"Q: Why did the lawyer cross the road?
A: He saw a car accident on the other side."
THE HISTORY OF DEMO PROGRAMMING ON THE ST
by Stefan Posthuma
(aka Digital Insanity of The Lost Boys)
It all started in the spring of 1986 when a couple of computer
freaks from Germany came together. Erik Simon and Udo Fisher
bought an ST and started exploring this hot, new machine. They
fooled around a bit using BASIC (and noticed how bad "Atari ST
BASIC" was), but soon ended up with a program called "Seka",
coding their first assembly language programs. Soon after the
first scrolling message appeared on their screens, they formed a
group and called themselves The Exceptions or TEX. Erik Simon
called himself ES, and dedicated himself to drawing the various
graphics needed for their demos. Udo adapted the name -ME-, and
three other people joined them: Michael (Daryl), Gunther (6719,
after his ZIP code) and last but not least, Jochen Hippel (Mad
Max), a young and very talented music programmer. There was a
person named Alyssa associated with TEX for a while but he left
after their first demo I believe. In the very beginning, they
still did some cracking of games software, adding their demo
screens to the loaders of these games. But soon they realized
that programming demos only is a lot more fun and a bit less
illegal so they stopped cracking and dedicated themselves to
The definitive breakthrough for TEX came with their "Little
Colour Demo" in the fall of 1987. This was the first full-fledged
demo with rasters, scrolling messages and music. They found out
how to use the various timers in the ST to create special colour
effects. Also, Mad Max had written a routine that was able to
read Rob Hubbard's Commodore 64 sound files and play them on the
ST. "LCD" was the first demo with full music, rasters and
scrollers. The demo era had begun.
After "LCD", Alyssa discovered how to fool the MMU into opening
the lower border. TEX used this technique for the first time in
their "NeoChrome Picture Slide Show" which had "NeoChrome"
pictures occupying the whole screen, and a scrolling message in
the lower border. This amazed quite a few people I can tell you.
(Including myself, I was totally ignorant as to machine code
programming on the ST at that time and still fooling around in
Monochrome with "GfA Basic"). This demo also showed us by the
way, that ES was quite a talented graphics man.
Now TEX weren't the only ones at that time. More demo crews were
forming, Michael Bittner started the TNT crew, the Delta Force
was brought to life and a couple of Swedish enthusiasts became
The CareBears. The TNT crew started bringing samples into the
demos, the "Lovespy Demo" (September 1987) being an example of
The ST scene was really shocked by the release of the "BIG Demo"
(Best In Galaxy) by TEX in January 1988. It was huge, it was
brilliant, it was insane. 113 different pieces of music (never
equalled after this), five different screens and the first three-
voice digital music ever. It actually had a main menu where you
could choose your music or another demo screen, something unheard
of before this. The three "Psych-O-Screens" all consisted of
clever colour tricks, and the "Big Scroller" really showed what
the ST was capable of (at that time of course). This established
TEX as the undisputed masters of demo programming on the ST.
Also, the massive amount of music and the presence of a "Digital
Department" showed that Mad Max had a lot up his sleeve.
By the way, around this time the first Bitmap Brothers game
("Xenon") was released by Melbourne House.
By that time a disk magazine called "ST NEWS" started becoming
more and more popular and the editor/founder (Richard Karsmakers)
of this magazine who wrote the scrolltext for the demo had some
good contacts with the people from TEX. This resulted in TEX
visiting Holland in March 1988, when they finished the "Amiga
Demo". This demo contained some four voice digitized musics
ported from the Amiga by Mad Max. It also had an "Overscan
Screen" that removed the lower border as well as the right
border, something totally new then.
I was there during this visit being a close friend of Richard
and it was a very inspiring weekend for sure. It was the first
real 'computer orgy' I attended. All-night coding, pizza-
annihilation and the consumption of insane amounts of Coca-Cola.
Loud music on the stereo and the deafening roars of frustrated
programmers, pissed off by their STs crashing. It was quite a
revelation to someone as innocent as I was at that time. I
believe I had to leave early though, I had a girlfriend waiting
for me. This also saw the creation of the first "Real Time"
article ever for "ST NEWS" - an article in which the people
present give random comments on the events, with the exact time
of these comments, portraying a life-like and accurate report of
what is going on.
The next important demo to be released after the "Amiga Demo"
was the "FNIL" (Fantastic New Interactive Largest) demo by the
TNT Crew. This featured some great coding, full-screen scrolling,
massive amounts of colours and rasters and a whopping seven
different demo screens. Also at that time, the first Level 16
demo saw the light of day, Level 16 being two highly talented
programmers from Germany, friends of TEX.
