Archive for the ‘demoscene’ Category

1989 Appearance of the Chip Music Term

March 14, 2017

Who first started to use the chipmusic term, when and where? I once wrote that 4mat’s first chip music disk from 1989 could be one of the oldest mentions of the term. But nobody knew where that music disk was. Until now. Exotica found it!

It’s a music demo called Chip Music, for the Amiga. Since the Amiga pretty much only plays samples, it doesn’t have a sound chip in the traditional sense. What people did was to synthesize sound in software, with SIDmon and other programs. As you can see in the screenshot, “playroutine by 4-mat” indicates that he made a custom player to make this chip music. In the scroll text of the release, it reads:


Sounds good. But the thing is that all of these songs were actually made in Soundtracker. Using samples. 4mat told me he changed the labels in the Soundtracker player, as a bit of a joke. Maybe it was a wink at the die hard future composers on the Amiga who used C64-like hypertrackers rather than the new era of soundtrackers. 4mat and other early pioneers proved that it was possible to make chiptunes in a soundtracker, as well.

This production hints that the word chip music was already in use at the time, and it seems to have meant “synthetic” Amiga music. It’s also symbolizes the change of the meaning of the term, to mostly refer to chip modules – sample-based soundtracker music – for the next decade or so. At least from what I’ve been able to find out, but would love to hear alternative facts on this!

Yeah, and then McLaren and the early 2000’s chipscene decided that real chipmusic was made on PSG soundchips and forgot all about the 1990’s chipscene. But that’s a different story.

Obvious disclaimer for the obvious disclaimees: This is not to say that chipmusic per se did not exist before 1988, only that the term wasn’t used yet.

What Can We Learn From the Demoscene?

November 28, 2016

I was in Montréal for the I/O Symposium and gave the talk What Can We Learn From the Demoscene? In 45 minutes I explained everything about the scene and explained what other fields could learn from it.

Or well, not exactly. I tried to give a broad view, but I zoomed in on four key points:

1. Computing as craft. The idea that code (and music and graphics) requires skills and knowledge about the material you are using. The techne is more important than the art, and the human is more important than the machine. Basically. This means that the scene is making computing sustainable, when most others are not and the internet already seems to require nuclear power to live.

2. Non-recorded formats. Releasing things as code rather than recordings gives very different possibilities. Scene productions are not products – removed from the platform once it’s finished – no, they are states of the machine (Botz). There are countless archives of data that future researches can unleash heavy data analysis on. What will the recording industry offer to future researchers? Not much. Especially not if they maintain their stance on copyright and related rights.

3. Collective copyright system. There has always been a tension around ownership in the scene. Early on there might have been plenty of anti-copyright among crackers, but later sceners who wanted to protect their works had a much more conservative stance. I exemplified this through the Amiga mod-scene, where artists sampled records and claimed ownership to the samples. “Don’t steal my samples” like it says in many a mod-file. On the other hand, the mod-format made it extremely easy for anyone to take those samples, or that cool bassline, or whatever else they might fancy. The remix culture was present in the materiality, but the scene resisted it for various reasons. They developed a praxis where artists who transgressed – who borrowed too much, or in a wrong way – would be shamed in public and have their status lowered. This sounds brutal and even primitive, but copyright praxis today means that you can do whatever you want if you have the capital for it. Which is perhaps not much better?

4. A bounded culture. There is a sense of detachment from the rest of society in the scene. The crackers and traders broke laws, the sysops didn’t want journalists sneaking around in their bulletin boards, and some artists follow the idea of “what’s made in the scene stays in the scene”. Some online forums today do not accept members if they are not sceners. And so on. There are all kinds of problems with this attitude, but it also meant that the scene could let their traditions and rituals take root, over a long period of time. Without it, it’s harder to imagine that kids in the 1990’s could maintain a network culture on their own, even before the www was commercialized. The question is, though, how many teenagers today are interested in all those obscure traditions and rituals?

Building on talks I’ve had with Gleb Albert, I also talked shortly about the neoliberal tendencies in the scene. How meritocracy and competition was so important, how groups were sometimes run as businesses with leaders and creatives and workers, and how there was a dream of having a network culture where The Man was not involved.

Discussions followed about how the neoliberal tendencies were different in the North American demoscene. In America, they said, people got into cracking games and making demos with a goal set on making a career and making money. I think this is one of the topics that Gleb Albert is looking into (in Europe), especially the connections between the cracking scene and the games industry.

There were also discussions about what I’ve called the collective copyright system. Some people in the audience talked about how coders would secretly look at other people’s code (because, again, that’s possible due to the formats used) and take inspiration from it. I’m sure most sceners did this at one point or another. But the point is that it wasn’t considered positive like in remix cultures such as hip-hop, vaporwave or plunderphonics. That tension between the Open and the Closed is probably something we need to understand better when we develop post-copyright networks in the digital.

Cartridge Music – the Best of Two Worlds?

August 18, 2016


Releasing music on a cartridge that needs an old 8-bit platform to work, might seem like the worst way of releasing music today. But if you think about it a bit more…. A cartridge takes the best parts of the software-world and the hardware-world: You get a good-looking physical object, and it doesn’t have to contain only static recordings that are the same forever and ever.

The first cartridge release I heard about was Vegavox, a NES-cartridge made by Alex Mauer in 2007 with a basic interface to select songs. The follow-up, Vegavox II (below) was more refined with custom moving graphics for each song.

This looks similar to music videos, but under the hood it’s actually quite different. A video is a recording – a stream that plays from A to B the same way every time. Vegavox II on the other hand, is code and instructions that requires a very specific platform for playback. It’s more like a theater than a movie. Potentially, the user/viewer can ruin the whole thing by interrupting and destroying.

