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My Commodore 64 demos

I recently came across my record at the Commodore Scene Database, and was happy to find that someone had found and uploaded two demos I had written, back in my days as a member of the C=64 demo scene between 1988 and 1990:

(I was a member of the groups ‘Excess’ and ‘Thundertronix’ / ‘TNT’, going by the handle of ‘Mantis’.)

With the help of CBA, I was overjoyed to track down another long-lost demo, my crowning achievement on the platform:

If you’re curious, feel free to go read those wiki pages or download the .d64’s — they run fine in VICE, the Commodore emulator (amazingly). If you’ve only got time to check one, check Rhaphanadosis; it’s much better than the others.

I’m very impressed with VICE. As far as I can tell, it’s perfectly bug-for-bug compatible with the real hardware, playing all of the demos perfectly (apart from a little additional speed due to differing hardware performance). If you haven’t already got VICE set up, bear in mind that after installing it, you’ll need a copy of the C=64’s ROM images; here’s a local set.

Also, the Commodore Scene Database is pretty awesome — it’s a full-scale IMDB-style setup, tracking the history of the Commodore demo scene in massive detail. Nice work guys!

The demos were written 100% in 6502/6510 assembly. I developed them using an Action Replay cartridge’s built-in monitor; it had an assembler, but one which didn’t support symbolic addressing. In other words, every piece of assembly used hand-computed branch offsets, and every variable and subroutine was tracked — on paper — by memory location, rather than using symbolic labels. If you want to know what the monitor was like, the VICE built-in monitor is almost identical!

I wrote these when I was 16; part 4 of Rhaphandosis notes the date as being 20 May 1989.

It’s interesting reading the scrollers, and doing web and CSDB searches in follow-up to see what happened next — one of the other Excess members, Raistlin is now Robert Troughton, a successful game developer in the UK with several major titles under his belt.

A Google search for Thundertronix finds a copy of “sex’n’crime” zine, issue 17, July 1990, which notes:

one of the new groups formed in 1990 (jm: slightly off, I think) is THUNDERTRONIX, better known as TNT. they are based in ireland and are doing very well for themselves. they have, in my mind, one of the best coders in the uk, namely MANTIS. he is currently coding a game with many new routines, etc… hopefully he should get some demos out soon!

woo! Er, unfortunately that game never went anywhere. ah well. ;)

BTW, it’s funny reading my scrollers in those demos. At the time, I was convinced that the c=64 was a dead platform — yet here we are in 2008, and there’s still a thriving demo scene on the Commodore. Incredible!