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Icebird Acorn demos archive returns

By Chris Williams. Published: 11th Feb 2006, 18:44:50 | Permalink | Printable

All the classics, all the hits, all back online

Icebird logoAn impressive collection of demos and showcases of digital special effects are back online following a hiatus. Icebird.org was offline for a few years but is now back after maintainer David Schalig restored the archive. The demos were previously hosted on a borrowed university server which was eventually decommissioned.

Icebird were a group of crack coders, musicians and graphic artists who worked together to produce demos for RISC OS powered computers and party at events such as Yelling Jam and Siliconvention. Demos are typically short but exciting presentations of animated graphics accompanied by high energy music that attempt to grandstand the programming and design abilities of their contributors. The Icebird website packs a full range of demos from the early 1990s to more contemporary efforts including K2, Blu and Zero. You will not find a stronger nostalgia trip than watching a demo from 1991 in an emulator, complete with scratchy sample ridden techno, bouncing balls in 6 bits per pixel colour and scroll text that dares to use palette shifting. On the other end of the scale, the likes of K2 and Era try hard to make full use of the hardware of the period - StrongARM RiscPC with no floating point processor or video acceleration in sight.

David said: "Around 2000 and 2001, during the rise of the Internet and the fall of the Acorn world, we put much energy in this website. It was both our demo group Icebird's 'head quarters' and a downloadable archive for Acorn demos. It was also meant as a succeessor to Coder's Revenge - a demoscene diskmag we used to publish between '95 and '97 - the site has a section with articles.

"From end of 2001 Icebird's members went on to new things, some started to work, some are still active in the PC demoscene and joined the group Farbrausch. Yes, this famous group has Acorn roots. So finally, 2006: a new year and new plans. We restored the archive and put it back online. Until today there is no other place on the Internet which hosts Acorn demoscene releases. So we at Icebird were a bit worried that all these productions disappear forever in the void."

K2 and Mobius demos

Alongside demos, the archive includes intros, which are brief and compact cousins of demos, and art disks, which are where the musicians and graphic designers show case their talent. Also online is a large number of classic demos from yesteryear, disc magazine issues and the programming tools used by all the old skoolers. For anyone looking for a starting point, David recommends Trans Mortal from ArcEmpire, which he describes as "impressive ARM2 stuff".

"I think everybody at Icebird still loves the Acorn platform. It was unique and innovative, and as we grew up with it, we learned to view things from a different angle," continued David.

"We plan to catch up and upload releases from between 2001 and 2006. There even are a couple of as yet unpublished Icebird productions. Also we would like to do a design overhaul and convert the site from static html to something dynamic. And very importantly, in order to get more audience for Acorn demos - we plan to crosslink all releases to pouet.net, the mother of all demo archives.

"I personally would love to find the time and make another Acorn demo - something for the ARM2 Archimedes. I am keeping my old A3010 around just for this reason."


Icebird website Demo reviews and screenshots

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More graphics return to RISC OS, didn't know about Icebird before.

More great stuff like this will help RISC OS, every little bit helps?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 11/2/06 8:17PM
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I't would be great to see some of the demos 32bitted (don't think thats a word ;-) ) we really need some software to show off the Iyonixes graphical capabilities (and I'd love to see the IronDignity 2 demo running at 1024 x 768 smoothly) perhaps some OpenGL code could be incorporated into some of the demos now that we have a decent MESA port :-)

 is a RISC OS Userleeshep on 12/2/06 4:29PM
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I keep meaning to 32bit my demo, "Demo6399", not remotely in the same league as the spectacular ones above, but part of the earlier generation at the end of the 80s inspired by Alt-Mans (Hugo Fiennes) series of demos 1-5. This was before anyone outside of university had the internet (which was email and ftp back then, the web was still years away), and it spread round the world by people putting floppy discs in the snail mail to their friends. I was amazed that only a few months after its release, letters dropped through the postbox saying "Hi I'm from South Africa, have you written anything else? Tell me about whats happening in the UK Acorn scene." I would be great to find out where all those people are now.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 13/2/06 9:24AM
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"More great stuff like this will help RISC OS"

I don't think old 90s demos for dated Acorn kit do much for RISC OS in this day and age. It's all part of the retro scene though. A bit like running Repton2 under an emulator. -- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 13/2/06 1:20PM
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While 32-bitting might be difficult, what about removing the StrongARM checks that some of them have. I assume it's a speed issue, but it prevents them running on VRPC since it emulates an ARM7 instead (although at StrongARM speeds).

 is a RISC OS UserMattLB on 14/2/06 10:42AM
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Cool - I never knew that some ex risc os coders are now part of Fabrausch. Their demos are just so cool. I still remember the first time I watched their popular demo..... ahh memories.

Does anyone know which coders are now part of Fabrausch?

Now all risc os needs is a 32 bit os, new Ghz Arm processors, floating point hardware, the latest greatest graphics card and some coders and we might get some demos that are worth watching on our risc os boxes.....

Ah well.....

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 14/2/06 11:44AM
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MattLB: I suppose it depends on whether or not those are simply checks, or whether they use the additional StrongARM instructions.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 14/2/06 1:16PM
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Funnily enough, I landed up in my own Demos directory the other day, and spent a good few minutes running through the old demos. I remember they messed up a bit with the BASS mega-demo - at certain points they detected processor when they should really have been checking OS version. I remember switching my ARM610 card back in to my 3.7 machine to see if it'd run extra segments. It did, and then they crashed.

Sadly, Zero no longer seems to run on my old 4.02 SA, crashing at a certain point. The other 'ultimate' SA demo, K2, still runs fine on my machine. And I enjoyed re-running Reisnac too the other day.

It's a shame that the scene died after that. DFI's K2 really showed a new flair for design, and little features like, oh, frame rates. And Zero showed real skill at coding for the Nutters lads. Fluro always has the requisite spit and polish, but sometimes it just didn't seem to be trying hard enough.

I don't agree necessarily with 32-bitting old demos though. Granted, it's cool that jojo still runs on SAs, but the real point of jojo is that it'll run on an ARM250 machine. The important thing about those flagship demos is that they push whatever machine they're running on to the limit. But then I prefer running BBC games on the original hardware rather than an emulator, so maybe that's just me.

I did hope at one point that the Iyonix would prompt coders back, but perhaps it having a more conventional graphics card there's less to be gained from pushing it to its limit, when PC demo coders have already been there. Perhaps, I'm not sure.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 14/2/06 7:34PM
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