In the 1960’s this was a politically fueled idea that became prevalent in the computer arts to come. The power of the user. Today there are of course countless apps, games and sites with playful audiovisual interaction. But there’s not a whole lot of musical apps and situations where the composer really tries to give the user power over their own composition. Ah, the neurotic narcissism of music folks, eh? ^__^


In the mid-1980’s, people started to rip game music and make compilations for the user to choose songs and trigger sound effects. The teenagers in the burgeoning demoscene started to make their own music, and by 1991 the music disk was an established format with quality releases such as Bruno’s Box 3, Crystal Symphonies and His Master’s Noise and plenty of gritty hip house megamix type of things, like Tekkno Bert.

These music disks normally pretended to be recorded music, even if it wasn’t. Under the hood there were notes and instruments being played live by software/hardware. You can see it in The Top Boys’ music disk above, where the notes are “played” on the keyboard. Theoretically the user could change each and every note, unlike a video where you can’t change the music at all. Music disks normally didn’t allow that, but commercial releases like the Delta Loader and To be on Top did.

While musical interaction almost seemed (and seems) a bit sinful to the genius music brain, visual interaction was (and is) more common. Back in the 1980’s there was 8-bit generative visuals like Jeff Minter’s Psychedelia (and other acid-ish stuff hm) that taps into earlier things like Atari’s Video Synthesizer.

Returning to the topic of cartridges and jumping ahead to 2016, RIKI released the Famicom-cartridge 8bit Music Power with music by eg Hally and Saitone. The user could interact with the music aswell as play games, and there were visualizers for the music. It’s like a mixture of a music disk and interactive music games.

Musical user interaction is still a rather unexplored field. Perhaps the user can mute instruments (8bit music power), move back and forth through a timeline (, dynamic game music) or trigger sounds/visuals in a game/composer environment (Playground). One recent interesting example is Yaxu’s Spicule, where the user can change the algorithms that compose the music in realtime.

A while back, Ray Manta at DataDoor came up with the idea to make a C64-cartridge and continue this exploration. So me, 4mat and iLKke got to work (and also did this). DUBCRT is our attempt to merge ideas from these different eras. There’s some music disk vibes to it, but in a kind of abstract and 1960’s modernist way. For each track there is a visualizer that spits out PETSCII-graphics, based on the music that is played.

The interaction is not all rationally easy to understand, but you can change the parameters of the visuals and (in a hidden part) change which audio sequences are played for each voice. You can also superimpose audio waveforms onto them, which means that you can pretty much ruin the song completely. A big plus! Nobody’s in charge. You can hear an example in Tim Koch’s remix in the album-release on Bandcamp.

All of this fits in 64 kilobytes, which means less than 8 kilobyte per song/visual. 4mat is known to only need 23 bytes to make good C64-stuff, and I tried to optimize my songs to fit aswell. All of ilKke’s graphics are in PETSCII, which also helped to keep the filesize down.

Here’s hoping to more absurd musical power interactions in the future! And since DUBCRT sold out in three hours, it actually seems like more people see this is as the best of two worlds. He he he…

Black Dog, Swedish House Mafia, Anthony Rother – New Old Sceners!

November 13, 2015

After I published the rough blog post draft Famous People who Came From the Scene I received hundreds of suggestions of sceners who moved on to the music charts, the cinema, the gaming industry, and so on. The “success stories”. A bit overwhelming, and I had to try to decide which were relevant to include or not. I didn’t have time to do a thorough job, unfortunately.

But I learned a lot of new things! The Finnish games industry seems to be even more riddled with ex-sceners than Sweden is. I was also reminded that the softsynth company AudioRealism is from an Atari-scener. And that several sceners started to make 3D graphics and visual effects for Hollywood-style movies.

What I found even more interesting is that Anthony Rother, one of the bigger names in European “oldschool electro” scene especially 15 years ago, used to be in the C64-scene as Anthony R/Online. He didn’t release much it seems – there is just one song on CSDb – but he went to the legendary Venlo party in the Netherlands, December 1988. Although he never got there. He was stopped at the border because his passport was in bad shape. So Anthony and his group mates in Online ended up hanging around in Heinsberg until the discotheque opened as Paradroid put it. Thanks to Tero for digging up this information. And here is Tero’s C64 signed by Anthony, btw:

tero mäyränen anthony rother hacker online

Other sceners chose the mainstream, or eurodisco specifically. In Finland, Captain/Frantic was involved in the euro disco group Dance Nation (check this video!) and he probably even made some Smurf eurodisco. Thomas Detert, a famous name in C64-music, also made eurodisco in Activate (see video below).

A related genre to eurodisco, progressive trance (oops, dodging glow sticks from angry trancers once again), also has some big acts with scene backgrounds: Infected Mushroom and Logic Bomb. And in the real modern version of eurodisco, EDM, there is also some scene influence. Axwell of Swedish House Mafia used to make Amiga music as Quazar.

But what made me most happy to find, thanks to Tim Koch, was the old Amiga productions of Black Dog Productions. The two original members (now active as Plaid) made a few mysterious yet harmless Amiga “demos” before they pioneered the early 1990’s “intelligent techno” that led to IDM.

Fractal Factory #1 from 1990 (above) is way more hip hop inspired than most scene works at the time. Loopy and “trancey”, the rhythmic and harmonic approach has many similarities to their seminal Warp-album Bytes from 1993.

The Pharaoh amiga demo (above) is more rave-culture oriented. The music has these loopy, mysterious and monotonous beats and the visuals have.. well.. loopy, mysterious and monotonous animations. :)

They used a very odd music software. The comments on the Pharaoh-video (recommended reading) leads to this video of the Pharaoh-song playing in a tracker called MultiMedia Sound. This seems to be one of the least popular Amiga music programs ever, judging from SOAMC. To be fair though, there are hundreds of songs made in its predecessor, SoundFX.

