Area 5150: 8088 MPH gets a successor

In case you have missed it, over the weekend, a new demo for IBM PC with CGA was released at Evoke, under the name Area 5150. It placed first in the competition, which should not surprise anyone:

I was wondering if I should comment on this demo, as I’m reasonably familiar with the man behind the curtain. I suppose the creators will write blogposts about the various parts, and give some insight into how it works, so I suggest you just wait for those.

I am not one of the creators. I was also wondering if I should comment on that. Perhaps at a later time.

I suppose what I can say about this is that during development of 8088 MPH, we chose to make a demo that runs entirely on a composite monitor, as the ‘party trick’ was the 1024 colour mode, and it wouldn’t make sense to have to watch part of a demo on one type of monitor, and another part on another.

But this meant that the ‘other monitor’ was still a valid target for a future demo. There were various tricks and effects that we had developed before or during 8088 MPH, which work fine on RGBI monitors as well, and there were also some tricks, effects, or at least ideas we had, that would work on RGBI, but not on composite. Like the so-called ANSI-from-Hell graphics.

So the logical conclusion was that 8088 MPH was going to be the ‘composite’ demo, and a future demo (under an internal title different from Area 5150 at the time) would be the ‘RGBI’ demo. Funny enough, shortly before 8088 MPH was finished, Genesis Project released GP-01, which was targeted at 8088 and CGA, using the ANSI-from-Hell mode to get 640×200 16-colour graphics. So they can claim a ‘first’ on that one, I suppose. At least, in a demo-environment.

The first use of this mode as far as we know, is in a game by Macrocom called ICON: Quest for the ring from 1984. A demo program known as ICONDEMO, which promotes the game and showcases the special CGA mode can still be found here. I suspect that Genesis Project got their inspiration from there. And I know for a fact that VileR got his inspiration there (the Macrocom trick is also part of what makes the 1024-colour magic happen in 8088 MPH, and it was already mentioned in his blogpost here). Trixter also covered ICON on his Oldskool “Life before demos” Shrine page (see under “Graphics Forged From Text Mode”).

A capture of ICONDEMO can be seen here:

Oh, and one more thing I want to mention is: overscan. This demo runs various effects in overscan mode. That’s not very obvious from a capture video (although the capture seen above does correctly capture the border environment, so you can see it if you know what to look for), and most emulators do not emulate a border area at all. But you should watch it on a real (CRT) monitor, and certain effects will fill the entire screen, much like ‘borderless’ effects on C64, Amiga and such.

Again, this is not entirely new. Trixter’s CGA Compatibility Tester already had some tests using border/overscan modes. But as far as I know, it’s the first time such a mode is used in a demo on CGA.

Oh, and for those who don’t get the “dancing elephant”-reference. Reportedly, an analyst commented that “IBM bringing out a personal computer would be like teaching an elephant to tap dance”.

This was a phrase also used by Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM. IBM was an ‘elephant’: a huge company, which was slow to respond to a changing market, and could not keep up with technological breakthroughs. Lou had to ‘teach the elephant to dance’, to turn around the outdated company, and become profitable again, and back at the forefront of technical innovation. And making a demo on an IBM PC with CGA is also like trying to teach an elephant to dance.

I suppose the obvious next step would be 8088 + Hercules?

A quick-and-dirty video of the demo running on a real IBM 5160 and CRT:

Edit: An official capture of the demo is now available on YouTube:

Edit: A video of the demo running on a real IBM 5155 and CRT by RetroErik:

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2 Responses to Area 5150: 8088 MPH gets a successor

  1. John Young says:

    Amazing, props to all!

  2. Pingback: Area 5150, a reflection | Scali's OpenBlog™

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