Adok of Hugi Mag
Interview for Alive #10
Many readers of Alive will be familiar with the subject of this interview.
'Adok' is the editor of the not totally obscure 'Hugi' diskmag. This is one
of the better known publications for the pc scene. 'Hugi' has had a huge
reputation, even being called the "king" of diskmags. Lately though, it has
attracted some contentious debate within that scene. Now we at Alive try to
get into the mind of the man behind Hugi..
Hiya Adok, could you tell us a bit more about yourself, your real name, date
of birth, country of origin, and what you do with the non-scene parts of
My real name is Claus-Dieter Volko. I'm living and studying in Vienna
(Austria) where I was born on October 8th, 1983. My areas of study are human
medicine and computer science; I'm pursuing two curricula at three different
Could you tell us about your computing history? Have you always been a
(w)intel fanatic, or have there been other electronic passions in your
I got my first computer short before my sixth birthday, i.e. just after
starting elementary school. It was a Commodore 64 with a 1541 floppy. This
was the platform on which I got introduced to computer games and BASIC
programming. Then I got a couple of video game consoles (Game Boy, Mega
Drive, NES, Super NES, Game Gear). I also had an Amiga 500 but didn't use it
much. I mainly used the C64 from 1989 to about 1992, and then I moved on to
PC where I first programmed using QBasic and later (when I was eleven years
old) using Borland C++ and Turbo Assembler.
How did you get involved with the demo scene in the first place? What
motivated you to take an active part in it?
I started writing for a German computer magazine named PC-Heimwerker in
1995. This magazine consisted entirely of articles submitted by its readers.
I got in contact (snailmail) with some other people writing there, and they
sent me diskmags and demos. Thus I got introduced to the demo scene. I had
already heard about it before but had not cared much. It was diskmags that
attracted me to the scene: I loved reading, writing and sharing thoughts. So
I also began to support some German mags as a writer.
Could you tell us a bit more about Hugi now, its origins and early years?
Soon after getting involved in the diskmag scene, I got a letter from a 16-
year-old boy (he called himself Kaktus) who wanted to start his own diskmag
and was looking for someone to code an interface for him. So I did it and
was made the other of two publishers. I also took over the editing of the
magazine. The first issue of Hugendubelexpress, which was later renamed
Hugi, was released on May 25th, 1996. It contained about 400 KBytes of
articles on computer-related subjects such as hardware, games and
programming, school-stories and fiction. Seven authors had been actively
involved in that issue.
In its first two years Hugi had a constant amount of regular readers and
contributors from the German speaking countries and contained between 300
and 700 kbytes of texts per issue. Hugi was one of only two active diskmags
in German language: all the others ceased to issue around 1996/1997.
The ninth issue of Hugi was the first that contained an English section with
demoscene-related contents. But the magazine was not promoted enough outside
the German speaking countries and thus remained unnoticed by most sceners.
Hugi grew to become one of the foremost publications in its field, some say
*the* foremost. Could you tell us about those golden times?
There's no doubt that Hugi issues 12 to 19 clearly dominated the
international PC diskmag scene. There was no magazine at that time that came
remotely close to the quantity or the quality of the articles in Hugi.
Hugi's rise to world domination started when I became the only publisher
after the tenth issue (April 1998). I installed the English, demoscene-
related section in Hugi 11 again and collected or wrote plenty of articles
for it. Moreover, I did a lot of advertising for the magazine on
international scene websites and IRC channels. The effect was that Hugi
found a lot of readers all over the world. With Hugi 12, the international
section clearly became the major part of the magazine. Its contents focused
on demoscene-related subjects following the examples of magazines such as
Imphobia (PC) and Generation (Amiga): news, party reports, interviews, scene
philosophy, coding tutorials. Within a few weeks, Hugi became the most
popular diskmag in the international PC demo scene (place #1 in the Hornet
Charts). The quick rise in popularity was partly also due to the first Hugi
Size Coding Competition which I was organizing back then and which attracted
a surprisingly high number of coders to participate (more than eighty).
