A crack intro, also known as a cracktro, loader, or just intro, is a small introduction sequence added to cracked software, designed to inform the user of which "cracking crew" or individual cracker was responsible for removing the software's copy protection and distributing the crack. Many people who did the actual cracking did this competitively. They even credited themselves alongside the software publisher's name in their custom cracktro screens. It had to look good to impress viewers as well as peers, and sometimes the result was more impressive than the pirated game itself. They first appeared in the early 1980s. The early text screens are in many ways similar to graffiti, although they invaded the private sphere and not the public space.
These first appeared on ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC games that were distributed around the world via Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) and floppy disk copying. Initially the intros consisted of simple messages, but they grew progressively more complex as they became a medium to demonstrate the purported superiority of a cracking group. Even the commercially available ISEPIC cartridge, which produced memory dumps of copy-protected Commodore 64 software, added a custom crack intro to the snapshots it produced.
As a result, crack intros began to feature big colourful effects, music, and scrollers. Cracking groups would use the intros not just to gain credit for cracking, but to advertise their BBSes, greet friends, and give themselves recognition. Messages were frequently of a vulgar nature, and on some occasions made threats of violence against software companies or the members of some rival crack group.
Crack intro programming eventually became an art form in its own right, and people started coding intros without attaching them to a crack just to show off how well they could program. This evolved into the demoscene.
Crack intros that use chiptunes live on today in the form of background music for small programs intended to remove the software protection on commercial and shareware software that has limited or dumbed-down capabilities. Sometimes this is simply in the form of a program that generates a software package's serial number, usually referred to as a keygen. These chiptunes are now still accessible as downloadable musicdisks or musicpacks.
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Amateur coders busy cracking the copy-protection on the latest Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum games got into the habit of marking their work with an animated intro - or "cracktro" - inserted before the game began.
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- Kevin, Driscoll; Diaz, Joshua (2009). "Endless loop: A brief history of chiptunes". Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 2. doi:10.3983/twc.2009.0096.
As the demo scene established its independence, chiptunes were carried out of the gaming sphere altogether to finally establish their own stand-alone format: the downloadable musicdisk.
- Reunanen, Markku; Wasiak, Patryk; Botz, Daniel (2015). "Crack Intros: Piracy, Creativity and Communication". International Journal of Communication 9: 798–817. ISSN 1932-8036.
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- Driscoll, Kevin; Diaz, Joshua (2009): Endless Loop: A Brief History of Chiptunes. Transformative Works and Cultures 9, 2009.
- Reunanen, Markku (2014-04-15). "How Those Crackers Became Us Demosceners". WiderScreen (1-2).
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- World of C64 Crackintros – A large collection of C64 cracktros in native "prg" file format (supported by most C64 emulators)
- Defacto2 – Hundreds of cracktros, loaders and installers for the PC
- Amiga Music Preservation – Thousands of cracktros in all tracker formats.
- Chiptune.com – A chiptune dedicated website containing thousands of chiptunes from Amiga and other formats. The website itself emulates the Amiga Workbench 1.3.