Black Dog released more Amiga-stuff. Fractal Factory #2 was on a CU Amiga disk, for example. Interesting to note is that they released it in the public domain and not in the scene. While that might seem nitpicky, these were two culturally separated fields at the time. For sceners, the public domain was lame. You wouldn’t want to be caught dialling into a BBS full of PD-lamers! Although PD-people watched and distributed demos, afaik there was some resentment towards the cracker-parts of the scene. This distinction can still be seen today, for example in arguments about whether Compunet-productions should be on CSDb or not.

Black Dog had their own BBS called Black Dog Towers. I can’t find much info about it on the web, but I remember reading a log from a local trader who called the BBS using a Calling Card (w0w). He got to chat with Ken Downie who made some a snarky remark about the trader’s handle. Fair enough perhaps, becase he used the handle aPH3X tW1Nn. :)

Right, enough for now. Feel free to explore the list of “famous” sceners and add your suggestions to this neverending project.


Famous People Who Came From the Demoscene

June 12, 2015

The demoscene can be an utterly useless experience to have. Who cares about what you can do in 1024 bytes? On the other hand, the scene is like a secret society. Sceners give other sceners work opportunities, and recommend each other for projects. I’ve heard stories from sceners going to a job interview, mentioned their demogroup, and basically got the job. “Yeah nice demos man, you can start monday”.

Some huge companies were born as demoscene groups. DICE came from The Silents. IO Interactive came from Cryonics. The IT-company TAT started as Yodel. And there are individual sceners who have managed to become “famous” on their own. Famous in the sense of getting plenty of recognition within a specific field or in the mainstream.

The purpose of this list is not to make a general “this is what sceners are doing outside of the scene” (check Scener Release list, demosceners on Wikipedia, old-ish list of sceners in the games industry) but to show examples of people who managed to go from the scene and do something out of the ordinary.

The entries on this list have not been scrutinized and researched as much other texts here, such as the Timeline. Please report any errors you might find, and feel free to suggest new additions by commenting or mailing (faxATgoto80DOTcom). And please get in touch if you want your name removed from this list.

Big thanks for the help: Akira, Tempest, Deadguy, Stage7, lug00ber, S. Alexander Reed, Inigo Quilez, Alex Evans, Mistigris, Bryface, Fine Cut Bodies, Kaneel, uucidl, Paniq, Glenn Lunder, Mordi, Hunter Chorey, Saga Musix, Kuba Winnicki, Rez, the Pouet-tweeter, Henri Toivonen, Bent Stamnes, iLKke, Simon Carless, evil paul, David Weinehall, Markku Reunanen, Esko Ahonen, Amplitude Problem, Øistein Eide, Tim Koch, Gargaj, Juan Irming, Toni Kurkimäki, shawnphase, RadiantX, Velo, HP, d0us, Hedning, Saku Lehtinen, Steve Anthony Williams, Fini Alring, Jaro Janto, Niezly Jakub, all the people in the Demoscene FB-group, Jari Jaanto, DeeKay, Kris, Kovacm, Frost, and even more.

Audio & Music

The late 90’s scene spawned quite a few semi-famous IDM-artists. Brothomstates (Dune/Orange sometimes together with Yolk/Parallax) have released IDM on Warp and are part of the TPOLM-universe in the scene. Bogdan Raczynski (Karl) released on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex Records, but started in the tracker scene as Karl. The label Merck released sceners and sceneroids like Lackluster (Distance/TPOLM), Ilkae, Blamstrain, Vim, Machinedrum, Frank and Bill, md (Mellow-D/TPOLM), Xhale, Crankshaft (Yolk/TPOLM), Tim Koch (Serkul/Cydonia).

Adam Skorupa (Scorpik/Pulse, Poland) – a composer and sound designer famous foremost in Poland.

Alek Száhala (Apofis/TDC, Finland) reached some fame with his Hard NRG music in the 00’s.

Alexander Odden (Flipside/Nazareth, Norway) is in Pegboard Nerds.

Anders Carlsson (Goto80/HT^UP, Sweden) that’s me doing this list and I’ve made some stuff.

Anders Johansson (Static/Rebels, Sweden) is an editor in the film industry.

Andrew Sega (Necrös/FM, USA) of the synthpop group IRIS. In this video he talks about the scene stuff.

Anthony Rother (Anthony R/Online) made music and almost went to the Venlo party december 1988.

Attila Fodor (Poacher) does music as Fine Cut Bodies.

Axel Hedfors (Quazar, Sweden) is Axwell in Swedish House Mafia.

Bas Bron (Strike/Axis) makes music as Bastian, De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, etc.

Bjørn Lynne (Dr. Awesome/Crusaders, Norway) works with music for games and other media.

Charles Deenen (TMC, Netherlands) formed Maniacs of Noise, has worked at EA, and works with games and movies.

Chris Coady (Christopher Robin/Trance, USA) is a well-established music producer working with bands like Beach House and !!!.

Christian Morgenstern (Christian Morgenstern/Covert Action Team^Essence, Germany) became a big techno artist in the 1990’s.

Cliff Lothar, a newly hyped electro artist, has a scene background but maybe I’m not supposed to tell…

Daniel Hansson (Matrix/Zone 45, Sweden) co-founded the synthesizer company Elektron.

Den Svenska Björnstammen, a Grammy-award winning Swedish pop group, have two members from the scene: Sombie/Tazadum and Buzzie/Syntax Terror.

Dubmood (Dubmood/Razor1911, Sweden/France) runs the label Data Airlines and works full-time with music.

Erez Eisen (Erez Eisen, Israel) is in Infected Mushroom‘s and used to make MOD and S3M music.

Frédéric Motte (Moby/Dreamdealers^Sanity, France) works with game music and studio music.

Fredrik Segerfalk (Moppe/Oneway) runs Analog Sweden and recently crowdfunded 25,000 euros.

