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Or, What DBug of NeXT has been up to recently!

Now take those funny little 8-bit computers that they used to churn out
by  the  barrelful,  back then.  You just got a chunk of circuit board,
stuck  a  washing-machine controller chip on it (now,  no  Amiga  A1200
jokes  please!) Bluetacked a television signal modulator in there,  and
crudely  soldered  on  a  calculator keyboard as  your  main  means  of
interrogating the electronic chaos within.

Back  then,  a  new one of these seemed to turn up every week,  and one
such was a beast called 'Oric'!

The  Oric could have been mistaken for a ZX Spectrum,  apart from a few
differences,  such  as  a  1mhz 6502 for a main  CPU,  slightly  better
graphics,  *identical*  sound  to a stock STFM,  and a natty calculator
style  keyboard  which  came across as a little  less  cheap  than  the
Sinclair  effort.  Later  on,  came the radically tidied up, and rather
neat Oric Atmos,  but it was too late, the Speccy and C64 laid waste to
all  before them,  and they surveyed a landscape,  in the mid-eighties,
that was nervously awaiting the 16-bit age.

That  is not to say that the Oric didn't have its fans.  One such,  was
DBug of NeXT (or Defence-Force) who started his whole computing  career
on  the  Atmos,  and retains a sneaking affection for this beastie,  as
well as his Atari.

Now one thing that was apparent,  was the Oric seemed to be catered for
pretty  well  in most areas,  even in it's undead afterlife phase.  But
there was one kind of software,  which was lacking. The Oric didn't (as
far  as  we  know) have any demos for it!  Of course,  where you get  a
dedicated  demo  coder such as DBug,  then fortunately,  this situation
doesn't last forever!

His  first  effort,  the  prosaically  named  'Oric Demo  1',  was  put
together for the Volcanic 4 Party. It was intended to run on the Atmos,
and the PC-based 'Euphoric' emulator.  For the purposes of this review,
it also rather handily worked with the somewhat closer to home 'AToric'
TOS Oric emulator as well! AToric will run on most Atari machines, with
higher powered machines more likely to run the emulation environment at
full speed. A CT2 turns out to be ideal for the task..

Setting  up demands a little bit of thinking.  I put all the  different
files in a folder of its own. I was able to run individual screens, but
not the demo as a whole. Following the simple instructions didn't help.
Until  I put the demo files into the main directory with the  emulator,
then we were in business with this Oric demo reviewing lark!

A  spoof  'Windows 95' screen appears,  is this the  long-dreaded  Oric
edition of this all too common computing bugbear? But no, a speculative
dab  at the spacebar produces gunshots,  and bloodsplats on the screen!
(The gunshots some of the few sounds in the demo) Screen goes away, and
cuts to a sineous up and down scrolling 'DBug' logo.

Another  dose of spacebar brings up a spoof Nike logo,  a quick  taster
for  the  next proper effect,  which is a screenful of  rasters,  which
blink in and out of view, briefly.

Coming up next,  one of the major screens of the demo,  which is a Mega
Scroller,  a very chunky looking oldskool scroller, strides confidently
across the screen.  This runs its course, and you go on to the 'Polygon
Mania'  screen,  which  has the stippled component parts of  a  pyramid
float around onscreen, in a floaty dotted ballet sort of thing.

Polygon - Doggone!

'Boring  Greets' follow,  which are a series of texts on screen.  These
are  actually quick and to the point,  so manage to avoid the  'boring'
label.  More of a significant pause, before the rapidly onrushing final
parts of the demo, rather than 'boring'.

A revisit to the raster screen,  but this effect has been magnificently
expanded  into  a more contemporary Oric styled  Plasma  screen,  which
seems to work well within the limitations of the standard Oric graphics
modes.  A  final  tap of the spacebar produces the finale,  a violently
bouncing  'Oric'  logo to an ST-perfect YM version of  the  music  from
'Thrust', or a million and one 1988 vintage Swedish demos!

This demo works fine,  amazingly well in the AToric emulator.  It seems
that DBug is practically the only person so far, who has been motivated
to complete demoware for the Oric,  although he suggests there may be a
couple of others out there?

A Brief note on the STNICCC 2000 Intro..

DBug  returned  to things Oric,  more recently,  with his second  major
release  for the Atmos,  and compatible emulators,  at the STNICCC 10th
anniversary party last December.

This  showed  considerable  advances,  both  in  coding  technique  and
presentation,  over  the earlier demo.  The effects were based around a
more  advanced  version of the plasma screen,  a series of cool  pseudo
'texture  tunnels',  and  culminating  in a couple of zoom  and  rotate
screens,  one  of  which  with a graphic much larger than  the  default
resolution!  The  colouring  seemed  to be more subtle,  and with  more
shades than the standard, often rather garish Oric screen modes.

Here,  Dbug seemed to be pushing the metal a lot harder than before, as
this proved to be where AToric gave a less than perfect end result. The
effects  worked,  and  still at a good speed,  but the colours came  up
totally  wrong!  This  was  apparently  down to  a  less  than  perfect
emulation  of the whole screen display system,  according to DBug.  The
author of AToric just been content to put in the standard screen modes,
which  would  be fine for classic games,  but not so responsive to  the
Oric overscan that he was using.

Even at this stage,  there was a sort of cure, as forcing AToric to run
in ST mono, produced an end result that was a lot more viewable, a grey
shaded demo. But you would really need a real Atmos, or the rather more
developed 'Euphoric', to see it properly, as DBug intended.

Even  from the grey prison walls of AToric,  you can still see why this
demo won the first prize for the intro competition at STNICCC 2000. (No
disrespect to tSCc, by the way!)

It  would  be  nice  to see more from DBug,  on  the  Oric,  and  also,
resurgent,  on the Atari, as he has reaquired an ST, and is looking for
a  good  cross-assembler to work from,  so we may yet see  more  coding
excellence  from DBug,  on a platform more familiar to the rest of  you
folks soon!?

CiH - Alive! Mag, Jan '01

Alive 3