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Tech by VICE

Minimalism Worship: These Sweet Loops Were Made With Only One Line of Code

'Doing a lot with very little' has been the primary axiom of "demoscene": code warriors since the 1980s. It gave birth to the "4k movement":, which led to some truly...

by Janus Rose
Sep 29 2011, 3:15pm

‘Doing a lot with very little’ has been the primary axiom of demoscene code warriors since the 1980s. It gave birth to the 4k movement, which led to some truly amazing minimalistic java games, and then to even more extreme examples which crunched their size down to a single kilobyte. But this dance of digital limbo is far from over.

Now there are coders experimenting with “oneliners,” programs of around 16 bytes in size that accomplish what they need to in a single line of C. By running the code through an 8 kHz audio channel, demoscener viznut and others discovered these raw loops of entrancingly garbled computer music. Each one generates a unique sound, sometimes just by flipping around a couple of characters in the function.

Before high-level languages like C made it easy to tell computers what to do, programming music was a tedious ordeal of patterns and punch cards. It wasn’t until pioneer Max Mathews made Music I that the process became accessible to any but the most skilled technicians. They may seem primitive now, but these musical algorithms, written out in era-appropriate form, would have been insanely long and complicated in the 1950s—16 bytes is still 128 individual binary bits, after all.

[Thanks, @DeMarko !]

Demoscene, The Original Hacker Art Underground
This Computer Played The World’s First Digital Music In 1951
Max Mathews: The Engineer Who Taught Computers To Whistle