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Alive 14
Atariscene DVD


And here's where it all starts,  with the Atariscene DVD which takes us back
to  the prehistoric origins of the Atari demo scene.  We owe thanks to  Evil
once again, fresh from producing the 2003 and 2004 editions, who has decided
to go right back in time, to the first four years of the emerging Atari demo
scene.  This  comes  on  a double DVD collection,  and is intended to be  as
accurate  as possible a collection of the early works in those early  years.
(It  is  possible  that several less well-known productions might  not  have
made it onto here?)

This  collection  is available like all the others,  courtesy of Evil's  own
efficient mail-ordering service,  at an exceedingly reasonable 9 euros. This
is  a  good  return  for 178 minutes of playing time.  The  box  is  smartly
labelled,  and  booting  up  with the first DVD reveals  a  year-based  menu
system, with graphics done in a typically lavish DHS style :-)

So  the  logical thing to do is to select the first year,  1985,  and off we

* 1985: Boink by Atari Corporation
* 1985: Random lines by Uwe Braun

The scene in 1985,  the year the ST landed,  is easy to follow. There wasn't
any formal or informal scene yet,  and the first couple of "demo's" would be
better described as 'moving graphics',  or demo's in the most basic sense of
the  word to catch the public eye with something quick and disposable.  Thus
we got 'Boink'from Atari Corp themselves,  which would have been a response
to  the  Amiga version,  and used as a point of sale demo.  There was also a
really  quick  knock-up  called 'Random Lines'from  Uwe  Braun,  which  did
exactly what it said on the tin!

* 1986: Deep Space cracktro by GMC Crackings
* 1986: Grafik Und Sound by Eckard Kruse
* 1986: Pinball Factory cracktro by Han Solo
* 1986: 3D Example demo by Uwe Braun
* 1986: Fuji Boink by Xanath FX

Things start to look a little bit more recognisable from a demo scener's eye
in  1986.  The  Deep  Space  Cracktrokicks  off  several  conventions,  the
starfield effect,  a top scrolltext,  and a systematic use of sound,  if not
yet  proper soundchip music,  there is even a sampled speech extract at  the
beginning.  The Han Solo Pinball Factory cracktrofollows in a similar vein,
but  with  a  digitised picture of the Star Wars hero,  instead  of  sampled

There  are still a couple of the earlier type of 'point of  sale'  graphical
demonstrations  still  featuring,  including Xanath's upgrade to  the  basic
Boink  demo 'Fuju Boink',  which featured probably the first raster  effect,
and  quite a nicely done flowing version at that.  There was Uwe Braun's  3D
example  demo  which showed the distant future of demo making,  albeit in  a
distinctly wireframe fashion. The 3D thing is left well alone by other demo-
makers, and not returned to until the Union Demo in 1989.

The  highlight of 1986 has to be the rather excellent Grafik Und Sound  demo
from  Eckhard  Kruse,  a  movie style production which had  it  all,  proper
character animation, a decent story, and the ST soundchip was given a decent
work-out  with a full soundtrack.  This first tune stands up quite well even
today,  and  this  20  year old demo is a classic which is  worth  returning

* 1987: First demo by 42 Crew
* 1987: Larry cracktro by 42 Crew
* 1987: 10th Frame cracktro by Blue Adept
* 1987: ECO cracktro by Delta Force
* 1987: Jinxter cracktro by Delta Force
* 1987: Grusel demo by Eckard Kruse
* 1987: The Bards Tale cracktro by Ford Perfect
* 1987: The Sentinel cracktro by Ford Perfect
* 1987: Colorshock by HCC
* 1987: Supersprint cracktro by HCC
* 1987: Tetris cracktro by STSC
* 1987: Backlash cracktro by TEX
* 1987: Bubble Bobble cracktro by TEX
* 1987: Little Color Demo by TEX
* 1987: Little Sound Demo by TEX
* 1987: Readme.prg by TEX
* 1987: Spectrum 512 demo 1 by TEX
* 1987: Spectrum 512 demo 2 by TEX
* 1987: Terrorpods cracktro by TEX
* 1987: Shiny Bubbles by Xanath FX

Of course,  1987 was the year when more ST's started to get into more homes.
At  the  same  time,  the  growing Atariscene was taking note  of  what  the
'others',  especially  those Commodore people were up to.  Now we started to
see  the first recognisable fully-featured screens and intro's.  Of  course,
the cracking scene,  and the first appearances from certain famous names was
in this year as well.

On  a personal note,  it was about the time I started to take an interest in
demoscene matters.  The 'First demo'from 42 crew contained all the elements
of  a typical oldschool screen,  rasters,  and more rasters in a scrolltext.
There  was  proper  music  in  there  as  well.  It  still  was  a  smallish
presentation, not much more than the typical cracktro.

