You Do Not Talk About SID Club

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?

Usually zero.

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.

7 comments on “You Do Not Talk About SID Club

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The music aspect is the C64 aspect I’m most interested nowadays. It would be great, to read more from/about past and current composers and tech stuff on a dedicated place. Maybe there has been written about every technical detail about the SID chip, and perhaps composers don’t want to talk about their tricks. But as composers are often acting more in the background, they could be comfortable with this situation and don’t get the idea to talk about it. Some of them could be open, if they were asked. 

    For me, there is a difference between writing in a forum or on a dedicated place for a specific topic. A SID Blog mustn’t be filled only with new stuff. In addition, it could collect old articles or tips from the past (disk mags) to become the one place for everything about SID. 

    As I’m not very deep into the scene anymore, I could have missed some portals which fulfill this approach already. In Germany, we have, but it’s better for research than for magazine like reading. Maybe a SID Wiki can be a good compromise instead of a blog, as it is easier to manage the contributors and people with less time can nevertheless help out adding details or correct mistakes. 

  2. It’s a shame you feel this way, I for one follow pretty much everything you write and post. I would love a place where frequent SID related discussion happened, something more than banging on about how good Hubbard / Galway and Tel are (obviously the music is amazing but we’ve known that for 35+ years and there were so many more great musicians….). I was amazed to find a scene still creating music with awesome musicians creating unbelievable sounds, music, covers etc. I don’t think CSDB is the place for the discussion, certainly like you I don’t see much activity in the SID section there, so I rarely visit, I comment but via Deepsid which is where I pretty much exclusively listen to all things SID. I’d definitley welcome a WordPress Blog.

  3. Well written, Jens.
    for me it was different.. my pause from SID was only 7 years, and in 1995 i learned my first modern sid editor, which was JCH editor 🙂 only a few of those were ever finished, but what i made was good enough, so i kept the fire going, and it was also you who then introduced me to SID Duzz It, which i have used ever since. yes, we do not talk so much about it, and we can. I also have ideas for editors, like full pr frame, update of WHATEVER. Id like the ability to draw with a mouse, an envelope. we sit in darkness and enter simple pingpong envelopes, or we painstakingly step edit them. lets use the mouse! (cross platform editor). Also, id like the ability to set different frame update pr channel. so like voice 1 is 1x, voice 2 is ix, and voice 3 is jx. or even speed pr sequence 😀 – also, a sid editor should not leave anyone in the darkness, and have an intelligent random button. lets say i want a preset pulse lead, the editor should generate me a reasonable preset, within set parameters, that i can then use or shape further. doing everything from 0 just seems dumb. its 2022 and programmers are x1000 more used to complex codings, or even making VST. so lets bring that power to our sound editors! so by all means Jens, your cry for talking more about SID is well founded also at my front.

  4. Yes I agree, I get disappointed also that all people just compose music in GoatTracker and record the tunes with Emulator sound. Post it around but they have no knowledge about a real C64 computer.
    The Sid-chip is very characteristic, 6581 even comes in different Revisions sounding all unique. It’s a big different compare to a Emulator.

  5. Very interesting perspective, as someone who has lived through the age of SID I can see your point and how it might seem exhausted, but look at as someone coming back to the C64 music scene after a hiatus or the person discovering it for the first time, to them it would be fresh with much to discover, it is all relative and I guess guys like youself are in a position where you’re both fortunate to have experienced this phenomenon from the begining, and jaded by the fact that, to you at least, the whole thing has become somewhat slim pickings in terms of new discussion. For some it must seem a little stale, while for others there will always be an ever growing universe of SID to explore, I believe ther’s life in the old dog yet.

  6. Actually, I found my way here whilst looking for SID appreciation groups so it’s good to have a conversation like this. After a 25 year hiatus, I’m looking to resume composing for the SID again but as an instrument in it’s own right rather than doing game or demo music. Can’t seem to find much in the way of Linux-compatible editors that support more than 1 SID though, and all my C64s are dead (or at least every power supply I’ve tested is).

    I’m kind of torn between relearning Voice Tracker v1.0 or trying to learn a new editor like SF2 or GT2.

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