ATARI 16*16 Sprite Record History (other screens)

If you're an old ATARI demo coder, you probably know how nice it is to break a world record ! What's a world record ? Simple: take a very simple program (Sprite display, 3d cube, rasters, or anything you like) and try to put as more as possible in a vertical blank, on a fixed hardware. (ATARI ST in our case). Some crew or people were specialist in optimizing, with various technics. I personnaly really enjoy that kind of contest, and even today I search some new technics to break old ATARI records. (It changes from DirectX stuff I code all the day :-)).

Recently I find back on my hard disk a new record I broke in may 2001 ! That record was one of the oldest "official" one. So here is the story of the record, and all people trying to beat it ! I hope you'll enjoy ! Of course we beat many records, but I can't do a page on each of them ! :-) So here is the story of the 16*16 2 bitplans sprite record !

NOTE: Mega thanks to Phantom to make that page up to date. Thanks to Gnu for informations about Vector record.

1989: The beginning (134, Nick & AnCool/The Carebears)

1989 is a very good year for ATARI demo. In the same year came three of the best demos ever: The Union-Demo, the Cuddly demos and the Sowatt demo. The picture on the right show you the first 16*16 sprite record. It was done by The Carebears. The record consist of displaying 16*16, 2 bitplans, non masked sprites. Please notice there is a grey background. (that's important for the next).

Record was here: the world famous crew "TheCarebars" saying "You can't beat this", a nice and very pure screen, some energic MadMax music (the famous S.O.S tune !). When I first saw that screen I don't know anyhting in assembly programming but I was impressed by the design of the screen. ("Nothing else than technic"). No scroller, no gfx, only technical code ! They managed to display 131 sprites with a MadMax tune. (134 without music)

See the sprite quality.

1989: French people strike back ! (136, Ziggy Stardust/Overlanders)

End of the year: The french crew Overlanders brings a totally brainblasting demo called "The Delirious Demo 2". This mega demo contains some of the best screens written by one of the best ATARI french coder: Ziggy Stardust. As he writes almost all the demo, he try to beat the famous record too. As always, Ziggy has another approach: his technic is totally different from the others and he displays 136 balls instead of 134 ! (132 with music and vu-meter). For the first record breaking, things were a little tricky. If you look at the Ziggy Sprite, you'll see it's very nice, but 16*14 sprites ! You probably say 2 pixels is not important, but YES it is for a record ! This is not a "broken record", but nice try anyway ! People know it's possible to beat TCB, so let's see the big adventure !

See the sprite quality.

1990: Swedish revenge (143, Alias Sture/Ghost)

1990: Great demo from great swedish guy: The Overdrive demo by Phalanx. This is the real "TCB record break". Their sprite was a little more complex (but not really nicer :-)). Please note they add a scroll-text. A 16 pixels vertical scroller (for speed). They managed to display 143 sprites without music and scroller.

(Please note that sprite is 15*16 pixels, so it's a bit cheated)

See the sprite quality.

1991: Alone coder (148, Il Profesore/Istari )

1991: A very rare record, coz I never seen it at that period. (I discover it in 2002, thanks to Anders Eriksson for the news). The author manage to display 148 sprites (142 with music, vu-meter and scrolltext). The sprite is really 16*16 pixels, but it's almost one bitplan. The technic is quite inovative. Great code but bad colors.. :-)

That screen was spread with a Soundtracker called "Digicomposer".

See the sprite quality.

1991: Oxygene first attempt (206, Leonard/OXYGENE)

1991: In our second megademo (The O-Demo), I decide to beat the record when I find a new clearing technic, first introduced by the famous french crew Equinox. This technic really looks like some old PC mode-X technic. It allow you to fastly clear a screen in two bitplans using MOVEM. The only drawback is that it uses all the bitplans, so you can't have a backgound anymore. I put 206 sprites, with music ! Record were really splashed ! (206 instead of 143 !).

Even if the record were explosed, I was not satisfied because in a way, it was not the original record. (there was no bitmap background).

See the sprite quality.

-NEW- 1992 or 1993: Sector One (270, Pulstar/Sector One)

pictureJuly 2014: Evil/DHS just send me that old record from Sector One. I never saw that demo. We think it's from 1992 or 1993. It features impressive 270 sprites! I looked into the code and it's almost the same code as O-Demo record: MOVEM.L clearing technic, and each sprite displayed in two parts. There is some improvement anyway: 4 of the 16 shift used a unrolled display loop. Add a smaller screen to clear and you get that cool record!

You can download the disk here (52Kb) !!

See the sprite quality.

2000: Back to roots ! (165, Leonard/OXYGENE)

2000: We ar eplanning to go to the ST-NICCC, ten years later ! We had to prepare some nice stuff to bring there: First, we made a 3d demo and we won the first place of the demo competition ! Second, I made a special version of the Nostalgic Demo. That version contains a new screen: The classic 16*16 sprite world record ! In my last attempt I had cheated by removing the background. But this time, back to roots !! Look at the screen on the right ! this is *the* original TCB screen ! I choose the classical MadMax SOS tune too ! So here is a real record break: 165 sprites WITH music, and WITH a nice one pixel scroller !! Please note I use *exactly* the same sprite as TCB, so I can't cheat on the bitmap. I manage to obtain that speed by writing a new generated code in C++ and optimize it to the max by hand ! :-)

See the sprite quality.

