Archive for the ‘history’ Category

What happened in 2006?

March 16, 2012

Time for some statistic disco! Four years ago I thought that the term chipmusic was doomed, because chiptune was so popular. Let’s have a look if things have changed.

This graph from Google Insights shows the increase in the amount of searches for chipmusic. The increase is probably caused by the launch of chipmusic.org (in early 2010, right?). I believe that Blip Festival switched from chiptune to chipmusic around the same time, but I could be wrong. So, it seems like chipmusic is back! Right?

Wrong! You see that little blue line at the bottom? That’s chipmusic. Now look at the red line at the top, flying lying a killer hawk in the skies. That’s chiptune. Well, atleast it stopped its increase during 2011. Micromusic (in orange) is now about as popular as the term chipmusic. “Chip music” (in green) shows a very similar development to micromusic.

So why is there such a huge difference between the tune and the music? Since Insights doesn’t go further back than 2004, it’s hard to say. We can’t see how the McLaren bonanza affected things, for example. (If anyone knows how to search -2004, let me know). But it’s clear that in 2005 the terms were rather equal. They were battling it out. But chiptune won. In 2006-2007 it was taking off. So what happened back then?

The first Blip Festival happened at the end of the year. That probably made chipmusic a lot more popular in the US. And once something is big in the US it probably gets big elsewhere too, right? It’s the freedom virus! ^__^ But what else happened that could have caused this? Several artists got attention outside of the scene. David Sugar, Bodenständig 2000, Nullsleep & Bitshifter with their big tour, Paza and those 8 bit rappers (via Beck), DJ Scotch Egg. Hopefully I made some impression aswell – I made three gigs and one release every month in 2007 :). But perhaps it was the dawn of 8bitcollective (as music.gameboymall.com) that made the difference? Any ideas?

Btw - USA is not the country where chiptune is the most popular search term. It’s not a European country either. And it’s neither Japan nor China. Not Australia either. And it’s not somewhere in South America. It’s Indonesia!

For those of you who don’t know, Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world. And the people who Google in Indonesia, they like chiptune twice as much compared to Norway (which comes in second). To put it in a weird way. I remember when this guy called Jar-Wo contacted me in 2006/2007. At that time there wasn’t much going on, but he was one of the people who got it started. Big up, Jar-Wo! (and rest in peace)

Update March 17: As Optiroc pointed out in the comments, it’s also interesting to see how “keygen music” relates to these.  It has quite steady (relative) amount of Google searches. For the past years it’s been 4 times as popular as chipmusic/chip music/micromusic – and 4 times less popular than chiptune: http://is.gd/1uTBs7.

Amiga in the UK-charts: Dex & Jonesey

January 13, 2012

In the 1990′s you could use chipmusic tools to make dance music hits. It was r rare to hear 8-bit songs in public before that. With a few exceptions, records with 8-bit music appeared in the 90′s and were made on the Amiga (see the timeline).

The British duo Dex & Jonesey have probably been involved with more chart hits with the Amiga than anyone else. They worked with 15 UK chart hits between 1996 and 2001, even with mainstream folks like Phil Collins and Lionel Richie. Imagine feeding some phresh Phil Collins vocals into OctaMED, eyh!

They mainly worked with more dancefloor oriented artists though. Their remixes of Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness apparently sold about half a million copies (including their radio edit). Dex & Jonesey used the Amiga for Hardfloor, Usura, Todd Terry and about 40 other releases (check the discography, up until Strings of Justice).

Back in the 1990′s, music retromania was more about synthesizers than computers. It wasn’t like today, when you get bonus points for any 8-bit reference. I mail-talked with Jonesey to get some more information.

- The music biz found out soon enough after attending the studio that we were literally running a Phil Collins record from 1000 pounds worth of studio and out doing David Morales and Arman van Helden. It was bizarre looking back! We did some huge magazine interviews which was really fun. Yet the music industry hated the fact we were not Apple Mac focused and produced so many hit records from a ‘poor man’s’ computer. There was a lot of negativity that we had to fight, but content as always was king and we made it through the storm!

Dex & Jonesey started with Amiga 500 and Protracker, but quickly moved on to using two Amiga 1200 running OctaMED, complemented by a keyboard. - The 44khz quality of DAT was good enough to master from. We had literally a full studio although everything had to be recorded live to DAT including live keyboards which I played. It was daunting but at the same time great fun, it was like being on tour and playing in a live band.

