The hills are alive – part 2

Debunking Making music – part 2

It’s been over four months between the first and second instalments of “Making music” on the author’s blog and your correspondent was starting to think that Brexit had done for him or something! Granted your correspondent hasn’t posted since late November either – on that front, the CSDb competition that Clonetro was entered into had over fifty entries in total and there’s a YouTube playlist for those interested – but, since the primary task of this blog is to react to the author’s bile-laden missives, not having any posts over there will have at least some impact on what happens here as well unless your correspondent finds alternatives to amuse himself.

Unfortunately, it seems that WordPress have now disabled the preview thumbnail for YouTube videos, so I can’t do anything about that without paying.

Presumably the author hasn’t done his research properly again in order to realise that the sharing options on YouTube provide a URL which can be pasted into WordPress blogs…? Update added late on 20/01/2017; the author revised his post to remove the quoted paragraph above and include some embedded videos after your correspondent “went to press”; either the author saw your correspondent’s advice here – in which case “you’re welcome” and it’s nice to know the author is at least paying attention some of the time – or another method presented itself after some actual research. At the time of writing, the original version of the author’s missive is available from Google’s cache but that may not remain the case for long.

For example, here’s an embedded YouTube video of X’2016 demo competition winner The Phoenix Project by Bonzai.

(That competition had over twenty entries, along with a large number of graphics and music releases; as we’ve noted before dear reader, there are a lot of people out there not finding the C64 difficult to work with in the way that the author has.)

Eventually, I found out that I could use a computer to play all the instruments. It wasn’t a really good idea on computers which had only three or even four channel synthesizer chips, but the Yamaha CX5M Music Computer was much better with its eight channel synthesizer module.

In 1985 when the author presumably made this purchase, the C64 also had an FM option available from the manufacturer; the SFX Sound Expander which came with a nine channel Yamaha YM3526 OPL sound chip. Here’s a picture of your correspondent’s SFX Sound Expander connected to a passing C64C…

Your correspondent's C64C with SD2IEC and SFX Sound Expander

Your correspondent’s C64C with SD2IEC and SFX Sound Expander

…and we’ll also include an embedded YouTube video from 4-Mat[1] of Ate Bit’s release FMSid Demosong which combines the expansion’s output with the C64’s onboard SID chip.

There’s also a video on his channel of tunes from various arcade soundtracks using the same Yamaha audio hardware being played on the C64, as well as examples that simulate the sound hardware of the C16, Atari ST, BBC Micro and Atari 8-bit with the C64’s SID chip.

Software which enabled people to program a synthesizer to play different instrumental parts at the same time was in general called a sequencer.

The majority of the diatribe from this point is completely and utterly irrelevant to the author’s stated topic of “explaining why the Commodore 64’s BASIC V2 was crap and how some people managed to program the C64”. Including something about how to program the Yamaha hardware from BASIC might have been tangentially relevant but the author didn’t even bother with that topic despite hypocritically complaining about his own issues with controlling the C64’s SID chip from BASIC.

 However, it’s also the 30th anniversary of the release of the Amiga A500, the computer which enabled lots more people to afford an Amiga. Don’t forget that the Amiga has nothing to do with the C64 except that Commodore bought the company.

Let’s pause to remember that the author has repeatedly tried to keep things within the 1984 to 1985 window when he owned a C64 previously; the Amiga 500 didn’t come out until 1987 and it wouldn’t be until 1988 when it gained real market traction so it was sales of the C64 which were keeping the company afloat in order to make that investment in the Amiga!

 The Amiga is based on Atari 8 bit computers, both projects headed up by Jay Miner (RIP).

There are some similarities between the two but also some significant differences as well; there are no character-based display modes on the Amiga which meant the machine would later struggle to hold its own when up against the tile based 16-bit consoles and those bitmapped displays are built from bitplanes rather than combining bits within the same byte for each pixel as the Atari 8-bit does.[2]

Just imagine how things could have been if Amiga A500 owners could have plugged in an amazing third party graphics card which could have given the graphics edge back to the Amiga over PCs, instead of just keeping up with PCs when the AGA chipset was released.

What made the A500 popular was, as the author has already pointed out, being sold for an affordable price; the kind of expandability referred to here would have significantly increased the price and moved the machine out of that lower end of the market. We don’t have to imagine either dear reader, because users wanting to a more expandable Amiga could choose the desktop models which do have expansion slots and a range of third party options such as the Video Toaster or Picasso 4 cards. These slots were actually added to the Amiga’s design by Commodor[e, the original Amiga has the same 86 pin edge connector that features on the A500.

[1] Yes, that 4-Mat dear reader, the one who composed all manner of excellent Amiga modules including those for the games Chuck Rock and Leander as well as ridiculous numbers of demo and menu tunes for groups like Share And Enjoy, Red Sector and Anarchy.

[2] The Atari 8-bit doesn’t have expansion slots either, but the author was presumably hoping that everybody would ignore that difference too.

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