History Lesson:
The German Diskmag Scene

Written by Adok

Hugi has its roots in the German Diskmag Scene, which was most active in the years 1993 to 1995. As the first issue of Hugi was released in 1996, one can say Hugi belonged to the second generation of German diskmags. The German Diskmag Scene was only loosely connected to the demoscene. In the German speaking countries, it is common that high-school students create their own magazines ("Schülerzeitungen"). The early German diskmags were somewhat similar to such students' magazines, with the exception that they were distributed on disk instead of paper and contained a coded GUI for browsing the mag; moreover, they probably had more readers, as they were not limited to a particular school, and certainly they had more contents. The editors of these diskmags were born in the late 1970s, which made them about 15 - 18 years old.

The first German diskmag for PC was Blackmail, the first issue of which appeared in early 1993. Other major magazines were Platinum (which was founded short after Blackmail), Skyline, Sucide, HotMag and MicroCode. There were plenty of other diskmags as well, but compared to these six mags, they were poor in content and presentation. All the editors of the major mags were in contact with each other, although they came from different parts of Germany; thus it is justified to speak of a "scene". Contact was partly established by means of the commercial paper magazine Computer Flohmarkt, which consisted of ads and short texts submitted by its readers. The magazines were spread via snailmail and bulletin board systems. The contents of these magazines mostly dealt with two topics: computers and politics.

Blackmail was edited by members of the group Knockout, who were living at the southern border of Germany. The composition of its articles was archetypical of German diskmags. The makers of Platinum came from Saxony (formerly Eastern Germany); their magazine was basically a computer-centered forum for its readers. Skyline, edited by a German and an Austrian citizen, had a more serious touch to it than the other mags. In the German language you use different words when talking to adults than when talking to children or friends. The magazine, unlike the others, used the adult forms. Content-wise, there was more about literature and cultural subjects than in the other diskmags. Suicide was from Bavaria and contained almost only computer-related articles; many of them were about hardware, as a consequence of which Bavarian state officials classified it as an "ad magazine". HotMag was a left-wing political magazine with a lot of satirical articles and some coarse jokes. Finally, MicroCode was a magazine that focused on computer programming.

Interestingly, all of these magazines vanished in 1996 - 1997. The date each magazine stopped issuing is related to the date the editors completed their high-school diploma (Abitur). Soon after they started studying at university, the last issues were released. It is safe to assume that the editors, who certainly belonged to the intellectual upper-class, took their studies seriously and therefore lost interest in mag-making.

The second generation of German diskmags began in 1996 with the foundation of the Cream diskmag. Cream was a merger of HotMag and MicroCode with a great design created by DTC, the most talented graphics artist involved in the German Diskmag Scene. Content-wise, it was a mix of its predecessors and therefore mostly dealt with politics and programming. In the course of time the former editors of MicroCode became pretty inactive, but although the Cream staff was mainly composed of former HotMag editors, several readers who had only been writing for MicroCode before continued to support Cream. The other notable diskmag of these days was the Hugendubelexpress, which was later renamed to Hugi. While the contents of the early Hugi issues were quite okay compared to other German diskmags, the visual design was clearly inferior to Cream and some of the older diskmags.

While the German Diskmag Scene had been more or less unrelated to the demoscene, Cream editor Coctail had the vision of making a "design diskmag" and thought that demoscene-related contents would suit it best. Cream #4, the last issue, which was released after Cream had already officially been declared dead, featured two pages of demoscene-related headlines in its table of contents. As the demoscene did not seem to be as interested in the magazine as Coctail had desired, Coctail finally decided to put Cream to rest and focus on his academic career (nowadays he is a political scientist and historian). The path towards the demoscene was, however, continued by Hugi, which even switched to the English language in order to reach a broader audience. From its eleventh issue on, Hugi cannot be considered a typical German diskmag anymore, but a full-fledged demoscene diskmag. This resulted in a total change of its readership and the authors featured inside the magazine. Even the small German-language corner that remained in Hugi until issue 17 was vastly different from the contents Hugi had been composed of before.

The third generation of German diskmags was mostly in the years 1999 - 2001 when Image and WildMag were released. At that time Internet access was already widespread and the editors were close in touch with demosceners (e.g. by means of the #coders.ger IRC channel). The contents of these late German diskmags were more scene-related than those of earlier generations. Hugi.GER might also be considered a representative of this third generation. Hugi.GER was founded after the German-language part in Hugi was dropped. It was an attempt to gain back old Hugi readers; people such as Toxo and Scorpe, who had been writing for the first ten issues of Hugi, were among the authors. The magazine did not last long, though - three issues were released before it was first announced to be stopped; later on there were two more issues due to the initiative of an author named piccolo, who wanted to make Hugi.GER a literature magazine.

In the past five years, no German-language diskmag has been released. The era of German diskmags is probably over for good. It is questionable whether some of the members of that diskmag scene are still in touch with each other; at least I am not. Some people can be found on the web, some of them have made interesting careers - for example, the editor of MicroCode created an artificial intelligence for chess games that improves itself utilizing genetic programming ten years ago, which resulted in pretty much press-coverage, and more recently, he developed a spamfilter. Coctail seems to be researching environmental policies these days. It is interesting to see how people develop.