Dex & Jonesey had a competetive edge in two ways. They had a huge library of sounds that they’d sampled from extended mixes amongst other things (all stored on floppies, of course). Secondly, the sound of the Amiga made it stand out from the others. - The sounds were crunchy and tough, not dull and bland, thus allowed my music to have an advantage that others could not replicate. I even had a famous product downgrade to an 8 bit to get the ‘sound’ but it was more than technology that drove the output/results.

In 1999 the duo split up, but Jonesey continued to use the Amiga for hits like Independence. He stuck with the Amigas for another two years, but then switched to Logic on Mac. - When finance got much better I bailed out on the Amigas as technology had caught up and the machines had broken down. I had bought around 15 of them and grown tired of the failures. I went to Apple Mac and still have the leading 8 core system that runs Logic Pro. 

What OctaMED provided compared to the new setup, was a fast work pace. - The part I missed about the Amigas the most was the quickness of operations. It was so user friendly where Macs are always so complex!

Such ‘immersive’ qualities of trackers are often forgotten. Once you know them, they are really quick to work with. A lot of the people I interviewed for my thesis mentioned it, and it was recently empirically researched by Nash & Blackwell of the Rainbow Research Group (pdf). But trackers are not made for handling long chunks of audio. If you’re a remixer and use the original audio, even a modern tracker like Renoise is a bit painful. So respect to Dex & Jonesey for keeping it up for so long!

1.000.000 soundchips you never heard about

November 7, 2011

Except for computers and consoles, there are many other machines with real or mimicked soundchips inside. The recent DCM8 drum machine and the amazing Droid3 are examples of the latter, while Sidstation and POKEY.synth contain actual soundchips. But these are all sort of retrospective projects from the past decade or so. But what kind of soundchip-machines was around in the 80′s?

The most obvious example is the YM-soundchips. It’s a confusing field but, basically, Yamaha made these chips for both consoles, computers, keyboards and synthesizers. They mostly used FM-synthesis, which was a big part of the sound of 1980′s (and early 90′s bedroom electronica like µ-ziq). Yamaha synthesizers like DX-21, DX-100 and FB-01 used soundchips that a few years later were found in consumer products like X68000, some MSX-models and plenty of keyboards (ABA-88 lol). Later on, similar chips were also found in soundcards and mobile phones. *

The Remco Electronic Sound FX machine from 1979 was quite the noise maker. It was built on the SN76477-chip, which was popular for arcade games like Space Invaders but also used in ABC80 and Gakken EX. There are a few semi-recent DIY-projects, but I haven’t been able to find old consumer products with this chip. Recently, Panzer Party released a vinyl composed only with the Remco machine though.

It’s surprising that so few soundchips were used for both games and instruments. They continue to be two quite different fields. One consequence of that is that computer/console-based chipmusic was always separated from those who used soundchip-keyboards. For example, the techno-centrics of chipmusic (‘a soundchip is an instrument/medium’) wouldn’t categorize a DX-21 song as chipmusic.

Another consequence is an apparent gap in soundchip research. Many soundchips were never used for computer/game stuff and are (therefore?) not so well documented. Chips like M114SCEM3394 or MC-3 2191 were found in keyboards, arcade games, toys and synthesizers. Some chips were found in speech devices, domestic robots, mobile phones and other thingies. Afaik, there is no thorough lists of such chips. There might not be 1.000.000, but who knows?

Well, there is Cyberyogi of course. He has an impressive collection of old keyboards that he also circuit bends (and makes squarewave music, not chipmusic). Describing the sounds, he often references POKEY (Simba – My MusicWorld, Hing Hon) and SID (Letron, PSS-100) but the hardware inside was either analogue or had obscure chips. There are probably people similar to him around the web, right?

(As some kind of consolation cross-over between synthesizers & computers, check out the HxC floppy disk emulator)

* I haven’t listened a lot to FM-music but to me it’s striking how different these chips were used by pop music producers and game composers. Virt argues that since FM-synthesis was difficult to grasp and had a crappy interface, most pop producers settled with using the preset sounds. (Reminds me a bit of how the TB-303 suffered from bad manuals and interface aswell.) Game composers though, were making far more complex things – sonically and musically. Was that because they were usually Japanese, and FM was very popular there, and they are better at enjoying unpredictable machines?

Hidden Data Satan In Audio

September 13, 2011

Via the excellent Prosthetic Knowledge, we learn that 1983 was the first year for real-time “music videos” on a home computer. Chris Sievey’s 7″ single Camouflage had 3 pieces of software on the backside. You recorded this to cassette and ran it with a ZX81. One of them was a text art piece that showed lyrics and graphics in sync with the music, played on vinyl. Quite a nice piece of work, especially considering that he made it all himself in BASIC. Pete Shelley, who made a similar thing later that year with XL1, had assembler geeks to help him out (read their story).