In the years 1998/1999, we used to have more than 1 MByte of texts per issue
written by about 50 contributors. From August 1999 to July 2000, a weekly
newsletter was released in addition to the magazine. Thanks to HTML
conversion, Hugi not only found readers in the PC scene, but also in the
Atari, Amiga and C64 scenes, and people from these platforms also
Lately, to say opinions on Hugi are divided rather puts it mildly. Do you
think that the critics are right in some respects? On the other hand, where
do you differ from their views?
Times and people change. This affects their work. It is not difficult to
notice some differences between recent issues of Hugi and the ones from
Hugi's golden time. One is that the total number of articles is lower in
recent issues than in the ones from 1998/1999, and another is that the
number of my articles has diminished, too. I always used to write about 25%
of the texts in the magazine; nowadays it's just something like 10%. This is
mostly for the reason that I find it difficult to come up with new scene-
related subjects, as I've already written so much about so many aspects of
the scene in the past. I'm more of an analyst than a reporter, I like to
discuss ambitious subjects; introducing groups and their histories,
reporting about parties, interviewing people or reviewing productions isn't
really interesting for me. That's why I write more about politics and
scientific topics nowadays. Scene philosophy is not something you can write
an unlimited number of articles about.
What's also changed is that online sites have become stronger, so it's not
necessary to provide news for the scene via diskmags any longer. Hugi used
to have a big news corner covering almost everything I heard about during
the few months since the previous issue. Nowadays the news corner is small,
containing only some bits (that's why it's now called "SceneBits") I found
interesting, as you can find huge news archives at sites such as ojuice.net
anyway. Hugi also used to have a party calendar, containing dates I
collected from various sources. This is no longer necessary either as the
party calendar at ojuice.net contains virtually every upcoming event (and
all the past events since ojuice.net went online). In the past, I felt
compulsed to keep track of all the important things that happened in the
scene in Hugi. Hugi was also supposed to be a history book so that in the
future, people would be able to learn about what the scene was like in some
particular years. Nowadays I don't care about that any longer since there
are other media that fulfill these functions.
It's true that in the past, I actively created the contents of the magazine.
During holidays, I wrote a new article almost every day. I also spent a
considerable amount of time every day online motivating people to write
articles. I don't have time for that any more since I'm now pursuing two
studies at three different universities. [Side note for insiders: 2 studies
+ 3 universities = 5 girlfriends :))] I mostly collect the articles people
send to me, and only from time to time I actively work on the magazine. My
focus in life has changed: Hugi isn't the most important thing any more. But
I keep it up since there are people who love reading it. And it's also quite
fun working on the magazine and always a great satisfaction when a new issue
Some people at pouet.net say that Hugi contains too many articles not
related to the demo scene. However, it is not our attention (and has never
been) to make a scene-only magazine. As I've explained in the article "The
Philosophy of Hugi" (published at the Hugi website), Hugi is supposed to be
a platform for people to present their ideas. Any area of interest is
One of our recent issues, the first Special Issue - Coding Digest, has
actually been met with a lot of enthusiasm even by people at pouet.net. It's
a unique issue based on the idea of including all coding-related articles
from all past issues in one interface with a search function so that you can
easily retrieve the information you need. With 4.5 MBytes of articles, this
special issue of Hugi is in fact the largest diskmag ever released for PC.
One observation made to me when discussing issue #30 went along the lines of
"Adok seems to have given up on any idea of quality control, and just prints
anything that comes into his mailbox." How correct is this view?
It isn't true: I do reject articles when they seem to have no point. I
remember there was at least one article submitted for Hugi 29 which I
rejected. But I'm polite and always tell the authors what they could do to
improve their articles. If they finally manage to get the article okay, I
will publish it.
Some people think you have a "superior" attitude, what do you say to that?
