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December 18, 2017 8:47 AM   Subscribe

It's the 1980s, and under your tree is the hottest gift of the decade, the home PC! Why not fire it up and run a Christmas demo to get in the holiday spirit?

Also known as "computerized Christmas cards," PC users, manufacturers, and software developers created these demos as a friendly greeting or as a way to showcase their machine's technology in-store. Gather the family 'round as you bask in the warm nostalgia of slow-paced flickering pixel animation and holiday classics performed as 8-bit music.

To get you started, a brief overview of the history behind PC Christmas art is here.

One of the best known PC Christmas cards (also linked above) is Thoughtware's Jingle Disk for Apple II and Commodore 64 (1985).

Sierra also produced some high quality Christmas demos, such as this "living Christmas card" A Computer Christmas from 1986, which includes instructions for sales staff and an ad for "Space Quest."

An early example shown here with an animated Christmas tree for Atari, circa 1981 (no sound).

Seasons Greetings from Commodore (1982)

A humorous Commodore 64 Compunet Christmas Demo. (1985)

A Commodore 64 "Christmas Album" from apx. 1986.

"Christmas Around the World" circa 1987, again for Commodore.

The Radioshack TRS-80 Color Computer ("CoCo") Christmas Demo
(1984)

A "Christmas Jukebox" demo from 1984, also on the TRS-80. ("TURN OFF YOUR PRINTER ! ! ! !")

Christmas Fantasia II circa 1986, again on the TRS-80 with more helpful instructions ("IF THE ROPE IS BLUE PRESS RESET & "RUN100")

Radio Shack Tandy 1000 EX Holiday demo, complete with Radio Shack advertising (1986).

Melvyn Wright's Musical Snowmen Hand Bell Choir on the British Acorn BBC Micro.

Audio Light's Atari ST Christmas Demo (1985)

17 Bit Software's Christmas Music demo for the Commodore Amiga. (1989)

Free Spirit's Christmas Classics, also for the Commodore Amiga, also from 1989.

The 1990s had their share of PC Christmas Cards:

A "Christmas Collection" for the Atari 8-bit, from 1991.

Sierra Online's "Season's Greetings" from 1992 shows just how much the technology improved in a few short years.

A collection of weird and inside-joke filled holiday cards from MicroProse, distributed on their bulletin board system in 1993 & 1994.

Lastly, take a spin with an interactive "Animated Musical Christmas Disk" from 1987 thanks to the Internet Archive: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas! Watch the animated story, play a Santa game, "print a Christmas card," or write a letter to Santa! Brought to you by PC Life Magazine!
posted by castlebravo (20 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Where's the 'any' key?"
posted by Gelatin at 10:02 AM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


(Also, flagged as fantastic!)
posted by Gelatin at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2017


Ohhhhh damn I remember that C64 one. What people can't imagine today is that watching that Xmas demo was a damn EVENT. No Internet, 3 channels on TV. Watching that was like one of six things I could do with my Commodore at the time!

AND WE WERE THANKFUL, DADGUMIT
posted by lubujackson at 10:10 AM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


These are great! I saw a couple of those back in the day. The ti-99/4a community still turns out Christmas demos.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:18 AM on December 18, 2017


This is a seriously wonderful holiday flashback. Thank you!
posted by JanetLand at 10:20 AM on December 18, 2017


This is amazing. Thank you for collecting and posting all of these!
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2017


I had no idea there were so many of these. I got Seasons Greetings from Commodore (1982) with my SX-64 and it blew my tiny little mind at the time. We watched that thing over and over on the tiny 5" (full color!) monitor.
Fantastic post!
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:24 AM on December 18, 2017


HOW do I remember the Jingle Disk demo??? I never had a C64 or an Apple II. Was it ported to PC?
posted by danny the boy at 10:41 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yup.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:44 AM on December 18, 2017


Aaagh! I was working on a post on this very subject, with some of the same links! I've been low-grade obsessed with these for about a week now. Just the idea of computer stores running these for patrons to enjoy as they walk around their place. I really miss that kind of thing.

However I'm not really that annoyed, because this lets me add my own contribution, the old IBM "Chaplin" Christmas demo, presented in glorious CGA graphics with 1-bit sound! I can even bring you a download link for it (FTP), courtesy of Jim Leonard of oldskool.org!

Also, I think you're missing this TRS-80 Demo. And the rare A Tandy Bear Christmas, which alas only seems to exist on the internet in camera-recorded footage.
posted by JHarris at 10:48 AM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


Apparently they revised Jingle Disk a couple times - the one I remember (also on PC) includes Santa leaving gifts for the cat and mouse. I didn't link to it above but you can watch it here. A YouTube channel called Lazy Game Reviews also dives into a bit of the history behind Jingle Disk and offers MST3K-esque commentary. I wanted to keep the post itself mostly "pure" with just the original demos + music, but yes I did barely scratch the surface of what's out there, please link to anything you have!

Also if anyone can track down a downloadable version of the "Ziggy" (yep, the bald comic strip character) PC Christmas card, that's my nostalgia holy grail. Probably circa 1984 - 1990.

I have many fuzzy memories of my brother and I booting these up to watch on our family PC in the basement, as a way to kill time during the endless drag from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Sometimes we'd do it in July just for the time-warp weirdness of seeing Christmas stuff in summer. Then we'd start arguing about who got to play LOOM next ("NO stop telling me the ANSWERS I don't care if you already got past this part you're RUINING IT")
posted by castlebravo at 11:04 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Gah, the link to the Chaplin video I uploaded only goes for two seconds! Here's a better recording.
posted by JHarris at 11:13 AM on December 18, 2017


castlebravo, I at first thought this was going to be a link to LGR's Jingle Disk video. Very pleased to see so much more!
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:21 AM on December 18, 2017


Also if anyone can track down a downloadable version of the "Ziggy" (yep, the bald comic strip character) PC Christmas card, that's my nostalgia holy grail. Probably circa 1984 - 1990.

Is it this one? It won't work in my browser, but the files can be downloaded and maybe it can be used offline if it doesn't work for you.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:44 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ahh, a memory restored: Big Blue Disk #26 (1988): Electronic Christmas Card. Thanks, archive.org!*

(*But on the flip-side, finding out there are browser-emulatable archived copies of these monthly disks that consumed and informed youth is also terrible for my productivity. Curse you, archive.org!)
posted by mean square error at 12:04 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


Okay, I never had a C64 or TRS-80. What's the thing about turning the printer off? Some kind of port conflict with sound or something?
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:31 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


One of the first computer programs I ever ran, I typed in from a computer magazine into my Atari 400 with BASIC cartridge. After much cursing and debugging, I got it to put a colourful ASCII Xmas tree on the screen and play "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" through the built-in speaker.

I was proud enough to ignore the bottom couple of lines of ASCII which went wrong, on the theory of IT PLAYS WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS DAMMIT GOOD ENOUGH. Which is largely how I approach debugging 30-plus years later.
posted by Quindar Beep at 1:27 PM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


I believe that the December, 2017 Best Post Contest may be over. Well done.
posted by 4ster at 5:16 PM on December 18, 2017


This post is bigger on the inside. So many examples!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:34 PM on December 18, 2017


I still have my C64, and unless it got wet when the house got blown over, I think it still works. Now I have to go dig it and the Tandy out and see if I still have the Christmas demos, and then wrap them, just to watch Boy's face on Xmas eve. Hee.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:57 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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