Ancient Trackers

March 13, 2016

orchestrion - Baud_museum_mg_8461

The roots of trackers is normally traced to the mid 1980s with Soundmonitor and Soundtracker. That was the genesis, The Root, the big bang. Boom! As if trackers appeared out of thin air. But where do we look for the precursors to what became known as trackers in the 1980s?

First of all, let’s define a tracker as a vertical step sequencer with alphanumerical symbols where positioning controls time but not pitch. They are either absolute (for soundtrackers) or referential (as in hypertrackers). Although there are other types of trackers, this covers the bulk of them (read more here and here).

Secondly, we need to distinguish between the materiality and the language of trackers.

Materially speaking, trackers work more like step sequencers than as piano rolls. Each event has a set duration in time, usually with a rather crude quantization. In piano roll sequencers the composer positions the stave to set the pitch and defines the duration, with a quantization that often has a higher resolution than trackers do.

More than 1000 years ago, persian inventors were automating the playback of music: ie, programming music. In the music box each note has a timeline where the composer inserts events, like in piano rolls. In the 20th century, player pianos built further on these ideas and became quite commercially successful. In these media there are individual timelines for each note. One timeline for C, one for D, and so on. Raymond Scott’s Circle Machine from the 1950s instead used one single timeline where the composer could set the pitch on each step. Many modern analogue sequencers use the same logic. In the 1980s, trackers brought this logic into a coded computer environment.

In a tracker, the composer can program each step to set pitch, timbre, volume or various kind of modulations. Right next to the note column there is an effects column. In Soundtrackers there are preset effects and the composer sets the intensity of the effect: 1XX for pitchbend up, 3XX to slide the note, 4XX for vibrato, AXX to fade the volume, and so on. In hypertrackers, the effects refer to a table of data elsewhere, so you can program your own effects.

lejaren hiller knobs 1970

This is what I mean with the language of trackers. Each step in a tracker sends instructions to the soundchip about what it should do. Tracker songs are like a list of instructions, and the palette is much bigger than in traditional notation. In the 1960s, Lejaren Hiller (almost the inventor of computer music) and a Japanese Fluxus-guy made musical instructions that looked similar to what tracker songs do today. Vertical text-mode lists of instructions to control the music, although not for computers.

In trackers (for PSG-soundchips that don’t use samples) each step can, in theory, contain any instruction that the soundchip or the computer can understand. Even non-musical instructions, like sync points to visuals (a popular trick in the demoscene). Trackers usually don’t offer this kind of freedom but the C64-tracker that I use, defMON, does something along these lines. While other trackers make a clear cut between what an instrument is and what a modulation is, defMON doesn’t discriminate. Everything is everything.

Sheet music are also a list of instructions, and could be called software. Or, with a gigantic stretch, even the more fashionable “algorithm”-term could be used. But imho, tracker music really is deserving of the software term, both materially and linguistically. A tracker song contains both the composition and the style of the performance. All the author genius, all the funk, all the style. It’s all in there. The instructions determine the performance almost completely. But it is not the performance. It is not a documentation of the performance, like recorded music is. The performance always happens in real-time as you play the file, and it will sound slightly different depending on the hardware you use.

Historically, economically and politically it has been – and still is – important to categorize music as either performance, recording or notation. Who wrote the song? Who owns the recording? Who gets the money for performing it?

I’m still fascinated by the materiality of tracker music for this reason. There is much more research to be made about the precursors to trackers, both as an interface and as a format. The history sketched above is just one suggestion, and I’m looking forward to the criticism! Be my guest to check out صفی الدین الارموی‎’s musical notation from 800 years ago based on numbers and letters, Braille music, ancient numbered musical notation in China, and klavarskribo which is a vertical notation sort of like Guitar Hero.


From Space to the Clouds

January 15, 2016

For the last 30 years, computer culture has moved from outer space into the clouds. From the dark and mysterious into the bright and familiar. From the alien and unknown to the heavenly.

Look at computer magazines from the 70s and 80s and you’ll see joysticks flying around in space, space exploration metaphors, black backgrounds, otherwordly vector grids, and star fields in space (I sometimes post these things here).