You being an Englishman know that this is a funny statement because
"superior" means "extraordinarily good", so it's something positive. I don't
know what my critics want to accuse me of when they say that I have a
"superior" attitude. As a matter of fact I first used this term myself when
I said in a pouet.net BBS thread that as it happens so often, sceners acted
arrogantly towards me when I was just starting to get active in the scene,
but then after some time they stopped as they realized that I was
"superior". I considered myself superior because for a long time Hugi was
clearly superior to any other diskmag in the PC scene.
EP, his articles have provoked what can only be described as an allergic
reaction, and I've not had any medical training (grin!). What do you think
of the nature and tone of some of the criticism?
It seems like they've got one of his articles from Hugi 29, "How To Save The
Demo Scene", in the wrong throat, as we would say in German. (According to
my dictionary, a common English expression with the same meaning would be:
They've took one of his articles in the wrong way, i.e. misunderstood it.)
Now he has become such an outcast that it will be difficult for him to re-
integrate. Actually he tries to compensate for his first article, but so
far, his attempts have rather increased the opposition to him.
In my opinion, some of the criticism has been quite rude. But although most
people at pouet.net are critical towards EP, there are not only critics but
also people who enjoyed his articles very much and would like to read more
What is EP really like, from your dealings with him, is he misunderstood by
the rest of the scene?
I've been in email contact with EP. He is a guy with a lot of imagination
who has many ideas and communicates them. He wrote "How To Save The Demo
Scene" after watching a couple of PC demos after several years of not
following the scene, and what he saw was worrying him as it didn't resemble
the cheerful spirit that was conveyed by the old Atari and Amiga demos he
was accustomed to. EP seriously wanted to help the scene because he thought
that it was in a crisis. Many sceners, however, considered his statements an
insult. I think that he has been misunderstood. Partly it's also his own
fault that he wrote the article after watching just a few demos, having had
a wrong impression of the current scene. Later he downloaded many more demos
and discovered that the scene was not in such bad health as he believed.
Could you tell us a bit more about some of the more notable inhabitants of
the pouet.net asylum? The name "Optimus" springs to mind for some reason!
Well, there are some people who write a lot at pouet.net. Optimus is
certainly one of the most prolific writers. He has written a lot about
personal things and has made many other poueters mock at him. IMHO Optimus
is a nice and likeable guy. People have behaved badly towards him. It's
rather those people who are so negative about everything who are a nuisance.
But you get used to it after some time and then don't even ignore them.
I don't have a detailed knowledge of the pc scene, but I gather there is
competition for Hugi. Can you give us some info about the rival diskmags,
and how they compare with Hugi?
There are almost no active diskmags in the international PC scene any more.
Apart from Hugi, there's just Pain. There may be some national diskmags in
local languages, but they're of course only relevant for the scene in their
countries. Not even they are large in number, compared to the situation of
1998. I know some Polish diskmags also use the Panorama engine, which Chris
Dragan originally coded for Hugi: it's the best diskmag engine available to
date, featuring Windows and BeOS executables, true-type fonts, one to
several text columns, a search function, multiple themes, buttons, HTML
export, and many things more. No diskmag generates so many discussions in
the scene as Hugi.
Is the Panorama shell likely to be updated? I get a feeling that BeOS
support might not be such a priority these days, but a Linux option could be
a cool idea.
There is a Linux viewer for Hugi by Bonz, and a member of the Danish demo
group IRIS (that releases Eurochart for Amiga) is now porting Panorama to
You've got a 10th anniversary next year, any special plans or ideas for this
I'm planning to release a Special Edition of Hugi which contains texts about
the history of Hugi, descriptions of each issue and several characteristic
articles of each issue. I'm already working on it.
Have you ever been to any of the big coding parties, eg, Assembly,
Breakpoint, Mekka Symposium? What are your impressions of them?
