Imphobia was the leading PC demoscene diskmag of the first half of the 1990s. Founded in 1992, it issued until 1996. In that period, 12 issues were released. Imphobia was never officially declared dead, but issue 13 has not seen the light of the day until now and it is safe to assume that it will never do so. However, the title picture of Imphobia #13 is available on an Internet server; read more about that at the end of this article.
The main editor of most of the Imphobia issues was Darkness. He officially got into this position in issue 4. Before that, Wizard was the leader of Imphobia. Imphobia was not only the name of the mag, but also the name of the group that released it. The group was based in Belgium with some members from other countries such as Germany (Sam), Switzerland (Numerus) and Malta (Mop). Darkness belonged to the French-speaking ethnicity in Belgium (Walloons), which was one of the reasons why Imphobia was disliked by the editors of the Scenial diskmag, who were Flemish.
All issues of Imphobia basically run in DOSBox, but in issues 6 and beyond the graphics are not displayed correctly, probably because of the use of an obscure video mode. Nevertheless it's possible to read the articles. All Imphobia issues are available at scene.org. The download stats (500-600 for most of the older issues, around 1200 for the latest issues) do not reflect the wide spread of Imphobia and can be explained by the fact that Imphobia was released a long time before scene.org went online.
Imphobia #1 (from February 1992) was subtitled "the one and only European review." Indeed Imphobia was the first European PC diskmag and the first diskmag like the ones we are now accustomed to 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 of Imphobia, the coder and, at the beginning, the leader of the group. It all started in September 1991. As we learn in the Imphobia #1 editorial, Wizard wanted to create a "review in VGA", which, however, should not be about cracks and that kind of stuff but rather about demos. He started coding and gathered a team consisting of his local scene friends from Belgium, which mainly were Darkness, Scorpio, and Zorlock.
Compared to later issues, Imphobia #1 was of a very low quality. There were a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes, there were not many articles, and the articles were in a poor shape. Imphobia #1 had a BBS list, the usual things like editorial and credits, interviews, charts (but 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 (e.g. "About Lamers"), accompanied by a stably working but quite ugly interface drawn by Zorlock with a hardly readable font by Zorlock and Darkness. Even in mode 13h, you could have done better. But for that time, it was probably okay.
The controls work using the mouse or the keyboard. You can scroll line-wise or page-wise. On today's computers, you can navigate reasonably through the magazine using the keyboard for scrolling and the mouse for selecting articles.
At the end of Imphobia #1, when exiting the mag, a full-screen picture featuring a list of distribution sites was displayed. This feature is kept for some issues, but the picture changed and the list became longer.
Imphobia #2 (April 1992) did not differ much from the premier issue. The graphics looked quite similar, although there were some differences. For the first time the title logo was painted by Pascal Loef aka PL. There was a new font, which was far more legible than the old one, and there was also a new mouse cursor, which looked better than the previous one. New features that were unique to this issue (they no longer appeared in issue 3) were a background picture behind the text and a short intro scroller before the mag.
The controls were a bit different from the previous issue: Keyboard no longer worked, and line-wise scrolling was no longer supported, just page-wise one. A new feature was that you could print articles.
Content-wise, this issue featured the usual columns like reviews, as well as some new things, such as graphical adverts and a Front News corner. In the article "Boyz don't cry", Scorpio and a girl named Suzy gave tips for boys who want to get a girlfriend. There were an interview with members of the group Access Denied and a really simple logo drawing tutorial (how to calculate the number of pixels you can spend per letter). A member of the Dutch group Deca had written a reader's letter about the review of their demo, which had been published in the previous issue. Somebody was selling a collection of computer music he had recorded with his Sound Blaster.
All in all, the magazine was still very amateurish and had the aura of a pupils' magazine.
In Imphobia #3 (July 1992), page-wise scrolling was replaced by line-wise scrolling inside the articles. The title logo by Zorlock was very nice in my opinion. Like in issue 2, there was a music column. This time, there was also a concert calendar, but it featured only gigs in Belgium. There was an announcement of a new diskmag named Creativity, which was never released. What might be interesting is that the concept of what eventually became the Scene.org Awards was already proposed by Scorpio in an article in this issue of Imphobia. Imphobia #3 contained yet more nonsensical articles such as a happiness test. One article was about the Imphobia crew having purchased a fax; it featured a list of activities that could be done using it, such as sending jokes. The interview partners of this issue were members of the groups Cocktail, Cascada, EMF, Kefnet, Paranoid and TRC; all of these interviews were based on interview forms instead of actual chats. Every group representant was asked the same questions. There were also some graphics such as the adverts (just like in issue 2) and a rendered picture by Zorlock as well as Wizard's explanation of 3D transformations, a coding tutorial, so to speak. Overall, the amateurish, teenager style of the two previous issues was kept.