Space was the place, and not only for computers. A lot of movies, record sleeve covers, design and advertising were often out in space. Mars was exciting. Governments spent a lot of money on space exploration. And in the computer underground, space aesthetics was the shit. Personally, I feel like the Amiga crack intro aesthetics in the years around 1990 had something eerily space special, that hasn’t really been matched since.

Another way of describing this shift is to start in the depth of Hades instead, and move upwards to the clouds. Then you can also fit in all the metaphors about water and oceans (Pirate Bay, surfing the web) and land (information highway) and biology (swarms, flows, feeds). Computers started out in Hades, looking pretty evil and frightening (like many other “new” technologies). The computer world was something dark, something unknown and unexplored. Like space. Like Hades.

If you listen to how computers sound in movies and tv-series, you can get a sense of that. If you look at a movie from the 70s or 80s, or even earlier than that, computers were usually sonified with fast arpeggios of random squarewave bleeps. Scary and harsh, not easy to process for a human, as from another world. In the 90s computers started to sound differently. A sort of high-pitched ticking sound; a single tone/noise iterated into eternity. Rational and trustworthy. Reliable.

Those sounds are still heard in movies and series, especially when the computers are doing something important for the plot. To emphasize its cold power, for bad or for good, usually in scenes with advanced stuff, rather than everyday use.

In everyday use, it’s the sound of the operating system that is perhaps the most relevant. Brian Eno invented ambient in the 70s and, through his soundtrack for Windows, also invented the genre of operating system music. Soothing, kind, soft, business/beach, cloudy, comforting. Sort of vaporwavey today, I suppose.

This could be seen as a step away from the complicated and clumsy computer world of the 1980s, to a new era of user-friendliness. In a way, it was part of a general move away from hardware. Since the 1990s, software has taken over from hardware. We don’t want hardware anymore; we want it to be ubiquitous, invisible, unnoticeable, transparent. The interaction between computers and humans is disappearing. Designers no longer design interfaces but experiences (UX), something that Olia Lialina has written about many times.

Again, this brings us into the clouds. The dirty and dark cyberspace is being replaced by the immaterial and heavenly clouds. It’s a quest for perfection in a secluded world, protected from bad cyberd00ds and bulky hardware and political conflicts.

Everything solid condenses and turns into clouds that pee precicious data on us.

Greets to FTC for inspiring this post in the kolonistuga!

Chip Music Piracy – Since the 1960s

December 2, 2015

Thanks to Hally and iLKke I learned that one of the earliest hackers around (you know, one of the train geeks at MIT) released an LP with his chipmusic in the 1960s. Although less known than Max Mathews, Peter Samson made computer music in the 1950’s and developed his own music software (see timeline). Already in 1960 he made a graphical interface for his music software for the TX-0 machine, and the user controlled with a light pen. He’s probably most famous for his music/software on the PDP-1, and he’s involved in the recent restoration of PDP-1 music.

And now it turns out that gus PDP-1 music was released on a vinyl sometime in the 1960’s as Music on the PDP-1X. Most likely it was released after Music for Mathematics (1961/62), Rekengeluiden van PASCAL (1962), and Bell Laboratory’s Computer Speech 7″ (1963) but it is obviously one of the earliest released computer music. Perhaps the first stereo computer music on vinyl? Or the first one with only classical music? I’m sure this release was first with something?

Given the amount of time I put into researching early computer music a few years ago, I was surprised that I had missed this one. Well, the LP is the only release from PPDX Records and it’s very hard to find any information about it on ze web. So I went to the source and asked Peter Samson himself. Here’s his complete response: Sorry, I don’t know anything about that recording. It was made without my knowledge or permission.

Aha! So this was actually the first chip music appropriation! Someone decided to put this out on vinyl without asking Peter about it. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Who had access to the computers and the know-how to play the music? Did they bring a PDP-1 into a recording studio? Who paid for it, and who cashed in? And if they didn’t do it for the money, then why wouldn’t they ask Peter about it? Hm!

Ironically, the Youtube-uploader says that there are digital recordings of the vinyl. But you have to pay for it.

Now that’s oldschool piracy for you!

What’s Chipmusic in 2015?

November 13, 2015

When I wrote my thesis on chipmusic in 2010, chipmusic was in a transition phase. Atleast in Europe, there used to be a lot of influences from genres like electroclash and breakcore, and towards the 10’s it was common to hear house influences. House, not in the 80s or 90s way, but more in the EDM kind of way. I remember playing a chip event in 2008 where all the acts before me played EDM-like music, so I felt compelled to start my headliner set with religious chip rock as a childish countermove. Instant anti-success!

