The Role of Diskmags in the PC Scene

Written by Adok

Let's start with a bit of history. The Demodiskmag scene history, abbreviated version: Until the beginning of the ninties, diskmags were unheard of on the PC, apart from a few US-ansimags that have no importance nowadays. In 1992 the first issues of Imphobia were released, "The first and only European review", followed by Hoax. The quality of the mags quickly increased, in 1993 Pulse and New World Order were founded, in 1994 Parrot and Daskmig; these PC-diskmags had a lot of importance due to being the pioneers of diskmags. The years 1993 and 1994 were the first peek of the demodiskmagscene, sometimes there were so many active mag-projects that one had serious worries what had happened to the democrews. Mags were an essential, if not the most important, communication medium of the scene. The number of articles featured in these mags multiplied like unrestrained rabbits, and as a side effect one wished to see less. The number of articles grew rabbit-like, so that sometimes one wished to have less. In 1996 the scene activity sank down to the ground again. For the time being, the last issue of Imphobia was released in 1996, although Darkness always ensures that this wouldn't be the last Imphobia forever. Nothing has moved on the Imphobia-front since then. It is dead. And with it the old spirit of the demodiskmag scene has disappeared, of which its lifeblood was Imphobia.

In a instant, hundreds, and dare I say, thousands, barring any exaggeration, of sceners had lost their platform. Just imagine the readers of Demonews at the best of times, and all this is gone in a flash. Since the remaining diskmags didn't even touch the quality of Imphobia, sceners then turned away from the mags. A large number found a new home on the Internet. Students, as most demosceners are, always had Internet access from the beginning. At this very time the Internet was discovered by the masses, the conquest of the home-sector began. IRC-channels like #coders, newsgroups like and FTP-servers like gained a lot of acceptance at that time. Not only diskmags but BBSes as well, all globally lost a lot of their audience to the Internet, they were replaced by FTP sites, some sysops opened their own FTPs, mostly with ratios and other features that were prevalent on BBSes. Here the situation is similar to the diskmags. Although BBSes might be of great importance locally, that does not happen to be the case everywhere else.

All of that happened in 1996; in the meantime, the scene has changed. New sceners have found their way to the scene, mostly younger sceners and ex-Amiga-sceners, the latter with more of a background in the scene by which they could exploit to gain a leading position on the PC with comparisons to the newbies. The older scene members partly retired from the scene, some remained active and are members of meanwhile famous groups like Pulse, Coma, Orange, TBL, Melon, Halcyon, Exmortis or ACME. Even if that may be the avantgarde of the demoscene, the younger sceners form a majority, they form the actual, inner picture of the scene. And often it doesn't look good here. Many scene-rookies are of the type "I saw 2nd reality and became a scener". Many of them have never seen a diskmag or logged into a BBS, or do not know that something like that existed or even still exists. Their activities concentrate mainly on the Internet, and they - I'm quoting a contact know who's been watching the scene for a longer time - "develop to 'dull' clickers of buttons about information". Regarding the scene that might sound a bit dramatic, of course. Most people actually do show some activity, even if it is only some quickly coded releases for a party. But as for diskmags it is exactly the case. You cannot interact with a diskmag in the same way as an online-magazine - you would have to take a little time to download it, which is something many people don't do, probably because they know about things other then diskmags that are exciting to them - of course, if you have never seen a diskmag, you will always remain downloading demo-stuff. How would you know what a diskmag would offer you.

Yes, there are also onlinemags, partly excellent ones, such as Network, Orange Juice and Error 404, and online-versions of diskmags. Some onlinemags are successful indeed, for example Network, an onlinemag for the PC, Amiga, Atari and C64 scenes, is said to have between 500 and 1000 hits daily. In contrast to diskmags, onlinemags as well as newsgroups have the advantages of frequent updates, that they aren't system-independent and can be viewed by every Internet-user, as long as his/her WWW-browser supports it. Thanks to CGI-scripts, everything can work automatically, a visitor can publish their news, articles, et cetera in the magazine without expensive text-formatting, without dealing with some strange features of the interface, without having to contact the mag staff, in which way also discussions can be started much easier. But diskmags also have their advantages, and these are pretty big: Firstly, diskmags can be spread freely and are swapped alot, by which they exist literally for ever. In contrast to that postings in newsgroups are usually deleted from the newsserver every few days, if nobody saves and stores them they'll be erased without a possibility of recovery sometime. Secondly, diskmags cost much less than onlinemags because it is enough to download them once, then you can read them in peace as often as you want. Ergo diskmags can have a bigger size than onlinemags; with onlinemags the danger would be that several articles would be read by a small audience only just because the headline doesn't sound interesting enough, which means that the majority of the readers won't download the article. Thirdly: Who checks in unmoderated newsgroups or in mags like Network respectively, which allow publishing news and articles without being examined by the staff first, if the postings fit to the character of the newsgroup or the onlinemag? In contrast to that the articles in diskmags are usually sorted out and as many as possible grammatical errors are fixed. You won't be flooded by trash and spam like in newsgroups. Furthermore, you can call it the fourth advantage of diskmags, there is the special feeling of a traditional diskmag that an onlinemag doesn't have, caused by the interface, textlayout, graphic- and sound-style. in spite of the many possibilities HTML and embedded Javaapplets, Javascript and so on offer, this doesn't reach the possibilities a mag-interface has that is independent from any standard except the operating system and the hardware.

