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The demoscene is a part of the computer world dedicated to the process of designing “demos,” or small computer programs that use the existing technical capabilities of a given computing system most effectively, usually in the form of audiovisual presentations. This is a popular and diverse technical subculture and community that got its start in the days of much more primitive home computer systems. It still thrives in today’s more sophisticated IT world.
The first computer demos and the rise of the demoscene took place in the era of more primitive, eight-bit computer systems and grew as computer capability increased to 16-bit, and then 32-bit, systems. Because of the natural limitations of these systems, creating advanced audiovisual presentations with code was a major challenge for programmers. The demoscene was an arena for competitive production of quality audiovisual programs.
As the demoscene grew, various communities began to focus on different kinds of demos. Parts of the demoscene were dedicated to the practice of software piracy, or cracking, where demos were integrated into pirated software. Other parts of the demoscene focused on computer art, where the emphasis was on creating advanced color presentations with technology that had just begun to use a significant color spectrum.
In the modern demoscene, competitions that don’t restrict the ability of computer systems will not challenge the programmer in the same ways that earlier competitions did. Some who participate in demo competitions recognize various arbitrary limitations of computing power in order to restore the principles that governed earlier demo contests. Specific demo contests can focus on a specific operating system or device, a certain limited amount of memory or other capacity, and a series of programming goals. Modern tech groups such as Mozilla Labs still sponsor or take part in modern-day demo parties, where public events can go hand in hand with online competitions that promote more creative ways to use a given computer system.