SOFTWARE REVIEW: THE DARK SIDE OF THE SPOON
Novel bit by Richard Karsmakers
Review bit by Stefan Posthuma
A couple of nano-seconds later, the cathode ray tube emits
light and gives forth sound.
"La la la lala! Be a swell dude! Use drugs and be rude!"
The camera fades out from the face of a happy drug user, which
generally transforms to the intro of "Eye Witness News". Once
this has finished, the face of a news readers appears on the
Narrator's voice: Here's John Scragg with the "Eye Witness
News" headlines of Blibicon 3rd 1991. This morning at about 7 AM
C.E.T., the world of science plunged into turmoil as
archeologists stumbled upon the remains of what is thought to be
an information carrier of some kind. It is believed to be as
archaic in comparison with the current opto-floptical disc as
the nuclear bomb was in comparison with current conventional
weaponry, yet its bigger size leads to speculations about a
possible bigger storage capacity. Some primary dating has been
performed, and it is believed that this morning's discovery is
as important to our knowledge of an eventual prehistoric man as
the discovery of artificial meat was to vegetarians! But, now,
let's get down to our correspondent on the spot. Come in, Jack!
Film cuts to reporter, standing in a kind of quarry. Scientists
are walking around. Outside the quarry, behind a fence that is
guarded with dogs and police officers, there are a couple of
dozen people headed by some that look like spiritual leaders of
some kind. The latter are dressed in snot-coloured robes,
wielding hankies. They are, quite obviously, demonstrating
against something - probably the excavation going on in the
Jack (on the spot): Yeah, sure, John. That's the general
opinion amongst the scientists here, too. All morning, they have
been walking to and fro with pieces of this newly discovered
ancient thing that's believed to be an advanced media carrier of
some kind. They have also found pieces of decayed paper which
they believe can shed some light on the thing's origin and, even
more important, its age. The crowd is surely not agreeing with
what is happening. Spiritual leaders clad in snot-coloured robes
are heating up more and more people, and...
...Ah. One of the scientists is coming my way now.
Sir, may I be as bold as to ask you what you have found out
Scientist (looking uncomfortably towards the mob outside the
fences, then turning towards the camera while adjusting his
tie): Well...erm...we're not yet entirely sure. But it is my
opinion that we have stumbled on something that will shed new
light on our knowledge on the subject of pre-historic man.
Jack: Pre-historic man? Isn't 'pre-historic man' a
contraversial subject these days? As you know, the existence of
these hypothetical ancestors to our race is still fairly
unconventional. As a matter of fact, the church has tried to
abolish the theory altogether, since...
Scientist (slightly agitated, in a way that shows that he has
been that many times before, and indeed that he has already said
what he is going to say equally many times): You can't keep on
believing a book that says we've been created from the remnants
of some Huge Divine Prophet's nose excreta, now can you?
Believing is OK, but once scientific proof is collected that
tends to tell you otherwise, it's a bit stubborn - not to say
stupid - to keep on believing this nose excreta stuff. I guess
our spiritual leaders are just worried they'll be losing a lot
of power - and money. Well. I gotta go. Thanks.
Jack: Thank you, sir.
The scientists scurries off to somewhere else in the quarry. The
camera pans out a bit, and once again shows the demonstrating mob
outside the fences. We see the reporter move towards the fence,
in the direction of one of the more prominently looking spiritual
Jack: And what do you, as a representative of the church, think
of everything that is happening here?
Spiritual leader (almost lethally agitated): It's bloody
blasphemy it is! Everybody knows that all this evolution crap is
nonsense! "The Divine Prophet sneezeth and thus we were created",
so the Ibleb sayeth. How can someone believe something different?
The possibility of our civilisation having evolved from ape-like
bipedal life forms is altogether ridiculous! The items these
blasphemists are currently digging up have been put there by the
Agnostic Hanky Front!
Jack (on his face appears an expression that can be described as
being somewhere between 'surprised' and 'shocked'): The AHF? The
left-wing revolutionists sponsored by the Great White
Handkerchief that is thought to irradicate the entire Universe
during the Apocalypse? So what you're trying to tell here is
that this excavation could be a con or something?
Spiritual leader (nodding): Yeah. Sure thing.
As if signalled by the spiritual leader, the other snot-
coloured-robe-wearing people (probably disciples of some sort)
start to chant, heating up the crowd even more.
The crowd: Blasphemy! Blasphemy!