The quality of the magazine gradually improved 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 in December of 1992, when another disk magazine was already creating serious pressure on Imphobia: Hoax. At that time, Hoax was probably the best diskmag, for having a slightly better-looking and friendlier interface than Imphobia as well as better articles.
Imphobia #4 from December 1992 (released at The Party 2) was the first Imphobia issue that had music. Furthermore, Imphobia #4 had some smaller changes to the interface, such as a better font, better GFX, a scrolltext below the menu, buttons inside the menu for scrolling forwards and backwards (in the previous issues only forward scrolling was supported), smooth scrolling inside the articles and a nicely rendered closing picture. And more, Sam from Germany had joined the Imphobia staff, who should later turn out to be one of the most prolific writers for Imphobia. He wrote articles about topics such as the lawyer von Gravenreuth, friendship, how to fool your computer science teacher, Whacker tracker and the German PC demoscene. Interview partners of this issue were D.C.E, Future Crew and New-Style. There was nothing about the Creativity diskmag any more; instead, a Creativity Demo Network was announced. One article by Darkness dealt with the history of the PC. Another article (by Numerus) with the Internet, which was not popular yet back then.
Imphobia #5 (from April 1993) 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 menu had a starfield in the background and a cool transition effect involving ellipses, the text viewer featured coloured 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, the name of the article and the flag of the author's country (or at least what the Imphobia staff then thought the country flags looked like). Controls were keyboard-only.
The articles were better, too. Topics covered were e.g. the Spanish scene, the Dutch scene, piracy, chicks, the Internet, The Party 2, there was some poetry and as usual there were demo reviews and a music corner. A funny text was the one about a letter construction kit.
The artwork corner mostly featured graphical adverts. Interview partners of this issue were The Code Blasters, Flash Productions, The Raven, Rick Dangerous, Sirius Cybernetic, Skinny Puppy, Sma Posse, Sonic, The Phoney Coders, Witan and Twilight Zone. For the first time not only groups but also individuals were the focus of some of the interviews.
About four months had passed between Imphobia #4 and #5. This release manner was kept till Imphobia #7.
Issue 6 of Imphobia (from August 1993) finally was the first real Imphobia, the first issue of Imphobia like we know it. It had almost 600 kbytes 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 a resolution of 640x480 and probably 16 colours. The screen was split vertically into three parts. On the top, there was an Imphobia logo. On the bottom, there were some background graphics, 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 of the next Imphobia issues till the very end. There were only minor changes since, such as 80-columns-wide-text, which was used in adverts, party invitations and some articles, or coloured text (since Imphobia #9), which was scarcely used though, but nevertheless suited the atmosphere well.
Since this issue, Imphobia had its own music player for Soundblaster, and each issue had 3-4 modules from various composers on the PC scene from all over the world. In this issue the music came from Zodiak of Cascada, Redor and CC Catch of Renaissance.
From issue 6 on, Pascal Loef - aka PL - painted most of the graphics of Imphobia. He was, and still is, an excellent graphician whose pictures contributed a lot to the overwhelmingly good atmosphere of the mag.
Now about the contents of Imphobia #6: The main menu listed the sections Edito, Charts, Articles, Interviews and Credits. This structure of the magazine remained unchanged until the very last issue of Imphobia. The Charts were based on the votes of 101 sceners and had the categories groups, demos, coders, gfx-men, musicians, tools/utilities, movies, music groups and games. In the articles section we could find the Front News as well as reports of Cebit 1993, Assembly 1993, stories about the groups Witan, Renaissance, Cybernetic Dreams, Anarchy and Ultraforce, reports about the USA and Australian demo/art scenes, texts about IRC and IRC addiction, various random fillers such as "Are You Cool?" and "A thousand ways to fuck up", the (text-based) advertisements, messages, list of distribution sites and greetings.
The interview partners of this issue were representants of Triton, Avalanche, Extacy, Xography, BlackRain, Epical, Faic, DarkZone, Dust, Onyx, Virtual Visions and Extreme.
All in all Imphobia #6 was the first issue of the Imphobia as we know it: the leading PC diskmag of the early 1990s. It was also the first issue for which Aap of Acme wrote articles.
In December 1993, the seventh issue of Imphobia saw the light of the day. The basic structure of the previous issue was kept: First came the title picture (which was by PL), then came the main menu where you could choose from among the same sections as in Imphobia #6. The music of this issue - four tunes in total - was made by Nhp of Anarchy PC, Zodiak of Cascada, Silent Mode of Pentagon and Lizardking of Triton. Sound playback was still Sound Blaster only as the Imphobia staff had not got hands on a GUS yet.
