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ABug provide more interesting retro talks to pass the time this Christmas

Posted by Andrew Poole on 08:00, 24/12/2022 | , , , , , , ,
ABug logoOver the last few years, ABug have hosted a fascinating series of talks over Zoom on a wide range of retro Acorn and BBC Micro topics. We posted about a few of them last Christmas.
Just in time for this Christmas, ABug have been busy over the last few weeks posting some more of the talks to their YouTube channel, just in time for escaping from another load of Christmas film repeats on TV.
This time around, there's talks on a variety of topics, including building RISC OS 3.71 from its original source code, software presevation and rescuing data from old BBC Micro discs, stories from BBC Micro developers and more.
The full list of videos is on the ABug YouTube page (with more still to come in the coming days!), but here's a few of our favourites to get you started:
Continue reading "ABug provide more interesting retro talks to pass the time this Christmas" | 1 comment in the forums

CodeCraft #4 voting open

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 20:00, 7/10/2021 | , , ,
The submission period for the CodeCraft #4 demo coding competition has now closed, which means now comes the part that every one can get involved with: Voting!
9 entries were received in total, but because voting is on a per-category basis, only 7 of the entries are eligible for voting (the other two are in categories that only received one entry). There are five entries in the 256 byte intro category, and two entries in the 1KB intro category.
Download links and YouTube videos of all the applicable demos are available here on pouët.net, and information about the voting process (and an all-in-one download archive for the submissions) is available here. At the time of writing, there is an issue which is preventing the CodeCraft website from being updated with this information.
The deadline for voting is Sunday the 17th of October.
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CodeCraft returns

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 17:30, 3/5/2021 | , , ,
After a 20 year hiatus, the CodeCraft RISC OS demo coding competition is back, with CodeCraft #4. Like the previous instalments, the competition focuses on small programs, fitting into one of the following categories:
  • 256 byte intro or game
  • 1KB intro or game
  • 2KB tool
  • 4KB intro or game
The deadline for submissions is October 3rd, so there's plenty of time to get in your entry (or entries). Questions and submissions should be sent to Kuemmel via the email found in the "A Call to the ARMs" intro ReadMe.
If you're new to CodeCraft, make sure to check out the CodeCraft #3, #2 and #1 websites to see the entries from the previous instalments.
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Pass the time this Christmas with a selection of RISC OS and BBC Micro talks

Posted by Andrew Poole on 09:00, 26/12/2020 | , , , , , , ,
ABug logoWhat better way to spend your free time this Christmas while we're not allowed to go anywhere than to sit back, relax and enjoy some interesting presentations on a variety of Acorn and RISC OS topics?
Since 2014, ABug - the Acorn and BBC Micro User Group - have been holding regular events featuring talks on a wide range of topics relating to Acorn and RISC OS computers, both as in-person events and more recently as virtual events. We've selected a few of our favourites in this article, but the ABug website has a lot more talks available to choose from.
Continue reading "Pass the time this Christmas with a selection of RISC OS and BBC Micro talks" | 1 comment in the forums

Demo reviews

Posted by Xyra on 00:00, 14/11/2001 | , ,
On this page: Awakening, Damn!, Freestyle, Icon, Insanity, July, MissTech, Ostern95, TerraDemo, Time's Up, Xcentric, Xtreme


By Orig-ARM-I (now Reactive)
A fairly short one this, which seems to mainly involve eyes staring out of the screen at you...
There are some interesting effects: look out for the light sourced sphere bouncing around the screen, and the refractive one doing the same thing. However, this is a first effort - it shows - and the code creaks quite visibly in places: the image-rotation section notably, slows down very considerably at some angles but not at others, which shouldn't really happen in an FX demo particularly as it isn't a difficult problem to fix.
This isn't the cutting edge of Acorn demos, nor did Orig-ARM-I ever claim it was.



By Arm's Tech
A single-effect demo, this jumps around a small plot of land in 3d, all super smooth with some very fast polygon plotting! It doesn't show off the StrongArm very much, but there is a multi-tasking version which runs in a window in the desktop while you're doing other things :-)



By Kulture
Kulture's entry to Revelation '97 is a short but very large (2Mb+) number running in full colour. It starts off with some nice title effects - the brilliant lighting on the "Freestyle" title comes out very well - and then runs into two main effects, firstly a rotating cube with coloured lighting, complete with a lens-flared light source behind it, then a strange-looking wireframe which spins around, leaving a slowly fading trail in its wake.
That's it - there's the credits sequence and then it's all over! For a demo with such a short running time Freestyle is massive, although the large full colour bitmaps probably take up much of this. Oh, and the music is really hot.
Pretty good, despite its shortness.



