I remember reading a thread on some Amiga forum a while back, about a dad who got his kid a Commodore 128 (or something similar). The datadaddy was surprised by how engaged his son got with the old computer. The Playstation and PC next to it were turned off. The C128 obviously had something that the newer machines were missing. Possibly it was just a temporary fascination, but it was definitely more than nostalgia or sarcasm, or gaming. When this kid and his friends were confronted with BASIC (the built-in operative system of the C128), they started exploring the possibilities of the computer. This was just something completely different than ultra-immersive blabla-technology. I think this is a very relevant idea, one that right now is explored by the Playpower project: 8-bit technology has unique possibilities!
Sure, these old systems are not “user-friendly” and its programming abilities might not attract people that are not into tech-logics. But in the 1980s, thousands of children/teenagers had the priviledge to explore ground-breaking machinery to learn how a computer (not an operative system) works. Ever since, computers have been debugged, standardized, normalized, controlled, patented, censored, etcetera. To most people this constitutes progress, but that is of course a politically and culturally biased statement. There is nothing limited about 8-bit technology per se. It’s still amazing technology for children or some people in non-computerized areas. And of course to those people who like working close to the machine without wearing a corporate condom.
I just realized that there are in fact three exhibitions that independent from eachother, concerns children and 8-bits. BliepBliep! is a “hands-on exhibition for the whole family” in Rotterdam (nl), running until September. Its theme is the sounds of computers and videogames, and apparently gives you some kinds of composing possibilities aswell.
ComputerMusic4Kids was made by Marieke Verbiesen who is an artist, researcher, teacher, and one part in VideoHomeTraining. Here you have a custom built matrix step sequencer where you can organize sampled sounds from a specific machine. There are 11 machines to choose from, from 1972’s Odyssey to 1989’s Gameboy. I actually tried an early version of this, and I think it’s something that kids definitely would get into. And grown ups like me, too. ComputerMusic4Kids is currently not on display anywhere, but watch out!
21st century retro-futurists is part of Art Venture, an exhibition in Roanoke (us). It was curated by Jeremy Kolosine who is most known for getting the 8-bit Operators together, but is also one of the most experienced composers doing 8-bit music today. This exhibition aims at getting people involved in making music and video with 8-bit technology and circuit bent objects. There are both workshops and installations, so this definitely seems like one of the more ambitious chip style things that have been executed in the art world. Any other suggestions?