Things quieted down a little after this. I took over the
editorship and programming of the "ST NEWS" disk magazine by the
end of 1988, and "ST NEWS" Volume 3 Issue 4 saw the release of my
first demo. A one-plane (ROXL) scrolline with rasters and a
for-and background. The year 1988 also saw the release of Jeff
Minter's "Trip-A-Tron" a truly cosmic experience.
Then, in January 1989, one of the most impressive and amazing
demos ever was released. "The Union demo". The Union was the
result of a joining of demo crews. TEX teamed up with the TNT
Crew, The CareBears, Level 16, the Replicants (a cracker crew
from France, the first French crew to get well-known) and the
"The Union Demo" had it all. Superb coding, the first ever no-
border demo screen (called fullscreen) by Level 16, solid 3D
vectors by the TNT crew, digisounds and megascrollers by The
CareBears, an interactive menu (move the man to different doors
where the demos can be found), loader screens etc., etc. This was
it. Everybody thought this to be the ultimate demo, something
never to be equalled. Well, in a sense this is true. "The Union
Demo" is a true classic, making a heavy impact on the demo world.
"The Union Demo" contained a few screens by The CareBears,
including the 3D-sinus-and-a-whollottamore-stuff (or something)
scroller which is considered by most people to be the best demo
screen ever written. With their screens the CareBears established
themselves once and forever and their coder Nic (Niclas Thissel)
was to become a living legend afterwards.
In January 1989, the "Swedish New Year Demo" was released too,
showing the world that there was more to Sweden than just the
CareBears. Crews like Omega and Sync are also forces to be
In the beginning of 1989, another demo crew emerged from
anonymity. They had produced some digi-demos and a demo called
the "Power Demo", but the "DEF" (Definitive) demo was their first
big demo. With this remarkable demo, the Lost Boys of London
became quite famous. The most impressive thing about the Lost
Boys were their ages: Spaz (Dave Moss, graphics man), Sprog (Marc
Palmer, coder) and Sammy Joe (Michael Schussler - he is a German
who at the time lived in England, their PR dude) were all 15 when
this demo was released. Their main coder called Manikin (Tim
Moss, Dave's brother) was 18. The funny thing is that Manikin
started coding 68000 on the ST after reading an article in "ST
NEWS" about scrolling in machine code that I had written.
That summer, Richard and myself travelled through England for
three weeks, visiting most of the well-known games programmers
and companies, gathering stories and interviews for our "ST NEWS"
magazine. During these three weeks, we also visited the Lost Boys
and had a most amusing time in London with them. It was there
that Tim (Manikin) told me about his plans for their next Mega
Demo and asked if I were interested to do some screens for it.
But a lot of things were going on in Germany too, TEX was fed up
with doing demos and wanted to program some games. This finally
resulted in the founding of Thalion Software, a games company
based around all the members of TEX plus their friends (TNT crew,
Level 16). Hopes were high, never before had so many gifted
programmers and graphics people been in the same company. They
produced their first games, but due to marketing and management
problems these games never became the success they could have
But nevertheless, Thalion was a magic thing, every demo
programmer dreamed of one day working for them and programming a
game for them. Richard and I visited them around the end of the
summer and I must say that the atmosphere in that office was
indeed magical, and inspiration coursed through my veins as I sat
there watching these people work. I even thought about leaving my
job and joining them instead. In the end I decided against this,
SPC being too interesting (and promising) a company to leave at
Back to The CareBears. They had not been sitting around, but had
been programming like maniacs. An Cool, Jas, Nic (all coders) and
Tanis (graphics) created the "Whattaheck" demo. This was actually
a compilation of Swedish demo screens gathered at a large demo-
party in Sweden. One of these screens was very amazing. A no-
border screen with full-screen scrolling!! Everybody was quite
stupefied until the news came through. Nic had found a way to
make the hardware scroll the screen. 'Sync Scrolling' they called
it. How it worked nobody knew, but it was to create quite a
stir... It didn't last long before Thalion released their first
game using this technique, "Leavin' Teramis", a vertical
scrolling game. Richard quit his Biology studies to join Thalion
to work as a games-designer/copywriter/PR person, and I believe
he worked on this one too.
In August of 1989, the first all-dutch demo was released. A
group called "Aenigmatica" released their "Genysys" demo (I just
mentioned this one to soothe my feelings of Dutch pride and
The end of 1989 also saw the next 'super' demo. This was the
first one to be compared to "The Union Demo", a true piece of
wonderful programming. It were The CareBears again who did it
with their "Cuddly Demos". In this they exploited their 'Sync
Scrolling' to the max, creating a full and smooth scrolling main
menu that managed to baffle quite a few people. It also contained
a record amount of demo screens, one more amazing than the other.