By Quantum (now Kulture)
This was Quantum's production for the StrongArm CD - maybe not technically the best demo on it, but Icon's bitmap graphics are second only to Fluoro's (and much higher res) and although there isn't anything really remarkable, there are several nice effects on offer. A series of fading titles is followed by some images with dark bands moved across them, and faded together in the same manner; a few transitions, then a rather good light sourced 3d spreading thing (I forget what that's called, see the screenshot), a rotating, warping texture, and then the credits sequence. Not bad, although Icon doesn't show off the StrongArm as much as some of the other demos on that CD.



By Expression
This is a 64K intro and a rather odd one. Much of it seems to be centred around a rather tacky and very silly cow picture, which is rotated, mapped onto a cube and warped around in all sorts of wacky ways! There's also a moving, morphing 3d object leaving a trail behind it, a 3d walkabout thing (rather slow that), and a real time mandelbrot zoomer, rather low res which is a pity. The soundtrack (by Cry from The Xperience) is very good considering the size limit on it!



Rating: OK
DFI's first proper demo: interesting, although it's a shame there isn't any music.
After the very nice watery opening sequence (it jerks a little in places but the effect isn't simple) watch of for the big stone chess-pieces, the towers reflected in water, a 3D voxelscape (well, a lot of grey tubes actually, but it's technically pretty good) and a nice gouraud-shaded texture map to end that you'll recognise if you've followed the Acorn User series on 3D engines.
July is technically good but I feel it is a little tacky in places - the chessmen "look" very angular and the viewpoint isn't that interesting (up-and-down movement would have added a lot to it). DFI will be a force to be reckoned with in the future though, I think.



By Arm's Tech
Frederic Elisei has obviously spent a lot of time writing a really good light sourcing routine, and this demo certainly shows it off on a variety of objects. Many of the light sources or objects can be moved around manually using the mouse - just to prove it's all realtime! It's also in a high colour, high res display and very impressive.
After the light sourcing, there's also a "Plastic Pool" - an unusual water-type simulation - and a very good realtime Julia set. This is in high resolution and makes use of the StrongArm's high speed multiply instructions to great effect, making previous renderers look very slow! The demo ends with a fire effect spelling out the words "ARM'S TECH" all over the screen, and there's also a hidden section - no I won't give anything away!
It's a shame that this had to be put together to a strict deadline to make it onto the StrongArm CD-Rom because technically this is one of the best demos on the scene: if some transitional effects and music were added it would be stunning. It's still very good though, and there are lots of PD soundtrackers around now so you can add music yourself if you want to.



By Archiologics, Icebird and Swampt
One of the first proper RiscPC demos - this flashes by all too fast on a StrongArm, although it's pretty good while it lasts...
The first effect is a (rather visually foreshortened) landscape which I have to say, reminds me more of fried eggs than anything else, although as the demo was released at the Fried Bits 3 demo party... There's also some bitmap graphics (in Gizmo's characteristic cartoony style), a water effect similar to many others, notably in Era, some spinning 3d objects, a dots section and a rather drawn-out although pretty good credits sequence.
The music is very odd! But altogether this is a good demo, although you get longer to see it on Arm610/710 machines!



By S.O.L.
This feels much like an old Amiga-style demo: scrolltexts with effects in the background... but the effects are more up-to-date than most of those...
Terrademo starts off with a scrolltext and a picture of a RiscPC with a zooming and rotating texture displayed on it. It's amazing how short a time ago everyone thought that was stunning...
This is a "Megademo", so there is a whole sequence of effects... The real time Julia set was pretty good for its time, although it is somewhat trounced now by Frederic Elisei's stunning one in MissTech. A section to look out for is the 3D landscape: it's too slow to be impressive, really, and the StrongArm doesn't speed it up very much, but the number of polygons being plotted is quite incredible.
Overall this is was a good production for its time and still looks fairly nice... although the author has, fairly visibly, little experience in presenting a demo and the 256-colour visuals do look tacky in places.



By Xymox Project
Time's Up
This was designed long before anyone got round to coding it, apparently... It shows: this is another fairly old-style production, containing a number of scrolltexts to read (out of fashion now: nobody seems to be bothered anymore!)
There are quite a few effects, they can last as long or as short a time as you wish (press middle mouse button to go to next effect). Nothing visually amazing: the best is quite possibly the morphing dot-shapes in the transitional effect, but this takes a little while in itself, and as it's shown in between each section of the demo, it can get annoying after a while.
The music is excellent, up there among the best demo music I've heard.