Guillaume Leroux (Lunatic Asylum/Quartex/Paradox) became famous in hard trance with Meltdown in 1993 and then made more stuff.

Gustaf Grefberg (Lizardking/Alcatraz, Sweden) made game music for e.g Wolfenstein and Syndicate.

Hans van Vliet (Hunz, Australia) formed the videogame band 7bit hero and works with music.

Jamie Watts aka Kilowatts and Skeetaz (Purple People Eater/Mirage, USA) releases techno, IDM, breakbeat, etc.

Janne Suni (Tempest/Fairlight) became famous when Timbaland sampled Acidjazzed Evening.

Jesper Kyd (Jesper Kyd/The Silents, Denmark) works with soundtracks for games and movies.

Joakim Cosmo (Jucke/Judas, Sweden) is a well-known techno/house DJ in Sweden and Denmark.

Jochen Hippel (Mad Max/The Exceptions, Germany) worked on game music for a while and then ??

Johan Antoni (Nibbel, Sweden) founded the famous Swedish music store Jam and makes music as Urban Electro Squad

Jonne Valtonen (Purple Motion/Future Crew) makes music for games, theaters, orchestras, etc.

Joris de Man (Scavenger, Netherlands) was in the Atari scene and now makes game music.

Jouni Helminen (Dharma, Finland) released drum n’ bass on Moving Shadow in the 00’s sometimes together with fellow scener Prob.

Juan Irming (7an/SYNC, Sweden) makes music as Amplitude Problem.

Juha Kujanpää (Dizzy/CNCD, Finland) is sort of famous in folk music.

Kenneth Graham (KG, USA) is a serial entrepreneur and was a prominent DJ in the Los Angeles area in the 90’s and 00’s.

Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz (Wierza/Venture, Poland) is a freelance composer, well established in Poland.

Logic Bomb‘s original members were the Amiga-sceners Jonez and Thug, who made the European Top 20 diskmag. Jonez was also in Byterapers and Triad.

Mark Knight (TDK/Melon Dezign) is a game sounds designer/composer, and session musician.

Markus Kaarlonen (Captain/Frantic, Finland) made eurodisco for Dance Nation in the 1990’s, smurf hits and then Poets of the Fall. Also works at Futuremark.

Martin Iveson (Nuke/Anarchy aka Spaceman/Lemon) now makes records and game music.

Martyn (911/Movement, Netherlands) is quite big in bass music.

Matt Simmonds (4-mat/Anarchy) “invented chipmods” and has made music for many games.

Mattias Ziessow (Hellhound) plays in one of the more famous Swedish pop-EBM bands, Spark!.

Muffler (Muffler, Finland) is a big name in drum n’ bass.

Oskar Stål (Flamingo/Light, Sweden) is the CTO of Spotify.

Oskari Tammelin (Phantom/Jeskola?, Finland) made the Jeskola Buzz music software.

Patrick Lindsey (Bass/The Silents, Germany) is a techno DJ and producer.

Paul Harris (member of BBC) is part of the house duo Dirty Vegas who got a big hit in 2003.

Raphael Gesqua (Audiomonster/Melon Dezign, France) makes music for games, movies, etc.

Ronny Pries (Ronny/Teklords^Farbrausch, Germany) has released techno on labels like Forte and Superstition.

Rune RK (Spaze/GiGA Prod) is a music producer who’s worked with eg Coldplay and Nicki Minaj.

Slusnik Luna (included Strobo/Stellar, Finland) reached the UK top 40 in 2001 with the track Sun.

Tim Jackiw (Mel/Pearl, Australia) is now big in minimal techno.

Thomas Detert (X-ample Architecture) was a famous C64-composer and then made mainstream success with the eurodisco group Activate.

Thomas J. Bergersen (Lioz/Index) has worked with big mainstream artists with his Two Steps From Hell company.

Toasty (Damo/Reservoir Gods, UK) was doing dubstep very early, and used to be a scene coder.

Tomas Danko (Danko/Fairlight) became famous with Starchild, worked at DICE, and now works with beer.

Ural 13 Diktators (Finland) started as a music group on the Amiga under the same name.

Øistein Eide (Øistein Eide, Norway) deejays and produces as Boom Jinx.

Design & Visuals

Andrzej Dragan (Dreamer/Flying Cows) is a famous portrait photographer.

Balazs Kiss (Ward/Enlightenment, Hungary) used to organize the RAGE parties and now works as with lighting and effects for movies like Hobbit and Avatar.

Frauke Bönsch (Fashion/Farbrausch, Germany) is an award-winning photographer.

Íñigo Quílez (Iq/RGBA) is famous for his tiny demos and has worked for eg Pixar and received a VES-award for his work.

Irfan Celik (Ivan/Smash Designs, Germany) does 3D work for major Hollywood movies.

Janne Kontkanen (Olwi/Carillon^Complex, Finland) has done major research in computer graphics and was part of a team that won a technical Oscar.

Melon Dezign became Melon Dezign.

Misko Iho (Pixel/Future Crew) is an award-winning film director and music video producer.

Oliver Gaspirtz (OMG/Amok, Germany/USA) did the first C64 diskmag and is now a cartoonist.

Peter Baustaedter (J.O.E/Scoopex^TRSI) makes visual effects for movies.

Rune Spaans (Sparkler/Megastyle, Norway) did VFX for the low-budget hit movie Troll Hunter.

Szabolcs Menyhei (Inferno/Haujobb) works with 3D graphics for movies like Godzilla and Ant-man.

Thomas Abrahamsson (Bluestar/SYNC, Sweden) founded Elfwood, the largest website for fantasy art.

Thomas Obermaier (Pro/Nuance) makes tools for visual effects, popular in the movie industry.

Thomas Pringle (Dr. Zulu/GiGA Prod) works with illustration and concepts for games and movies like Cloud Atlas and Bioshock 2.


