i often get emails, skype conversation request or interview proposals for clarifying on the reasons that motivate the production of 4 kilobyte demos.
among many others, one of the most frequent misconception is to assume that there is some sort of fetish desire to revive the strict limitations of the past when doing demos in only 4 kilobytes, as if we had actually grown in the era of the C64 and Amiga computers and were now nostalgic of development under a severely constrained hardware or environment.
well, nothing further from reality.
not only i’ve never been a guru in the 8 bit computer programming, but i actually never owned a C64 or Amiga nor i saw one in my live until i was an adult. by the time i typed on my first computer program, 20 years ago, advanced 32 bit PCs where the norm. and despite i did start with a 8088 (poor boy’s alternative), that was in qwbasic, which was already too high level language as to get intimate with the hardware or limitations of any sort.
so no, in my case clearly there is no nostalgia, nor such a thing as reviving limited and constrained platforms, cause i simply never lived, read about or heard of them until i was too old to care about it.
but even if it was, doing 4 kilobytes today would never be an option for satisfying any nostalgia of good old days. in fact, 4 kilobytes demos more often than not need the very latest hardware to run efficiently. they are pretty high technology demanding. it’s not rare that 4 kilobyte demo coders actually wait for the very latest hardware features and most powerful cutting edge new graphics cards to release their 4 k intros. for example, Elevated was pretty power hungry at the time it was released, and very few computers could run it smoothly. however, there’s no denial that many of them trade performance for size. which brings as to the real reasons to develop 4 kilobyte demos.
the only constrain when doing 4 kilobytes intros is the space it takes in disk. but those 4096 bytes are not that much of a motivation as they are an excuse. an excuse to force yourself to develop new mathematical tricks and think in clever algorithms. to work out of the box. innovating and the feeling of being the first person ever touching a new area of maths/cg, even if tiny and minuscule, provides immense personal satisfaction (to me). besides, upon success, you can later publicly disclose your clever tricks for your little ego’s satisfaction and other people’s enjoyment (and by “people” of course i mean “mainly other geeks/nerds”).
so, knocking the misconception down: producing 4 kilobyte demos has nothing to do with nostalgia or old technologies. quite the contrary, it has to do with creative progress and experimentation with maths and the newest technologies.