What Unix hackers think about the demoscene


Recently I started to read a very interesting text:


It's a dictionary of Unix hackers jargon. As you might know, they are computer nerds, which created Unix, C, Perl, Internet and many other things that have become commonplace. In the early times, from the Sixties to the Eighties, these guys worked mainly in various artificial intelligence laboratories and institutes, and wrote a range of interesting programs, often just for fun rather than money. Some of them have disappeared - possibly working for big companies now - but some many are still working on such projects like Linux, GNU programs, etc.

There are many interesting bits in this jargon file - hackers and programmers jokes, legends and stories, such as the one about walking drives - ancient disk drives, which were big and heavy, and had so powerful electric engines that when a program made the disks rotate, they would shuffle over the floor. When they happened to move behind the entrance door, the technicians had to make a hole in the room's wall to be able to enter.

Also, in this dictionary there are descriptions of various types of computer habitants - lamers, crackers, warez scene, and demoscene too - from a Unix hacker's point of view, of course. I find it very interesting to know what others think about us. So, let's have a look.

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:demoscene: /dem'oh-seen/ [also `demo scene'] A culture of multimedia hackers located primarily in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Demoscene folklore recounts that when old-time {warez d00dz} cracked some piece of software they often added an advertisement of in the beginning, usually containing colorful {display hack}s with greetings to other cracking groups. The demoscene was born among people who decided building these display hacks is more interesting than hacking and began to build self-contained display hacks of considerable elaboration and beauty (within the culture such a hack is called a {demo}). The split seems to have happened at the end of the 1980s. As more of these {demogroup}s emerged, they started to have {compo}s at copying parties (see {copyparty}), which later evolved to standalone events (see {demoparty}). The demoscene has retained some traits from the {warez d00dz}, including their style of handles and group names and some of their jargon.

Traditionally demos were written in assembly language, with lots of smart tricks, self-modifying code, undocumented op-codes and the like. Some time around 1995, people started coding demos in C, and a couple of years after that, they also started using Java.

Ten years on (in 1998-1999), the demoscene is changing as its original platforms (C64, Amiga, Spectrum, Atari ST, IBM PC under DOS) die out and activity shifts towards Windows, Linux, and the Internet. While deeply underground in the past, demoscene is trying to get into the mainstream as an accepted art form, and one symptom of this is the commercialization of bigger demoparties. Older demosceners frown at this, but the majority think it's a good direction. Many demosceners end up working in the computer game industry. Demoscene resource pages are available at `http://www.oldskool.org/demos/explained/' and `http://www.scene.org/'.

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Overall, this is quite right. But they called us "multimedia hackers" :-E And here we can see the word "display hack". Let's read about it...

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:display hack: n. A program with the same approximate purpose as a kaleidoscope: to make pretty pictures. Famous display hacks include {munching squares}, {smoking clover}, the BSD Unix `rain(6)' program, `worms(6)' on miscellaneous Unixes, and the {X} `kaleid(1)' program. Display hacks can also be implemented by creating text files containing numerous escape sequences for interpretation by a video terminal; one notable example displayed, on any VT100, a Christmas tree with twinkling lights and a toy train circling its base. The {hack value} of a display hack is proportional to the aesthetic value of the images times the cleverness of the algorithm divided by the size of the code. Syn. {psychedelicware}.

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As we can see, a display hack is more like a screensaver than a demo Go ahead...

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:demogroup: n. [{demoscene}] A group of {demo} (sense 4) composers. Job titles within a group include coders (the ones who write programs), graphicians (the ones who painstakingly pixelate the fine art), musicians (the music composers), {sysop}s, traders/swappers (the ones who do the trading and other PR), and organizers (in larger groups). It is not uncommon for one person to do multiple jobs, but it has been observed that good coders are rarely good composers and vice versa. [How odd. Musical talent seems common among Internet/Unix hackers --ESR]

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BTW, ESR are the initials of Eric S. Raymond, who is now an editor of the Jargon File.

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:demo: /de'moh/ [short for `demonstration'] 4. [{demoscene}] A sequence of {demoeffect}s (usually) combined with self-composed music and hand-drawn ("pixelated") graphics. These days (1997) usually built to attend a {compo}. Often called `eurodemos' outside Europe, as most of the {demoscene} activity seems to have gathered in northern Europe and especially Scandinavia. See also {intro}, {dentro}.

:dentro: /den'troh/ [{demoscene}] Combination of {demo} (sense 4) and {intro}. Other name mixings include intmo, dentmo etc. and are used usually when the authors are not quite sure whether the program is a {demo} or an {intro}. Special-purpose coinages like wedtro (some member of a group got married), invtro (invitation intro) etc. have also been sighted.

:intro: n. [{demoscene}] Introductory {screen} of some production. 2. A short {demo}, usually showing just one or two {screen}s. 3. Small, usually 64k, 40k or 4k {demo}. Sizes are generally dictated by {compo} rules. See also {dentro}, {demo}.

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Not so bad - it could be much worse ;)

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:demoparty: n. [{demoscene}] Aboveground descendant of the {copyparty}, with emphasis shifted away from software piracy and towards {compo}s. Smaller demoparties, for 100 persons or less, are held quite often, sometimes even once a month, and usually last for one to two days. On the other end of the scale, huge demo parties are held once a year (and four of these have grown very large and occur annually - Assembly in Finland, The Party in Denmark, The Gathering in Norway, and NAID somewhere in North America). These parties usually last for three to five days, have room for 3000-5000 people, and have a party network with connection to the internet.