These  all  followed a similar theme,  as scrolltexts and  rastering,  and
various  combinations  of  these were very much popular  (with  ripped  game
music.) The Delta Force ECO cracktroraised the graphical presentation bar a
bit.  There  was  also a follow-up to Eckard Kruse's Grafik Und Sound  demo,
with the spooky 'Grusel' demo,another funny animation. Ford Perfect goes on
to make the humble cracktro more technically interesting with large vertical
scrollers and screen magnifying in their Bards Tale and Senital  cracktro's.
HCC  spoof the start of a television program with their  Colourshock  intro,
which also has some smart graphics and multi-directional rasters.

One theme which is clear at this time is the painful lack of music, as these
all seem to be using the same small pool of ripped tunes!

HCC's  Super Spring Cracktrostarts with the first  'melt-o-vision'  screen,
and The Exceptions make their debut with the colourful but otherwise  static
and  unimpressive  Backlash  Cracktro,  but don't go away,  this story  gets
better!  'Tex'  then proceed to flood the scene with their productions,  the
Bubble  Bobble Cracktrolooks a lot more like something out of one of  their
better known demos,  we are hearing new tunes,  I guess from the hands of Mr
Hipple himself,  and then we come to the trio of demo's which I can identify
as  the  first ones which I saw,  the 'Readme',  'Little Colour'and 'Little

All  of  these had multiple tunes,  the latter two with menu  selections  of
increasing  sophistication  The 'LSD' featuring a barrel scroller,  and  the
famous "Rob says Hi!"graphics. At that time, and going on into the BIG demo
era,  the  'TEX'  name was synonomous with the whole demo scene to a lot  of

A  couple  which  skipped by me at the time,  were the Spectrum  512  colour
slideshows they made, I guess they didn't appear in the Page 6 PD catalogue?
The  second  one of these was a resounding success in showing off  how  well
Spectrum  512 could portray flesh tones!  The Super Neodemoshow managed  to
combine  a  couple  of Neochrome colour cycling animated  pictures,  with  a
multicoloured  scrolltext,  and also open up the bottom border with a  rotor
effect, and finally combine YM sound synthesis with sampled instruments, the
first digi-drum soundtrack! Bringing up the rear for 1987 was one of the old
style non-scene demos, a raytraced 'Shiny Bubbles'animation from Xanath FX.

* 1988: Dungeon Master cracktro by 42 Crew
* 1988: Captain Fizz cracktro by Alpha Flight
* 1988: Sidearms cracktro by The Blade Runners
* 1988: Army Moves cracktro by The Blade Runners
* 1988: Elite cracktro by The Blade Runners and Blue Sys
* 1988: Rambo 3 cracktro by Delight
* 1988: Captain Blood cracktro by Delta Force
* 1988: Shackled cracktro by Delta Force
* 1988: Uninvited cracktro by Delta Force
* 1988: ALF demo by Echo Cray
* 1988: Elite cracktro by Flexible Front
* 1988: Rambo 3 cracktro by Flexible Front
* 1988: Skinny Puppy demo by Flexible Front
* 1988: Menace cracktro by Ford Perfect
* 1988: David Whittaker music demo by Ghost
* 1988: Heroes of the Lance cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Sidewinder cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Skrull cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Sidewinder cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Skrull cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Super Ski cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Football Manager 2 cracktro by Gigabyte Crew
* 1988: Road Wars cracktro by Le Groupe Hofa
* 1988: Ledstorm cracktro by Les Nuls
* 1988: Fullscreen demo by Level 16
* 1988: Gunship cracktro by Level 16
* 1988: Action Fighter cracktro by Metal 68
* 1988: Omega Demo by Omega
* 1988: Micromix demo by Radical Systems
* 1988: Arkanoid 2 cracktro by The Replicants
* 1988: Artura cracktro by The Replicants
* 1988: Better Dead Than Alien cracktro by The Replicants
* 1988: Bloody and Bluedy cracktro by The Replicants
* 1988: Garfield cracktro by The Replicants
* 1988: IK+ cracktro by The Replicants
* 1988: Rank Xerox intro by The Replicants
* 1988: Jaws cracktro by The Replicants and Level 16
* 1988: Spy vs Spy cracktro by ST Amigos
* 1988: Sinbad cracktro by ST Connexion
* 1988: Demoniaq by STCS
* 1988: Superman cracktro by TCB
* 1988: The Junk Demo by TCB
* 1988: Amiga Demo by TEX
* 1988: B.I.G. Demo by TEX
* 1988: Overlander cracktro by TEX
* 1988: ST Soccer cracktro by TEX
* 1988: Vixen cracktro by TEX
* 1988: Powerdemo by The Lost Boys
* 1988: Death of the Left Border by TNT Crew
* 1988: FNIL by TNT Crew
* 1988: Bombuzal cracktro by Vector
* 1988: The Games cracktro by X Factor
* 1988: Musicdemo by X-Troll
* 1988: XXX International Demo by XXX International

If  1987  was  a productive year,  then 1988 was when the Atari  scene  went
'global',  with  a dizzying array of new groups and productions arriving  in
that year.