Andreas Varga (Mr. SID/HVSC Crew, Austria/Netherlands) does engine code for Guerilla Games (Killzone etc)

Ari Seppä (Duce/Extend, Finland) works for Rovio on Angry Birds as a GFX artist

Alex Evans (Statix/TPOLM) founded Media Molecule and worked with games like Little Big Planet.

Bugbear was formed by members from Byterapers.

Christophe Balestra (Oxbab/Oxygene) is the co-president at Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us)

Daniel Scott (Dan/Anarchy) started at Core in 1991 and has since then worked on many games.

DICE was formed out of The Silents, and many sceners work there today.

Funcom involved many sceners.

Gerhard Seiler (Photon/Lazer, Austria) and Harald Riegler (Energizer/Lazer, Austria) formed Sproing, one of the larger independent game development studios in Europe.

Grand cru (Finland) was formed by sceners like Ilkka Paananen and Markus Pasula.

Housemarque (Finland) was a merger of Bloodhouse (created by Bloodsuckers) and Terramarque (created by CNCD).

IO Interactive was formed out of Cryonics.

Jaakko Iisalo (Croaker/Halcyon, Finland) made Angry Birds with music by Ari Pulkkinen (Djartz).

Jim Malmros (Jimbo, Sweden) has worked for IO and DICE on games like Hitman and Battlefield.

Lasse Louhento (Kube/CNCD) is Game Lead at Supercell (Clash of Clans)

Magnus Sjöberg (Pantaloon/Fairlight, Sweden) is lead engine developer for Battlefield at Electronic Arts

Matt Svoboda (Smash/Fairlight) worked at Sony for 9 years.

Olof Gustafsson (Blaizer/TBL^The Silents) works with game audio.

Remedy was formed by members from Future Crew (PC), Scoopex (Amiga), Aggression (Atari) among others.

Shin’en Multimedia was formed by Abyss.

Simon Carless (Hollywood or h0l) is an established figure in the video games industry, writing and organizing events.

Starbreeze Studios grew out of the scene group Triton.

Straylight Productions (USA) was a game music group with Basehead, Necrös and Siren.

Sumea, the Finnish game company, grew out of Virtual Dreams.

Tatu Blomberg (Mr. Sex/Byterapers, Finland) worked on some major games. Also other Byterapers in the same company: sivu and t.o.b.

Politics and activism

Kim Dotcom (Kim Schmitz, Bitbug, Germany) who since Megaupload is a famous piracy/activist/entrepreneur. In the 1990’s he was a not very well-liked warez d00d who ran the BBS House of Coolness.

Peter Sunde (Nike/Craze, TRSI, Fairlight, Sweden) co-founded The Pirate Bay and has ever since been a sort of activist.

Tamas Polgar (Tomcat, Hungary) wrote the Freax book series, and is a well-known in Hungary for his radical nationalist/libertarian (?) activism that has led to several arrests.

The Bureau for Piracy (Sweden) that preceded The Pirate Bay involved several people with a connection to the scene, like CyberC.

Tony Krvaric (Strider/Fairlight, Sweden/USA) is a republican politician in USA.

Troed Sångberg (Red Fox/SYNC, Sweden) is one of the top men of the Swedish Pirate Party, and also works for Sony… as a futurist?

Code and Hardware

Adam Dunkels (Trident/Active) pioneered the Internet of Things.

Chris Heilman (Cupid/Hitmen) was an dev evangelist at Mozilla and later moved on to Microsoft.

Futuremark was formed out of the scene groups Future Crew and Mature Furk.

Haxx was formed out of Horizon.

Linus Walleij aka King Fisher/TRIAD is one of the top Linux kernel developers.

Massimino Pascal (Skal/Bomb, France) is a senior software engineer at Google.

Mike Hanney (Zam Diesel/NeXT, Sweden) founded the softsynth company AudioRealism.

Mikko Mononen (Memon/Moppi, Finland) is lead AI programmer at Crytek.

Nicolas Stefani (Miko/Tiny Toons) was rated in the top-100 coders in France.

Tomasz Pytel was one of the main coders of PayPal, and was active in the scene as Tran.

Yodel, a PC/Amiga group, founded TAT that was sold to Blackberry for 150 million dollars.

Jari Jaanto (Jaffa/Static, Finland) co-founded IRC-Galleria, the largest social media in Finland during the 00’s.


Tommi Musturi (Electric/Extend, Finland) makes comic books and art, and has received Finland’s biggest comics prize.

Bengt Sjölén (Redhead/SYNC, Sweden) is an artist and serial entrepreneur and has exhibited his work at MOMA in New York.


Fredrik Kahl (Gollum/Fairlight) is a professor in computer vision, image analysis, etc.

Keijo Heljanko (Cable/Complex) works as an associate professor at Aalto University in the same department as Slayer/Scoopex.

Mårten Björkman (Celebrandil/Phenomena, Sweden) is a professor in computer science, focused on computer vision and robotics.

Markku Reunanen aka Marq/Dekadence^Fit is a lecturer and one of the most active demoscene researchers.

Niklas Beisert (Pascal/Cubic Team, Switzerland) wrote Cubic Player and is an associate professor in mathematical physics.

Perttu Hämäläinen (Farqu/Nikki Corruptions, Finland) is the professor of game design at Aalto university and the founder of the Virtual Air Guitar Company.

Tommi Junttila (Slayer/Scoopex, Finland) is an algorithm researcher and a university lecturer at Aalto University


Daan Veldhuizen (Screes/RBi, Netherlands) has made acclaimed documentaries.

Denis Moschitto (MerlinM/Scoopex^Nuance, Germany) is a somewhat famous actor in Germany.

Jukka O. Kauppinen (Grendel/Byterapers, Finland) is one of the more famous tech journalists in Finland.

Oliver Borgardt (Cosmic/Nuance, Germany) pioneered 3D-printed jewelry.


