The History of Unlimited Matricks

Introduction

Unlimited Matricks (ULM) is a demo programming crew on the Atari ST computer series. This document tells the whole ULM story as far as I remember. Anyone who has additional infos is invited to give them to me so that I can integrate them into this text.

  • Before Birth

    I got my first computer in 1985. It was an Atari 520ST+ with the astonishing amount of 1 megabyte RAM and 512 available colors (but only 16 displayable at the same time). At that time PC's had 512MB and CGA graphics. It's the same computer on which I'm now typing this text. So not much changed in 10 years... (Well this text is now a bit outdated, as it's now a NeXT Station on which I continue to update this page) The machine had no builtin ROM and I was one of the luky early-buyers you could watch the magnificent colour animation in the boot-ROMs. If you want to see this animation, get the FNIL demo and press reset.

    My first step was exploring things like ST-Basic and ST-logo. Assembler programming was made easy via Data Becker's very buggy Profimat, an assembler/debugger with a built-in tutorial about all instructions and adressing modes. Better than any book could have been (and probably the first and last good thing coming out from Data Becker).

    I got quickly in 'contact' with the copying scene and managed to buy (!) a floppy disk with some games. These games were rather simple but have the good old playability which lack on most games today: Star Raiders, Millipede, Joust. But quickly I got the stuff copied for free like it was usual for the C64 (which I never owned, the ST was my first computer).

    Shortly after the ST, came out the Amiga from Commodore and the you can't do this, you can't do that war started. So I looked out for everything the ST can't do like digisound or fluid animations. I quickly got fascinated by the intros preceeding nearly every cracked game and started to collect my first demos. With a debugger I found out how to do it myself (especially digisound). My first ever demo was then of course a sound demo: Streethawk Demo with the titlesong from the TV-series. This was in 1988. Several others of those show-some-text-and-play-a-sample demos came after that, but this one was special: it resulted in one (1) phonecall from Christian's friend. He was just setting up a new democrew and was looking for members. Lucky enough I had put a phone number into Streethawk, else ULM would probably have never existed...

    When I first see Christian at a local computer club he shows me some smooth scrolling which he did himself. This is great! He does the animation I never thought I could do. But we need a good name for our crew. Some other democrews are already well known like TEX so I looked for something original.

    Birthday

    The name was not found in Luxembourg. I had to be on vacation in Switzerland to find the name. Don't ask me why, I simply found it by wandering around at about 16:00 in june 1989 in the streets of Zurich. So the name is Unlimited Matricks, with the obvious similarity with matrix (our mathematical background), and with tricks which will be in the future the main occupation of the crew but of that I was not aware then.
    The abreviation is ULM, in french means Ultra Leger Motorisé (which is an ultra light plane), in german is the name of a town and in english normally means nothing. This all to confuse people. Well afterwards people found also some english meanings (United Lamers, U're LaMe) thanks to Legacy and The Lost Boys (hi!).

    First chapter

    From now on everything goes very fast. We get in contact with a lot of people and our group grows to about 10 which nearly all come from near France. On a marathon meeting in october 1989, I release 3 more digidemos which play 1:2 compressed sound and in which we announce the most inimaginable incredible best demo ever seen, sheduled for 1990. But meanwhile on this meeting we were working on our New-Year90 demo which was released nearly on schedule. It contains mainly screens from our french members which are of medium to good quality. Even some overscanning could be seen. I and Christian filled up the disk with a Zoolook sample (full song using loops) and a scroller which looks really awful. Urgghh!

    In 1990 we continued to develop various routines where I was specializing in the ULM-hardscrolling and Christian was building on his screen-without-a-name-but-with-really-big-VU-meters.

    First reactions came in resulting from the NewYear demo, the most important being the one from Replicants/NEXT who invited us to a party in Marseille (France).

    There we met many great guys and nearly destroyed fury's flat. We stayed one day longer to clean up a little bit the mess all those people made. An replicants intro was released now known as the burp intro. In Marseille we finally realized that our coding level was way beond the level of our french members and we also could see a pre-version of Christian's not yet released no-name screen which was on a demo-collection disk. Guess who gave that copy out... The consequence was that we stopped the collaboration with our French members and went on as a two-man crew.

    The remaining part of ULM then created the Avengers who released the demo Hexenland which was of the same quality as their previous screens and contained a lot of bashing against the bad guys who threw them out (e.g me and Christian). But they used some of our routines without asking if they still could. So bad guys, but good code ...

