History of Imphobia
Written by Adok
As a person keen on reading interesting articles, I am not satisfied with the low activity in the diskmag scene and the mostly average quality of the diskmags today. I wanted to read something good. I wanted to read something innovative. I wanted to read something personal. Personal opinions of various people about various things. Personal opinions of sceners about the scene, about everyday's life, about politics and so on. The magazines of today did not serve my need. Therefore I lately decided to read through the legendary old PC magazines again, and I started some days ago with Imphobia.
Not only did I want to be entertained, but I also wanted to take a look at the development of this major diskmag and to compare the situation in it and the situation of it with the situation in and the situation of the diskmags of today. I wanted to see what really made Imphobia that popular as it was and according to several charts and sceners' opinions still is.
Before I talk about the results of my analysis, I want to start with a summary of the history of the Imphobia magazine.
Imphobia #1. "The one and only European review." Indeed Imphobia was the first European diskmag and the first diskmag like those we are accustomed to now in the demoscene. It was the first diskmag with VGA graphics and a similar structure like all the demoscene mags after it, the mags of the past and the mags of today.
The original idea came from Wizard/Imphobia, the coder and, at the beginning, the leader of the group. It all started in September 1991. As we learn in the Imphobia editorial, Wizard wanted to create a "review in VGA", however not dealing with cracks and that kind of stuff but with demos. He started coding and gathered a team consisting of his local scene friends from Belgium, which mainly were Darkness, Scorpio, and Zorlock.
Imphobia #1 was released at the beginning of 1992. Compared to later issues and today's mags, it was of very low quality. There were a lot of English grammar and spelling mistakes, there were not many articles, and the quality of the articles was poor. Imphobia #1 had a BBS list, the usual things like edito and credits, interviews, charts (however we do not know how these charts were made, as there is neither a voters list nor any other information), information on new scene groups, codes and cheats for games and some other lame articles, accompanied by a stable but unfriendly looking interface with a hardly readable font. Even in mode 13h, you could have done better. But for that time, it was okay.
On today's computers, the magazine can still be started under MS-DOS and works okay, at least on my PC. Using the keyboard for scrolling and the mouse for selecting articles, you can navigate reasonably through the magazine.
Imphobia #2 and #3 did not differ a lot from this premier issue. What was new was a news section; moreover, there was a corner maintained by a girl, but still, the quality of the magazine was rather bad from today's point of view.
It gradually changed when Darkness became the main person in Imphobia #4. He realized the problems like the English grammar mistakes, and diligently worked on sorting them out. That was at the end of 1992, when another disk magazine was already creating serious pressure on Imphobia: Hoax. At that time, it was probably the best diskmag, for having a slightly better-looking and friendlier interface than Imphobia as well as better articles. It was mainedited by Kapsu, and people like Gore / Future Crew wrote for it.
Hoax was released from August 1998 till September 1993 every 3-4 months. Then, luckily for Imphobia, it vanished. When Kapsu released a final 6th issue of Hoax in the August of 1995 - which, interestingly, was mainly a result of Darkness' encouraging him to resume Hoax - the whole situation has changed already, and Hoax was just one of the many small mags which looked pale compared to Imphobia in every respect.
Furthermore, Imphobia #4 had some smaller changes to the interface, such as a better font and better GFX. And more, Sam had joined the Imphobia staff, who should later turn out to be one of the most important writers for Imphobia.
Imphobia #5 featured major changes to the interface. Still running in mode 13h, it looked much friendlier now, the texts were split into categories selectable from the main menu (such as "Edito", "Charts" or "Articles"), the text viewer featured colored texts, and even though the colours were not always well chosen it looked better than before. There were also the first serious charts in this issue, with a voter list showing about 70 voters from all over the world. The text viewer displayed not only the article, but also a box at the bottom of the screen which showed the author, name of the article and his country's flag (or at least what the Imphobia staff then thought the countries' flags looked like). The articles were better then, too. Imphobia #5 lives up to the standards of some smaller magazines of today, like Armor of Gods #4 for example, without having their good interface of course.
About four months passed between Imphobia #4 and #5. This release manner was kept till Imphobia #7.
Issue 6 of Imphobia finally was the first real Imphobia, the first Imphobia issue like we are accustomed to it. It had almost 600 kbyte of articles and a new interface, namely the interface we usually call the "Imphobia interface". The interface that has since been copied by other PC diskmags many times although it itself was probably inspired from disk magazines of other computer systems and World Charts by Future Crew.
It worked in a screen mode with the resolution 640x480 and probably 16 colours, though it was most likely a special video mode since the magazine does not run correctly under Windows; there, it flickers a lot, and everything, including the music, is slower. But in DOS, this issue still works okay on my current PC.
The screen was split vertically into three parts. On the top, there was an Imphobia logo. On the bottom, we had some background gfx, and in the center of the screen, there was the main part, where the main menu, the article selection menu and the articles themselves were displayed. The article text was split into two columns, each filling almost half of the screen width, i.e 38 characters. With the left and right cursor keys, you could scroll through the text. The text moved using a horizontal scrolling effect, which was very smooth indeed.