PRI/Oxyron released some records.

Shogoon was/is a classical guitarist?

Romeo Knight.

Check this and the demosceners category at wikipedia

This about sceners in games production

Darude used FT2, but was he in the scene?

Maybe David Fincher?

Rumour has it that Ulf in Ace of Base did Amiga music for the scene?

Goodiepal was supposedly involved in the scene?

Critical Artware?

Black Dog Productions reportedly made some demos.

Firefox/PHA works with mainstream music.

Urban Shakedown?

Coldcut and Bomb the Bass (etc).

Saku Lehtinen mentioned: “Hybrid Graphics (later NVidia) and ATI etc.”

Megasnail is a Doctor of Politics, Steve of Zenith is Doctor twice over in both social and clinical psychology,

Emmanuel Top?

Generation 64: A Harmless Story About the C64 Generation?

October 4, 2014

I just got a copy of the book Generation 64, and wanted to make a quick blurb..

Generation 64 is a new book about the generation of Swedes who grew up with the Commodore 64. It’s only available in Swedish, but I think there’s a Kickstarter somewhere to get it translated into English. And that would be great. This is an important story to be told, and it’s well researched and contains lots of curiosities, good photos, and so on. It’s definitely a book worth reading. Get it now!

It’s a book about the past. There are interviews with famous public figures about their childhood with computers. There are also more “advanced” users like demosceners, crackers, music makers, designers, game makers, and so on. There is a clear aim of making this generation relevant by essentially describing the current successes of many of people from Generation 64. In the games industry (Candy Crush, Minecraft, DICE), in music (Axwell and Swedish House Mafia, The Hives and also non-Swedes like Legowelt, Aphrodite, and Paradox are mentioned) and of course as programmers. And as entrepreneurs.

This book paints a nice-looking picture of an important background to Sweden’s hi-tech industries, basically. I haven’t read more than half of the book yet, but it seems clear that it’s not much about politics and hacking. Which is fine, of course. It’s a book for a wider audience, and not a critical look at computer culture and society.


It connects to a history that goes something like this: in the 1980’s we had piracy and out-of-bounds hacking, in the 1990’s they went online, and now they work in the “creative industries”, with computers & networks, or at universities. There is a special section in the book about entrepreneurs. But no special sections on, you know, remix cultures or open source, file sharing, copyright fights, and so on. It’s basically more like the story of Spotify than the Pirate Bay – although both of them are represented in the book (by Peter Sunde and Oskar Stål, respectively).

As Spotify was quickly presented as The Solution to the “problem” of file sharing in Sweden, with it came a sort of white-washing of piracy. Kazaa and Fairlight are now mostly accepted as something like childhood mistakes. It’s not as controversial as it used to be.

Meanwhile, Peter Sunde is treated like crap in Swedish prison, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg is involved in a Danish court case which seems to be run with very dubious methods. The third Pirate Bay member is still on the run. And yet – the Pirate Bay is still online and torrents are being shared at more or less the same rate.

And Spotify is nowhere near a functioning business model – they are losing gazillions of money.

Obviously, this is not relevant for a book about Generation 64. My point is just that there is also a different story to be told about this culture. This rebellious use of technologies has not just been sucumbed into entrepreneurship, science and open source rhetorics. There is still lots of controveries that are not solved at all. There is still a lot of politics in this.

And had I written a book on the C64 scene, I would have emphasized that more. Sort of like I did in my 2009-paper for the re:live conference in Australia. Because that will be even more important in the future, when internet and computers are not as free as they used to be.



More Data – Less Knobs! About Tracker Music Remakes

June 17, 2014

Two old Amiga music legends have recently decided to re-make some of their olden goldies. Lizardking and Mantronix made melodic synth music, somewhere inbetween … Koto and Jean-Michel Jarre? German space disco meets Italo Disco? As cheesy as some of it is, it’s kind of hard not to like it. Atleast when you’ve been brainwashed by it when you were young. In the Amiga scene this style is known as doskpop.

After a new Facebook group popped up, with an amazing energy supplied by Slash who started it, plenty of old tracker celebrities have been showing up. Moby finished some old songs, for example.

Many of us have probably wondered what tracker musicians could’ve done with more powerful technologies. Some people seem pretty convinced that it would automatically be better, because there’s “more possibilities”. Let’s move back to the 80’s first, when Rob Hubbard made synth-versions of his songs before programming them on C64. Let’s look at One Man and His Droid. Listen to the first version here recorded with various synth gear (among them TR-606 and TB-303!). Then listen to the C64-version below.

The first version is much more rough than the second one. Understandably, of course, since the first one is a sketch. But if we look at other music that exists as both tracker music and “synth music” (in lack of a better word) it’s not unusual that this is the case. I’ve heard it in most game musicians who “re-master” their old songs to sound more modern, for example. The tracker versions are just more detailed, intricate, ornamental. Anal? Crazy? Yes, perhaps.

Check the original version of Act of Impulse by Tip & Mantronix, and then listen Mantronix’ 2012-version. The new version is better in many production-wise ways, like clarity and punch and bass and all that. But one thing is, atleast to me, better in the old version. The melodies. It’s a lot more expressive. In the original mod-file you can see all the effort of the composer with setting custom vibrato, glide and volume tweaks for individual parts, and even notes. That’s sort of a pain in the ass with modern DAWs, but in trackers you were encouraged to do so because otherwise it looked empty and “sounded lame”. The more the better. Aesthetic maximalism, as I’ve called it before.

