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German Atari rockers
Bodenstandig 2000 at
Deitch Projects, NYC,

Glomag (Chris Burke)
playing Game Boy at
Cythea, Paris

Marcin Ramocki,
History, interactive
software environment,
2005, JCAL, NYC
Marcin Ramocki Making 8 BIT


8 BIT was born in the East Village bar Open Air, which used to host Share, a monthly gathering of computer musicians, geeks by choice, and people interested in computer art in general. At that time, I was really into chiptune music, curating performances at vertexList, and trying to check out all the related events happening in the city. Chiptunes are musical pieces created with old computers or game decks with internal sound synthesizers. For example, Commodore 64, Atari, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Game Boy, all mostly created using 8 bit. As I became more and more familiar with this little scene of musicians, demo people, and hackers of all kinds, I realized that there was a huge cultural potential in games, both old and new. Affected by too many cocktails, I decided to make a documentary.
          Of course nobody took my claim seriously, since I am known to make grandiose alcoholic statements that often translate into nothing much at all. But this time I was firm in my intentions. The phenomenon was genuinely exciting and unique, and I quickly realized that the folks using Game Boys to compose/perform music were so exotic that to just show them playing music, without a deeper investigation, wouldn’t do much good. I had to get into cracking games, the demo scene, original chiptunes and many other things I didn’t even anticipate. One discovery led to another until the scope of the project grew and changed. The final topic of the project was music and art influenced by video games. Suddenly the visual arts became as much a part of the equation as music, which was only a natural progression: demos were both visual and sound pieces.


I started out with the music people: Bit Shifter, Bubblyfish, Glomag, Nullsleep, and Bodenstandig 2000 (who, luckily for me, came to play at Deitch Projects in Soho, NYC). Later I managed to talk to Role Model (aka Johan Kotlinski from Stockholm, the author of Little Sound DJ, a tracker software for making music on Game Boys), Teamtendo from Paris (two guys dressed in animal costumes who love to assault camera men), the Treewave duo from Dallas and Gameboyz Orchestra from Poland. The music content naturally divided itself into three chapters: Demo Scene, Chiptunes and Game Boy.
          Demo scene is the root of many of today’s new media ideas. It started in the early ’80s in Europe, with teenage game crackers who replaced the 64 Kb used for the disc copy protection with their own custom animation and sound. These demos soon became quite sophisticated, and hackers pitted their productions against one another. Chiptune is the sound accompanying a demo: It is music made through an internal 8 bit sound chip. In fact, all early video game music was chiptunes. It was only in 1999 when the first chiptune records came out: “Maxi German Rave Hits 3” by Bodenstandig 2000 in Germany and “8-Bit Construction Set” by Beige Records (Cory Arcangel) here in the US. Game Boy music is a form of chiptune but for less computer-savvy musicians. The platform was made accessible by Johan Kotlinski’s LSDJ in 2000 and Oliver Witchoff’s Nanoloop (2000). Ever since then, musicians have been rocking out to their Game Boys all over the world, especially in Vienna, Stockholm, NYC and Tokyo.

MARCIN RAMOCKI is a new media artist and curator based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His work involves software art projects, generative and interactive media installations as well as web-based projects. He is a founder of vertexList space in Brooklyn and an instructor of new media arts at the New Jersey City University. Marcin’s first feature-length documentary 8 BIT will premiere at MoMA in October 2006. For more info on his work please visit

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