Amiga Demo and the size of space

16 Jan

The Amiga 500 was my very first computer system. It used DD floppy disks with 880 kb storage space. On those less than 1 mb disks you had games like elite and frontier: elite II that allowed almost limitless exploration of a virtual space literally bursting with solar systems.

But with the copies of those games came something else that challenged the notion of space maybe even more. The teams that “cracked” the copy-protection of those games often attached so-called demos to the code that was run from the disks. So before the game would load you would see – just like a little intro – demonstrations of crazy coding skills in the form of often mind-blowing animation, flickering images and pulsing color.

Those demos were at a most a few kb of code generating ever-changing images in real-time. Usually what you saw was far beyond the things you thought were possible within the technical limitations of your system. Typically some more or less abstract and alien imagery was rotating in front of your eyes, bursting into millions of colorful pieces, turning itself inside out into something totally different, dancing in fluid animation or travelling into impossible depth of space.

Somehow the dense economy of the code resulted in aesthetics and images not unlike the things you see under the influence of psychedelic substances (of course psychedelic substances were not unknown among the members of the demo scene). So, what does math and geometry have to do with psychedelic aesthetics?

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