The amount of articles was 400 kbytes. 128 people voted for the charts, which had the same categories as in Imphobia #6. In the article menu, which was longer than ever before, sub-section headlines appeared for the first time, giving a better overview of the contents. The sub-sections were called General, Events, Scene Forum, Miscellaneous, Weird Stories and Coding Corner. The General sub-section contained the Front News and the (textual) advertisements. The Events sub-section consisted of four party reports and invitations. Some of the topics in the Scene Forum were, among many others, "Design in demos", diskmags, the Belgian scene, the French scene, the Hungarian scene and mail swapping. The Miscellaneous sub-section featured mostly joke articles, but also reviews of demos and intros from The Party 1993. The Weird Stories consisted of seven short-stories, and the Coding Corner was about realtime zooming and optimization. After the Coding Corner came the dist sites, greetings and message section.
Imphobia #7 featured interviews with members of Anarchy PC, Surprise!Productions, Grif, PsychoSquad, ACiD, Public NMI, Impact Studio, Masque, Delusion, Digital Infinity, Dynax, Legend Design and Infiny.
Imphobia #8 had had a long delay: It was released in October 1994, ten months after the previous issue. The file_id.diz said: "You thought we were dead? THE PREMIUM PC-DISKMAG is back for a while with a fabulous issue, tons of articles, a new design and the promised GUS Support!!" Apart from the GUS support, not much had changed at first glance: There was still the same structure of the magazine. The graphics were made by PL, and the music was made by NHP of Anarchy, Scorpik of Surprise!Productions, CC Catch of Renaissance and Black Lion.
The amount of articles exceeded 1 Mbyte, written by more than 40 authors. There were 141 voters. The categories were groups, demos, intros, coders, graphic artists, music disks, games and utilities. Instead of a top-10 like in the previous issues, a top-15 was presented. For the first time there was also combined chart in which the points of all regular charts had been added together. This chart was based on an idea by Lethal of Crypton from the staff of the Parrot diskmag.
The Scene Forum featured several articles about mail swapping, articles on demo design, a French scene report, a Polish scene report and, yet again, a Hungarian scene report, articles on diskmags, music disks, Amiga vs. PC, Atari, and other topics. The Miscellaneous sub-section also contained some scene-related articles, e.g. "Making demos for fun?" or "I'm not a Swapper!", as well as texts on general computer related issues such as whether CD-ROM is the future and processor power, plus other articles (e.g. "Tekkno Sucks!"). There were reviews of the demos and 64 kbyte intros presented at Assembly 1994. There was a far bigger Partyline sub-section than the Event sub-section of the previous Imphobia issue, featuring mostly party reports. Again there were Weird Stories. A new section was about Poetry. The Coding Corner was bigger than in Imphobia #7, with articles about memory management, IFF files, 4k intro coding and other things. Finally, there was a new Graphics Corner, with some tutorials and an article about Escher.
The interviews now were no longer group interviews but focused on individual persons - at least most of them. Interview partners were Saracen of E.M.F., Hoplite of Orange, Zuul Desing, Whistler (organizer of the Bizarre party), Felix of Outlaws FX, Stone and Tyrone of Dust, Elwood of Jeskola! Production, Zebig of Speed, Rogue of Logic Design, Brian of Legend Design, and Royal of The European Technology.
It's a pity that on my modern PC, the displays of Imphobia #8 don't work correctly and some parts of the screen are almost unreadable.
Imphobia #9 came out in February 1995 and contained 1.1 Mbytes of texts. The graphics were again by PL. There was a new title picture but the same (buggily displayed) background image as in Imphobia #8. The music came from Basehead, Scorpik of Surprise!Productions, Zodiac of Cascada and NHP. There were about 30 authors and 106 voters - less than in the previous issue, but don't forget that there had been less time until this issue.
The Scene Forum of this issue dealt with the questions whether the Amiga is dead or not and whether or not it is good to create a scene CD. There were also a Belgian scene report and a debate about design. In the Miscellaneous sub-section we could find statements about racism, the story of ID software, an article about how to deprotect programs and other things. There were Weird Stories (including jokes), Poetry, Partyline, Graphics Corner and Coding Corner, all of these sub-sections having a decent amount of articles. As a new feature there was a Music Corner, which mostly featured articles written by The Rew of Nostalgia.
The interview partners of this issue were Mat of Prime, Trap of Bonzai, Taskmaster of Gollum, Galvados of Jamm, Fox of Force II, Maxwood of Majic 12, Ervin of Abaddon, Barti of Nooon, Aap of Acme and Dranic of Xtacy.
Imphobia #10, the anniversary issue, was released on June 1995. It featured all-news graphics by PL, which are unfortunately displayed buggily on my modern PC and make reading very difficult. The music was made by Scorpik of Surprise!Productions, The Rew of Nostalgia, NHP and Claws of Impact Studios. There were 55 authors and a total of 210 voters.
