Austrian Software Engineer, Medical Scientist & Creative Theorist

Claus the Diskmag Editor

I published my first article, a review of the computer game "The Story of Thor", in SEGA Magazin at age 10, started writing for the PC-Heimwerker and Computer-Flohmarkt magazines at age 11, and at age 12 I founded my own diskmag, Hugi Magazine, which issued till 2014 and even has a page at Wikipedia dedicated to it.

Hugi Magazine - Demoscene Diskmag
One of the world's best known magazines about the demoscene and computer art.

From my autobiography (2019):

PC-Heimwerker, Hugi and the Demoscene

From the end of my first year at high school I published a school newspaper called "astrein", which already had a somewhat professional layout. My father spent hours and hours arranging the paragraphs in Microsoft Word correctly and rounding off the design with graphics. Originally it was a classmate's idea to publish a student newspaper. As always, however, all the work remained with me (and my father). My fellow editors spent most of our sessions trying out my video games while I was the only one sitting and working at the computer. After three issues it was over.

But when I was ten years old, an article of mine was published in the German computer game magazine "SEGA Magazin" - a review of the Mega Drive game "The Story of Thor". When I was eleven, I began to write regularly for the "PC-Heimwerker", which consisted only of contributions sent in by readers - a novelty in the time, when the Internet was not yet widespread. I used the pseudonym "The Real Adok".

The PC-Heimwerker gave me several pen pals, mainly from Germany and Switzerland. We exchanged 3,5"-diskettes by mail, with letters, self-written programs and free software (freeware). I still remember that LeidPen, Activater (later Scorpe), Karma Sutra and TOXO belonged to my dearest pen friends. Behind the pseudonym LeidPen was an old man over eighty, who had of course retired a long time ago and was spending his free time with the computer and programming in Basic and x86 Assembler. The other three were much younger, but three, four years older than me. They could all program in Basic, which was my preferred programming language at that time. It was an absolute sensation that the PC-Heimwerker offered its readers a platform. There had never been anything like this before. From today's point of view it may be hard to imagine, but in the past it was indeed the privilege of a few to be allowed to publish in magazines. Today there is Facebook and various Internet forums. All this did not exist 25 years ago! Since private individuals have access to the Internet, society has changed enormously.

In 1997 we got an Internet connection. I had previously had an account with the Vienna mailboxes Black*Box and Black*Board, which also allowed me to send and receive e-mails. In this Black*Box I got to know, among other things, two writers who contributed to my magazine, which I had founded in 1996.

The idea to make this magazine, originally called "Hugendubelexpress", later called "Hugi Magazine", came from a reader of the PC-Heimwerker from Halle an der Saale, who called himself Kaktus and contacted me. He, who at that time was supposedly four years older than me, but in reality must have been only two years older, wanted to found an electronic magazine for computer beginners. Kaktus, it turned out, was mainly about business. He believed he could sell this magazine profitably in the form of subscriptions. I, on the other hand, was not (yet) interested in financial matters. Soon it turned out that Kaktus and I could not work together. Nevertheless, we both remained equal editors until the tenth issue - Kaktus had appointed me co-editor after I had developed a simple graphical user interface for the magazine. From issue eleven I was the sole editor of Hugi.

In the beginning, the electronic magazine or "diskmag", as it was called in the jargon of computer freaks, was managed like a "student newspaper on diskette" and also had corresponding contents. Hugi appeared in German, was distributed in mailboxes and by post, found his audience primarily in the readership of the PC-Heimwerker and had about 500 kilobytes of text material in each issue. Since I was strictly against copying texts that had not been written by us or our readers themselves, Hugi soon found only original texts. Hugi's style was initially described as "childish" by readers outside our circle of acquaintances, which led me to seek a more serious tone. From my class at the grammar school I first got some contributions, not many, but some. Soon Hugi developed into an international magazine in German for computer freaks from all over the world. Allegedly Kaktus even had an exchange partner in South Africa, where interested people could always get the latest issue of Hugi. That was all before I got access to the Internet.

