest! There’s also a healthy whiff of irony and very probably hypocrisy about me of all people railing against the bog standard demo as a format since I’m incredibly fond of it as a format, was inspired to start coding demos by releases like Future Shock and have since programmed several releases over the years which stick to that tried and tested formula.

I’ve considered doing a remixed version of Demo Factory on a couple of occasions previously which would be an overhaul of the graphics and actually running from interrupt with all the benefits that would entail; it could perhaps animate all of the elements of the demo making machine that I wasn’t able to handle back in 1987 as well and, just for the sake of irony, would probably include a scrolling message as well…?

Watching Crazy Demo (C64)

Crazy Demo by the Norwegian Crackware Company was released way back in 1985 and the style is reminiscent of other releases around that time like the titles page of the Flying Crackers’ game Crackers Revenge; it’s bright and delightfully cluttered with multiple scrolling messages poolting past, some elements pulsing through the C64’s five shades of grey and a sprite logo pushed into the lower border. All of this is accompanied by Rob Hubbard’s Crazy Comets soundtrack, which works well regardless of which tune has been selected via a prod of the space bar.

This is a fun one-parter which came up during a Facebook discussion about the origins of the demo scene a couple of days ago, with former NCC member Stein Pedersen – currently a member of Offence, Prosonix and Panoramic Designs -posting a link as the topic slowly suffered a little bit of “feature creep” and drifted off into the realms of early demos. It was subsequently accompanied by a further tangent about classic Doctor Who titles sequences because they look a bit like demo tunnel effects, so that was me pretty much happy for the rest of the day.

It’s always interesting to see where people started out and, whilst it isn’t a C64 milestone in the same way that a couple of the other demos I’ve been squinting at recently like Readme.prg was for the Atari ST, Crazy Demo is still an early step in a fantastic demo programming career and a lovely example of C64 releases from that time. On a related note, I’m now stuck with the Crazy Comets theme rattling around my head for the rest of the day. Again.

Amiga memories from 1995

As I’ve mentioned a few times in passing, my day job for the back end of the 1980s and half the 1990s was selling home computers; for a lot of that time it was primarily the Amiga range since the indie company I worked for called Computerworld was a specialist, but we shifted a fair few Commodore 64s, Atari STs, DOS and later Windows PCs and games consoles as well during that time. But today’s ramble is about the Amiga and more specifically an event which occurred after original manufacturers Commodore rather unceremoniously disappeared beneath the waves.

Some machinations followed, with the rights eventually being sold to ESCOM and, after what was a quite frankly agonising wait whilst assorted ducks were organised, eager Amiga dealers in the south of the UK were invited to a presentation about the re-launch of the A1200 under the new Amiga Technologies brand. This took place at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel in London with the dealer event happening on the 17th August 1995; I was there and during the event they handed folders of promotional materials… and my copy has somehow survived the intervening years pretty much intact, which is how I’m “remembering” so much detail. The folder itself is a bit battered but looks like this…

…and the contents can be viewed as a PDF (11.2Mb). The enclosed literature includes transcripts of a couple of speeches which were delivered during the event, a potted history of the Amiga and a couple of double sided, glossy information sheets about the Amiga 1200 and the M1438S – a multisync monitor with stereo speakers – which are somewhat reminiscent of the ones that Commodore used to supply dealers with. One thing worth noting is that, although the paperwork all sports the new Amiga logo with the red square, that isn’t present on the hardware in any of the cheesecake shots.

So there you go, a teensy slice of Amiga history that possibly won’t be archived online already; the text is rather dry, but that’s pretty much how I remember the presentation being overally, despite what the Amiga was capable of. And for any Amiga fans or archivists who might be reading, if you’d like to host a copy of the PDF please feel free.