Amiga demos

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Amiga demos are demos created for the Commodore Amiga home computer.

A "demo" is a demonstration of the multimedia capabilities of a computer (or more to the point, a demonstration of the skill of the demo's constructors). There was intense rivalry during the 1990s among the best programmers, graphic artists and computer musicians to continually outdo each other's demos. Since the Amiga's hardware was more or less fixed (unlike today's PC industry, where arbitrary combinations of hardware can be put together), there was competition to test the limits of that hardware and perform theoretically "impossible" feats by refactoring the problem at hand. The Amiga was the undisputed leader of mainstream multimedia computing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, though it was inevitably overtaken by PC architecture.

Some Amiga demos, such as the RSI Megademo, or Crionics & The Silents "Hardwired" are considered seminal works in the demo field. New Amiga demos are released even today, although the demo scene has firmly moved onto PC hardware. Many Amiga game developers were active in the demo scene.

The demo scene spearheaded development in multimedia programming techniques for the Amiga, such that it was de rigueur for the latest visual tricks, soundtrackers and 3D algorithms from the demo scene to end up being used in computer game development.

Contents

Demo software

Most demos were written in 68000 assembly language, although a few were written in C and other languages. To utilize full hardware performance, Amiga demos were optimized and written entirely for one purpose in assembly (avoiding generic and portable code). Additional performance was achieved by utilizing several co-processors in parallel with the 68000. These co-processors include, Copper (a co-processor for synchronizing custom chipset writes to video display sync) and Blitter (a chip capable of quickly moving blocks of graphical data from one position on the screen to another). Sometimes performance optimizations were so aggressive that operating system control had to be disabled during a demo to avoid a crash or to achieve real-time rendering.

Antitrax 2010 (ATX) released the very first "megademo", called Antitrax 2010 Megademo, in 1987.

Eric Schwartz produced a series of animated demos that ran with MoviePlayer, an animation software package similar to Macromedia Flash. The animated demos drew heavily on the whimsy and graphic style of comic strips.

Red Sector Incorporated (RSI) produced a piece of software called the RSI Demomaker, which allowed users to script their own demos, replete with scrolltext, vectorballs, plasma screens, etc.

Full demos range from under 128 KB to several megabytes. There have been several thousand demos produced in many countries. Some active demo countries were Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, UK, Poland and others.

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