All this by four people, a true achievement. Their "Spreadpoint"
demo (taken from the Amiga though) with the many little
scrollines inspired many demos to come, and the main menu of
"Cuddly Demos" can be found in many varieties today. Also, the
graphics in this one showed that Tanis wasn't without his talents
The Swedes did one more thing after this, the "Swedish New Year
Demo 1990", and another Dutch crew named Galtan Six released
their "Mega Demo". If you boot this one in monochrome, you get a
little screen by yours truly (I must have been the only person
insane enough to write monochrome stuff. I did it for "ST NEWS",
Then the attention was shifted to the Lost Boys when they
released their "Mind Bomb" demo in April 1990. This was another
memorable demo with a sync-scrolling main menu (much like "Cuddly
Demos" I have to admit) and quite a few innovative screens. Like
the "Red Sector" demo, after the famous 3D vectorballs from the
Amiga (There was one demo before this that featured these
vectorballs, I can't remember which one though, it was from
Sweden). It also featured some screens written by myself, I was
quite happy to get them in there. "Mind Bomb" was well-written
with lots of great screens. Sprog left the Lost Boys soon after
"DEF Demo" so Manikin had to do all the programming on this one.
It also featured a screen by the British BBC (Bad Brew Crew).
This demo also started a 'Bear Bashing' trend, one of the first
things you see after booting this demo is a large boxing glove
crushing a cute Care Bear. This was a friendly joke though, we
have always been good friends with the CareBears.
The summer of 1990 was very intense. Tim and Dave (Manikin and
Spaz from the Lost Boys) came over to work for Thalion,
programming their first game, designed by Richard, named "A
Prehistoric Tale". During this time, Nic from the CareBears was
also working there on a game called "Enchanted Land", a full and
supersmooth scrolling platform game. Personally, I think this is
the most technically complex game on the ST yet. This sync-
scrolling brings problems that many people don't think of like
not being able to do screen-swapping thus having to work out
complex sprite handlers if you want to keep things nice and
smooth (The whole game runs in one VBL).
"Enchanted Land" (named after a Sodom song, Richard came up with
this one) was released just after the summer and "A Prehistoric
Tale" was released that Christmas. But Thalion still had (and
still has) management problems so both games didn't do very well
I am afraid. Thalion became more and more unpopular, resulting in
Richard quitting in the beginning of 1991, and one of their top
programmers (Marc Rosocha, the one responsible for games like
"Last Ninja" and "Wings of Death") left them to form his own
company, Eclipse Software Design. One of their graphics people,
Thorsten Mutchall, joined the CareBears as GoGo. He is one of the
most talented graphics people around these days and he has done
graphics for games like "Spherical" and is currently working on
Thalion's "Amberstar II", a role-playing adventure game.
At the end of his stay at Thalion, Manikin decided to do a
little demo with all the friends he had there. A guy called
Oxygene (he was working at Thalion on a version of "Galaga", a
project that was never finished, and he had previously done the
"ST NEWS" Volume 4 Issue 4 demo under the name In Flagranti)
joined The Lost Boys - and so did I. Together with a guy from the
Replicants, Daryl from TEX and Blue Devil from the Gigabyte crew
(they had been around since the old days) and the new ULM
(ULtimate Matricks) from Luxembourg we did "Life's a Bitch". Tim
did a very fast (and very cheating) solid 3D screen just to annoy
Nic (some talk was going on about the new CareBears demo, it
would feature some amazing 3D and some more astonishing stuff)
and the others contributed their screens. Mad Max made the now
famous "Bittner Mix" and the demo was released at the 1990 Atari
Düsseldorf Messe. I remember Tim finishing it right there with a
lot of people waiting for their copy. Some people even asked us
to sign disks, something we found quite amusing.
During this time we also met The Respectables from Trier,
Germany. A swell bunch of people who were to become very good
friends of ours.
After Nic went home, we had the 'Fax Wars' with TCB, sending
faxes between Thalion and Sweden, with the most amazing drawings
of Mutant CareBears slaughtering Lost Boys and Lost Boys
sodomizing CareBears. This would reach its highlight in the last
demo by the Lost Boys, "Ooh Crikey Wot a Scorcher".
From Sweden came the "Sowatt" demo, another demo made after a
large party in Sweden where people contributed their screens. It
featured a lot of screens (including some from my good friends in
Norway) and possibly the best one was the "Grodan and Kvack
Kvack" demo by (who else) Nic from the CareBears. It was a very
intense demo with lots of one-plane graphics flying around the
place. Again, a conversion from an Amiga demo. This one-plane
business resulted in a brief trend, but it quickly stopped for
these demos weren't very pretty to look at.
At that time, The Inner Circle from England released their
"Decade Demo". Unfortunately, these people had taken up a grudge
against the Lost Boys and found it necessary to spill forth lots
of accusations and allegations against us. Apparently, we had
stolen their source code and used it in our "Mind Bomb" screens.
