You are here: The Oldskool PC/The Classic Demoscenes/PC Demos Explained
By popular demand, the archive of PC Demos Explained is still available. Keep in mind it was last updated in 1994.
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Some general info
A demo is a non-interactive multimedia presentation made within the computer subculture known as the demoscene. Demogroups create demos to demonstrate their abilities in programming, music, drawing, and 3D modeling. The key difference between a classical animation and a demo is that the display of a demo is computed in real time, making computing power considerations the biggest challenge. Demos are mostly composed of 3D animations mixed with 2D effects and full screen effects.
The boot block demos of the 1980s, demos that were created to fit within the small (generally 512 to 4096 bytes) first block of the floppy disk that was to be loaded into RAM, were typically created so that software crackers could boast of their accomplishment prior to the loading of the game. What began as a type of electronic graffiti on cracked software became an art form unto itself. The demoscene both produced and inspired many techniques used by video games and 3D rendering applications today - for instance, light bloom, among others.
There are demos available for a great variety of computing platforms. Currently, most new demos are native-code programs designed to run on PCs under the Microsoft Windows operating system, but demos are still actively being made for many other machines including old and new computers, consoles and mobile devices such as PDAs, mobile phones and pocket calculators.
The main historical platforms include Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, and demo competitions for these platforms are still relatively common on today's demo parties. There are even demos running on such diverse platforms as VIC-20, Commodore Plus/4, Atari 8-bit, Atari 2600, Amstrad CPC, Macintosh, Game Boy, GP32 and PlayStation.
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