Having been part of the big demo scene on the Commodore 64 in the 80’s, coding a popular music editor and making music on it, I’ve been entangled in this hobby for years before taking a break for decades and then returning to make both more music as well as a web site to play SID music.
Craving to keep myself updated on this very specific hobby, I’ve been scouring through lots of web sites, editors, players and social media every day to find interesting news, and some of this has even been used to good effect at my site. At one point I even considered adding a WordPress blog to this site with SID news presented as blog posts – and maybe even allow guest posts for other SID aficionados to write.
But as the years went by since my comeback, I have been repeatedly disappointed by the lack of buzz going on in this area. Considering how many really skilled composers there are hacking away at the SID chip these days, it’s astounding how little they actually talk about it.
In fact, it’s a tendency that eventually caused me to kill my WordPress plans entirely.
Every day I visit a number of C64 related web sites to see if there’s anything to find about SID. On CSDb, certainly the busiest and most famous fan site of them all, months pass before anyone talks about SID in a dedicated forum thread there. The only time anyone ever talks about it is when composers release music (typically for competitions) and a few of the other SID enthusiasts comment on the quality of it.
Other web sites are even more puzzling. Lemon 64 probably has the biggest forum, bustling with new and updated forum threads about the C64 every day. Sometimes it even has enough activity to warrant two pages of threads to check out since yesterday. Would you like to know how many of these threads are about the SID chip in particular?
Sure, one week there may be a SID question, a thread gets a new comment, or someone might present a new emulator or a SID device. But compared to the other subjects there, it’s conspicuously lacking. It’s like the introverted kid sitting on a bench in the corner, pondering when he might dare to speak up again.
It’s almost as if everything that needs to be said about SID has already been said. All the SID composers have discussed all the tricks and techniques the past decades, and perhaps they want to keep the last few secrets to themselves. Old and new music editors, how to code a music player, composing – everything you can think of. We’ve been through all of this already and there is no longer anything to be said.
I refuse to believe that. There’s so much that could still be talked about.
How do you make music in three voices in a way the makes it sound like many more voices? How do waveform tables work and could it be improved further? How do you make the most of the same filter settings when applied to all voices? Has anyone actually tried to contact Bob Yannes and play some Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway tunes for him? If you could expand upon the SID chip, what would you add? When do you think this or that real-time updating effect was used for the first time? How would you improve upon your favorite music editor if you were in charge of it? What ideas do you have for a new music editor even if you know it won’t ever happen? What do you think is the perfect multispeed setting? Why don’t you like certain techniques such as e.g. 2SID or multispeed? How do you think the demo scene would have been different if Bob Yannes had made the intended 25 voices instead of just 3?
I could probably go on for a paragraph several times that size.
The point is that with a chiptune hobby for a sound chip as advanced as the SID chip is, with as many editors and players as there are, with more than 50000 tunes in the High Voltage SID Collection, it’s a mystery why almost no one is talking about it. Sure, a lot has been discussed, but there’s is still a lot to talk about. I myself have at times asked questions in Facebook groups and even created weird polls.
But the problem is, I don’t want to be the only one. Ever had that feeling at work where you’re sitting with your colleagues at lunch and you’ve started a conversation that is kept alive for a few minutes, and then the entire table goes silent? That’s it, you think, now I have contributed to the lunch debate and someone else should take over. But no one does, and it’s just an awkward silence.
That’s how I feel about this SID hobby.