In the comments to Soundhog’s original post, other attempts are mentioned: New Order, Kraftwark and Dire Straits. Here you can also read about Shakin’ Stevens, Inner City Unit, Thompson Twins’ ZX Spectrum text adventure, The Stranglers and below you can see Urusei Yatsura’s Spectrum-message from their album. An important precursor was Isao Tomita’s Altair 8800-experiment in 1978 with Bermuda Triangle. (Maximum respect to anyone who’ll get that running!)

Image taken from kempa.com

There were other odd ways to distribute data at the time. Around 1980 Mel Coucher (who did plenty of acid-ish things) made a series of AM- and FM-broadcasts with software. Several radio stations broadcasted software like that later on. Around the same time there were experiments with telesoftware - data broadcasted through the teletext band and fed into your computer via a teletext interface. Information Society put a 300 bps modem signal on their album, which formed a message that you can read at kempa.com.

Meanwhile the bourgeoning demoscene was mostly about crackintro aesthetics. There were probably musicvideo-like productions around elsewhere though. Commodore’s Seasons Greetings (C64 1983) is a charming text mode BASIC demo, synched to music. A few years later Jeff Minter made things like Psychedelia, and there were probably things around at Compunet aswell.

On the other hand, some musicians also got more involved with data. On the Amiga you could hear Coldcut. Nation 12 and Bomb the Bass collaborated with Bitmap Brothers for some impressive hits like Xenon and Gods. KLF’s producers made some sort of promo-track for Lemmings 2 aswell. And long before that there was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells as a C64 “demo”.

Time to get out of the MP3-box!

 

Chipmusic Festival, 1990

August 31, 2011

“We just called it “chiptune” then. I think. I mean, we really didn’t have anything else to call it”. That’s what Minusbaby says about the early days of the chipscene in USA. Nice to read some thoughts about this. My own memories are a bit blurry. But it was certainly unchartered territory back then, perhaps even more so in USA then Europe. Chiptune was the most popular term in the 00′s. I suppose 8bitpeoples contributed to that, like most others. The old VORC was perhaps even more important. Now, the chipmusic term seems to be getting more <3 again, judging from biographies, forums (chipmusic.org), etc.

In the 1980s some people talked about micromusic as music made with microcomputers (8-bit home computers with PSG soundchips, mostly). When the Amiga came out, it could play things that didn’t sound like micromusic. Therefore the terms chiptune and chipmusic appeared. But what did these terms mean 20 years ago?

I’ve previously argued that in 1990 chipmusic was equal to chipmodules but that was probably wrong, actually. I’ve discussed it with several of ye old legends, and there are different opinions. Except for chipmodules, around 1990 chipmusic could also refer to synthetical Amiga music or PSG-music.

What can the archives tell us? According to a search at Bitfellas there seems to have been chipmodules as early as 1988, in Compackting Disk Intro by The Supply Team (a Danish pioneer group also on the C64). I was too lazy to setup UAE and check it out though, so I’m not sure. :) UPDATE: mod.introsound was made by Rambones (still active), and uses a short non-looped sample.

The Supply Team - Compackting Disk Intro (1988)

In 1989 the word ‘chip’ starts to appear here and there without any apparent chipmusic-reason. More importantly, 4-mat makes chipmodules and releases them in a lost production and in an intro without music :) [1]. TSM released something like a chipmodule in Invasion, called weinigkb – few kilobytes [2]. He told me that he heard the chiptune-term only years later, and it meant Soundtracker-based songs with short C64-samples. (I mistook TSM for Suntronic)

Surely enough, 1990 saw the release of atleast two chipmodule music disks with C64-covers: Sludger’s Music Demo and Captured Imagination by 4-mat. He also released chip-things like Mole’s Hot Demo PackSkywise’s IntroMusic Demo (called Chip Music Demo at Bitfellas?) and Inspired SoundsChip Music Festival by Magnetic Fields is the earliest use of the term that I’ve found, and there are no chipmodules in it. It’s all synthetical songs made by Jochen Hippel, Ziphoid & Uncle Tom, Walkman, etc. Chipmodules is a new method and there’s no established term. Look for example at the text in Blazer’s Riots or Savage’s Short.

