Demos are informally classified into several categories, mainly of size-restricted intros. The most typical competition categories for intros are the 64k intro and the 4K intro, where the size of the executable file is restricted to 65536 and 4096 bytes, respectively. In other competitions the choice of platform is restricted; only 8-bit computers like the Atari 800 or Commodore 64, or the 16-bit Amiga or Atari ST. Such restrictions provide a challenge for coders, musicians, and graphics artists, to make a device do more than was intended in its original design.
Demos in the demoscene sense began as software crackers' "signatures", that is, crack screens and crack intros attached to software whose copy protection was removed. The first crack screens appeared on the Apple II in the early 1980s, and they were often nothing but plain text screens crediting the cracker or their group. Gradually, these static screens evolved into increasingly impressive-looking introductions containing animated effects and music. Eventually, many cracker groups started to release intro-like programs separately, without being attached to unlicensed software. These programs were initially known by various names, such as letters or messages, but they later came to be known as demos.
Simple demo-like music collections were put together on the C64 in 1985 by Charles Deenen, inspired by crack intros, using music taken from games and adding some homemade color graphics. In the following year the movement now known as the demoscene was born. The Dutch groups 1001 Crew and The Judges, both Commodore 64-based, are often mentioned[by whom?] among the earliest demo groups. While competing with each other in 1986, they both produced pure demos with original graphics and music involving more than just casual work, and used extensive hardware trickery. At the same time demos from others, such as Antony Crowther, had started circulating on Compunet in the United Kingdom.
A 64K intro is a demo with an executable file size limit of 64 kibibytes, or 65,536 bytes. This is a traditional limit inherited from the maximum size of a COM file. File size reduction techniques include procedural generation, sound synthesis, and executable compression. Demos traditionally were limited by RAM size, or later by storage size. By the early 1990s, demo sizes grew, so categories were created for limited sizes that forced developers to not simply stream data from storage.
Many European game programmers, artists, and musicians have come from the demoscene, often cultivating the learned techniques, practices and philosophies in their work. For example, the Finnish company Remedy Entertainment, known for the Max Payne series of games, was founded by the PC group Future Crew, and most of its employees are former or active Finnish demosceners.Sometimes demos even provide direct influence even to game developers that have no demoscene affiliation: for instance, Will Wright names demoscene as a major influence on the Maxis game Spore, which is largely based on procedural content generation. Similarly, at QuakeCon in 2011, John Carmack noted that he "thinks highly" of people who do 64k intros, as an example of artificial limitations encouraging creative programming. Jerry Holkins from Penny Arcade claimed to have an "abiding love" for the demoscene, and noted that it is "stuff worth knowing".
Some attempts have been made to increase the familiarity of demos as an art form. For example, there have been demo shows, demo galleries and demoscene-related books, sometimes even TV programs introducing the subculture and its works.[original research?]
4players.de reported that "numerous" demo and intro programmers, artists, and musicians were employed in the games industry by 2007. Video game companies with demoscene members on staff included Digital Illusions, Starbreeze, Ascaron, 49Games, Remedy, Techland, Lionhead Studios, Bugbear, Digital Reality, Guerrilla Games, and Akella.
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