THE UK DEMO SCENE
Written by T.M.R of Cosine
Some eleven or so years ago the demo came to Britain. Everyone reading knows the initial story of demo development from crack intros onwards so I'll skip that, but the next stage of development was due in part to some of the Brit coders and later crews. The demo arrived at the same time as another phenomenon called Compunet. A fair number of you have probably heard of Compunet, or CNet for short, but maybe you don't know what it is. The closest modern day equivalent is the Internet but on a smaller scale.
CNet worked only in Britain via a series of local nodes that allowed you to dial in and access the main system from anywhere in the country. When a user signed up they had an area of their own assigned (similar to a homepage) and some file space. At first users uploaded their works, be they pictures, music or a chunk of code to show what they were able to do but quite soon they began banding together into teams.
Although we already had some cracking crews around, the CNet teams became the first demo crews. People like Ash and Dave, Ian and Mic, Stoat and Tim and the Borderzone Dezign Team started working on demos using sometimes ripped graphics and mostly ripped music (of that list only Borderzone had their own musician, Demon) and each demo was normally a one parter. The 'classic' demo of the time was a bitmap picture with a piece of ripped Rob Hubbard music and a ROL scroller in the lower or upper border, which became known as the "bog (stamdard) demo".
And despite the fact that everyone and his cat was coding bog demos, some crews still managed to produce new and original ideas. Slowly they started adding more detail and design to their demos and adding to them and soon there were teams like Pulse Productions, Radix Developments and Ratt and Benn. And then came the Meanteam.
The Meanteam were a landmark crew in demo coding history. The three members, Claka, Ste and JCB, managed to produce a different demo each time, and JCB especially pioneered some of the best new effects of the time. He was the first Brit to do FLD (in 1986, around the same time White of The Judges did it), first to convert Rockmonitor sample players to be able to work cleanly with a full screen of scrolling, one of the first to have an ESCOS picture playing music (an ESCOS picture is in upper, lower and side borders and the routine leaves almost no time left for anything else) and invented VSP. VSP, or Variable Screen Positioning, is the equivalent of FLD but on the X axis in that it allows you to push a bitmap picture to the right for up to fourty characters, allowing it to slide around the screen (with a bit of masking).
Around 1987 things started to quiet down. Most if not all of the CNet crews disappeared, and some of the cracking crews had begun to take their palce. A lot of people, Meanteam included, left for the Amiga or ST and the British scene never really recovered form it. But the links to the Euro crews that had been formed remained, and demos were being traded with the guys abroad. Even though our teams were more involved in the cracking side of things, there were some new demos being produced; crews continued to release products into the world market, and some of them were pretty good. But slowly, they all closed down or moved on, and the U.K. scene is in a pretty sorry state these days.
So what are we left with? Well, there is my own crew Cosine which, although not exactly flooding the scene, is at least releasing productions every now and then. And there do remain some of the older crews. Talent still does the odd demo, and Mayhem releases their scanned shows, as well as some of the newer folks such as XL-C-US and Jon Wells. Other crews such as O-Zone and SuiCyco Industries have started up recently; but as such, they are still learning, and the quality of release is not all that high. But given time, maybe they can learn some of the old tricks and invent a few of their own, and we can get a respectable, if somwhat small, scene up and running.
This article originally appeared in issue 21 of Driven.