Crowd member #1: Hail the Divine Prophet!
Crowd member #2 (blowing his nose firmly): May the Green Force
Crowd member #3: Down to all AHF Revolutionists!
Crowd member #4: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
The police officers start to bark, and the dogs have to go
through heavy physical excercise to restrain them.
Jack (retreating from the fence, that is budging a bit): Things
are getting a bit too hot here. So it's back to the studio.
The camera shudders as the fence budges a bit more. Screen
remains black for about 2 nanoseconds. Then, the face of John
Scragg appears again.
Narrator: Well, well. Aren't we hot on the news there. In the
studio I have with me Professor Leo Unatic PhD. Professor, what
is your opinion about the topic 'prehistoric man'?
Professor (after blowing his nose and examining his hanky's
contents for the possible presence of gems or, indeed, entire
new galaxies with new civilisations): Well...erm....erm. This
subject is rather difficult to relate to your viewers, as they
have pressed upon them the stigma of conventional religion which
is generally thought to be the sole thing responsible for
eventual scientific....er...fuck-ups as we call them. But I can
have a go at it, I think. It is a common belief nowadays, in
scientific circles that is, that we have not been created by any
nasal excreta - and this theory is highly disliked by the church
leaders. Recent discoveries of skeletons much like ours but
dated to be over 5000 years old have fueled our thoughts. There
may indeed have been civilised life before the beginning of our
history, now 1991 years ago. Especially the things found in the
quarry this morning lead us to believe that this 'missing link'
between the apes and us had the ability to build primitive tools
and weapons. It is rather ironic that this 'missing link' had
its own year reckoning, and that this excavation seems to have
been formed in their year 1991. 1991 B.C., as they call it.
Narrator: Sorry for interrupting you, but did these people also
have a religion? I bet everyone's dying to know this.
Professor: Yes. They had. It was ridiculous, of course. They
believed in some kind of entity they had never seen, and his son
that died by being nailed to a tree or something. Well, that's
all we've been able to find out so far. They may have had other
religions as well, but our excavations are in far too early a
stage for any speculations about that. We also know something
about their means of multiplication. As far as we've been able to
find out, the males repetitively sent angels to females which
then got pregnant.
Narrator: Quite a crude way of fucking, don't you agree? But
can you tell the viewers anything about what has actually been
found this morning?
Professor: Well, a lot actually. Apart from various pieces of
cutlery and pots that seem to indicate that they still ate
manually and cooked on heat sources, we found lots of media
carriers. In the time when these excavations were formed, they
seem to have been present in two rather popular forms. One is
about 10 centimetres in diameter and silver in colour. It seems
to contain lots of tiny impressions, which we believe is a
rather primitive way of storing digital information. For all we
know, there could be sound on them, or text, or pictures. We
don't know, as we have yet to find a device in which we can read
them. The second medium is clearly magnetic and about 7.5
centimetres in diameter. We have found devices with which to use
these, but these resulted in "Disk may be damaged" error
messages which lead us to think that the magnetic information
has been lost due to the 5000 year timespan that has passed
between its creations and its discovery. Also, the thick layer of
carbonated dust and oil residue that covered up everything may
have had some kind of negative effect.
Narrator: Carbonated dust and oil residue? Is it possible that
this indicates some kind of catastrophe due to which this pre-
historic man virtually died out?
Professor: We don't know for sure. It seems that some kind of
large fire - a kind of global fire, possibly caused by a war -
Narrator: A war?
Professor: Indeed, Mr. Scragg. A war. This prehistoric man
seemed still to resort to war now and again, which seems to
indicate that their intelligence levels were infinitely lower
than ours. It's amazing that we should have evolved from such
creatures that were quite clever on one side yet incredible dumb
on the other.
Narrator: That surely sounds very interesting, Mr. Unatic.
Professor: It surely does, Mr. Scragg. But let me tell you
something else. Ever heard of Pink Floyd?
Narrator: You mean this strange bunch of guys creating a
somewhat unconventional kind of music, stating that they're the
reincarnation of a 5000-year old pop group that used to consist
of pre-historic men? I seem to recall them having an album out at
the moment. Isn't it called "Dark Side of the Moon" or something?