There were a host of cracktro's from new arrivals like the Bladerunners  and
Delight,  as  well  as  established names like 42 crew and Delta  Force.  If
anything,  these  were variations of the themes established in the  previous
year,  perhaps  a little bit more graphically accomplished,  but nothing yet
advancing  the state of the art from where TEX had left matters before.  The
first 'all digital' demo came with the sampled sound and captured frames  of
the  Alf  Demofrom Echo Cray.

Sampled demos began a little bit of a vogue with Flexible Front and a Skinny
Puppy sampled soundtrack on a demo. Ford Perfect demonstrated they could get
into  the bottom border with their Menace Cracktro,  and added in the  first
LED style scrolltext as well. Ghost's Whittaker Music demowent raster-crazy
and   looks  suspiciously  almost  full-screen.   The  mid-term  Bladerunner
cracktro's are also starting to look more technically interesting, as people
get to grips with the inner secrets of the ST. It seems the status symbol is
to  get  yourself into the bottom border!  There are also more screens  with
fully animated rasters bulking out the side borders as well.

Then  we  get Level 16,  who finally manage to breach all the borders,  with
(almost) the first fullscreen demo,  called,  unsurprisingly,  'Fullscreen'.
(Evil  points  out that the actual pioneers were Omega.) This  does  exactly
what is asked of it,  and no more. The Action fighter cracktrocontinues the
cracktro tendency to play with effects which are later used in better known-
productions,  as we get the first multi-layer parallax backbround scrolling,
to  give a distance illusion.

The  Micromix demo,was the first 'home-grown' production I remember,  which
was  used  to  promote  the  sampling  abilities  of  a  Microdeal  sampling
cartridge,  it  was  the  one thing which didn't load off the  DVD.  Another
famous  name in some Atarian circles put in an appearance at this time,  the
Replicants, with a series of cracktro's of their own. The cracktro continued
in  the  same vein as described before,  not offering any further  technical
advances,  and endlessly recycling a very limited selection of ripped tunes.

Another soon-to-be-famous name is seen here, with the Carebears 'Junk Demo'.
Apart  from combining typical oldschool effects with a short looped  sample,
it  also  had  small  pictures in the scrolltext,  and  a  reset  demo.  the
following Superman Cracktroseems to be a lot more Amiga-like in quality.

TEX  haven't been idle,  as we get the 'Amiga demo',  the first soundtracker
demo, with multiple modfile tunes, taken from the Amiga Aegis Sonix program,
including  some Rob Hubbard tunes.  In case the bland front end is too much,
you can then go on to the second part,  which is a screen, filled apart from
the left hand border.

And  finally it is here,  the first proper multipart demo,  from the leaders
TEX.  This  is  the  not  totally obscure BIG demo,  and we  are  shown  the
different screens, as well as the menu selector and digi-sound section. This
is  one of the few demos where there was some graphical glitching on one  of
the  screens,  and I think that the very big scrolltext screen was missed as
well!  Still,  a  landmark  demo very well shown here.  A series of cracktros
from them follows, this was before the point where they went respectable and
set up Thalion.  Another new 'name', the Lost Boys, makes a debut with their
Power Demo,  which was notable for the origins of their style of humour, and
a  large  music  selection screen,  if not as grandstanding as that  of  the
B.I.G. Demo.

The FNIL demofrom TNT features both fullscreen effect and a mostly  sampled
soundtrack,  including some ambient stuff.  I also remember it as a strictly
one  meg  demo,  with  humbler 512k owners denied its pleasures.  It  was  a
multipart which loaded in everything at the start. Finally, rounding up four
energetic  years,  is  the  XXX  International  demo,  another  multiparter,
including  some  Amiga  influences,  such as the shimmery  water  reflective
layer, and the first user-controllable 3D doc-balls screen.


So that's my attempt at summing up the wealth of content on this collection.
As  a  faithful collection of all that could be found in those  years,  then
this  Atariscene  instalment  succeeds  brilliantly.  In  terms  of  viewing
interest,  the number of these screens that I would return to again count as
a relatively small handful.  The majority interest at the time was in making
cracktro's,  and the majority of these started to feel a little bit samey in
the  course  of  this  review.  I'm  not forgetting  that  the  cracktro  is
essentially  the wrapping on a present,  the bright glistening surface cover
to  attract  you to the possibly less than thrilling  contents  within,  and
quickly thrown aside when it is done.

The collection did perform the service of filling in a lot of the gaps in my
own Atari history, and moments of fond recollection of certain famous demos,
so definitely one for new and old fans of Atari, but you might find yourself
fast-forwarding through some  of the cracktro's.

On that note,  I might add that the Ekhard Kruse animations are almost worth
the DVD price on its own!

                                          CiH, for Alive Mag, Nov '06.

Alive 14