A brief video history of the demoscene in memory of Commodore boss Jack Tramiel


In founding Commodore International and helping create the legendary Commodore 64, Jack Tramiel set into motion events which would put more computers into the homes of average people than in any other period in history. But his legacy extended far beyond the machines themselves. Just days before news of his passing, a group of filmmakers at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston presented their documentary on the sometimes-forgotten but undeniably important subculture which emerged from the foundations Tramiel had placed: the demoscene.

Above: "The Art of Algorithms" by Moleman

Powered by the rise of affordable and capable home computers like the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, the demoscene became history's first widespread computer art movement. The scene, which emerged from early communities of software pirates, involves the creation of elaborate, hardware-intensive audiovisual productions that bring hackers, musicians and graphics wizards together, blurring the lines between artist and programmer, amateur and professional.

Demos are highly competitive in nature, and in the scene's heyday, each release was typically an attempt to upstage some other group of code-crunchers, proving that the authors could make more impressive demos using the same hardware and less resources. Even today, these contests continue — this past weekend, Revision, currently the world's largest demo party, held its second annual meetup in Saarbrücken, Germany. Many original demoscene artists and musicians have also gone on to work for high-profile video game studios, or started their own.

Tramiel set the stage for much of this in his mission to make powerful computers "for the masses, not the classes," and machines like the C64 helped drive the creativity that led to rapid advancements in computer graphics throughout the 80's and 90's. In memory of Tramiel's seminal contributions to computing, take a gander at this small reel of historic demoscene highlights, below.

"Hardwired" - Crionics & The Silents (Amiga, 1991)

"Second Reality" - Future Crew (PC, 1993)

"fr-08: .the .product" - Farbrausch (64k PC, 2000)

"Edge of Disgrace" - Booze Design (C64, 2008)

"Gaia Machina" - Approximate (64k PC, 2012)

More from The Verge

Back to top ^
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.