restrictions & ethics
Initially, the artistic means of producing a demo were limited by the PC systems used back in the days (Apple II or C64). Disk space as much as processor power were rare goods, graphical capacities as shortened as sound features. The scene soon developed a self-conception that in reverse made these limitations the core challenge of their work. Consequently, the scene made up its own ethics, acting on the maxim of exhausting the given ressiources as much as possible.
The goal of demo programmers thus became the claim to make something out of almost nothing (or at least very few). No doubt that until now, this pretension implies a high level of technical competency and creativity among the programmers, musicians and visual artists.
Smartness instead of pure machine power - this basic principle turned out to be the dominating target. New effects were to be created by using one´s own fantasy - no supermodern programmes, powerful computers or higher memory capacities. "Restriction" is the main term for this approach - even the coming up of new, better computers did not lower the people´s respect for this rule. Facing a prodigal amount of modern, easy-to-use hard- and software nowadays, the "restrictions" have become a principle that by means of its strictness and consequence literally forces the creativity out of the programmers.
Oldschool demos are an excellent example for the functionality of these restrictions. According to the oldschool scene´s philosophy, pure manual (and mental) work are the crucial attribute for a good demo: modern software like demo editors (a sort of contruction kit for demos) narrows the programmer´s achievement. Even methods like mp3 are not considered morally correct but a cheap way to get a neat soundtrack. On the contrary, some musicians still compose their tracks note by note and, by superimposing different levels, try to generate complex and astonishing sound structures. Assuming all the aspects that the oldschool scene´s philosophy consideres in its work, one could say that in fact, a good programmer (or musician or graphic designer) qualifies inversely proportional to the ressources he uses.
Yet, the restrictions include further aspects: the use of service programmes is prohibited and the disk space occupied by a demo is defined. Categories start at 1 KByte and continue at 4 KB, 64 KB, 256 KB up to the "wilddemos" which are subject to no restrictions at all. Other "restrictions", even if this might no be the right term, are the choice of exceptional platforms: handheld computers, organizer, game consoles or mobile phones can all be used to play demos on. Here, the attraction is the same: showing the people that anything is possible, even on this device.