Code notes – Bog Standard Demos (part 1)

We’ve looked at a few demos which were released through the early C64-centric online service Compunet for the Code Notes series already, but one thing that hasn’t been directly touched on to date is the subject of what are sometimes referred to as “bog standard” demos. The primary elements are a picture, some music and a sprite-based scrolling message, the latter often pushed into one of the borders. There’s a truly vast range of demos using this basic design template with a significant number using at least some author-upsetting ripped content[1] because not everybody is a musician or artist, but the releases we’re going to be looking at in the next couple of posts will be original works.

Compunet Club Demo (C64)And an appropriate place to start is the Compunet Club Demo – released in 1987 by Paul, Shandor and Matt, providing the code, graphics and music respectively – since it sticks to the by then established formula very closely! The screen is a bitmapped picture of a C64 connected to a Sony Trinitron television with the display of the latter cycling through eight still images when the space bar is pressed. The scrolling message is sprites in the lower border using the same technique as Planet Invasion where the sprites remain still whilst their data is redefined once per frame.

Future Shock (C64)Continuing the computer-flavoured “theme” is the Borderzone Dezign Team’s 1986 release Future Shock which has a picture based on a moodily-lit promotional image of the Amiga 1000. When the demo begins the Amiga’s monitor has a tiny version of Avril Harrison’s iconic King Tutankhamun picture which, when a specific point in the music is reached, is changed out for a version of the similarly recognisable boing ball. The grey background and grid are part of the bitmapped image but initially masked with hardware sprites, so at peak there are up to twenty four in play; eight for the scroller (although only seven are visible on screen), another eight to produce the King Tut picture and the final eight are for the cycling lower border logos.

Transputer Demo (C64)And to finish we have the CommandosTransputer Demo which, from it’s 1986 perspective, was looking to the future of computing! The screen is very loosely based on a ray traced animation that was used to show of the computational power of transputers. There are twelve hardware sprites in play here, three for the upper border scroller, one for the rotating symbol in the lower border and eight for the four balls and their shadows.

From C64CD’s perspective, all three demos feature programming, graphics and music created by bedroom developers from the United Kingdom – some of whom went on to work within the games industry – which were released in either 1986 or 1987. This means that, since these weren’t the first productions from the people involved, we can assume with a reasonable degree of safety that the majority of the people involved would have started learning around the same time the author was failing to do so which in turn helps to further debunk his “arguments” about difficulty and documentation.

And on a more personal note dear reader, Future Shock and Transputer Demo were amongst the first demos your correspondent ever saw on any platform and played a part in his nearly thirty year involvement with the demo scene.

[1] As an example, Panther by the Mean Team has a specially-created picture but borrows the David Whittaker soundtrack from the budget game of the same name so, whilst your correspondent is rather fond of said demo, it has to be snuck in this way rather than being covered in one of the articles.

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