Intro to Mac Demos
What do you think of when you hear the word "demos"? In the context of computer software, many of you may think "demos, short for demonstrations of commercial software". Well, sure, that's one intepretation...
First, some history... back in the early days of computers (early-mid 80s), there was a lot of software piracy. In those days, almost all software came copy-protected. Someone growing up today might find that an odd concept, as today, most software is protected by Serial Numbers that you are required to enter when installing your software.
Copy protection was just the general method for preventing unauthorized duplication of software. Over time, however, it became a continuing race - as more intricate copy protection schemes developed, the hackers/crackers would circumvent them. Now, these crackers weren't a modest bunch, and loved to get credit for cracking the latest and greatest software. "Cracked" software often sported a credit screen where the cracker said some hellos and took credit for his work. Eventually, crackers took a little more time with the crack screen, added a little music, a little animation, some more greets... until a funny thing happened...
Eventually, independant works emerged. Now, I don't claim to know the exact history of the progression... but somewhere along the line, the graphical/musical works themselves became the whole point.
"Demos" and an entire demo-scene emerged. These demos were an intricate blend of art, music, math, and programming. Early demos included simple effects including scrollbars, scroll texts, and simple vector graphics... but eventually the demo coders tried to push the hardware as far as it could go. New demos tried to "one-up" previous demos by pushing more graphics and doing more intricate calcuations. If you don't recall the hardware at the time, the peak of the demo scene probably occured with the Amiga computer, an 8mhz 68000 based computer with a few custom chips. Speed was everything - so assembly language was really the only way to program demos.
Demo groups formed, and often included coders, artists, and musicians. Annual competitions emerged as well, where demo groups would compete with their latest creations. Demos eventually did move onto the PC, especially as it became clear the Amiga wasn't going to have much of a future. But oddly, the demo scene never came in full force on the Mac.
A small demo scene has emerged on the Mac, with some activity and new demos arising recently. With all due respect to the coders for the time they've put in, these demos generally don't compare to the full-blown demos of the Amiga. They are still very exciting to watch and enjoy.
For more information, including an archive of practically all know Mac demos, see Mac Demos HQ.