About the demotalks at DATASTORM

So a few weeks ago we did another DATASTORM, a party for oldschool computing. The venue we’re at has had some recent troubles with the Swedish authorities because of bla-bla, but in the end everything worked out fine.

One thing that I was particularly happy with was the demotalks. We invited people who had made iconic and noteworthy scene productions, and got them to talk about it. This idea was inspired by an interview I made with Joe (for a forthcoming paper on CSDb as a “memory machine” for retro computing). He talked about how there is a gap in the history of the scene: we don’t really know so much about how demos were made. What kind of decisions and processes led up to these artefacts?

Some sceners are only interested in the tech stuff. Amusingly, when we announced Budbrain as speakers, someone questioned our choice because the coding was not complex enough. The kind of this-is-not-real-scene-stuff-attitude that still pops up every now and then… Such dedication!

But the tech stuff is really not the main point about this, to me. It is of course interesting to learn about the mathematics and all the smart coder tricks, or clever composing tricks, or pixeling styles. But maybe not for an hour? At least not on DATASTORM that is quite far from a nerdy conference (eh, I think?). So we encouraged the speakers to tell stories about the process, about what happened around the demo making.

Triad’s Red Storm was a pioneering demo in a technical sense, as one of the first “trackmos” – where the user didn’t have to press space for the next part. But it was also a pioneer in bringing in politics, poetry and other kinds of pop culture than the usual metal, acid, fantasy stuff that was everywhere in the scene at the time. King Fisher talked extensively about this, and you can see the slides here (turn on the notes!).

Budbrain, who made a Megademo that broke the tech-focus in the scene by bringing in humour into the mix (and imo very high quality graphics and music), talked a lot about their unusual position in the scene. On one hand they had a demo played on MTV, while on the other hand they were criticized by a lot of other sceners.

Mahoney talked about two music disks that he made together with Kaktus: Sounds of Gnome and His Master’s Noise. As usual, Mahoney did a great presentation and this time he made a competition between the two, with a bit more tech aspects than the other presentations, but with lots of charisma and humor to make up for it. :)

You can see video recordings of the talks over at SceneSat who once again have documented the whole thing. \o

So what I realized at the party, especially in a conversation with Hollowman, is that a demo’s connection with the rest of the world is what makes it extra interesting to hear about. Sure it’s about its place in the scene and its influence within the scene, but how it takes in the outside world, or how it relates to it, is at least as important.

So I hope to see more of these presentations in the future. Copy copy copy!

First photo by Kristian Tjessem

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