That was the topic acceptance of diskmags and online media. Sole acceptance, however, isn't everything, it's just passive, just the basis that something like a diskmag can work at all. The most important thing is the active participation, and that is what the demoscene really lacks of at the moment. You just have to look at Network, which is said to have between 500 and 1000 hits per day. The number of articles, but not only of articles, but also of news, is shockingly small. Yes, of news... by which you see that the people don't even use the chance of advertising for themselves, their groups, their activities or productions. Shouldn't that be something to think about? How lazy are the sceners? Is their intention to kill their own scene, which they are so proud of, while activity is one of the most essential things in the scene?

Maybe we lack appropriate organizers, maybe the content or the news and the style of the magazines is too unexciting for the people, not motivating enough, maybe there is simply not enough action, and if there is no action most people aren't ready to create action!

An example: Lately when I organized the first Hugi-Size-Coding-Competition - you remember, the attendees had to code the smallest nibbles-clone - there were up to 350 hits at the compo-homepage at the best time per day. Which tells you that by certain steps it is indeed possible to motivate and activate the demosceners or, in this case, the coders. What these steps have to be like in the case of a diskmag is the question. In any case it is important to support the active dudes - but how should one find them at all?

One has to do more advertising for diskmags. for certain diskmags as well as for the term diskmag itself. Most of all for the newbies - this term isn't meant derogative or equal with lamer -, which form the mass of the sceners, diskmags have to be made attractive. Switching to Windows 95, Linux or Java or at least attaching an interface or these operating systems might be useful too.

(It is correct that above I wrote that up to now, using HTML and Javaapplets in it, it isn't possible to gain the atmosphere of a traditional diskmag. However, you must distinguish between Java and in Java written, in HTML used Applets. Java is a programming language like every else, the only difference is that Java programs aren't translated to machine language but to bytecode, which then can be interpreted by Virtual Machines. Because of that Java is system-independent. Basically Java doesn't have any advantage compared to other Interpreter languages, but at the moment Java is very popular and almost everyone who has access to the World Wide Web can also execute Java programs. Therefore the suggestion is to write the interfaces in Java. Hugi, by the way, already has an optional Java-interface.)

The text amount of the diskmags has to be enlarged, at the same time, however, the size of the packed archive has to be as small as possible to allow people who log in to the net at home via modem or ISDN to download the diskmag. Two megs packed is maximum, in my opinion.

When the diskmags are attractive enough for the broad public, the sceners' laziness has to be defeated. They have to be motived to write, one has to show that diskmags still have a reason to exist, that they are important, that they could be a platform. How that should be done in detail is open and an important topic for discussion.

When we take a glance at the C64- or the Amiga-scene, a completely different picture is displayed. There are way more international diskmags which have an important role, so many that some diskmags have even created sections for diskmag editors - although here the Internet is spread as well, though it's probably not so extremely spread as on PC. Indeed mailswapping is still the most common way of communication between the sceners and the spread of scenestuff on the C64-sector. Perhaps this mailswapping is one of the reasons why diskmags are doing so well on these systems: The people are forced to be active, to write a letter to their scene friends from time to time, otherwise they wouldn't get any new releases and lose contact to the scene. If you often write letters it isn't as hard to write articles either. The PC-dudes on the other hand get the latest stuff from FTPs, which, okay, is much faster and in many cases cheaper than via snailmail, by which the sceners however become slow and lazy with the time. Let's take the Amiga- and C64-dudes as a model for us! Let's try to be as active as them or even more active!

What is clear: At the moment there enough different diskmags on the PC-sector. Now it's the time to expand the mags, they have to get better known in the scene, article-writers and other supporters have to be found. The demodiskmagscene is on the right way - the speed of development just has to become faster.

Maybe this article has changed something about the way you see diskmags. I don't want to be too optimistic with my expectations, but I would be very pleased if more activity would be shown from your side. It isn't just that the diskmag makers would have an advantage of this. No, on the contrary, you all will have an advantage! By whom and for what are diskmags being made? By sceners, to offer a platform for themselves and other sceners!

So have a swell time, continue reading and sleep well to be able to start working tomorrow with a lot of energy.

With these words I've arrived at the end of the article. Bye.

- adok^hugi