Commercial break! Some chip-hits of 1990 are Gonad’s Cracks by Omri Suleiman, Fireworx by Mantronix, Paranoimia by TSM (video below) and intro-music by 4-mat.

Chip Music Festival, 1990

It seems like chipmusic appeared before chiptune. Chiptune was a noun, meaning a piece of chipmusic. (That always annoyed me with chipmusic chiptune later. Could it originate from a linguistic glitch between English and Japanese?). Anyway, by 1991 the chiptune term was well established. Nuke/Anarchy made a song called chiptune-12k, 4-mat’s song L.F.F also appears as mod.chiptune, and there’s this. The musicdisk Synthetic Vibes includes some of the most famous chip-names at the time (except the already mentioned also Mantronix, Heatbeat, Emax). [3]

(Btw, if there was a competing term, it could’ve been intro-music. There are many songs called that, for example by Heatbeat, Dr. Awesome, 4-mat, etc. But I guess the C64-inspiration made the chip-terms seem more fitting?)

Unfortunately music archives don’t really date its entries, so it’s hard to do a similar research. But on the other hand, you can search for text inside the songs. That way, we can find songs like megademo-vectorbobs where 4-mat claims to have invented chipmodules and asks all sample-rippers to piss off. When I interviewed him for my thesis he was not very proud of this, and admitted to being a sample-ripper too :)

This little excursion tells us that the chipmusic-term was used in 1990, and that chipmodules might’ve been around in 1988. Also, the use of the chip-term seems to have a UK-origin (Anarchy, Magnetic Fields, etc). But hopefully someone can take this research further. Would be interesting to see more heavy data analysis of these archives, to find out more about how chip-terms were used in demos and songs. (And who stole whose samples, for example. Remix culture 30 years ahead of its time!)

But one thing that strikes me, is that the synthetical Amiga tunes around 1990 have aged quite well. If you listen to this MP3-playlist of Amiga tunes from 1989, it feels very modern compared to other electronic music from that time (for a chip-literate, anyway). First of all, it’s not really songs – it’s loops. The linear song-format, on which most music consumption is based, is not really applicable here (great!). Secondly, the minimalist sound capabilities make it less dated. Elsewhere there were orgies in cut-up sampling, drum machines, consumerized sequencers and FM-synths. But the assembler-based 8-bit micro synthesis led to … something else. And last but not least – the music was embedded in a cracker culture that we – the consumers – were mesmerized by. Who were they? How did they make the music? How can I do it? No recording artist could get the same kind of mysterious distribution.

Some people would say it’s “only nostalgia”. Maybe it is, whatever people mean by that expression. But at the same time, this is so different from most contemporary chipmusic. In fact, it doesn’t share much with it at all. During the pinnacle of chip-purism a few years ago it would not even qualify as chipmusic. But today it feels like its pointing towards a possible future for chipmusic. The chipscene is described mostly in dusty postmodern technoid terms á la remix culture (like appropriation). But that’s going to change in the 2010s. You read it here first!

[1] 4-mat’s first chipmodules were Autumn, Knighthawk and Space Journey according to himself. They were based on ST-01 samples.

[2] Check TSM’s page about his 1989-activities, including the source code to a 1988 text editor softsynth for Amiga. Some great crackmospherical space ambient electro in there.

[3] As for 1992: Music Madness is a large v/a chipmod musicdisk. Some songs called chip music. Also Chip On My Shoulder. Possibly also look at Pink’s Ansi Music series and Chipmania (92-94).

Music from the Electron Brain

May 30, 2011

Squarewaves, noises from line printers, fans, rectifiers and drum memories, and of course – Mozart-covers. A typical situation for the early days of digital music. Here’s a vinyl release with all that, which I heard about the other day from Coma at Modland. It was probably released in 1970, and documents a few years of music making with the FACIT EDB 3 and the DATASAAB D 21 in Sweden. These were early works in the Swedish computer industry (since 1953) and it seems that it was not primarily used for military purposes, like elsewhere.

Just like Music From Mathematics (1961), this record combines abstract sound experiments with more poppy songs. Like the first computer music, there’s also covers of famous songs. It’s interesting that the sounds of the machines are included on the record. They are typically forgotten when it comes to documenting computers. But here you can hear all the noises, just like in the modern renaissance of computer peripherals music (oh yeah) and some of Pixelh8′s works. (By the way,  it seems that printer music was made in Sweden already in 1966, to impress some exchange students from Tanzania.)

