Hardcore Data Crafting and Demoscene

Linus Akesson, whose hardware chiptune project I’ve mentioned earlier, has done it again!

A few weeks ago, Linus (aka lft) won the wild compo at the demoparty Breakpoint in Germany. This is one of the biggest demoparties that does it the oldschool way, rather than having huge arenas full of LAN-gamers and mega corporate sponsorship (yes, yes, yes). Demoparties are gatherings of people in the demoscene, meeting, coding, drinking, composing, data-dancing, and competing with music, graphics, and demos. It’s complicated to explain what the demoscene is, but in short something like “a rather closed subculture making geek-art for geeks, with their own aesthetics, copyright, status-making, communication systems” – keeping underground since 20+ years. Now, imagine walking into a room full of obscure old computers, an air full of sweat and a myriad of square wave vibrations, and people watching a big screen shouting wildly as a scrolling text says something about IFLI, unlimited bobs, lamers, side borders, etc. It’s really something worth living for. : )

So, Breakpoint is a big demoparty (something like 700 people). Reading on their website, they say that girls no longer get in for free as they are so “many” now. “The goal of attracting girls to the scene clearly has been achieved – girls no longer are second-class sceners.” I remember a certain Swedish C64-party where the entrance fee for girls was doubled, but that’s another story. Anyway. Among the entries to the compos (competitions) at Breakpoint this year was a new release from Linus Akesson. It’s another release that blurs the borders between software and hardware, as he programs chips directly and puts them together into a micro-computer or personal computer, in its true sense. He uses an 8-bit CPU with 1kb RAM and 8,5kb ROM and basically nothing else: no special circuits for video or audio. It’s all hand made. Pure code. Mega data action!

Maybe it is the most hardcore demo ever made, as demos is traditionally about maximising hardware in any way you can. Demos on contemporary hardware has to be system friendly if it’s supposed to work on different hardware set-ups. The old tradition is to make everything yourself with no regard to what you are “supposed” to do. The Commodore 64 demoscene is notorious for exploiting undocumented features with trial and error – ie, utilizing features that the engineers didn’t put there consciously. I am not a programmer and I do not know what is using undocumented features and what is not, but here’s some of the C64-releases I liked at Breakpoint:

  • #2 Graphics: Leon – Wanderer [ gif, exe ] For proof of handpixelling, see the workstages
  • #1 Demo: Exceed, Resource, The Dreams – Cauldron [ mp4, exe ]
  • #13 Music: Lft – Nymphaea [ exe ]

( how-to-run-them )

As we can see, my taste doesn’t always correlate with the demoparty-voters’ taste. But I still like compos at parties, since it’s an interesting challenge to try to win demosceners’ votes. It’s also interesting to see how much noise they can put up with. He he. Anyway. Back to Linus. Check out his page about the demo Craft here, with detailed information, schematics, video downloads, etc. The youtube video has been a bit crowded, but if you’re lucky it is working here. It includes many of the standard effects of the demoscene, but the combination of MHz, little RAM and many colours, makes it look fresh – especially considering the hardware.

2 Responses to “Hardcore Data Crafting and Demoscene”

  1. Gasten Says:

    “I am not a programmer and I do not know what is using undocumented features and what is not”

    A documented feature is those that exist in the official manual, and the ones that isn’t in there is undocumented. However, I don’t know how one finds new features, but I guess you try to write to all available registers and see what happens, or simply decompile/reverse engineer the product. Trial and error, as you said.

  2. Lft’s Chipophone: Playing Chipmusic by Hand « CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] By chipflip Linus Åkesson, aka Lft, is a programmer and musician who has mentioned featured several times at Chipflip. He works a lot with combining the aesthetics of chipmusic and […]

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