Two Obscure Soundchips

After Yonx’s suggestion, I decided to complete the list of soundchips in the timeline. Since the purpose of the timeline is to make a selection rather than a complete listing, I once again faced questions of which soundchips are relevant, and what actually constitutes a soundchip.

My delimitation is mostly made from a cultural perspective. I do not include soundchips for arcade machines (like the OKI) or extension soundchips such as the SCC. I do however include chips that are not exclusively dedicated to sound (2A03, the Gameboy-series, TIA, Mikey, etc). Also, I have included chips such as Amiga’s Paula that does not generate sounds but only moves data to sound output (as commented by Johan). Essentially, most popular chips between 1977 and 1994, ie from Atari 2600 to Sony Playstation, are there.

I would like to mention two soundchips that are still rather obscure, but could potentially become quite popular due to its sonic characteristics. The uPD1771C was used in the Super Cassette Vision (1981) and was recently explored for the Plogue Chipsound project that aims at one application to emulate them all. David at Plogue found fresh audio examples and bought a SCV to do some BIOS-archeology: transferring 4096 bytes to a chip to a screen to … paper! Research goes on, and the latest audio example is a nice tone-noise here.

The SN76477 soundchip was used in arcade games such as Space Invaders and Stratovox, allegedly the first game with speech synthesis. Also, it was found in the ABC80-computer (1978) which spawned Swedish underground computing. It seems that this chip was a popular DIY-component even around 1980, maybe because it was dirt cheap. There are a number of more current projects based on the 76477, such as the SN-Voice that also includes properly tuned notes, but I have a feeling that this chip can cause some tremendous noise. The only problem is finding the chip…


4 Responses to “Two Obscure Soundchips”

  1. yonxUP Says:

    it’s true that paula doesn’t have any hardware oscillators but it is actually capable of performing simple fm-synthesis..

    looking forward to the return of the SN76477!

  2. viznut Says:

    Here’s some stuff that I consider relevant but missing:

    1964: PDP-1 music hack (hardware hack + cpu-intensive software assistance allowing for 4 separate squarewave channels in real time). It’s a well-known hack and they still show off PDP-1 music programs in a museum.

    1982(?): SP0256, the most common chip in speech synthesis cartridges (Currah etc). I remember thinking about the possibilities of this chip in non-vocal music (i.e. what kind of instrument sounds might be possible), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this chip suddenly became popular in chip music.

  3. linde Says:

    SN76477’s can actually be bought for cheap from here:

    There is some nice information about the sound of the ABC 80 here:

    My dad used to have one, and I wish he’d have kept it…

  4. jikoo Says:

    Really interesting ! Thank you very much !

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