Is the Scene becoming Less Technical?
Written by Adok
Some days ago I was told by a reader that Hugi was too less technical for his taste. He would prefer publishing more sophisticated coding- and music-related articles.
When I thought about this statement, suddenly the idea popped into my mind that the scene would be less technical nowadays than in the past. Once I had read in an old diskmag, I think it was one of the first Imphobia issues, that many sceners regarded people who could not code as lamers. Today many people who call themselves sceners cannot code. Most demo sceners nowadays are musicians. Then there are graphicians, who are mostly amateurs and have only a few really gifted ones among them that could have become another Leonardo or Michelangelo, if they had lived some hundred years earlier. Finally we have a huge army of people who love watching demo productions but are not directly involved in creating them. They are either swappers/'spreaders', sysops, archive maintainers, web designers, or people who write down their humble thoughts and publish them in diskmags just like I am doing now. And we also have completely passive people who maybe watch demos more or less regularly and attend demo parties but do not do any more demoscene-related.
Of course we still have coders. Many coders. In fact coders are the second largest group of profession in the demo scene after musicians, as far as one can tell from reading diskmags, watching the people chatting on IRC and informing oneself on scene web-pages. Coders are most important for making a demo because they are the ones who link graphic and music together to animations. Besides, they create all the effects and are responsible for their programs' running on as many PCs as possible.
In the last years, however, one thing that was not necessary for demos at all has vastly gained importance, thus now being the dominating part of a demo: the design. Design means how well linked music is with the effects and how occasional pictures are arranged in the production.
Because of the importance of design for a demo, the significance of graphic artists and musicians in the process of demomaking has increased. Graphicians also often help the coder arrange the parts of the demos and make well transitions because they, being people talented at art, know what looks good and what not. Factually, they often create the design of the demo the coder then implements.
But you do not necessarily have to be a graphician to design a demo. Basically, everyone who has enough taste of what a good production should look like can be the designer. People who can neither code, draw nor compose well but have a great deal of creativity and imagination are capable of creating the design of a good demo. And the technical people, most importantly the coders, implement it.
In the past, many groups used to have the sysops of their HQs in their member lists. This gradually got out of fashion with the time. I think the reason is that as the scene began to grow and many boards were opened, each board with a good reputation started supporting not only their own group, but numerous groups. Due to this fact, it would not be very handy to mention all the sysops' names in the member lists. Groups rather started listing the BBSes which supported them in a separate section of their infofiles.
Today hardly any group lists BBS dist sites and headquarters in its infofile. Most Bulletin Board Systems in the PC scene have lost all their importance. Rather than BBSes, FTP servers spread the productions of the groups. Many groups also have their own homepages. Usually they were they either designed by an active member of theirs, for example the graphician or the coder, but in some cases groups have members who are only responsible for web-design. Some of them are former mailswappers who do not feel to be needed any more today in their old profession and therefore have switched to another supportive task, namely the designing and updating of the website of their group.
As for swappers, they were also a big part of the demo sceners that did not have much to do with technical aspects. You only had to know how to use a text editor, compression programs and DOS or a file-manager, and you could become a swapper. Still, swappers were respected in the scene. Many groups had swappers as members, since they were important for the spreading of productions beyond the borders of a certain region or country.
Not many people swap today. However, mailswapping is still important in some regions. For instance, large parts of the demo sceners in Poland do nothing but swapping. And those former swappers who are still somehow involved in the scene have either found another supportive task, such as maintaining Internet sites, as said, or hang out passively just like the large number of people who have only recently found their ways to the scene.
Swappers also had a second important function besides spreading productions which we must not forget. They were the main source for news. Groups gave away recent information about them to swappers, and they spread the news to other swappers, who then informed the other members of their groups. Swappers helped a lot create the scene atmosphere.
In addition to this, swappers were often main editors of diskmags. Or, let's better say it the other way round: Many editors of diskmags were swappers. Imphobia, Hoax, Autark, and many others - all their editors had their roots in swapping. That was only a natural development. After all, swappers knew best what was going on in the scene and had most knowledge of the social, non-technical aspect of demos. With a little talent at writing, they were the born scene magazine editors.
That someone is a swapper, editor, sysop or webmaster does not mean he or she does not understand anything about the technological aspects, though. Actually web-designing also requires technical knowledge, albeit not the same one needs for coding a demo. Swappers and editors partly know about coding, painting or composing, too, and have had more or less success with it. For instance, when I entered the scene by making my first contacts with mailswapping, I already knew programming in Basic well and was learning C in parallel with Assembler. After seeing some demos and intros, I decided to become a 'mega-coder' myself and started learning how to code those fancy effects in all these mysterious screenmodes. People said I was quite good for my age. I did not believe it, but who knows? With the time I also got hold of diskmags, first German ones, later international ones. Reading them fascinated, I first began to write for some, and later I used the opportunity to make my own one. I had not given up my dream of becoming a good coder, but the diskmag took me increasingly more time so that I finally had no longer time for coding anything except the diskmag interface.
I do not know what I would have developed to if I had not started my diskmag but had rather consistently kept learning to code demo effects and take advantage of all the techniques. Anyway, I feel happy to be one of the unfortunately small number of diskmag editors. Writing is fun for me, and I think I probably know more about the scene, the social aspect of writing demos, than I would ever have had if I had just become a pure coder. (On the other hand, I am lacking insight in the technical aspect.)
To sum it up, I think that my sudden idea that the scene were less technical today than it was in the past is unfounded. It is not. On the contrary, a good coder has to know much more these days than he had to some years ago. It is right that a large part of the scene today is formed by people who are not directly involved in the technical part of making demos. However, if we think of the swappers, we will realize that it has always been this way.
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