We had no idea and found the whole business a bit strange to say
the least. But "Decade Demo" still was quite a good demo with
some nice screens.
During the summer of 1990 I got the idea to organize a large
demo party in Holland somewhere. Holland is quite central here in
Europe so everybody could come. So they did, and in the weekend
before Christmas the office of SPC (the company I work for) was
crammed full of over 120 computer freaks having a great time.
Everybody attended (except Inner Circle...), and it was a great
success. A massive 45 crates of Coca Cola were consumed and this
four-day hacker party was one of the most intense experiences of
my life. We made a video out of the whole thing, something I
watch with mixed feelings of horror and amusement sometimes. We
also did some competitions, a demo competition that was won by
The Lost Boys, a graphics competition that was won by GoGo from
the CareBears and a 3.5K "Remember VIC20" demo competition that
was won by The Delta Force for their full working two-player
version of "Archon". You have to see this to believe it.
At this party, Delta Force released their "Syntax Terror" demo,
another demo with a lot of screens from different crews. These
screens were gathered at the ICC #1 (International Coding
Conference #1) held in Stuttgart in the beginning of the summer
of 1990. It took them quite a long time to finish it but they are
forgiven for it is a good demo (Introducing the first 'mini-
games' to be included in a demo).
ULM also released their brilliant "Dark Side of the Spoon". ULM
are well-known for their technical abilities and their
fullscreens. Nearly all the screens from this demo are
fullscreens and it is very impressive indeed. I can still
remember them locking themselves up in a little room somewhere in
the office to finish the demo. A month after the convention the
ceiling of this room collapsed. Whether or not there is any
connection between their intense programming and this is not
This "Dark Side of the Spoon" demo contained guest screens by
The Respectables (their first screen to be published) and The
Lost Boys, a screen finished at the convention by Manikin and
The Overlanders from France also released their "European Demos"
at the party. A two-disk demo with a massive amount of screens,
and a main menu so big you can get lost in it. One of the best
screens in this one is the amazing 3D screen by Ziggy Stardust
At the beginning of 1991, an ex-Aenigmatica member (as a matter
of fact Jurie Horneman a.k.a. Relayer of the Quartermass
Experiment, I'll have you know) joined Thalion to work on their
"Amberstar" project. It also saw the release of the first game by
Eclipse Software, "Monster Business", a game programmed by Lost
Boys member Oxygene.
The summer of 1991 was very busy once again. My fellow Lost Boys
(Tim and Dave) came over once more and we all went to the home of
one of the Respectables (Tyrem or Kimmi as we call him, his real
name is Stefan Kimmlingen). We intended to do another game and
sell it to Eclipse Software but we did another demo instead. "Ooh
Crikey Wot a Scorcher" was born and this is the last demo of the
Lost Boys. It featured an animation of a Lost Boy sawing a Care
Bear in two with a chainsaw (with lots of samples from Bad Taste)
which is left unanswered by TCB sofar. I also did a screen
together with Oxygene, "Your mind is my Ashtray" with a large
rotating scroller made out of rotated squares. This demo also has
a quite unique main menu in which you fly through a fractal-
landscape and land on various spots to get to the demo screens.
"Ooh Crikey" contained one guest screen by The Respectables. This
was the last TLB demo however, everybody is too busy doing games
or working. Manikin has worked on a game that is loosely based on
the main menu of "Ooh Crikey". It even got him to sign contracts
with a very interesting software company but eventually the whole
thing was put on ice due to recession (and possibly other reasons
noone can fathom). He's currently doing a summer of programming
for the company where I work. But I'm going too fast here!
The summer of 1991 also had the second Delta Force convention,
ICC #2. Again everybody attended and we had a great time over in
Stuttgart. Another gigantic real time article was written here
and published in "ST NEWS". At this convention, ULM and Elektra
(a new demo crew from Sweden) joined the Union and they want to
make a new Union Demo so I have heard (which has yet to be
The summer ended with the Atari Düsseldorf Messe (almost a
tradition), everybody getting together once more. After this we
all went home, tired but very satisfied...
The last big demo I received after this was "Punish Your
Machine", another compilation of screens that people brought to
the Delta Force ICC #2. It is a large two-disk demo with screens
by many demo crews, including the new Elektra, a 'plasma' screen
by the Overlanders, a screen by TEX (what?) and a lot more.
Eclipse released their "Lethal XCess - Wings of Death II",
another high-quality shoot-them-up with "Xenon II" ambitions that
Richard was insanely enthusiastic about.
Well, that about covers it. There is more though, what about the
new CareBears demo that everybody is waiting for? How about
Thalion? Or forthcoming Mega Parties in Europe? And what about
this Froggy Demo that should be there soon (or already)?
The story may yet gather courage to continue. Wait and see.
Watch this space...
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.