I have a similar feeling with Lizardking’s re-makes of his own songs. It’s miles better than all the generic SID/MOD-remixes that are out there, but I still miss some of that tracker trickery that is so characteristic of tracker music. It needs to sound more “data” like we say over here in the Swedish scene. Less generic knobs, more detailed numbers. No more synth! hehehe

Ok, well, this might be the most grumpy-old-man post I’ve made so far, so I think it’s better to just stop here. But just to clarify: this is not meant to diss anything. I love the data-sound, yes, but most people obviously prefer knob music. My point is that the newer software sort of brings us away from these “hand-made” solutions that were more common before, and drives us into a different kind of sound. Because even these “unlimited” platforms have a sound to them, don’t they?


Top Amiga Scene Composers

May 23, 2014

Eurochart was a disk magazine that published perhaps the most well-respected charts of the Amiga demoscene. It was a big thing to be #1 there! Among other things, it ranked music composers and I found a list of all the #1-composers over the years (1989-2006). Made by Slash/Citron in a Facebook-group. So, I’ll just leave this here with links to their current work (not necessarily music).

Oh and just so you know – the Amiga scene didn’t die in 2006. There’s still plenty of good music being made by people like Hoffman and my group mates in Up Rough. Anyway:

Top Amiga composers (amount of #1-spots @ Eurochart)

1. Revisq – 7
2. Muffler – 6
3. Jester, Romeo Knight – 5
4. Audiomonster, 4-mat – 4
5. Tip, Moby, Jogeir – 3
6. Dr.Awesome, Reed – 2
7. TipMantronix, Dizzy, Ganja, Yolk 1

#1-spots for all Eurochart issues

#3 1. Romeo Knight / RSI
#4 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc. 
#5 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc. 
#6 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc.
#7 1. Romeo Knight / Red Sector Inc.
#8 1. 4-Mat / Anarchy (RSI?)
#9 1. 4-Mat / Anarchy 
#10 1. 4Mat (Ex.Anarchy – last appearance)
#11 1. 4-mat / Anarchy 
#12 1. Tip / Phenomena 
#13 1. Tip / Phenomena 
#14 1. Tip / Phenomena 
#15 1. Mantronix & Tip / Phenomena 
#16 1. Audiomonster / Silents 
#17 1. Audiomonster / Melon Dezign 
#18 1. Audiomonster / Melon Dezign 
#19 1. Audiomonster / Melon Dezign 
#20 1. Jester / Sanity 
#21 1. Jester / Sanity 
#22 1. Jester / Sanity 
#23 1. Jester / Sanity 
#24 1. Jester / Sanity 
#25 1. Moby / Sanity 
#26 1. Moby / Sanity 
#27 1. Moby / Sanity 
#28 1. Dizzy 
#29 1. Jogeir/Scoop
#30 1. Jogeir/Pulse&Noiseless
#31 1. Jogeir/Pulse&Noiseless
#32 1. Revisq/Anadune&Floppy
#33 1. Revisq/AND&FLP&NAH 
#34 1: Muffler of Haujobb&DCS 
#35 1: Muffler of Haujobb&DCS 
#36 1: Muffler of SCX&DCS&LVB 
#37 1. Muffler 
#38 1. Revisq 
#39 1. Revisq 
#40 1. Revisq 
#41 1. Ganja 
#42 1. Muffler 
#43 1. Muffler 
#44 1. Reed 
#45 1. Reed 
#46 1. Revisq 
#47 1. Revisq 
#48 1. Yolk



Wider Screen: Authenticity in Chipmusic

April 16, 2014

Yesterday I wrote about the new scene issue in Wider Screen, where several noteworthy scholars write on chipmusic, demoscene and warez culture. Today I return to that, to discuss the ethnographic study of authenticity in the chipscene. Chipmusic, Fakebit and the Discourse of Authenticity in the Chipscene was written by Marilou Polymeropoulou who I’ve met a few times around Europe when she’s been doing field studies for her dissertation. Her article is refreshing because it deals with technology in a non-technological way, so to say. It takes a critical look at the ideologies of chipmusic (which I also tried to do in my master’s thesis) and she doesn’t get caught up in boring discussions about what chipmusic actually is (which, uhm, I have done a lot).

Polymeropoulou divides the chipscene into three generations. The first generation is described as a demoscene-inspired strive for being an original elite, by challening the limitations of original 8-bit hardware from the 1980’s. As I understand, this generation is everything that happened before the internet went mainstream. The second generation is internet-based and focused on mobility (read Gameboy), learning by copying and making more mainstream-ish chipmusic. The third generation is characterized as “chipsters” that are more interested in sounds and timbres rather than methods and technologies.

The first generation of chipmusicians would be a very diverse bunch of people, activities and machines. Perhaps even more diverse than the chipscene is now. Back then there were not as many established norms to relate to. I mean, we hardly knew what computers or computer music was. The terms chipmusic or chiptune didn’t exist, and I doubt that it was relevant to talk about 8-bit music as a general concept. It was computer music, game music, SID-music, Nintendo-music, etcetera. People were using these 8-bit home computers to make music for school, for games, for art, for their garage band, for themselves, for Compunet, for bulletin boards, the demoscen, for crack-intros, etcetera. However, looking back through the eyes of “chipscene 2014” it makes sense to zoom in on only the demoscene during this period, as it is normally considered as one of the most important precursors.

Chip Music Festival, 1990

In the demoscene there were many people who ripped songs to copy the samples, look at their tracker tricks, or just use the song for their own demo. Copying was common, but it wasn’t exactly elite to do it. There was certainly a romantic ideology of originality at work. But I’m not so sure about ascribing a technological purism to the demoscene of that time. Sure, people loved their machines. But most sceners eventually moved on to new platforms (see Reunanen & Silvast). So I’m not sure that this generation would be the anti-thesis to fakebit. In fact, when the chipmusic term first appeared around 1990 it refered to sample-based Amiga-music that mimicked the timbres of the PSG-soundchips and the aesthetics of game music.

