October 12, 2005

Chock full of synthy goodness...

by Chris Randall

Back when I was a whippersnapper, knee-high to a short goat, I got a spankin' new Atari 2600 for Christmas. Little did I know this would be my initiation in to the endless cycle of product upgrades and system flame wars. Not too long after I got my Atari, my best friend got an Intellivision system, and it had a keyboard. This was officially my first introduction to the wonderous powers of synthesis, and has a soft spot in my heart for that. Of course, all the games on the Intellivision sucked, and we all know who won the Atari/Intellivision/Colecovision wars, but I still remember plinking away on that keyboard.

The sound chip in the Intellivision was the GI AY-3-8914, which while having a rather unfortunate name, was far more capable than the custom TI chip in the Atari 2600. Three channels of sound, and a noise channel (does that sound familiar?) and if you had the Computer Component, you got another chip for a total of 6 channels of synth and 2 of noise. (Of course, you could only access both chips by having the computer bit.)

The whole setup (the Master Component, the Computer Component, and the Music Synthesizer) is readily available from eBay or various other sources of Retro Console Fun; since the system doesn't have the cachet of the 2600, it isn't as expensive to obtain a complete system, which is something on my Big List Of Things I'll Do Real Soon.




Oct.12.2005 @ 2:53 PM
This reminds, you were looking for a Gameboy-style softsynth a while back, weren't you? Not sure if you've come across this since, but it is a Gamboy Advance emulator:

link [www.pidelipom.co...]">link [www.pidelipom.co...]

Not a plugin, and not sure to what degree the actual synth response has been modelled, but it has the proper sound channels, it isn't sample-based and it has its own sequencers. Files can even be used on the GBA system, I think.


Oct.12.2005 @ 6:40 PM
the harvestman
The Atari's sound device was actually done in-house, and also handles the video signal. It sort of sucks shit because of the 5-bit frequency divider, but its waveshapes are so awesomely powerful. For a very similar sound and enhanced control, the "pokey" device in the Atari 8-bit computers is a pretty good choice.

Oct.13.2005 @ 8:03 AM
Why not just whip up a midi->ay module for your modular? Heck, with the right PIC processor, you could even have CV in ;-)



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