I was recently reminded of the epic 1993 assembly demo “Second Reality” by the Finish group Future Crew. With its recognizable and visionary “psy” tracker music, and innovative graphs and animation, it set the stage for the demo scene for many years. From the Wikipedia article: “It is considered to be one of the best demos created during the early 1990s on the PC, e.g. Slashdot voted it one of the ‘Top 10 Hacks of All Time’.”
It was therefore interesting to find “Making of Second Reality“, a YouTube clip the guys have put together from a home video of their youth. Here you can see them working on assembly code, while the music is playing and looping on their own brew Scream Tracker. You get to see some of their inspiration, including a carton book with a demonic skull which made it into the demo.
The trouble you have to go through to view the demo today is somewhat sad, but maybe fitting. It was certainly not easy to configure your CONFIG.SYS to get the right amount of memory, yet have the correct drivers loaded. The original demo was no more than 2 MB, but inconvenient at the time since it just didn’t fit onto one floppy. Today, you can download both the music and video from The Internet Archive. However, both uncompressed AVI (1.1 GB), and compressed MP4 (327 MB) comes with major glitches. In particular, the plasma sequence fares very poorly with the recorded formats. Sounds is good though.
It is also possible to view the demo using DOSBox. The original binary is available from The Internet Archive. On my Fedora 14 with little manual configuration, it worked rather well. Sounds was good (however Gravis Ultrasound did not work), albeit with a few clicks and skipping. In the opening sequence, the scrolling text was not working, however the plasma looked very good.
Finally, a word of warning: The demo, along with other works from FC is also available on YouTube. I would discourage anybody from looking at those uploads. Both audio and video compression have destroyed so much of the original work, that you are left with a very depressing presentation. YouTube is not know for its quality, but in this case it is down right damaging to the art.