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Hardware Hacking Music Open Source

Making Your Graphing Calculator a Musical Instrument 55

An anonymous reader writes: Thanks to a recently published open source music editor/sequencer, you can now create music on Texas Instruments graphing calculators. The complexity of the sound is impressive (video) for such a simple device, which does not feature any dedicated sound hardware. HoustonTracker 2 is open source, and is available for the TI-82, 83, 83Plus, and 84Plus.
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Making Your Graphing Calculator a Musical Instrument

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  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @02:06PM (#50680651)

    This is cool, but we were software mixing doing this on the Apple ][ and PC/Amiga ages ago with FastTracker, ScreamTracker, etc, etc.
    i.e.
    Tech. Specs for the TI-32: Zilog Z80 @ 6 MHz

    I was more impressed with "Oscillofun":

    * https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • The Amiga had dedicated sound hardware that was highly sophisticated for its time.

      If you were doing this on a PC that had no soundcard (i.e., no sound hardware), and you were getting music out of the internal speaker usually known for just going "beep", then you've got something impressive.

      • linux [linuxjournal.com] has had good drivers for PC type squeakers built in, for some time now.

        all things are easy, given the algorithm.

      • >and you were getting music out of the internal speaker usually known for just going "beep", then you've got something impressive.

        Nah, just need to dedicate CPU cycles to the task.

        we had digitized speech [youtube.com] (SeaDragon) on the Apple ][ and music [youtube.com] (Goonies), even classical [youtu.be]. (Not linking to the obvious Castle Wolfenstein)

        At 1 MHz you can get fake 2-voice music. [youtu.be] (Karateka)

        1-bit sampling can produce anything (albeit at low quality) when you dedicate even 1 MHz to the process.

        Similarly on the PC @ 4.77 Mh

        • LDA $C030 // Loading Accumulator from memory address $C030 makes a "click"
          That's all the Apple ][ had as audio.
          • Technically LDA or STA produces 1-bit sound. Interestingly enough 22 years later Sony copied the same idea with their Super Audio CD [wikipedia.org] -- 1 bit @ 2.8224 MHz

            And while 1-bit audio was all the Apple had one _could_ playback digitized speech as Castle Wolfenstien [youtu.be] and Sea Dragon proved.

            i.e.

            • ACHTUNG
            • HALT
            • EEYAGH
            • YIEEE
            • CHWEINHUND
            • SS
            • PHOLGE
            • KAMERAD
            • WASISTLOS
            • FEUER
            • DAPUT
            • UFWIEDERSEN

            Along with the famous "You're caught"

            See this CW disassembly thread [google.com] for more details.

    • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @02:37PM (#50680879)

      I remember writing down the frequencies of every note so that we could encode a song into an HP48.
      Then the resident Uber-geek added that to an unrelated piece of code that we gave to the idiot who had erased a couple of our calculators "for fun". Essentially started playing the song in the middle of class at full speed, then looping ever so slower, and nothing short of pulling the batteries or the physical reset button could stop it for about 2 or 3 loooong minutes.
      The teacher had to turn around so we wouldn't see him laugh, but when we could still hear it from the depths of the backpack, I saw him lose it.

      • by es330td ( 964170 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @03:55PM (#50681395)

        I remember writing down the frequencies of every note so that we could encode a song into an HP48.

        You certainly did it the hard way. A=440 hz. The ratio between any two adjacent half steps is 2^-12 so one can calculate any pitch given a note name and octave. A friend wrote a program for our 48SX's that would take a file of the format {t=60 {notename octavenumber duration}...} (the first term is the tempo, duration is 1 for whole note, 2 for half note, 4 for quarter, etc.) and convert it to the format "freq dur BEEP" so we could input songs directly from sheet music. I still have the program on my HP48SX twenty years later and still have the interpreted William Tell Overture and Imperial March.

        • Old engineering question:
            - Why did you spend three days writing that PERL script?
            - Because it saved me half an hour of copy-pasting.

          Perfect example here. I calculated the frequencies using the math formula, and it was a lot simpler to translate every note (using search/replace on the score's text file) than to write a program to do it for me or even worry about the exact syntax to get the math done at runtime.

    • The Apple ][ had very very bad hardware. You could basically ping the speaker, that's it. People built around that, making libraries that eventually became sound, then music. The Amiga had really good sound hardware (as did the Commodore 64), so not a lot of "geek builder cred" there. The PC had whatever hardware you put in, from the bare bones "ping the speaker" that essentially Apple had, to real dedicated spend a hundred or so sound cards. that makes PCs "it depends"

      I heard stories of the old days o

    • Really long history.