    Second chapter

    As Christian still has not found a name for his screen, he continues to code on it. There is still some CPU time left and more features are added. Finally we are saved by the french magazine Generation 4 which operates also a minitel service and organizes a demo contest to promote this server. So the demo screen gets the name 3615GEN4 demo, some grafics are quickly added, the music is rearranged and the demo is sent to the Magazine. The screen features now 6 completely different moving parts which are partly overlapping. The most luxurous part is the overscan border wich is simply BLACK, so nearly noone notices it, except that sometimes the logo distorts into it. We won one of the prizes (not the Archimedes) but noone ever got a prize and so that was then the first and last contest we participated. Anyway, ULM got known a lot better like this and the letters started flowing in.

    Meanwhile we got some good contacts with a small group from Trier (The Respectables) in nearby Germany who we met at the 2 Düsseldorf Atari Fairs in the previous years. We decided that this year we will stay in the offices of Thalion Software which was the games company created by The Exceptions. In a horrible trip with my small car (Citroen VISA) we got there and met a lot of other demo people. The Lost Boys were preparing to release a demo for the fair, and we decided to put some code in it too. The result is The Life's a Bitch Demo, were we, again, announce an upcoming ultra-mega-super demo. Some stuff is shown like a plasma screen and a fullscreen megascroller.

    The next months The Respectables help us out doing the graphics for this demo. During this time we got a new member: Chris, originally from The Garlic Eaters, who does a lot of music for the demo.

    The next step was then the STNICC end of 1990 in Holland. Here we wanted to release our demo. The Lost Boys kindly provided 2 guest screens and The Respectables one. But due to our perfectionism, the demo was not released. There was still no name, so the silly name of The Dark Side of the Spoon was invented and accepted (lack of other suggestions). Note that the name was chosen so late that no spoon appears in the whole demo.

    The demo came out end of january. It knocked nearly everyone out of it's socks, as it was the first demo which featured fullscreens in nearly every screen. Today it is still listet among the 10 best demos ever done on the ST.

    Sinking down

    After this enourmous success it was rather hard to do anything better, so the number of screens is now a lot lower. We have a lot of contacts in the Atari scene now, and that is the most important. Doing demos becomes less important.

    Nevertheless we can not leave our assemblers alone and some more demos get released. The most amusing is the story of the hidden screen in the lost boys demo. TLB were doing a demo to be released on the next Atari fair. We presented a variation of one of our screens of the Spoon demo. TLB included it on the disk but removed it later as it did not really fit in the context of the demo. In fact the screen was desactivated in the menu, but not removed from the disk. By patching some variables, one could start the ULM-screen from the Oh Crickey what a Scorcher demo. I was not happy about that, because the scrolltext was not finished (it contains the first chapter from The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy) but anyway, it's the best hiding of a screen ever done.

    Other screens have been programmed and released. One was the already mentioned hidden screen which appears in the not so well known Snork demo. Other screens were quickly copied together into a disk to feature as a coding contest contribution at the megaleif coding party in Uppsala/Sweden (some pics from the party can been seen in the DeltaForce slideshow). The disk didn't win a prize and it also did not manage to get distributed widely. It featured an ultra fast LIFE in the bootsector, the rotating floor and a rotating oszi. Also Maggie5 featured an intro by ULM. Some more screens are still sleeping well on the harddisks at ULM headquaters and collecting dust. Among them a nice graphical modfile player, an STE fulldist and an not finished chessboard zoomer. More ideas include the Pizza demo, 10 one-effect screens and several games of which even rudimentary GFA-Basic versions exist.

    The End

    Now that the world finally discovers the Internet, the time may come that Unlimited Matricks resurfaces with some activities in Cyberspace. Coding demos in Java could be fun, but not as challenging than on a such limited hardware than the Atari ST.

    High Scores

  • Number of own demos released: 10
  • Number of demos with ULM guest screens released: 2
  • Overall number of screens released: 28
  • Released musics: 4

    Sources:

    Timeline:

    jun 1985ST bought
    ??? 1986Streethawk demo
    aug 1988Atari Fair: meeting Respectables
    jun 1989ULM founded
    aug 1989Atari Fair: meeting No 2 Respectables
    jan 1990NewYear 1990
    aug 1990Atari-Fair (Life's a Bitch release)
    sep 1990Throwing out Avenger part
    dez 1990STNICC party
    jan 1991Dark Side of the Spoon
    aug 1992Atari Fair (THE hidden screen (TLB))
    jun 1993Uppsala party