Professor: Well, it's a bit crudely interpreted, but yes. And
their album is indeed called that way. A brill album by all
means if you ask me, but that's beside the point. There is now
reason to believe that they are a bunch of hoodwinkers as we
have now reason to believe that they are in fact but the
reincarnation of a pre-historic computer demo program coding
Professor: Indeed. We have found one of those strange magnetic
media carriers which had a kind of adhesive label attached to
it. This label read "Dark Side of the Spoon demo". Of course we
couldn't verify its contents due to the aforementioned wear of
time. This does, however, shed new light upon the supposed
connections between computer program code and longitudinal
Narrator: I see.
Professor: The album is quite brill, though.
We hope you don't mind us including a review of this demo in
this Convention issue of ST NEWS; after all, the demo was
supposed to be finished at the Convention but didn't in the nick
of time. Instead, it was finished a mere week later (on January
3rd 1991, to be more precise).
But, then again, why would you?
So let us, as usual with demos, have a systematic look at the
The intro is the first of the many fullscreens that will be
thrown at you in this demo. It has to be mentioned that their
routines are flawless. Even on my very old ST their fullscreens
and syncs work perfectly. Lots of high-frequency samples and sync
scrolling combined with fullscreen. This is what ULM is good at
and what they like to show.
After a bit of loading you are presented with the main menu. A
fullscreen, scrolling in all directions with a rather good
sample. The idea is a bit dated, moving a character (a griffin
this time) around a huge playfield selecting demo screens by
stopping at doors and pressing the space bar, but it still looks
and sounds very impressive.
The screens are (in logical order, and I gave them my own names)
1) Loadsa-shit fullscreen.
A fullscreen with tonsa scrollines, a huge, waving background, a
large scroller and a background-color scroll in the top border,
and not forgetting the huge multi-color picture of a girl flying
around. Very impressive stuff. They have some soundchip music in
there as well.
Nice screen, very nice.
2) The Ball.
A one-plane picture is projected on a large ball. You can move
this picture with the cursor keys. Quite a nice effect is
achieved here. The picture is a joint efford of Tyrem from the
Respectabletjes and Spaz from the Lost Boys. Not a very
spectacular screen, but a very nice coding trick!
3) Wobblo-starball-rotato scroller.
An award winning screen we have here (award winning insofar that
it got the first price in the 'normal' demo competition at the
Convention). Coded by the Lost Boys and I must say that we (ahem)
have done it again. When Tim heard that certain people were about
to write a starballs screen, he decided to release the version he
had written. It just happened to be that Fabian wrote a rather
interesting scrolline and the two combined make a rather nice
4) Resettomaniacs a whollotta whatever screen.
The famous Respectables have made themselves very popular in a
very short period of time. They surely are masters of public
relations considering the tiny amount of screens they have
produced and yet they have become good friends with the best of
But this screen proves that their coder (however Groß he might
be) knows his business. Although not featuring any revolutionary
ideas or techniques, it looks good and colorful.
5) Parallaxoid amazing multidistogigamaniac screen.
ULM surely knows fullscreen allright. They say this screen
probably can't be beat and I agree. It features a lotsa colors
fullscreen weaving background overlayed by mass of multicolored
scrollines. The whole thing waves like an idiot and has some
sampled music like it's all the easiest thing in the world.
Surely the most impressive screen of the whole demo.
6) The wherethehellisthisscreenanyway screen.
A little joke of the ULM guys. You are confronted with a massive
amount of doors, and only one of them contains a demo screen. The
rest of them just laugh at you. Shall I tell you where the real
screen is? Naaahhhh... Maybe somewhere else in this issue of ST
NEWS. I give you one hint though...study the doors carefully...
Anyway, the screen is based upon an old trick in which you can
make a sprite move around and leave a trail of sprites that seems
to move endlessly. It is used in a fullscreen here and looks nice
but it is quite simple really.
7) The Fullo-3D screen.
3D wireframes in a (half) fullscreen with a wobbling logo and a
scrolline. Nice stuff but not totally impressive.
Right, that's about it. There is a fullscreen reset demo with a
nice sample and a 2D starfield that moves left or right according
to the sample. This screen contains all the credits for the demo.
All in all this is an impressive demo with enough stuff to amaze
you, especially if you like fullscreens. This fullscreen business
shows how much coding effort has gone into this demo because
programming fullscreens is a shit job for sure.
ULM is two guys from Luxembourg, the Fate and Gunstick. I met
them a couple of times (I have been to their place which is a
neat house somewhere in the rolling hills of Luxembourg), and I
think they know what they are talking about. Good coders and I am
looking forward to the next ULM demo.
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.