No, I haven't. The biggest party I've been to has been Dialogos 2001 (Jena,
Germany). Other parties I've been to are Core 2001, Fiasko 2000 and several
Austrian scene meetings. It's nice talking to sceners face to face, but the
sleeping commodities at the party place are usually painful. After returning
home from Core 2001, I spent more than half a day sleeping in my bed.
Ed comment:- I'd agree with that, having borne the scars of several coding
parties and their sleepless nature! I believe you did go to Breakpoint '05
recently, which is one of the biggest.
What is your all-time favourite demo or scene production, and why?
Diskmags used to fascinate me in the past, but there's no scene production
of any kind that has fascinated me so much that I'd call it my all-time
I find that answer interesting, as most demoscene people see a demo which
"hooks" them, because it seems to magically push back the limits of the
possible on their computer, or blows their mind from the artistry and
design, or even both things at once. They get into the demoscene, hoping to
see this happen again. Very occasionally, their wish is granted ;-) I get
the impression from replies to other questions, that you are motivated by a
love of writing and computers in general.
You've got the right impression. I've never been hooked on a demo, but I had
great respect of their makers because these people obviously were skilled
although they were autodidacts. I don't remember which was the first demo I
watched. It may have been the 4k intro animate by schwartz because I
remember asking myself after watching it: "It's nice, but what's the purpose
of this? There's no interactivity!"
In your view, how has the scene changed since the early days?
Since the days I joined, communication has improved a lot using the
Internet. Never before have sceners from various countries discussed so much
as they nowadays do on pouet.net. This makes it easier to get informed on
people's opinions. But I've also noticed that many sceners are easily
influencible and tend to follow the opinions of the people who posted before
them like sheep. So that's maybe a bad side about pouet.net. As a matter of
fact, it isn't that rare that people even vote before downloading!
Ed comment:- I noted with some interest the differences between the early
reactions to Hugi issue 30, where it was thumbed down on Poeut by reflex
without even looking at the issue, and the later more considered views
where they had bothered to read it ;-)
What do you think of the minority platforms, eg, the Atari?
The fact that these platforms have survived until today shows how passionate
their users are. I also download Atari diskmags from time to time as it's
possible to read them on PC using an emulator. Some of them are great.
Are diskmags obsolete in the face of the world wide web and dedicated
demoscene websites? If not, what can they do that the internet can't?
The big advantage of diskmags is that they are static. Once released, the
magazine will remain the same and will be stored on servers or collections
virtually for ever (or maybe at least as long as the scene as we know it
survives). In contrast to that, websites change all the time. While new
contents are being added, old contents often get removed, and it will often
be impossible to retrieve it later (unless somebody actively archives the
site). Diskmags are made for being archived and read in the future.
In your opinion, what makes a good diskmag?
What matters most is contents. As interests are subjective, I recommend
including a wide variety of topics. A good presentation is a bonus.
From your perspective, what attributes make a good diskmag editor?
He must be very dedicated to his magazine, actively search for topics that
could be dealt with and try to get good writers.
Where do you see Hugi going in the future?
Hugi has always been a magazine open for any kind of articles. The idea of
Hugi is to give people a platform where they can present their ideas. Future
will tell us in which direction Hugi will develop.
Where do you see the demo scene as a whole going in the future?
It's going to get more attention from the outside, as demos are more and
more often presented at art/culture festivals and at computer graphics
conventions such as SIGGRAPH. Hopefully the scene will remain creative and
produce more colourful, cheerful, funny and less realistic demos: I'm on
EP's side regarding dark and depressing demos. Remember the days when you
were children and make demos the way you perceived the world back then: new,
exciting and bright. More fantasy! As a matter of fact, Fantasy World by the
Polish demo group Poison (PC) is one of my favourite demos.
And finally, do you have any special message for the readers of Alive?
It seems that this is the last active international diskmag for Atari ST, so
it'd be good if you supported it with your articles.
Thanks for your time!
CiH, collected for Alive Mag,'05.