One of the songs is also featured in another LP from 1978 (which includes pioneering arpeggio works from 1970). The author of that album told me that he heard computer music in Sweden already in 1959 (while Peter Samson made 1-bit Bach stuff).

A great feature with the record is the voice-over that sounds like an unreal office man from the 1950s. “The square waves come straight from the electron brain inside the computer”. Listen for yourself here: side A and side B.  Zeela recorded the vinyl from loudspeaker to microphone to reel tape to computer, so the quality is even better than the original!

UPDATE. A few related things:

  • Zeela’s photos of the record.
  • Jan W. Morthenson’s song Neutron Star from 1968 was made with the Datasaab D21, which apparently annoyed the EMS-studio. Available for illegal pirate megadownload here. Clicks n cuts 30 years too early.
  • A Danish release with Göran Sundqvist’s music, claiming it was made with an EDB computer (while in fact it was the D 21).

The First Recording of Chipmusic, or What?

May 9, 2011

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

For the past months I’ve been using early 80′s computer magazines as toilet literature. It’s incredible to see the ideas and projects that seem to be part of a completely different world compared to now. In Allt om Hemdatorer #2, 1984 I read that the Spectrum game company Automata Ltd were releasing their soundtracks on cassettes. Since this might be the first chipmusic ever to be recorded and released, I thought I’d check it out.

But it was a bit more complicated than that. Automata’s games were pioneering “multimedia” games, which used a separate audio cassette player for the music. I mentioned their game Deus Ex Machina here, which had a very strange atmosphere to it. PiMania seems to be an equally bizarre game, that featured a competition that took 4 years for someone to figure out.

Last year the Automata soundtracks (from PiMania and Deus Ex Machina, afaik) were released on vinyl by Feeding Tube. All of those songs are also available for free download here, plus a lot of other ones. If you listen to them you’ll notice that it has nothing to do with chipmusic. But it’s pretty good stuff, some kind of witty step-sequencer acid electrock. Perhaps Automata released other cassettes with recordings of their Spectrum music, though, but I didn’t find any.

Afaik, it was all composed by Mel Croucher. He was a computer renaissance man of the 1970s and the co-founder of Automata Ltd. He made lots of world’s firsts such as sending data over the FM and AM-band, multimedia games, stereo VGM, etc. Also, his use of the TR-606 and TB-303 in Groucho (1984) is quite early proto-acid that reminds me of Alexander Robotnick’s pioneering acid (which is fantastic). Also, the PiMania song is a charming piece of VL-Tone toasting.

So, according to my timeline the first release with recorded chipmusic continues to be this strange flexidisc from 1984, which demonstrates a C64-software. If you have any other ideas, would be great to hear it. (There are plenty of examples of digital music since 1951 in the timeline, but the question here is about massproduced recordings of music made with a soundchip)

Btw, I recently got a Thomson TO-7 where the cassettes contain both data and audio. For example, you can hear classical music while the data is loading. Or get a nicely human-narrated description of what’s happening on the screen, perhaps while you’re messing with the built-in light pen. I wonder what would’ve happened if Mel Croucher would’ve worked with this machine..

Derbyshire Ram and Megaswapping in Space

April 20, 2011

Derbyshire Ram was an English cracker and swapper who passed away a few years ago at the age of 68. I just heard that his collection of C64-software (one of the largest in the world) is now available as torrent. Part 1 is here. Afaik the rest is not yet available.

I like the idea of personal collections. Collectively maintained archives like CSDb are often larger and more indicative of what the scene thinks of itself at the moment (like what counts as a scene-release and what doesn’t). But collections like Derbyshire’s have a personal character to them, and they are more a sign of the times aswell. They should be copyrighted aswell.

But perhaps more importantly – they are physical objects. Worn floppy disks tagged by swappers, specially designed disk covers for releases, and the smell! Almost certainly a fetish unknown to most people. I’ve been using floppies for 15 years, but now I too have caved into the wonders of 1541U.

Anyway, I hope that in the future we’ll see more collections like this. An equally important collection was made by Jerry – the notorious leader of Triad, who also passed away recently at the age of 67. Both these gentlemen got into the C64 cracking scene when they were 40+ (which is unusual, for those who don’t know). They were doing the distribution work (with modems and postal mail) that maintained the crack/demoscenes as network cultures.

Mad respectz. Hope you guys continue to megaswap in space.

UPDATE: there’s an archive of personal C64-collections here.
UPDATE2: Archiving is the new Folk Art

The Most Popular Tracker Ever?