By The Xperience
The Xperience's first proper production, and one of the best displays of how good Acorn's original ARM2 based machines were. This is a big demo and packs in lots of effects. There are quite a few moving-dots objects (including a ripples section made up of literally thousands of points); several 3D objects (look out for the novel twisting board near the start); a refracting sphere, the list goes on.
Presentation-wise, this isn't quite up to the standard of The Xperience's later demos - the restriction to 256 colours makes many of the images look a bit tacky, in particular. However, it all rolls by at a good speed even on the slowest machines, and certainly is proof that your old A310 isn't quite finished yet!
The music has appeared separately as a Digital Symphony tracker but I have a strong feeling this isn't such good quality as the original...
Despite rumours to the contrary Xcentric will run on any Acorn machine up to and including a StrongArm RiscPC if good use is made of a cache control utility, although it won't be very stable. The RiscPC mode def supplied isn't very good so I designed a better one for it, this works much better on my AKF60. It's 98Hz so the use of VSyncX2 or similar to slow the interrupt rate will stop the speed from going through the roof.



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
By The X-Team
A class apart, this one. At 4.5Mb it's the biggest Acorn demo by a long way. Xtreme was created by lots of different people, and is basically loads of effects one after the other. A major fault in this demo is there's no linking whatsoever between effects.
That said many parts of it are very good. There's far too many to list them all, but look out for the shade bobs (these must be one of the best ever implementations), the voxelscape, and in particular the lightsourced 3D objects, phew. The music is also consistently good.
Much of this demo doesn't work on a StrongArm at all, so those sections are bypassed if you've got the fast processor. It's a shame that they couldn't have been fixed, though, particularly as this was included on the StrongArm CD-Rom.
If you can survive the gigantic download, this is worth a look. Unique.

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Latest demo reviews

Posted by Xyra on 00:00, 14/11/2001 | , ,


Fishtank 2
DFI's latest falls into the category of those FX demos which don't aim to do everything, but to show off one effect. In this case, a rather nice 3D voxel landscape, complete with odd objects (some recognisably fish, some I'm not so sure), and a very nicely drawn light source.
The demo uses a 24 bit colour display, the graphics are very complex and detailed, and lens flare is used extensively on the light sources, particularly at the start. However, although Fishtank 2 produces superb imagery, the downside is that the frame rate is very low: only a few frames per second on my RiscPC. This tends to spoil the effect rather, as the frame rate isn't high enough to properly convey the illusion of movement.
I understand that DFI are working on a game which will use this graphics engine: it should be very impressive, but hopefully they'll think of those of us who can't afford a RiscPC2 (well, "Phoebe2100"... don't like that name), and provide a low detail mode! :-)



By Reactive
This is Reactive's second demo - it's a pretty long number, getting the most out of the two main effects in it. Firstly, we have an unusual tunnel looking like it's made out of spider's web in close-up, with a plasma-like background to it. A Infinity symbol 3D object appears in it and spins around. After some intermediate effects we see the second theme - a vehicle flying over a landscape that looks like it's covered with mole-hills, or cinder cones, or something, depending on the scale you see it as. There are variations on the theme, and at the end of the demo the tunnel is superposed over the landscape effect, nicely combining the main themes of the demo.
All in all, this is fairly promising as it's a big improvement on Reactive's first effort, Awakening, but it won't make many waves on the Acorn demo scene.



By Inspiration
Rating: Dire
This is Inspiration's first release. Ominoco starts off with the titles and credits, and then displays some still images, nicely faded into each other. And... err, well that's it. Dissappointing really, for a 700K download. The music is nice, the pictures aren't bad either, but - where are the FX?



By Paranoia Complex
Rating: Dire

Xmas '97
The review of this is very late really, sorry but when I was putting these pages together I had difficulty getting this demo to work on my StrongArm machine :-( Basically the trick is to switch the cache off before running it, hope it doesn't crash (if not try again after a system reboot), and only switch the cache on again once the full-screen title appears.
So what's it about? Very Christmassy: after the title screen, we're presented with a nice scene with snow, and Santa on his sleigh, but it all goes horribly wrong when a bus charges up into view and Santa knocks it over!
You guessed it - this is taking the mick! That was the main scene - afterwards there's some titles, the demo's theme song (quite funny really, although some people might find it offensive) and that's it. Don't let the "Dire" rating put you off: I rather liked this, and it certainly provides a little light relief. The reason for judging it so harshly is because the actual technical content isn't up to standard: Paranoia Complex, you'll need to do better there before you win any awards.

