SID Tune

OK, here comes a crash course on what a SID Tune is!

1982 was a remarkable year: The UK experienced its lowest-ever temperature of -27.2°C, the first computer virus is found “in the wild”, the Falklands War begins and, more importantly for us in January, the Commodore 64 was put onto the market. It is officially the most-sold home computer so far. Now, 1982 is a few years back, I grant you, but people of that era – and youngsters who never experienced a real Commodore 64 but appreciate so-called “Chiptunes” – remember one particular microchip on the C64’s electronic board – the Sound Interface Device model #6581 (and later #8580), more commonly known by its initials, SID.

Constructed by Bob Yannes, who later co-founded Ensoniq, it was way ahead of its time for a computer sound chip – or in fact, many sound devices around then. It didn’t rely on FM synthesis (with its telltale “fwab fwab” sound); it had 3 channels of sound that could be made out of a sine wave, triangle, sawtooth (for that distinct “wah-wah” sound) and noise (explosions, etc). Due to an audible “click” that happened if one changed the overall volume of the chip, it also accidentally acted as a 4-bit sample player, which was exploited in later tunes. Many tunes that were composed for the title screen or in-game music became favorites for people of that era. Remember Zombie Nation’s song “Kernkraft 400“? That was from the game “Lazy Jones” by David Whittaker.

Of course, any computer will become old-hat once hardware design moves on; this of course happened with the Commodore 64. The thing is, though, that it’s still going. Even though it’s not sold any more – for a LONG time now – people kept their “breadbin” – or are buying new ones from eBay – for nostalgia, or just to get the original “chiptune” sound.

Then in the mid-90s, something strange happened: people with some sort of musical ability started taking these original SID tunes and remixed them using modern equipment. They also sometimes changed the genre of the music, so we started getting rock, trance and (nowadays) dub-step versions of tunes composed in the 80s (and early 90s).

This phenomenon – called SID Tunes – is still going on. SLAY Radio is an internet-based radio station dedicated to playing these remixes. Usually the station is automated, playing songs on a pre-determined rotation (with listener requests allowed). Sometimes, however, a live show happens.

This is where Boz comes in. As well as all the other retro-based stuff he’s done, he also got into a chat with Slaygon. And one day, he started broadcasting live shows on SLAY Radio. And the rest, as they say, is a cliché.

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