The computer underground counterculture is what is generally known as 'the scene'. The scene is comprised of many different elements that are loosely banded together. These elements are often comprised of art, cracking, demos, emulation, hacking, music, phreaking and warez.
Art is the creation of computer-based artwork using digital media and different techniques. The most common forms of this medium are pixel, raytracing, ASCII and ANSI art. The example on the right is an original ANSI piece by iCE created using computer ANSI keyboard characters to give the illusion of a subject. The piece was later converted by us into a web friendly PNG format for display online.
Cracking is the art of modifying software. This can vary greatly from something simple as creating a trainer, enabling cheating within a game. To complex solutions such as removing software, CD or DVD copy protection. In most countries the act of cracking itself is not illegal. It's only when you apply the cracks on an item to render it free and stolen that it becomes illegal. This distributed cracked software is then referred to as warez.
Demos combine art, music and programming trickery to create a visually appealing non-interactive computer program.
Emulation is the duplication of functionality of one system within another. An example would be a Nintendo Gameboy emulator that enables you to run Gameboy games on your Windows PC.
Hacking is the unorthodox manipulation or exploration of anything computer related but should not be confused with cracking.
Music is the creation of computer generated music using tracker modules. The most well known form of this medium of music is chip or 8-bit music.
Phreaking is the now redundant art of the exploitation of telephone systems to obtain free phone calls. Often used back in the old BBS days when calling boards over long distances was prohibitively expensive.
Warez involves the releasing of copyrighted and often cracked software, movies and music to make available to the general public at no financial cost.
This loose grouping comes from the fact that most of these scenes originate from a similar lineage. Back in the old days before the internet was accessible to the general public, Bulletin Board Systems were the main means for savvy computer users to communicate. While we won't go into detail about BBS it is fair to say that BBSes often wanted to value add their services, to encourage people to call their boards. So unlike many web sites of today that are very specific and often niche, BBSes systems commonly covered a variety of topics and offered numerous files. This in turn helped to create small localized BBS communities with a broad appeal. This convergence of the intertwined, overlapping scenes means they often got grouped together and referred to as the computer underground.
I might also add that the legality of some of these elements can be questionable. Of course that's not to say that they all are. It is just if you were to categorize the elements the results would vary.
Phreaking and warez are definitely illegal, and do attract the attention of law enforcement agencies. Hacking, emulation and cracking are considered grey areas dependant on their use and implementation. While art, music and demos are perfectly legal and often the people involved eventually work in related commercial industries.
Pou�t. Is where the artists of the demoscene come to hangout online. The oldskool pouet.net bbs is the most active forum of the scene. While by default the majority of modern demo and intro productions are online in the Prods section for peer-criticism or prise.
BitFellas News. The primary collector of scene related news. Using syndication feeds Bitfellas is fed with articles from many major scene websites. It is the best way to keep up with the happenings of the online underground scene.
Art City. The best resource for pixel and visual eye candy from a large choice of Amiga, Atari, C64, Spectrum and PC graphicians.
ASCII Arena. Probably the most active corner on the Internet for ASCII art and artists.
Scene.org. Is most likely the largest repository of scene art on the Internet. Its main purpose is the hosting of files so there is no unnecessary fluff such as user ratings or visual previews. It's a great resource if you know what you are looking for but a little daunting for everyone else.
Jason Scott and RaD Man: 100 Years of the Computer Art Scene. Jason Scott is the producer of the excellent and well received BBS Documentary and Rad Man is the founder of the all time famous art scene group ACiD. Together they teamed up at the Notacon Conference in Cleveland during late April of 2004 to give a 50 minute presentation on the topic. The presentation itself was recorded and can be downloaded and listened to in MP3 format, plus there is a text transcript available. The site itself also has some excellent examples of early computer artwork, from early main frame printouts to massive modern ANSI (such as the one to the right).
Flashtros. Is an amazing resource that collects the programming source-code and art assets of Crack-Intros and recompiles them into a web browser friendly format such as Flash, Java or HTML5. While most of the collection is for the Commodore Amiga there are also crack-intros that were originally produced for the PC, legacy computers and video game consoles.
Demoscene.TV. Three TV channels broadcasting 24 hours a day over the web of purely demos. We recommend you check out the oldskool channel to get a feeling of the old demo scene. It does require Adobe Flash and a broadband connection.
Freax Volume 1. This is a 220 page hardback book is a in depth look at both the Commodore 64 and Amiga demo and cracking scenes their history, dominance and their influence. The book contains a lot of text as well as many photos and is the best primer available for anyone interested in the scene in general. As the Commodore 64 was the pioneering scene that introduced many of the concepts that are taken for granted today. The Amiga evolved those notions and produced an even more professional and competitive outlet.
Roy of SAC Official Homepage. A great tutorial and summary on ascii art scene by Roy of SAC the now legendary artist who has been commissioned by numerous famous and respected groups over the years including Razor 1911, Drink or Die, RISC, TRSi, Deviance, Origin and The Humble Guys. For further reading the site also has a large number of links to more detailed web pages that cover the subject of ascii and ansi art in more depth.
Artpacks.acid.org - Intro.
Ever since the days of the IBM PC 8088 and C64, personal computers have been used for much more than word processing and data entry. Artists around the world have found computer art to be less expensive and much less restrictive than traditional paint and canvas. These artists have pioneered many different electronic art mediums over the years, the most popular of course being High-Resolution images and Three-Dimensional Renderings. Primitive mediums such as ASCII and ANSI text, and RIPscrip are still popular, but have moved far away from the mainstream and into this little niche we call the digital 'ArtScene'..
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