In the Internet I then frequented various channels in the Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which were mainly visited by members of the so-called demoscene. I had originally gotten to know this scene through the book "PC-Underground", but didn't find it particularly interesting. Only when some penfriends (especially Scorpe) pointed out to me that there were people there who could program extraordinarily well, did I start to get more interested in the scene. In fact, I was very taken with some demos and intros. They showed graphic effects that I thought were amazing - anyone who could program something like that had to be very talented. I remember that an intro that seemed to me showed a picture, zoomed in on that picture until the camera was behind the picture, then rotated the camera so you could see the picture from behind, zoomed in on the picture again, and so on. I thought that was great! And via IRC it was possible to get in touch with these people. When I was on IRC for the first time, I met "pascal", the developer of the Cubic Player (a program for playing music files). I couldn't believe that it was so easy to get to know such people. (This "pascal" later became a professor of physics and was even awarded a renowned science prize.) Of course I wasn't treated well by all demosceners at first. Sometimes it happened that I was "kicked" or even "temporarily banned" by the demoscene channels.

At that time I had a pen friend who called himself Coctail; he was the editor of the magazine Cream. This Coctail was also quite fond of the demoscene and decided that Cream would be more interested in the content of this scene. Another acquaintance called himself Salami; he was a member of a demoscene group and said that Hugi had great potential and that I should publish Hugi in English and focus on the demoscene. These two contacts led me to decide to turn the "student newspaper on diskette" into a real demoscene magazine, which, as Salami had suggested, now took over the English language. I had such a good English teacher at the grammar school that even then, at the age of 14, I was already familiar with this language - my classmates, of course, suffered a lot from the high demands her lessons were associated with. So in June 1998 the eleventh issue of Hugi appeared in English, with only a small "German Corner" at the end of the magazine. After the ninth issue had already contained some English articles with demoscene reference, I took now full course on the demoscene. And indeed I was successful. Because in the PC demo scene at that time there was no really good diskmag. From 1992 to 1996 Imphobia was published, a magazine published by a Belgian group. The twelve issues of Imphobia, which were published, were all very extensive (over a megabyte of text material) and also graphically and musically very elaborately designed. Imphobia provided a platform for the worldwide demoscene community to exchange thoughts and ideas. The fact that Imphobia had been discontinued after the twelfth edition had left a large gap. I tried to fill this gap with Hugi.

The new editions of Hugi also had a lot of text material to offer (issue 16 even had more than two megabytes of text), and I tried to get in touch with good graphic artists and musicians who could make contributions to reach a corresponding aesthetic level. Until the eleventh issue, I was responsible for developing the user interface, which I had most recently implemented in the C programming language and which used a Super VGA mode with a resolution of 640x480 pixels at 256 colors. From issue 12 on Street Raider from Russia and from issue 18 on Chris Dragan from Poland took over the programming side, while I corrected the articles, designed the layout and wrote articles myself. We had readers and authors from all possible (mainly European) countries. It would go too far to describe in detail who our readers were and where they came from. Anyway, most of them were at least close to or interested in the demoscene, if they weren't even active in the scene themselves.

As Hugi grew bigger and more successful (soon Hugi was ranked number one in the Hornet Charts), those who had been unfriendly to me before also became nicer. The fact is that I spent most of my free time working on Hugi until I graduated from high school. I answered mails, wrote to people, communicated via IRC, bound articles, read corrections, formatted, layouted, picked out pictures, wrote and so on. I also organized a programming contest. In April 1998 I took part in such a competition myself and took first place, with an assembler program that solved a given problem and had the smallest program code of all submitted solutions (equal to the solution of an Englishman named Scabby). A total of 23 people took part in this competition. Then I organized my own competition series, the "Hugi Size Coding Competition Series". Until 2009 there were 29 competitions. Some were organized by an American who called himself Sniper when I was too busy with my studies. Also through these competitions I had contact to people from all over the world.


For any questions feel free to contact Claus D. Volko at cdvolko (at) gmail (dot) com.

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