The articles amounted to 1.4 Mbytes. A new editor of this issue was Sleeping Dog of The Natives. Some articles he wrote were "Being a Sysop", "Some word about PURE", The Meeting '95 report and X-95 report. Topics of the Scene Forum included party organizing, whether Americans are too "dumb" to code, demo CDs, Sound Blaster vs. GUS, the Polish scene (yet again) and Hornet Music Contest 3. There were reviews of various releases, e.g. demos from the North American party NAID and the Genetic Dreams #2 diskmag. The Miscellaneous sub-section furthermore dealt with the Irish Republican Army, the PC Underground book, contraception, Unix and Linux, OS2/Warp, juvenile violence, Internet trading, concerts and school. Weird Stories, Poetry, Partyline, Graphics Corner, Music Corner and Coding Corner followed. One of the topics in the Coding Corner was image compression. Besides, it contained many "tips and tricks" and "code gems" mainly about graphics programming.
The number of interviews was disappointingly low, but maybe that was just the logical consequence of the high number of interviews in the previous issues: There were perhaps only just a few people interesting enough to be interviewed! Anyway, the interview partners were Jmagic of Complex, the Eclipse crew, DGT of Deus, Big Jim of Valhalla and FM, and Climax of Amable.
For the first time a small closing picture with the Imphobia logo was displayed on exiting the mag. This was kept in the few issues that followed.
Imphobia #11 was released at the end of December 1995 (the editorial was written on x-mas) and featured about 1.7 Mbytes of articles. It had a new title picture painted by Benj, and the same background picture by PL as in the previous issue. The composers of the four tunes were The Rew of Nostalgia, Necros of Legend Design, Evelred of TLOTB and Scorpik of Surprise!Productions.
More than 70 authors and 224 voters contributed to this issue. The structure of the mag, the charts categories and the sub-sections of the Articles section were exactly the same as in the previous issue, except that a new Reviews sub-section appeared in this issue. There were so many advertisements that the advertisements corner was split into five articles. The messages corner was also split into three articles (A-G, H-Q, R-Z, ordered alphabetically by the handle of the recipient). Some of the topics in the Scene Forum were the same as in previous issues, such as design in demos, Sound Blaster vs. GUS and the USA scene. Actually there aren't really any fresh topics, most of the articles are just "reply-articles". There's also yet another Dutch scene report. Some of the topics in the Miscellaneous sub-section were the costs of living in the European Union, army services, racism (again), the ideal diskmagazine and Windows 95. The Partyline section was especially big in this issue (almost 50 articles). One of the topics in the Coding Corner was 3D rotation.
The interviews corner was bigger than in Imphobia #10: it featured interviews with Tim of Success, Baldric of Extreme, Necros of Legend Design, Vouk of Debris, Adept of Scoop, Antony of Infiny and Dreamdealers, Miss Saigon of Threesome, Leviathan of Renaissance, Henchman of Future Crew, Alexel of Distorsion, S-Cubed of Psychic Link, Snowman of Hornet and Hoplite of Orange.
Imphobia #12 was released in July 1996; it featured roughly 2 Mbytes of articles, thus being the biggest issue ever. After the very nice title picture by Made of Bomb, the menu appeared, featuring a well-done manga-style background picture by PL. Yet another time, the display is buggy, but fortunately the texts are still readable this time.
The fine music came from Shad of Pulse, Clawz of Oxygene, Dune of Orange and Void of Reality. There were about 70 authors and 226 voters.
The Front News were split into two articles, A-M and N-Z respectively. There were six articles with advertisements and three with messages. The sub-sections of the Articles section were the same as in Imphobia #11. Some of the more interesting topics were Demo OS (the project of creating an operating system specific to the scene), Future Crew and whether it was really such a giant, Polish scene report, Brazilian scene report, DemoNews 314 (a fake issue in which the editors wrote what they thought the year 1998 would be like; read the review and analysis of it in Hugi #13), French nuclear testings and hidden parts in demos. The Coding Corner contained interesting articles about text-mode, e.g. how to display graphics in it, as well as mode X and SVGA.
The interviews corner was quite small: there were only interviews with Blitz of Halcyon, Mellow-D and Zodiak of FM, Kiwidog of Hornet, Unreal of Pulse, Mefis of Funk!, and Siren of Kosmic.
All in all this last issue of Imphobia was yet another great issue and a true pleasure to read.
Imphobia #13 has never been released, at least not yet. Darkness never declared Imphobia officially dead. But after 12 years, the chance that this magazine will be released in a foreseeable time is still zero. So we can assume that Imphobia is dead.
However, I found the title picture of Imphobia #13 on the Internet. It is located at GFXZone in Benj's personal gallery. Here you have a screenshot. So now you at least have a partial clue about what the thirteenth issue of the Imphobia magazine would have looked like if it had ever been released.