Demos: Packs – A glance at the past

Screenshot by Old School Game Blog

Hi everyone,

You might be surprised to hear that some demopacks were released for the Amiga in 2016, including one from my group (Void) called Applejack Pack. Back in the days packs was the norm, but times have changed. In this text, which is a rewrite of an article I did for Classicamiga.com over 10 years ago, I take a look at demopacks and its history. Hope you’ll find it interesting. 🙂

Introduction

If you think about it, we are very lucky to have high-speed Internet connections and storage devices capable of storing enormous amount of data, since this hasn’t always been the case. In the old days of our beloved Amiga, things were different from what it is today. You could not head over to Planetemu and download hundreds of games or visit Pouet.net to get the latest demos.

Imagine a life without access to the Internet, a life where literally no one had heard about it. That was how it was back in the beginning of the 90’s. As you can imagine, getting the latest demos was not an easy task.

One of my old swap disks! (photo by Old School Game Blog)

In the early days of the Amiga, people traded demos (and other stuff) through ordinary snail-mail. I’ve written an article about it here on this blog called “Swapping – When we swapped disks though snail-mail worldwide!“. People established connections with like-minded individuals and groups all around the globe and floppies with demos, intros, games, pictures and music was exchanged. The files came accompanied by letters written on paper or saved as text-files on one of the disks. People made friends and demo groups got connected with each other.

It is in this context that demo packs became an important factor. Many swappers had their own pack and they filled it with new productions as often as they could and then spread it around to their contacts. I myself was a packer back then and loved it. Now, some of you may scratch your head and wonder what a pack exactly is. I’ll try to give you a brief explanation.

The Packs

You had different kinds of packs. The first one is the coded (programmed if you like) variant. These had a coded launcher accompanied by a graphical user interface. They could resemble diskmags, only that their main focus was the intros, not the texts. Such packs could contain party reports, messages, advertisements, news from various demo groups and so forth. Two good examples here are the Speed series from Nah-Kolor, Dreams by Apathy and Frozenpack by Whelpz.

Screenshot by Old School Game Blog

On the other hand you had the straight-to-the-point packs with no fuzz. These could contain scrolling text on the screen and a menu of intros you could run. A good example here is Hitpack by Gods or Party Cocktail by Devils.

Screenshot by Old School Game Blog

And then we have the truly old-school ones, the ones that you booted and gave you a menu in AmigaDOS! There were quite a few of these around, containing everything from utilities and pictures to games and demos. I’m sure there are many of these still hibernating in floppy collections around the world. 🙂

Apart from these, we have the packs that focused on music, the so-called “modpacks”. These were basically like the advanced intro packs with a GUI and various texts. The Amiga has many excellent modpacks available like Feedback and Digital Chips from Apathy, as well as Save Da Vinyl from MAWI.

How many packs can a packer pack if a packer can pack packs?

As you can see, packs were extremely handy for swappers back in the days. With them you could easily gather productions from specific parties without much trouble. If we keep in mind that hard-drives could be very expensive back then, having an organized collection of floppies was a big advantage. 🙂 If you had a good system, you would know exactly which disk had a decent selection of utilities or those super cool intros from The Party 1992.

As mentioned earlier, packs often contained articles about everything related to the Demoscene and the Amiga. You could read the latest gossip about various demo crews and sceners or just keep you updated on the latest events. Often there was a section for messages. Here swappers (and others) could send in a file with greetings and messages to their contacts. Lot’s of fun stuff to read, I can assure you that. 🙂

Source: http://janeway.exotica.org.uk/release.php?id=11317
Source: http://janeway.exotica.org.uk/release.php?id=11317

Last, but not the least important for swappers, was the advert section. Here you would find lots of adverts from people seeking new contacts or support for their packs, mags and charts. If you needed someone to trade with, then you did not need to look further. Many of these ads had fancy ascii-art logos made by ascii specialists on the Demoscene.

Is it over?

It’s 2017. The Amiga is more alive than it has been for ages. We have new demos, intros, but also packs! For nostalgic reasons, the packs has returned from the graves to bring pleasure to people out there. I assume that users with GOTEK’s appreciate how easy it is to load up packs. 🙂 If someone had asked me back in 1997 if packs would still be released in 2017, I’d look at them like they were crazy. 😀 But here we are and retro computing is a big thing. It’s great!

Thanks!

Many thanks for reading this article and hope you found it interesting. It’s always great to hear your thoughts concerning what I write about, so please feel free to leave a comment below. If there are some old swappers out there, I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Have a good one folks! Amiga rulez!

Nice picture by Kazik/Anadune from the demo "The Sunrise"

2 comments

  1. It made me smile when I saw the floppy with Rolex/Apathy on it. Did you swap with him? He later moved to my town and joined my group, and we became good friends.
    And The Garbage Gang! A blast from the past! 🙂

    • Hi Mads! Well spotted mate! Used to swap with Rolex/Apathy back in the days, think he lived in Hamar. 🙂 We was a good musician, made many cool mods. Please say hello to him when you meet him. 🙂 Have a good weekend!

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