2001: Optimize night and day... (197, Leonard/OXYGENE)

2001: After writing some DirectX 3d stuff for my job, and some sound synthesys at home, I like to write some ATARI code when I have some spare time. I decide to include ALL optimizing technics I know, and write the fastest code of my life to defnitly break that classical record ! I know there is no people trying to beat it at that time but that's just for fun. I take my last record back (165) and add a new clearing technic I call the "Mosaic technic". I pre-compute a 16*16 mosaic bit-field. That bit-field contains spatial information about area to clear during a frame. When I write that new technic (I think never used in an ATARI demo), I saw the CPU time was really moving, depending of the frame. Generally, when you have a no-constant CPU load, you can use the "multi-screen" technic. That technic was first used by the great "Mega Tridi" screen by Ziggy Stardust. I fastly add that technic and reach the incredible number of... 197 sprites !!! I was really happy to get that record !!

You can download the disk here (20Kb) !!

See the sprite quality.

2002: Optimize to death... (212, Leonard/OXYGENE)

2002: After having some new ideas since long time I finally decide to code it ! The main code consists of a big data builder written on PC, using a lot of sort routines and generated code. Here is the result: 212 16*16 pixels sprites, running on a 1Mb STFM machine. You simply *CANT* beat this !!

You can download the disk here (225Kb) !!

See the sprite quality.

*WARNING* : If you want to test it on real ATARI hardware, don't forget the disk image is double sided !! (2 sides, 23tracks, 10 sectors)

2002: Definitive revenge ! (220 on half meg and 271 on 1Mb, Leonard/OXYGENE)

2002: After some computations, I change my databuilder in order to include a new technology :-) ! As many people complain about my own "rules" for the record (cf. 1Mb machine), this demo disk contains two world records: 520-STF and 1040-STF version. You can see both one if you have a 1040 by pressing ESC key during the boot fade. Believe me or not there is a *lot* of code and ideas to get such a number of sprites :) I hope it definitively pays homage to The Carebears !

Thanks to Heinz Rudolf (Cyclone/XTroll) for nice ICQ speaks and ideas about sprite record (and especially the idea of putting both records together on the same disk).

You can download that beauty here !! ( 538 Kb )

See the sprite quality.

NEW: Now work on ST,STE,MegaST,TT and FALCON ! (Thanks to Cyclone/XTroll for heavy help on debugging all these machines !)


2004: Funny contest (???  by Leonard )

October 2004: Back with this funny contest. Rules are simple : break my password or break my previous record to discover my new explosive record on a 512 Ko ATARI STf.


You can download the disk here !! ( 312 Kb )

2004: Contest (221  by Phantom )

November 2004 : After some tries, Phantom has beaten my previous 220 sprites record with 221 sprites.
The curve is exactly the same I used for my 220 sprites record. To this point, as the curve is a decisive element in breaking record, I decided to publish the sine curve function I use. That could be the reference.

You can download the disk here !! ( 189 Kb )

2004: Contest (238  by Gunstick/ULM )

November 2004 : Gunstick finally published his record. The number of balls is exploded compared to the preceding record, with 18 more.
Gunstick includes a really cool characteristic to this screen, namely, a revolutionary scroll text based on a color pallet cycling. Technical code that permit him to write a long text. Congratulations !

This demo has been released since a few time, but forum was down, so this screen is coming a bit late, anyway my previous record is beaten twice : I have to reveal my password.

You can download the disk here !! ( 194 Kb )


2004: Contest is over (268 by Leonard/OXYGENE)

November 2004: My previous record (220 sprites) is beaten !!!
Here is the password to view the new record, type :
And you will discover the new explosive record (
48 more balls than my previous version and 30 more balls than Gunstick)

This record is mythic because it displays twice more sprites than the initial screen of TCB.

Lot of work on PC-Builder (that represents the greatest part of the background work) and on ST code optimizations (tower code for displaying and deleting)

You can download the disk here !! ( 312 Kb )

2005: Contest is still going on  (269 by SOTE)

February 2005: Coming from the north of Europe, Scum Of The Earth strikes with a true innovating code. "Or" display code is optimized to the extreme and deleting code is improved thanks to MOVE.L usage in "Move" display. Result is 269 balls fitting in relatively few ST memory. Marvellous ! Contest just keeps on going forward !

You can download the disk here !! ( 259 Kb )

2005: Contest (270 by Phantom)

The 6th of march 2005: Phantom is coming back in the race with a new record. No real innovation in the code, but background PC-builder is improved and makes it possible to gain a small ball.

You can download the disk here !! ( 300 Kb )

2005: Contest (271 by Phantom)

The 8th of march 2005: 2 days after the 270 sprites screen the 271 sprites. Was there a forgotten ball ? No, in fact the display code is a bit different, that frees a little more CPU time. Please note a general design lift...

You can download the disk here or here !! ( 317 Kb )

2005: Contest (280 by Phantom)

The 10th of march 2005: Phantom can not be stopped! Well, for the moment ...

Based on Scum Of The Earth approach and combined with new optimizations, it is now possible to obtain a clear improvement : 9 more balls !

Displaying even more balls (at least 5) can be done but the 512 KB limit is a true trouble.

You can download the disk here !! ( 317 Kb )

2005: 312 sprites blast (312 by Leonard)

The 17th of march 2005: After weeks of thinking, motivated by great records of SOTE and Phantom, the mythic "300" sprites limit is broken ! Here is 312 sprites ! You can get technical details on ATARI Forum in that thread.


You can download a new 9 sectors disk here !! (easyer to write on floppy to test on real hardware. Of course works on emulator) ( 334 Kb )

I hope you like this story ! If you have new informations about that record, or maybe you beat it (!!), please write me !!!