That same year I mentioned in a blog post that more dub/2-step influences in chip would be nice. And then dubstep morphed from an obscure and ambiguous Brittish thing into a full-on mega-defined bro monster, and the chipscene followed suite. Bass!

So from where I’m standing (which is not super close to the chipscene), EDM and bass still seem to be two dominant influencers of the chipscene. It’s a bit like breakcore and electroclash was before, but with one big difference. Chipmusic as a genre/ideology/praxis has changed from putting the technology first, into putting the sound first. To put it bluntly.

Just like in the 1990s, the hardware used to produce the sounds of chipmusic is not the main thing. The pendulum has swung back, and continued even further. Not only is the hardware used not as important, but it seems like the sounds are less important too. Not everywhere in the chipscene, but in some contexts.

There are some oldschool names in the chipscene whose music no longer sounds like chipmusic, and is not made with chipmusic tools, but is still tagged as chipmusic, listened to in the context of chip, and discussed in the chipscene. It seems to be part of the chipscene, but it doesn’t connect to the platforms or aesthetics (media and form) of chipmusic. Go to a chipmusic festival and you can listen for yourself.

My last few releases might fit in here to some extent. I partly use other sounds and instruments than the standard chipmusic repertoire – and have been for quite some time. So I’m not saying that there is something “wrong” with this, just that it seems like a general shift in how the chipmusic/chiptune terms are used, and what they mean.

The other side of the coin is that there are people who should know the term, but don’t. I was chatting with Dubmood and he mentioned that a lot of newcomers start to make chipmusic without even knowing about the term. Even if what they do is “authentic” chipmusic (from a 00’s perspective), they don’t describe it as such, and people don’t listen to it as such, I suppose.

We’re painting with a big brush here. Or perhaps with many small brushed. I’m not saying this happens everywhere all the time, but it is a tendency. It might grow, it might disappear, but it’s here now.

It is the chipscene as a culture. A network of people in social platforms online, perhaps with a long history of making chipmusic, who now make other kinds of music but continue to hang out. They might use modular synths to make noise, or oldschool synth VSTs to make synthwave vaporwave something, or phat bass music, or polka drone, or something else.

Of course, the tech-focused and aesthetics-focused parts of the chipscene still exist: in the demoscene, in indiegames, in forums like, Battle of the Bits, the FB-group Chiptunes=WIN (with 4000 members now), and so on. But as for the performers and recorders in the chipscene, the technopurism that glued the scene together, for better or worse, is not there anymore. And if the sounds won’t be a defining factor either, then where does that leave the chippers?

Perhaps chipmusic, atleast in some contexts, has been de-genrefied to the point where it doesn’t exist anymore? And maybe that’s not a bad thing? Finally the people who say that chipmusic is not a genre will be right without a doubt.

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.


Against Net Neutrality?

October 31, 2015

It’s easy to think of the internet as something immaterial that saves energy. E-mail instead of letters. Streams instead of plastics. No transportation costs… We easily forget or ignore how many wires and servers and how much electricity and air waves is required to do these things. In fact, we don’t even really know.

This long read in Low Tech Magazine gives an overview of how much energy the internet uses. In short, it argues that the internet is not only its backbone infrastructure, but also the smartyphones and the wi-fi connections and other stuff at the user-end of the spectrum. These things considered, the internet uses 8% of the global electricity production according to their estimate. That means that the internet requires nuclear energy to run; that the internet is not a sustainable technology.

While their estimate might be incorrect, we can be sure that the energy use of the internet is on the rise. Not because more people are getting connected, but because people in the rich parts of the world watch more HD-videos, use cloud services instead of their own computer powers, and use more wireless internet. Probably for highly crucial purposes. He he.

4G uses 23 times more energy than a wired connection and a streamed movie uses 30-78% more energy than watching a DVD. The article concludes that the internet needs a speed limit, because forces of technological progress and the rebound effect, aswell as freedom and commerce, will make the internet nuts.


