The pun about "8088 MPH" is the "Intel 8088" was used an "MPH" obviously stands for "miles per hour", a rather fast pace.
In some sense, the audience for these demos is small, because to be truly appreciative of the technical skill of the demo coders, you probably should have programmed the IBM PC (and its various graphics modes) in assembler.
It’s also a Back To The Future (1985) reference! (The Delorean had to reach 88mph in order to time travel.) It captures the “new demo for a 1980s computer” situation on several levels.
While software improved, it never seemed as dramatic for applications than it did for games and never as dramatic for games as it was for demos. Applications were bumping into hard limits with respect to both computational power and memory. It frequently meant that one had to purchase an expensive workstation simply to get work done. Our computers may feel slow at times, but they can usually do what we expect of them without the expense of specialized hardware.
Why are demos the exception? Part of it will have to do with maintainability and support. No one is going to worry about updates to a demo a year down the road, never mind ten years. Likewise, no one is going to care if it fails to run on some computers due to some obscure edge case. Demos can also afford to make trade-offs. Few, if any, demos require user interaction. They don't have to concern themselves with background processes. From start to end, they are deterministic. Things that would be truly bizarre in application development, such as tying up the CPU to get precise timing to play tricks with the video card then using deterministic code paths to get that precise timing, are acceptable with demos.
Glad to see someone driving the technique to the extreme!