March 31, 2011

Stone Oakvalley had his Amiga 1200 playing for one year, 24 hours a day, to make the largest MP3-compilation of Amiga music. 255 000 songs and 200 days of listening. The info page shows 194 different formats, and I wanted a list of the most popular ones (amount of songs per format, rounded off).

  • Protracker – 77 200
  • Taketracker – 6300 [wrong - see update]
  • Noisetracker – 5800
  • MED – 3500 + 700 in OctaMED
  • Sierra AGI – 1800
  • Soundtracker – 1400 + 300 in Ultimate Soundtracker

Just below 1000 we can find MusicLine, Startrekker, TFMX, Sonix, AHX and custom players. The synthetic trackers (SIDmon, Art of Noise, DigiBooster, Sonic Arranger, SoundMon, Future Composer) are all less popular. There are several noteworthy ones that I haven’t even heard about: The Player, SoundFX and MusicDiskTracker for example. Maybe worth checking out?

The high amount of Sierra AGI-songs, is probably caused by jingles and sound effects being interpreted as songs. Or is there a subculture of Sierra ravers that I don’t know about? Also – what is Taketracker? It seems to be an obscure MS DOS-tracker from 1994, but there are over 6000 songs made in it here. Is it because 4-channel Fasttracker songs were converted to Taketracker, which was Amiga-compatible?

[update: Stone used Deliplayer 2 to detect the format of the music. The songs that DP2 detects as TakeTracker are identified as as Soundtracker, Noisetracker or Protracker by other software (Eagleplayer, Delitracker, Aplayer, Hippoplayer, Noiseconverter & ExoticRipper), as Stone showed me. With artists like Maktone, Josss, Dubmood, Zabutom, Zalza, Cerror, it's likely a PC-tracker]

As Stone suggested in an e-mail, it’s probably a specific version of a Pro/Noise/Soundtracker that is misinterpreted]

Although Soundtracker was developed (hacked) for 3 years, there are only 1700 songs. Perhaps it is because 1) people did not use the mod-format but rather the song-format (which did not include the samples), 2) the files have been re-interpreted as Noisetracker/Protracker, or 3) the music was poorly archived.

Or perhaps the home computer music revolution only got started with Noisetracker and MED in 1989? Both these programs were developed until 1991 (when MED became OctaMED). But in 1990 Protracker appeared (as a Noisetracker-hack) and became the new standard.

With almost 80 000 songs, Protracker is more popular than the PC’s Fasttracker, Screamtracker and Impulse-tracker combined (source). Did any other music software leave such a massive amount of non-recorded songs? On the C64, we can use SIDId to see that no program was used for more than 10 000 songs (scroll down here). I suppose those numbers don’t include sub-songs though.

Anyway. Protracker – the most popular tracker ever? Also, is it the most popular 8-bit tracker in terms of vinyl releases? In the timeline there are 100+ vinyls made on Amiga, most likely in Protracker or MED. Protracker was very popular in the-stuff-that-became-known-as-breakcore on labels like Bloody Fist, Digital Hardcore and Fischkopf.

Btw – check this great diagram on the history of trackers. Useful++

Synapse Software & Other Acid-ish Games

March 30, 2011

As everybody knows, all the early hacker/entrepreneurs were on acid. All the time. Yes. In the games industry, Jeff Minter is probably the most obvious example. But I recently stumbled across Synapse Software, which made some hot stuff in the early 80s, with pretty good soundtracks too.

Rainbow Walker (video) looks nice and synchronizes the music to your movements. There’s Drelbs (video), where you are a walking eyeball that traps an angry face and kiss a girl to go to another dimension. In Mindwalker you are a deranged professor who enters his own mind to repair it by connecting identities with landscapes, locate a “shard of sanity” by using audio cues in a maze of pulsing neurons, etc. Check a video of it here.

Relax is a game that uses biofeedback and was designed to make you relax by looking at kaleidoscopic patterns, playing slow games, etc. There’s an article about it here and the C64-version is here. After a while they started to work with interactive fiction (“text adventures” – you saw Get Lamp, right?). It seems that Mindwheel was their biggest success. “At its most basic level, the game is about telepathy” (here).

Some other nice old games with a psychedelic/stoner flair are:
  • Deus Ex Machina (video)
  • IQ / Worms? (video) – a sound game
  • Alpha Waves / Continuum (video) – early 3D stuff
  • I, Robot (video)
  • Master of the Lamps (video)
  • Hoi (video) – sound/visuals from RAM-trash + SIDmon!
  • Little Computer People
  • …and a playstation-game called LSD?

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