:copyparty: n. [C64/amiga {demoscene} ]A computer party organized so demosceners can meet other in real life, and to facilitate software copying (mostly pirated software). The copyparty has become less common as the Internet makes communication easier. The demoscene has gradually evolved the {demoparty} to replace it.

:compo: n. [{demoscene}] Finnish-originated slang for `competition'. Demo compos are held at a {demoparty}. The usual protocol is that several groups make demos for a compo, they are shown on a big screen, and then the party participants vote for the best one. Prizes (from sponsors and party entrance fees) are given. Standard compo formats include {intro} compos (4k or 64k demos), music compos, graphics compos, quick {demo} compos (build a demo within 4 hours for example), etc.

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And, as for me, the funniest description...

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:ASCII art: n. The fine art of drawing diagrams using the ASCII character set (mainly `|', `-', `/', `\', and `+'). Also known as `character graphics' or `ASCII graphics'; see also {boxology}. Here is a serious example:

         o----)||(--+--|<----+   +---------o + D O
           L  )||(  |        |   |             C U
         A I  )||(  +-->|-+  |   +-\/\/-+--o -   T
         C N  )||(        |  |   |      |        P
           E  )||(  +-->|-+--)---+--|(--+-o      U
              )||(  |        |          | GND    T

A power supply consisting of a full wave rectifier circuit feeding a capacitor input filter circuit.

And here are some very silly examples:

       |\/\/\/|     ____/|              ___    |\_/|    ___
       |      |     \ o.O|   ACK!      /   \_  |` '|  _/   \
       |      |      =(_)=  THPHTH!   /      \/     \/      \
       | (o)(o)        U             /                       \
       C      _)  (__)                \/\/\/\  _____  /\/\/\/
       | ,___|    (oo)                       \/     \/
       |   /       \/-------\         U                  (__)
      /____\        ||     | \    /---V  `v'-            oo )
     /      \       ||---W||  *  * |--|   || |`.         |_/\

         ====___\   /.. ..\   /___====      Klingons rule OK!
       //        ---\__O__/---        \\
       \_\                           /_/

There is an important subgenre of ASCII art that puns on the standard character names in the fashion of a rebus.

     |      ^^^^^^^^^^^^                                      |
     | ^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^                       |
     |                 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
     |        ^^^^^^^         B       ^^^^^^^^^               |
     |  ^^^^^^^^^          ^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^      |
                  " A Bee in the Carrot Patch "

Within humorous ASCII art, there is for some reason an entire flourishing subgenre of pictures of silly cows. Four of these are reproduced in the silly examples above, here are three more:

              (__)              (__)              (__)
              (\/)              ($$)              (**)
       /-------\/        /-------\/        /-------\/
      / | 666 ||        / |=====||        / |     ||
     *  ||----||       *  ||----||       *  ||----||
        ~~    ~~          ~~    ~~          ~~    ~~
     Satanic cow    This cow is a Yuppie   Cow in love

Finally, here's a magnificent example of ASCII art depicting an Edwardian train station in Dunedin, New Zealand:

                                      / I \
                                   JL/  |  \JL
        .-.                    i   ()   |   ()   i                    ..-.
        |_|     .^.           /_\  LJ=======LJ  /_\           .^.     |_|
     ._/___\._./___\_._._._._.L_J_/.-.     ..-.\_L_J._._._._._/___\._./___\._._._
            ., |-,-| .,       L_J  |_| [I] |_|  L_J       ., |-,-| .,        .,
            JL |-O-| JL       L_J%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%L_J       JL |-O-| JL        JL
      _/\_  ||\\_I_//||  _/\_ [_] []_/_L_J_\_[] [_] _/\_  ||\\_I_//||  _/\_  ||\
      |__|  ||=/_|_\=||  |__|_|_|   _L_L_J_J_   |_|_|__|  ||=/_|_\=||  |__|  ||-
      |__|  |||__|__|||  |__[___]__--__===__--__[___]__|  |||__|__|||  |__|  |||
      \_I_/ [_]\_I_/[_] \_I_[_]\II/[]\_\I/_/[]\II/[_]\_I_/ [_]\_I_/[_] \_I_/ [_]
     ./   \.L_J/   \L_J./   L_JI  I[]/     \[]I  IL_J    \.L_J/   \L_J./   \.L_J
     |     |L_J|   |L_J|    L_J|  |[]|     |[]|  |L_J     |L_J|   |L_J|     |L_J
     |_____JL_JL___JL_JL____|-||  |[]|     |[]|  ||-|_____JL_JL___JL_JL_____JL_J

There is a newsgroup, alt.ascii-art, devoted to this genre; however, see also {warlording}.

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"A magnificent example of ASCII art" - hahaha, very funny. This is horrible, if compared to the works a dedicated ASCII-group such as Galza. When I showed this "ASCII art" to a real ASCII-artist (formerly known as Evil Lex/Galza) - he frowned and was very angry.

Well, we see that Unix hackers know about demoscene, and respect it, in contrast to, say, crackers and the warez scene. Some of their ideas about us are right, others are wrong, ridiculous and funny.

BTW, I mailed an editor of this dictionary and asked him to fix and enlarge description of ASCII art, but he didn't answer.

You can check the HTML version of The Jargon File at: http://www.tuxedo.org/jargon The text version is somewhere at: www.tuxedo.org