So, in a sense, the Amiga/PC chip-generation of the 1990’s (when the 8-bit demoscenes were very small) was actually not so far from what is called fakebit today. And that’s obviously why this big and important momentum with tens of thousands of open source chip-modules is so often ignored in histories of chipmusic. It just doesn’t fit in. (It’s also worth noting here that many if not most 8-bit demoscene people today use emulators such as VICE or UAE to make music, and use the original hardware more like a media player.)

My theory is that the hardware-fetish of the chipscene is a more recent phenomenon, established sometimes in the mid 2000’s, and I think that Malcolm McLaren’s PR-spree had something to do with it, regardless of the scene’s reaction. If you listen to the early releases at and 8bitpeoples today, you could call it fakebit if you wanted to. Just like with the Amiga-chip music of the 1990’s. So it seems to me that this generation didn’t build much on what had been done in the demoscene, other than perhaps using tools developed there. Games, on the other hand, were a popular reference. So to me, the post-2000 generation of chipmusicians feels more like a rupture than a continuation from the previous generation (something like hobbyism->crackerscene->demoscene->trackerscene->netlabels).

At this time I was still a purist demoscene snob, and I thought that this new kind of bleepy music was low quality party/arty stuff. Still, I decided to gradually engage in it and I don’t regret it. But I was one of very few demosceners who did that. Because this was, in short, something very different from the previous chipmusic that was characterized by lots of techné and home consumption. Micromusic was more for the lulz and not so serious, which was quite refreshing not only compared to the demoscene but compared to electronic music in general (you know, IDM and drum n’ bass and techno = BE SERIOUS).

It’s funny, but when Polymeropoulou describes the third generation of the chipscene (the chipsters) it actually reminds me a bit of the early demoscene people, perhaps even during the 1980’s.

Chipsters compose chipmusic – and of course, fakebit – on a variety of platforms, including modern computers, applying different criteria, based on popular music aesthetics rather than materialist approaches. [..] Chipsters find creative ways combining avant-garde and subcultural elements in order to break through to mainstream audiences, a practice which is criticised by purists.

In the 1980’s they used modern computers to try to make something that sounded like the “real” music in the mainstream. They borrowed extensively from contemporaries such as Iron Maiden, Laserdance and Madonna and tried to make acid house, new beat, synth pop, etc. There was definitely some freaky stuff being made (“art”), and something like comedy shows (Budbrain) and music videos (State of the Art) and later on so called design demos (Melon Dezign) and those demos appealed to people who were not sceners. And the megamixes! Here’s one from 1990:

Okay… how did we end up here? Oh yeah — my point is, I suppose, that the demoscene is not as purist as people think, and never was. Atleast that’s my impression of it. But even if I disagree with the generational categorization of Polymeropoulou’s text, I consider this article as an important contribution to the field of techno-subcultures. Also, I am even quoted a few times both as a researcher and as an anonymous informant. Maybe you can guess which quotes are mine, hehe.

Rewiring the History of the Demoscene: Wider Screen

April 15, 2014


Wider Screen has just released a themed issue on scene research, including scientific articles on the demoscene and the chipscene. It seems to be some very good texts, although I’ve only read one so far. So let’s talk about that one!

Markku Reunanen gives a long-awaited critical examination of the history of the demoscene in How Those Crackers Became Us Demosceners. He notes that the traditional story is basically that people cracked games, made intros for them, and then started to make demos. He problematizes this boring story by describing different overlaps between the worlds of games, demos and cracks. The first time I really reflected on this issue was in Daniel Botz’ dissertation. It is indeed obvious that this is a complex story full of conflicting narratives, and we can assume that (as always) The History is based on the current dominant discourses.

What do I mean with that? Well, take Sweden as an example, where the scene was always quite large. These days the scene is usually, when it is mentioned at all, described as a precursor to games, digital arts and other computer-related parts of “the creative industries“. When Fairlight’s 25-year-anniversary was reported in the Swedish mainstream media, cracking was portrayed as a legal grey area that contributed to the BNP. The forth-coming Swedish book Generation 64 seems to be telling a similar story. The scene was a bunch of kids who might have done some questionable things, but since these people are now found in Swedish House Mafia, Spotify and DICE it seems like all is forgiven. But it’s not.

Look at what the other sceners are doing today. The ones who didn’t get caught up in IT, advertising and academia. Piratbyrån, The Pirate Bay and Megaupload all involved scene people and, from the previous story, appears as a darker side of the scene. The data hippies, the copyists, the out-of-space artists, the dissidents, the fuck-ups. The people who don’t have much to gain from their scene history. But also the BBS-nazis (one of them living close to me) is interesting to consider today, when far-right discussion boards are frequently mentioned in the media. The info-libertarians at Flashback also remind me of the scene’s (in a very broad sense) spirit of “illegal information” and VHS-snuff movies that I mention in The Forgotten Pioneers of Creative Hacking and Social Networking (2009). Something else I mention there, as does Reunanen, are the swappers and traders whose sole function was to copy software around the world. But they are not really part of the history since they weren’t doing that Creative and Original work that we seem to value so dearly today.

No, the scene wasn’t a harmless place for boys-2-men, from geeks to CEOs. And also – there were plenty of people making weird stuff with home computers that were not part of the scene. People at Compunet were making audiovisual programs that looked really similar to the demoscene’s, but are usually not regarded as part of the scene. Possibly because of its apparent disconnection from the cracker scene. I’ve sometimes seen STE argue about this with sceners at CSDb. Jeff Minter did demo-like things, and people had been doing demo-like computer works for decades already. And all the hobbyists who wrote simple or strange sonic and visual experiments on their 8-bit home computers, but never released it in the scene? Well, they are effectively being distanced and erased from the history of the demoscene by not being included in archives like CSDb and HVSC that exclude “irrelevant” things.

So yeah – thumbs up to Markku for this article! Let’s not forget the provocative and subversive elements of the scene (read more about that in the 2009-article I link to above) because they might become very relevant sooner than we think.