Who's Cuter

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Who's Cuter is an NES tech demo made in 2000 that displays 160x96 pixel graphics and asks the player to rank them.

The first five 16 KiB banks of the UNROM are filled with CHR data that has been compressed using PackBits, and the code occupies a small portion of the last bank.

It makes several passes through the data using a sorting algorithm (originally Shell sort at strides of 13, 4, and 1; became a 5-pass merge sort sometime in November 2011). Some players tire at roughly the halfway point; this is especially true of older versions whose progress bar doesn't have easy-to-see start and end markers.

The demo was originally produced in 2000. Over the next decade, cuteness became better understood. Anime fans developed the concept of moe, a non-sexual attraction to adorable or kawaii characters, in contrast to a sexual attraction to "hot" characters. Neurologists performed experiments to characterize the "baby schema" (Kindchenschema), which ethologist Konrad Lorenz had described in 1943, by manipulating the shape of small children's faces and using functional magnetic resonance imaging to pinpoint the caregiving response in the mesocorticolimbic system.[1] The NES hardware also became better understood among the homebrew community over the same period. It appears the only player ever to take a liking to the demo goes by the handle eighty5cacao, and he convinced the developer to update the program to run properly on an actual NES:

  • Removal of dead code
  • More robust I/O (controller reading and display)
  • Improvements to wording
  • Intro text update to reflect changes in the cast of characters used by other Pin Eight games and tech demos
  • Clearer art style on cartoon characters

NESdev version

After these improvements, someone on #nesdev suggested making a "hot or not" type ROM for the NES. Two regulars on the channel contributed their photos.

A process was described for correcting a photo in GIMP:

  1. Correct color balance (Colors > Levels)
  2. Draw over background with white
  3. Convert to grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale)
  4. Correct the lighting again (Colors > Levels)
  5. Scale to 168 pixels tall, preserving aspect ratio (Image > Scale Image)
  6. Pad to 320 pixels wide (Image > Canvas Size)
  7. Unsharp mask using GIMP's default settings (Filters > Enhance > Unsharp Mask)
  8. Scale to 160x96 (Image > Scale Image and turn off "chain link" because this is where we correct for the NES's 8:7 pixel aspect ratio)
  9. Floyd-Steinberg dither to 2-bit

However, this effort fizzled when too few members contributed their photos.


  1. Melanie L. Glocker et al. "Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women". PNAS, vol. 106 no. 22, 2009-06-02. Accessed 2013-02-01.

External links

TO DO: make a stable URL for Who's Cuter source and binary