Meanwhile, the EU recently voted “against” “net” “neutrality”. This has been discussed as a loss for the freedom of the internet. It’s rare to see someone who argues against net neutrality because that’s like arguing against freedom. But what are we talking about here, really? I know little about this topic, but the phrasing always put me off. Neutral? To me, technology is not and can never be neutral, so I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the discussion. Especially since it’s usually one-sided, atleast in the crowds I move in.

I found Martin Geddes who used to work high up in the techy hierarchies of British Telecom. Other than that I don’t know much about him. But he’s not afraid to speak out against what he sees as a nonsensical debate about net neutrality: The pile of literature on ‘net neutrality’ has been a waste of human effort and a loss of good wood pulp.

He argues that networks cannot be neutral and therefore cannot discriminate. With the way the internet works now, it’s chance that decides which packet arrive before the other. So it’s impossible to say whether it’s bad luck or discrimination; it’s impossible to say if it’s neutral or not.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Clearly it’s pretty bad if an internet provider gives a “fast lane” to Netflix while throttling the speed of the rest of the net. It’s also pretty terrible if internet providers can block sites and content. These are things that pro-net-neutrality people talk about. But that’s pretty much what’s going on already, right? More European countries are forcing ISPs to block domains. In Sweden we’re waiting for a court ruling on this in November. Platforms like Netflix use more bandwidth by offering more HD-blockbusters, therefore making the rest of the internet slower than it would be without Netflix.

In other words, Netflix means that online public services become less reliable. That’s something that libertarians and free market ideologues often miss when discussing the internet. Isn’t it important to make sure that important societal infrastructure on the internet works properly? If it is, then “net neutrality” is not what you want. You might want a special lane for societal infrastructure on ze information highway. Or you might want to build an internet where you can source problems and demand reliable broadband from the ISP. And not rely on chance. Or maybe just build your own mesh network or low-tech internet.

Freedom mongers will probably call you a communist for wanting a non-neutal network. Throw in some arguments about a speed limit to improve sustainability and help people get off their HD-addiction, and you should be good to go. Home.

(Obviously I’m not an expert at network technologies or energy consumption and I’m not a net activist so I’m sure I’ve gotten some things backwards. Comments appreciated!)

The Chip Sect

October 1, 2015

I recently watched a reasonably bad TV-show about sects. There was a doctor of religion who talked about her interviews with children growing up in sects, that she did for her dissertation.

Are these children really free? the journalist asked her. Her answer was, as an obvious adaptation to the level of the discussion, yes.

According to her, the children didn’t see themselves as non-free. They could choose between “freedom” and “safety” and they had chosen the latter. The sect. And in that safety, they felt free to do what they wanted.

I thought that was a nice way to put how I sometimes feel about using old computers to make music. Freedom within the system. Thinking within the box. And the safety of always having the option to go well it might suck but at least it will always be chipmusic. I think Zabutom expressed something similar in my master thesis, actually.

The journalist replied: But aren’t they so repressed by the sect that they can’t think anything else?


The chipscene is a sort of bounded culture, where the members choose to live in celibacy from the temptations of technology. A community of people based on abstinence rather than affluence. They dare to say no.

People on the outside cannot understand why you would want to limit yourself to old machines. For the outsiders, more options means more freedom. For the insiders, more options means more angst. More confusion.

In my master thesis and in this blog, I described this as a sort of alternative to the progress-mania of modernism/capitalism. But I had never thought about it from this religious perspective before.

It makes sense. Some, at least. After all, it’s one thing to critique these things in text or art, and it’s another way to actually live that critique. And in some way, that is what some sects do. They might be fecked up in other ways, but they don’t buy the affluent idea of freedom that most of us do in the West. Spam freedom.

We think we are more free because we have “freedom of speech”. We think we are more free because we can wear “whatever we want”. We think we are more free because we can buy 98791672445838 different kinds of whatever. And by we I mean me.

Deep down I think I believe that too, because I’ve been trained to. It is completely normal. If I wouldn’t believe it *at all* I would be in trouble. I would be in a sect. Or even worse, I would make 8-bit music.

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?

Cyber Punk Rock and Lucifer, 1977 & 1994

May 24, 2015

In the 00’s, people liked to compare chipmusic with punk. No one more than Malcolm McLaren, who was the manager for Sex Pistols when they released their first album in 1977. That same year, Duncan Lewis Jowitt formed his first punk band and played in various constellations until 1994. That’s when he discovered the Amiga and became Lucifer.

