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Cosine is, for the main, a demo crew. For the last sixteen years, on and off, we have been producing demonstrations for various platforms with the Commodore 64 being a major focus..

  C64 and 1541 disk drive
The Commodore 64
(and 1541 disk drive)
SO, WHAT IS THE COMMODORE 64?
Originally released in the U.S.A. for the end of 1982, the Commodore 64 (C64 for short or the Breadbin to it's friends) was the successor of Commodore Business Machines' popular VIC20 colour home computer. Featuring a sixteen colour palette with 320 by 200 pixel or 160 by 200 pixel screen resolution (depending on colour depth), eight hardware sprites and a revolutionary three voice synthesiser chip called the Sound Interface Device, the C64 soon became a popular machine.

But the C64's strongest and most interesting suit is that there are some interesting "features" in it's video hardware that make it possible to produce effects that shouldn't actually happen, at least according to the official design specifications.

WHAT IS A CREW?
In this context, it's a group of people who get together, either in the real world or via some virtual means like the telephone or, more recently, the internet, to produce computer software. In Cosine's case, we now work pretty much exclusively online and, before that option, we all had horrendous 'phone bills and posted disks to each other with data on.

AND WHAT IS A DEMO?
A demo (contracted from demonstration) is, at least partly, a form of showing off with a computer. The name has been appropriated over the years to also refer to a preview of a game, but real demos normally either offer minimal user interaction or none at all. And, although it sounds a bit pretentious, demos are also an art form of sorts; in the same way that modern art video installations can be considered an art form, demos take the idea a few steps further by being purely software based. A good demo comprises of excellent graphics and music as well as having good effects and well-written code.

Although the slog required to get a major production completed can sometimes seem painful (especially if we're working to a time restriction for a party competition) the final result is an entertainment like no other. It can also be fun working together with the other members of a crew to get something produced. And, although the view isn't particularly widespread even within the scene itself, demos are starting to gain status as an art-form and that's certainly the view we subscribe to; if a sheep in a tank of formaldehyde can be art, so can some rasterbars. On a slightly less frivolous note, mathematicians have always held that there is beauty in mathematics and demo programmers are taking that beauty and making it available to a wider audience. Since art revolves around beauty, that pretty much makes demos a form of art.

Deja-Vu 2
The Deja-Vu 2 Party
Bradford, England (1999)
 
WHAT IS A PARTY?
As the name suggests, it's a gathering of demo lovers (and other related subsets of the scene) to get drunk, program, watch demos and films, swap data and generally have a good time. Most parties have competitions that are separated into categories and formats; C64 demos, tracker music or "wild" competitions (where anything goes and the entrants supply their own and sometimes very obscure hardware) for example. Parties can involve a lot of last-minute development of demos; sometimes coders will go as far as writing the entire production from the core routines upwards, creating a demo live for the competition.

SO WHY CODE DEMOS FOR AN ANCIENT MACHINE?
The main reasons for writing C64 demos seems to be the challenge of producing something impressive on the C64, the little Breadbin only has a 0.98MHz processor, 16 colours and a three voice synth chip (albeit an exceptional one) and any programmer who can make that hardware spec sit up and dance has to be good. And, more importantly, the C64 has no "moving goalposts" culture on the hardware front. The latest PC hardware is constantly upgrading, what is current now certainly won't be anywhere near state of the art in six months time and the industry would like you to believe that it will be obsolete by the end of the year. With the C64, the hardware remained almost totally the same from the point when the first unit rolled off the production line to when the final C64c was boxed and shipped out; what runs on one C64 should run on any C64.

So, instead of the "throw more power at the job" attitude that PC developers have, C64 coders have to figure out better ways to write their programs to get around the hardware limitations. If a screen scroller takes too much processor time, what can be optimised off to make it more efficient? If the disksystem is too slow, can it be sped up without losing anything else? If the palette is too limiting, can more colours be faked? C64 coders work minor (and sometimes, not so minor) miracles to make the machine do a vast amount of things that are well beyond it's design specifications. And that means that coding the C64 can, if you understand it, be fun; in the same way that pot-holers (spelunkers) will sometimes disappear for hours on end into complex cave systems and re-emerge with a map for no readily apparent reason apart from the fact they want to do it, C64 coders will sit down with a glitch they have noticed in one of the video registers and attempt to find out if anything useful can be gained from it. This is how "impossible" routines like sideborders and FLI come about; experimenting with interesting quirks of the video architecture.

THE  HISTORY  OF  COSINE  -  EIGHT  BITS  AND  BEYOND

Cosine was originally started with two members, Skywave (Marc) and Hookie (Nia) and produced, amongst other things, demos. Around the time T.M.R (Jason) and Odie (Sean) joined, the team had started looking at other options such as game production. In 1988 Sonix Systems, the Cosine music division, was formed to produce game and demo music first with off-the-shelf utilities like Ubik's Music and Future Composer v2.1 and later with Odie's Electronic Music System.

Up until 1989, Cosine were producing demos at a respectable rate until Hookie left and the other members started to become disenchanted with the C64; the new piece of kit from Commodore, the Amiga, was the machine to be seen with and most of the members brought or gained access to one. However, the name never died and most of the members still considered themselves to be in Cosine, just inactive (this is normal for us, very few people actually leave and the ones that do normally seem to come back again!).

THE END OF ONE ERA
Then came 1993; T.M.R had been working on a demo and, along with Chancer (Paul), decided to finish it off and release it once and for all. Lethargy became the first Cosine demo in several years and, it seemed at the time, that it may possibly be the last; there was very little feedback (at least to us, the demo managed to get just about everywhere but we didn't realise until much later) and the members lost a just a little faith in the C64 scene.

So much so that the world was not to see another product until 1995, when Chancer was heading out to the X-95 party and T.M.R hammered out Contraflow to be entered into the demo competition there. That demo was a bit of a rush job, written in a very short space of time and finished at three in the morning on the day it had to be posted, but although flawed it was still reasonably respectable and managed to get third place.

Since then, the phrase "release schedule" is one that the members never quite seemed to get the grasp of; if a product can be finished five minutes before it has to go out, it will normally be completed two minutes before! We've released demos at parties all over the world (at which we never seem to have a representative) as well as a series of games and the odd utility, have been heavily involved with the production of the popular magazine Commodore Zone, released games through Cronosoft and making the odd appearance on Tricia (okay, that was a bit of a fib but we'd probably not be much worse than most of the people on that show!).

And the World Wide Web became a new Cosine playground; in 1996, the first generation of this website was launched on a largely unsuspecting public. This is now version 5, featuring graphics and what passes for design by T.M.R.

And then, at the start of 2000, we released Rollover and suddenly everything went quiet. Again...

With T.M.R getting a new job and moving to somewhere in the vicinity of London, Odie moving south and various other members drifting off into jobs or that vague entity called "life", the Cosine production line seemed to grind to a shuddering halt. But, like every good horror movie, the cadaver that is Cosine won't rest and, as the music reaches a spooky crescendo and the audience jumps as a hand slaps down on the hero's shoulder, we're still staggering on and groaning from time to time.

The "schedule" is still hastily scribbled down on a piece of scrap paper and largely ignored, but the releasing of productions like 4-Mat's Dentro and the rediscovery of classic Cosine titles like Gallery by Hookie will hopefully continue - when, how and indeed who will be held responsible is pretty much anyone's guess, but we're game if everyone else is...!

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