      People were doing it on the TRS-80 using the cassette data port and pulse width modulation.

      Before that there were examples of people using loops to generate RF signals that you could use a radio to listen to.

    • Back in the 80ies, the ZX Spectrum had a Z80 clocked at 3.25 MHz (about half TI's clock) and a direct control to the speaker (OUT(0xFE),x allowed to change border color, speaker output and tape output).

      There were many games that were using that simple 1-bit control to play multi-channel music, some even simulating ADSR enveloppe (Release was missing).

      You may find many old Spectrum games using these tricks like Gyroscope, Fox fights back, Dizzy série, ...

      Basically, same processor, lower clock freque

  • Pshaw! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @02:16PM (#50680721)
    Call me when it can do the Hallelujah Chorus [youtu.be]
  • how pathetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @02:34PM (#50680861)

    TI-82 introduced in 1993, TI-83 in 1996. Twenty fucking year old tech and they have the gall to ask $150 list for those pieces of shit, and moreover get schools to require them. Fuck you TI, die in a fire

    • Casio FTW!

      • You would rather have a crappy Casio over a HP or a TI ? That's sick. :-)

        4 grayscale HP-48 SX/GX FTW ! [hpcalc.org]

        • Because 30 years after I used if in my O-level exams (UK exams) it's still working fine, it does what's required and it's not huge like a TI.
          HPs are good too but I couldn't afford one when I was at school and after 30+ years with a Casio, I'm not about to change.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Chevrolet Suburban was introduced in 1935. Eighty fucking year old tech and they have the gall to ask $50k list for those pieces of shit... Oh wait. The model has actually changed over the years and it's not the same thing that was introduced long ago despite it still having the same original purpose.

      TI-82 and TI-83 was discontinued in 2004. They've been replaced with more modern successors with updated features. You can find new TI-83+ for less than half your stated MSRP or if you don't mind used, half aga

      • Wrong. Suburban has modern engine and accessories, nothing like the 1933 one

          TI-82 and 83 still REQUIRED by many schools, still SOLD by major chains (go to amazon.com and enlighten yourself)
        The TI-83+ you mention is 1999 tech and list price is $149, look it up

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Wrong. Suburban has modern engine and accessories, nothing like the 1933 one

          That's what GP said:

          Oh wait. The model has actually changed over the years and it's not the same thing that was introduced long ago despite it still having the same original purpose.

        • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

          TI-82 and TI-83 are discontinued. Period. Go look on TI's website and you won't find them under the current products. You may be able to find them "new" but that is just old stock that never sold. Amazon themselves does not sell either of those new, all listings that have a new link are from 3rd party sellers.

          TI-83 Plus is available new, from Amazon, for 93.01 [amazon.com] as of this posting.

          If your school REQUIRES either a TI-82 or TI-83 and not any of the newer variants than that's your school's damn fault. Their is

  • inadequate ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @03:04PM (#50681067)

    I don't understand where all the negative comments are coming from. To get that out of a pathetic 6 MHz little calculator with no sound hardware is awesome! This is what being a nerd is all about. This is the best news post I've seen on this site in months.

  • Pocket Calculator

    Kraftwerk

    I'm the operator with my pocket calculator
    I'm the operator with my pocket calculator
    I am adding and subtracting
    I'm controlling and composing
    I'm the operator with my pocket calculator
    I'm the operator with my pocket calculator
    I am adding and subtracting
    I'm controlling and composing
    By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody
    By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody
    I'm the operator with my pocket calculator
    I'm the operator with my pocket calculator

    www.youtu [youtube.com]

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @05:00PM (#50681739) Journal

    Making your musical instrument a graphing calculator :-)

    • Making your musical instrument a graphing calculator :-)

      Fun fact -- for a couple thousand years there were these devices called monochords [wikipedia.org] in use as scientific instruments that connected mathematical proportions visually and geometrically to music.

      While they were generally used to understand musical intervals and to build musical scales from math, they could also be "used in reverse" to demonstrate certain kinds of mathematical relationships from the standard positions of musical intervals.

      Not exactly a "graphing calculator," but there's a reason why music t [wikipedia.org]

  • Purple Haze all in my brain, / lately things don't seem the same, / actin' funny but I don't know why / 'scuse me while I calculate Pi

  • I'll be impressed when they get this working for my TI-81!

"Ada is PL/I trying to be Smalltalk. -- Codoso diBlini

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