Atari demos

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Atari demos generally refer to demos created for the Atari ST home computer.


The Atari Demo Scene can probably be traced back to a group called "The Exceptions" (TEX for short) who created a series of music demos (enhanced with a bit of scrolling text and some nice rasters) in 1987. In 1988 the Atari Demo scene gathered further momentum with the release of the B.I.G. Demo, also by The Exceptions, which was a large collection of music ported from the Commodore 64 by Jochen Hippel onto the Atari ST.

Following the B.I.G. demo, various crews continued to push the limits of the Atari ST hardware with innovative and efficient coding techniques (pre-calculated sprites, table driven calculations etc.), as well as discovering and exploiting undocumented hardware features and bugs (synchronised coding, border busting, sync scrolling).

  • The Union Demo (1989, the first big multi-crew, multi-screen demo)
  • The Cuddly Demos (1989, The CareBears big splash in the Atari demo scene)
  • The Decade Demo (1990, by a UK-based group called "Inner Circle")
  • The PHF Demo (1990, by a UK (Hull) based group called "PHF (Psycho Hacking Force)")
  • Ooh Crikey Wot a Scorcher (1991, the last by a group of Brits known as "The Lost Boys")

Besides the major contributors a number of unknown crews were active during this period, mainly preparing to become game developers - the ultimate ambition for many on the demo scene.

Rivalry with Other Platforms[edit]

An often cited aspect of the ST demo scene was its rivalry with its fellow 16 bit computer the Amiga. While the Amiga had the benefit of some rather advanced hardware for the time, coders on the ST had to make do with a marginally faster clock-speed and later on abusing the hardware to do certain tricks like emulating hardware scrolling. A common refrain from the rather proud ST coders was "needs no custom chips" when they successfully replicated a demo effect that had been originally seen on the Amiga.

Current state[edit]

The Atari demo scene started to peter out around 1993 as the popularity of the 16-bit micros was overtaken by the relentless advance of the x86 based PC. Some nostalgic demos have been released since and several demos have enjoyed revivals running on ST emulators such as STonX and PacifiST or more recently on SainT or STEem.

Several preservation projects currently exist, in various stages of development, that archive many of the past demos. Common sources are YouTube and, although more interactive solutions, such as the DemobaseST project, also exist.

A small but enthusiastic scene still exists in 2007, and an Atari presence can still often be found at numerous annual Demoscene parties like Atari Connexion, Outline, Paracon, Sillyventure, Sommarhack and others. Recently it seems the Atari scene has started to re-established contact to the general demo scene, which is indicated by Atari related releases at Evoke and other demo-parties.

External links[edit]