Basically, this interface was used in all the next Imphobia issues till the very end. There were only minor changes since, such as 80-columns-wide-text, used in adverts, party invitations and some articles, or colored text (since Imphobia #9), which was scarcely used though, but nevertheless suited the atmosphere well.
Imphobia had its own music player for Soundblaster and later for GUS, too, and each issue had 3-4 modules from various composers on the PC scene from all over the world.
From this issue on, Pl painted most of the gfx of Imphobia. He was and still is an excellent graphician whose pictures contributed a lot to the overwhelmingly good atmosphere of the mag.
What came next, can be told in rather short words: The magazine expanded, and became increasingly popular. And that, although that year 1993, had, for the time, rather many international disk magazines of a good quality, such as the aforementioned Hoax, New World Order, Pulse, or Future Crew's hype Worldcharts, and even more diskmag projects that were announced but never saw the light of the day. Imphobia's success mainly came from the fact that these magazines did not survive long, or their quality soon decreased and the mags lost their importance.
Imphobia, on the other hand, was still active and contained interesting articles and interviews. Soon the number of voters that participated climbed up to 100.
However, after Imphobia #7, which was released in December 1993, the activity of this mag had a sudden stop, and it took til October 1994 for the next issue to be released.
In the meantime New World Order has continued publishing new issues. In the middle of the year, some new international diskmags were founded, such as Scenial, Parrot, Yahoo, Genetic Dreams, or Public Incantation, as well as the newsletter Scene Post. DemoNews had already been there for over a year and a half, and was gaining popularity on the Internet. 1994 was also the year of birth of several local disk magazines, such as the Swiss Pain and consorts, the Polish Bad News and Wrotki, the Slovak Slanina, and many German diskmags like HotMag or Suicide. At the end of the year, the diskmag scene was joined by Daskmig Illusions, then a small and pityful local Norwegian magazine, which later played a more important role.
You might think that this did some harm to Imphobia. But that was not the case. On the contrary, when Imphobia #8 was finally released, it was more popular than ever, already with almost a mbyte of text. Imphobia had gained some especially good and regular writers, such as Aap/ACME, Unreal/S!P, or Nemesis. With their support and the support of many other people from all over the globe, Imphobia #9 was released only three months after its previous issue. And it was almost a miracle: this issue contained 1.1 mbyte of articles, and most articles were good if not even very good. Motivated by the success, Imphobia #10, the anniversary issue, was again released just three months after its predecessor, namely in June 1996, and it sported 1.4 mbyte of articles.
This was the climax of Imphobia. A long time had passed since Imphobia had been the small and, from nowadays' point of view, lame magazine which it was in its first four issues. Imphobia had long been established in the scene, and it was clear to everyone that it was superior to all other disk magazines. Imphobia was well-known and spread in all scene countries on the globe, it had tons of interviews and articles about various topics, scene and non-scene ones, sorted in the columns "Scene Forum", "Miscellaneous", "Weird Stories", "Poetry", "Partyline", "Graphics Corner", "Music Corner", and "Coding Corner", completed by, of course, an Editorial, Front News, Messages, Adverts, and Charts generated by the votes of more than 200 people. The elite of the scene as well as "normal" sceners wrote for Imphobia, which had 70 article writers at its peak. Discussions about the scene and demos, the recent developments in these areas, politics, everyday's life and texts that were just meant to entertain the readers could be found in Imphobia.
Beside Darkness, Sam, Unreal, Nemesis, and Aap, many other good article writers got active in the mag and partly joined the staff, such as The REW / Nostalgia, responsible for the music corner, Sleeping Dog / The Natives, DGM / Hemoroids, Ervin / Abaddon, or, later, Mop, who was also the main editor of the famous Amiga zine ROM, and Dennis Courtney.
Two more issues were released, Imphobia #11 in December 1995 with about 1.7 mbyte of articles and Imphobia #12 in July 1996 with ca. 2 mbyte of articles. The delay between the issues had increased: while Imphobia #11 came out 6 months after its predecessor, it took 8 months until Imphobia #12 was released.
And Imphobia #13 has never been released. At least not yet. Darkness never declared Imphobia officially dead. But the chance that this magazine will be released in a foreseeable time is zero. So we can assume that Imphobia is dead.
That is the Imphobia magazine, of course. The editoring team of Imphobia has partly retired, too, but partly it still exists. For example, Aap/ACME, The REW, Unreal/CNCD/Ex-Pulse, and Darkness himself, too, are still active. The REW and Darkness have organized major parties, namely Takeover and Wired respectively. Unreal and Aap, and their respective groups, have contributed some memorable productions to our beloved scene. Darkness also released two scene CDs, Dreams Part I + Part II. And he is currently working on a new one.
Meanwhile, the scene had to go on without Imphobia. And none of the remaining diskmags has yet managed to gain a similar position to Imphobia. Even Daskmig, the mag that was taken over by the Inferiors and Proxima groups in 1995 and in some people's opinion had the potential to become a serious concurrent to Imphobia, did not get over three issues (the issues that were released by the old staff not counted in). There were some other nice tries, like Autark or Splash. But all of them vanished very soon.
So the PC demo scene had to survive without any serious diskmag for a long time. And you sceners of late 1998 are experiencing the result of this.
HUGI - we REVIVE the DISKMAG scene