His first release was Cyber Punk Rock. It was a bootable floppy with two Ramones-covers. The originals didn’t have much vocals, so Lucifer was able to fit two songs with vocals on one 880kb floppy disk. The second song is also available on YouTube. Cyber Punk Rock Volume 2 came out later in 1994 and was a double-floppy release with four Ramones covers and one original. CU Amiga wrote: That’s quite cool. The music’s not that good but it’s a nice idea. You could order the floppies for £2,75 from Scribble PD. Public Domain Punk Rock!

Well, I like it. And I was quite happy that his four floppy releases 94-95 were recently re-issued as MP3-downloads: Cyber Punk and Cyber Zone. Highly recommended! The music was made in OctaMED. Like most other people who made Amiga music, he ripped sounds from other Amiga songs. So his music has traces from both scene music and game music. It sounds like he used a guitar sample from Lotus Turbo Esprit Challenge, for example.

Vocal Amiga rock music had been around atleast since 1989 in games, demos and as standalone songs. But this was something pretty different. It was executable music not aimed at the scene, not aimed at the 1990’s multimedia bubble, and not aimed at some sort of “music industry”. Or the punk scene. It’s actually not easy to say who this was made for. Which makes it even better! Anyway, here are some examples of vocal Amiga rock from 1989-1994:

^ Minä Omistan by Groo (April 1994). Hard and odd. 455kb.

^ Anarchy in the UK by Bannasoft/Melon Dezign (1993). Rocky and lo-fi. 295kb.

^ Fuck the Norm by Chromag (1993). Rage Against the Machine-y. 276kb.

^ Jumping Jackson (1990). Curiously soft rock.

sportmadTrash-Collector by Walkman (1990). Great lyrics! Released in the demo Sportmad by Complex. 88kb.

^ Slemmig Torsk by The Lynx Crew (1989). Samples the full song “En slemmig torsk” by the classical swedish punk band KSMB.

Bonus: Sonic Youth’s Youth Against Fascism that my neighbours made in 1993 to hate on a local demo group.

More linkage:

Computer Music Was Invented by Women and Militaries

May 17, 2015


Irrlicht Project, who runs the chip/demo/8bit blog IP’s Ancient Wonderland, has done some impressive research to find out that computer music is older than we thought. Just a few months before Australians and Englishmen did their pioneering beeps, a group of Americans played music with the UNIVAC. Lieutenant Herb Finney at Army Air played hits like The Eyes of Texas and The Air Force Song.

Later on a Betty Holberton, who was involved in programming the ENIAC, made some other tunes which Irrlicht writes about in his post. Those songs were played in public in June 1951, which is the oldest public performance of computer music that we know of at the moment. Depending on what you mean by computer music. The ENIAC did not actually synthesize digital sounds like the Australians and Englismen did that same summer (err, winter). The ENIAC-music was essentially telling a radio receiver to play notes and music. This technique was made famous by Steve Dompier on the Altair 8800 in 1975, but had been done many times before. In fact, in 1968 the Rand Corporation writes (p.16):

All in all, this was a neat and clever idea, and still is: nearly every college computing center rediscovers it independently.

Another h/t to herr Irrlicht for finding this quote, which gives us reason to ask: How much digital music experiments have been lost in time? I think it’s safe to say that it’s quite a lot, for several reasons. Many engineers were doing this for fun, perhaps even without permission after working hours. And music wasn’t exactly part of the repertoire of “proper computing” so it was not well documented either.


If you are surprised that a woman did this – don’t be. The first programmer was a woman, and many other computing pioneers were too. Also – back when “computer” was a work position and not a machine, many computers were females.

Are you surprised that militaries did this? Don’t be. Plenty of music- and media technologies originate from military R&D. The German media theorist Kittler went as far saying that “the entertainment industry is, in all senses of the term, misuse of military equipment”.

Anyway. I’ve changed the timeline accordingly and look forward to doing it again!

Btw, if you happen to be pals with Herb Finney you might want to get in touch with Allan Reiter for his UNIVAC documentation project (where the image at the top is taken from).

Btw, Also check out the Dutch computer music that was released on 7″ in 1962 that Irrlicht also found recently.