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Single Effects

Posted by Xyra on 00:00, 14/11/2001 | , ,
On this page: Comanche, Delirium, FQuake, Iron Dignity demo, Landscape



By Peter Teichmann
Yet another voxelscape! Peter Teichmann's one is rather good, though. 24 bit colour, and the detail is really high - the landscape fades out to a horizon a very long distance away.
Comanche's maximum resolution is only 320x256, so one would expect it's quick - but the sheer complexity of the graphics here slow it to less than 10fps on a StrongArm machine! Lower resolutions run pretty smoothly though.
Comanche requires landscape data to work - Peter Teichmann suggests this one.
Nice - but I have the nagging feeling that any game based around this would require a RiscPCII...



By Kulture
Rating: GOOD
It's here at last, after spending literally ages annoyingly sitting on every screenshot Paul Wheatley puts in his page in Acorn User magazine, we've actually found out what it is!
Delirium is a screensaver, and a pretty good example of the genre: it actually includes some decent effects! Wow, rarity! :-)
The authors have very usefully written a plug-in protocol for Delirium, so it's possible for anyone to add an extra effect to the screensaver. The ones supplied are pretty good though - more than one taken from the demo, Icon.
For downloads, screenshots and the latest on this, see the Delirium web site.



By Jan Vlietinck
This is Jan Vlietinck's proof that Quake can run at high resolution, high speed, on an Acorn machine.
FQuake simply plots some Quake scenery - level 2 of ID's original shareware episode, to be precise. It does so as fast as possible. FQuake runs in 640x480 resolution, and averages over 18 frames/second on my 240MHz StrongArm RiscPC. This doesn't sound like very much nowadays, with the stunning speeds GL-Quake can achieve on PC's with 3Dfx cards, but FQuake is over a year old and plots graphics far faster than ArcQuake can achieve even in 320x256 resolution.
There was a rumour that this was to be developed into a full game, but unfortunately this seems to have fallen through - it's a shame, but we've still got the demo.



Iron Dignity, part 1

Iron Dignity, part 2
By Frank Fohl
Iron Dignity - the demo
Iron Dignity is a game in development - but I'm talking about the preview demo here, the one that came third at the Siliconvention '97 demo party.
The preview can run in any resolution, any number of colours, but going below 24bit colour is not recommended - it looks a mess! This demo includes a prototype landscape plotter, some 3D objects, and visual effects. (Oh, and a pretty good soundtrack as well). I'm told that this demo is rather un-optimal but it runs quite fast in 480x352 resolution, particularly if the AutoVCache module is loaded. If the final game is anything as good as this, it'll be a real hit!
One point though: it really does require 2Mb of VRAM to run properly... And remember to set triple-buffering on instead of the default double-buffering, there is a noticeable speed improvement.



By Living Colour
Rating: COOL
Now downloadable from Argo FTP!
This was originally distributed on a Clan disc before being included on the StrongArm CD-Rom. (The link is to the downloadable Clan disc). It doesn't seem to be very well known, which I've always found rather surprising.
Landscape is similar to Comanche - it's a high detail landscape plotter, running in 24bit colour and fairly low resolution. However, this one is texture mapped - making it much more spectacular - and the landscape data isn't fetched from a file, but is calculated mathematically: this is a fractal landscape. Not only is the area to explore huge - and I mean huge - but it is both faster and more graphically impressive than Comanche.
It does look more than a little odd though, because the inaccuracy of the fractal algorithm means the landscape is always wobbling up and down a bit, like jelly... but this doesn't spoil the effect. Wow. Have a look at the screenshot and you'll be convinced!

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FX Demo tools and utils

Posted by Xyra on 00:00, 14/11/2001 | , ,

This ingenious module enables VRAM cacheing on RiscPC's, to produce a significant speed-up on several demos, notably Iron Dignity and Fluoro. It is well worth downloading. Click here for a quick note I've written explaining the technicalities of what it's actually doing and why it speeds some things up and slows some things down!

A module by Visions of the Impossible which allows the StrongArm's internal cache to be turned on or off using hotkeys (if you haven't got one of these already). Essential to run many older demos, including Blu. Switch cache off before running, switch cache back on again as soon as disc accesses have stopped and/or something's appeared on screen, usually works. As with AutoVCache there are little icons next to the demo reviews indicating which ones require this to run on a StrongArm machine.

This module by Stanislas Renan is excellent for taking screenshots - it'll work on almost anything, in or out of the desktop, and 99% of the screenshots on these pages were taken using it.

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