Now is the time to finally catch up on … YouTube videos by a French guy of 1993’s Francophone Amiga publications. Why, how were you going to finish that sentence?

Consider it some moments of serious, chippy nerd zen. Let me explain, sort of.

As part of my continuing 15-year mission of focusing CDM on obvious clickbait and stories that appeal and resonate with average readers, I … well, I somehow just got lost in a clickhole that involved a 1993 issue of a magazine for the defunct Commodore personal computer platform.

Trackers, a form of music editing software, have been on the mind lately. In addition to frequent software updates of modern and ported trackers for mobile, game, and desktop platforms, we now have not one but two dedicated hardware tracker platforms announced this week. That’ll be the Polyend Tracker, and the Nerdseq Portable.

You don’t need to know that trackers were most popularized in music making on the Commodore Amiga, but they were. So let’s enter a wormhole to the 90s and see what that world was like.

YouTuber Gunhed TV pages through the first issue of Amiga Dream, both on paper and with excerpts of what shipped on the bundled floppy, in a wonderful piece of media archaeology:

It’s notable even casually how much creativity is evident in these pages, compared to what made up the more general purpose-oriented PC mags of the same era – or for that matter how people think of computers today. Games mix with art (and uncensored and suggestive art, in an era before censored Tumblr and Facebook). Creative tools mix with discussions of the hardware. And music tools are just an expected category.

While we’re all stuck looking at our screens, maybe it’s time to bring that back.

The demoscene did sometimes pack strange little audiovisual etudes onto those disks evidently, as we’re treated to 1993’s prize-winning Extension:

Pygmy Projects – Extension

Code: Cenobit, Coconut, Flame
Graphics: Cenobit
Music and Text: Jester

For another 1993 creation, there’s Sanity’s Interference:

Code and Text: Cosmos, Microforce

Music: Virgill

Graphics: Cougar, Havok

I’m not sure how well these hold up aesthetically, though at least they do so ironically. I rather enjoy seeing visuals that are engaging today mixed with ones that feel trapped in 1993, as a kind of perspective.

The demoscene lives on, and embraces some of these earlier technologies with expanding technical expertise and artistry. It’s not only a retro impulse, perhaps, but as with any medium, it means that someone sticking with something like the Commodore 64 as their canvas now has years of added technique gained.

So for instance, here’s an utterly gorgeous C64 demo (going back to something far more restrictive than an Amiga):

Coma Light 13 by Oxyron
Commodore 64 demo, Full HD / 50 fps capture + real SID recording.
Demo released at X2012 demoparty, and won the 1st place there.

Demo credits:
Code: Axis, Bitbreaker, Peiselulli
Music: Fanta Gfx: Veto, Yazoo, Bitbreaker
Text: Yazoo Help: THCM

If you click through to YouTube there are even binary downloads.

Okay, so actually what started as a random distraction is a decent reminder – now that we are restricted from in-person events and staring at our displays, maybe now is a good time to reconsider what art can do inside those bounds.

And meanwhile, knowing which site I’m posting this on and that readers here are far more knowledgeable about this that I am, if you’re right now saying, “what is he doing?! I can list off an entire multi-page history of demoscene that properly explains this and shows other demos that are actually relevant and not random like the ones he chose. Heck, I even know a better resource for Amiga magazines of the early 90s read in not only French but out loud in Czech, Polish, and Ukrainian.”

You’re hired. Get in touch. Seriously. Let’s do it.

Oh and if that wasn’t your thought and you only wondered why I’m off on this tangent and not doing the hundred things I’m supposed to be doing right now, I blame HAINBACH.

Seriously, be careful what you tweet at me. It’s like throwing a Cheeto into the polar bear tank at the zoo, only with my brain. Terrible consequences.

Previously in unicorn chasers: