Long-time readers may be aware of the fact that I’ve long been a big fan of the demoscene. I saw my first true demoscene production (or “demo”) the night I received my mail order Amiga 2000 back in 1989. I called up The Board, a local BBS run by Myron Sothcott, and downloaded a demo called Raster Magic by Megaforce. From that moment, I was hooked.
I had that Amiga for a few years, but had recently been an Apple IIgs user, and a few friends of mine were still rocking the IIgs, among them @ArnoldKim of MacRumors, TouchArcade and AppShopper and @ChrBerni of AppShopper. They were quite impressed with the Amiga demos I showed them and were thrilled when Apple IIgs demos started to appear on the scene.
The IIgs demoscene was a smallish one, and without question the most prominent demogroup for the platform was a French group known as the Free Tools Association or FTA. Arnold, Chris and I engaged in a bit of friendly ribbing of the platform rivalry sort — me with the Amiga and those guys with the IIgs. Of course, the Amiga was vastly superior from a technical perspective, but the IIgs was a nice machine and these guys were among the faithful. (The GS actually had much nicer audio hardware, but it was hobbled by a mere 64K (kilobytes) of audio RAM as compared to the Amiga’s 1MB.) And it was FTA demos with which they countered my volleys. The Amiga demos I had to show were clearly more technically impressive, but FTA’s demos were polished beyond most anything I’d seen on the Amiga. (I didn’t admit this at the time, mind you.)
FTA hasn’t faded away into nothingness like so many demogroups of yore. They have been hard at work on ActiveGS, a front-end for the Apple IIgs emulator KEGS, perhaps best known as the web plug-in that powers the Virtual Apple ][ website which allows anyone with a modern browser to play Apple classic games on the web.
FTA has recently released an iOS version of ActiveGS bundled with a number of demos and games of theirs and associated groups [App Store]. It’s a free app that provides a means for folks to see these GS programs running “live”, as opposed to in video form, which just isn’t the same. And, it’s a very interesting release in a way that I won’t here discuss, as I like the app available for all to download…
See FTA’s best loved demo, Modulae, running under PC emulation.
FTA and the associated groups Apple Chemical Software (ACS) and Second Sight Software were well known in the pre-web online Apple II communities for their to-the-metal, assembly-coded demos, games, and utilities that pushed the Apple II to its limits. Among the included productions are Nucleus and Modulae, probably the most well loved and beautifully executed demos to be found on the IIgs, as well as the playable demo of the group’s take on the pseudo-3D shooter Space Harrier. Those checking out this collection who have no Apple II in their past should note that the Apple IIgs, which was released in 1986, is an 8/16-bit computer that runs at 2.8MHz — and that’s in “fast” mode.
FTA has shown a version of the app chock-full of IIe and IIgs games and demos…
…but that version isn’t likely to land in the App Store anytime soon. No surprise, there. But I’d encourage anyone reading this to grab FTA’s app and spend some time exploring something new or walking down memory lane.