MSX Demoscene

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An MSX1 demo: Bold by Dvik & Joyrex

MSX was the first attempt to standardize software and hardware between different home computer vendors. With its 3.58 MHz processor, Microsoft BASIC, three-channel sound and modest graphics the MSX represented a very typical 8-bit home computer of the early 1980s. Several well-known companies such as Sony, Canon and Philips produced their own models, but their efforts were largely shadowed by the king of the hill, the Commodore 64. In spite of the tough competition, in some countries, such as The Netherlands, Spain and Brazil, the MSX line of computers was actually quite popular. A big factor in the success were the quality games produced by Konami, well-known for its numerous popular game series.

The MSX demoscene is a small but curious resident of the demo world. It could be roughly divided into two eras: the Dutch scene of the early nineties and the MSX renaissance of the late nineties. The Dutch demos ran on the advanced MSX2 computers that had improved graphics modes and often expansions such as additional memory or a sound cartridge. The effects seen in the first wave of demos were typical for the time: scrollers, colorbars, wobblers and even simple flat shaded vector graphics. Interestingly, in the Dutch scene it was considered perfectly normal to sell demos at fairs to other people, to get compensation for the hard work. In contrast, usually demos are distributed for free among the sceners and demo watchers. Many Dutch demogroups also went on to produce commercial games for the platform.

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A Dutch MSX2 demo: Unknown Reality by NOP

When the MSX started to disappear from the face of mainstream computing towards the mid-nineties, the Dutch scene also cooled down. It wasn't until 1997 that new demos started to appear, this time ...

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Demo Effects in a Nutshell

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Tint by The Black Lotus (1996)

Visual effects are the building blocks of demos. To impress the audience, an effect needs to look good, have some novelty in it, and be technically well-executed. Especially during the early years of the demoscene, in the late eighties, creatively pushing hardware was highly regarded, but later on visual quality became increasingly important. The capabilities of home computers have improved considerably during the last 25 years, which has let the programmers create effects that would have been way beyond the reach of the early 8-bits such as the Commodore 64. Likewise, old tricks have become outdated or unfashionable and fallen out of use.

Scrolling text from an Ikari crack intro (1988)

Most demos released in the late 1980s or early 1990s featured some kind of scrollers: text sliding across the screen. Several variations such as sinus or parallax scrollers exist, but the basic idea is still the same. Scrollers were often used for informative purposes, like displaying the credits or for sending greetings to fellow groups. Other common effects of the time were colorbars, wobblers and sprite graphics moving on top of the background. Common to all of them is that they directly reflect the capabilities of the contemporary hardware. A bit later image-based effects, such as various tunnels and zoomers, started to gain ground, reflecting the move away from bitmapped graphics hardware, which was ill-suited for such feats.

Flat-shaded vector graphics from Vectormania by Phenomena (1990)

Bump+texture mapped 3D from Solstice by Valhalla (1995)

Vector graphics such as rotating objects and scenes became popular in the early 1990s, first in the primitive flat shaded format. Throughout the nineties the sophistication of vector graphics increased little by little and at the end of the decade you could see texture mapping, real-time shading and ...

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Pietà (2010)- Micah Schippa

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Exposure Adjustment on a Sunset (2009) - Artie Vierkant

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Video of a full sunset altered so that the brightness level remains constant from beginning to end.

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General Web Content

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The 3D film is by no means a new technology, but post-Avatar, it's had quite a renaissance as of late, and everyone is jumping on board. In 2009, YouTube introduced a 3D player for their videos, making it easier for users to opt for the effect, and a search for "anaglyph" on Vimeo turns up hundreds of videos. It seems that alongside mainstream Hollywood's current fixation with 3D exists a parallel surge in 3D clips, ones of a more homespun variety. This post assembles some of those videos, which pair the whiz-bang of 3D with kittens, landscapes, scenes from video games, and much more.














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Snow Canon - (1981) Synopsis & Steve Roach

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Entering (1974) - Peter Donebauer

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The imagery and sound in Entering were performed 'live' by Donebauer and composer Simon Desorgher, and recorded in real time, using a colour TV studio at the Royal College of Art. Later Donebauer and Richard Monkhouse developed the Videokalos synthesiser, as an image-sound performance instrument. Entering was transmitted by the BBC in 1974.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM UBUWEB

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Venn diagram in 3D (2010) - Derek Frech

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Psychedelic Death Vomit (Slight Return) 3D (2010) - Yoshi Sodeoka

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The Society of the Spectacle (Now in 3D) (2009) - Pascual Sisto

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