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Old 02 March 2010, 18:24   #1
goto80
 
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The origin of the terms chipmusic/chiptune

Hi.

Leaving the discussion of how to define chipmusic/chiptune out for now, does anyone have any info on how these terms were used around 1990? It's pretty common to say that it referred to using tiny sampled waveforms in Soundtracker-derivatives, like 4-mat and Duz and Turtle did. But for others, like Mahoney when I talked to him, chipmusic was always 'synthetic' music made in SidMON, Future Composer, etc (although they are of course sample-based aswell, under the hood).

But instead of comparing definitions, I'm interested in digging up early examples of people using these terms. Or get suggestions of people to ask about it. I am slightly obsessed with this topic, and I write about it sometimes at chipflip.wordpress.com when I don't make my own .. eh .. "chipmusic". So, all ideas are welcome.

-g
 
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Old 03 March 2010, 02:40   #2
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Well, I don't really remember if the sceners in Sweden called it "chip music" when those cracktros with SidMON music etc first came. We might have called it SID music, because PlaySID had just been released on Amiga.

What's meant by the term I guess, is that on C-64 you could load a stack of parameters and start the sound, and the chip would play it "on its own". This is a bit of a simplification of how song players work, I know. But of course no chip can play a whole song on its own. But apart from having a "software sequencer" to run the "synthesizer" chip, non-chiptune players also had software snippets to run ADSR or similar sound transformations on sampled instruments.

On Amiga, of course there are only samples and software to transform them, so the distinction is harder to make. Maybe if it has mostly simple short waveform samples, and there is a proper instrument editor where you shape the synth sound of the instrument, it's a chiptune tracker?

I wouldn't say that a protracker tune that has 14 samples and 1 lead instrument as a triangle wave using commands to synthesize it is a chiptune.

But maybe the fuzzy definition is okay. "If it comes from a music program which has a synth-instrument editor".

That seems to be the general thinking, and you're aware of this too. The origin of the term could have something to do with the above guesstimate, or someone else will enlighten us
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Old 03 March 2010, 09:41   #3
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@ Photon - I agree. For me its Amiga music that sounds like SID music ie. it sounds like the tones are actually being generated by the sound chip (like with C64 sound) and not just being played by the sound chip (what actually happens with Amiga sound).

But going back to goto80's original point I've got no idea really when the first use of the term chiptune was. The first time I remember encountering the distinction was in Timecircle's Draconian music demo where they make the distinction between "short synthetic" and "long sampled" Amiga music.
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Old 03 March 2010, 18:59   #4
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Can't say when or who came up with the term chiptune, but it definitely was around 89/90. I was a scener back in 90-92, and the term did mean Amiga music that used tiny (often looped) samples that sounded like synthesizer sounds. Like a synthesizer chip that the Amiga's sound chip was not. Of course the snare drums and so on were a bit longer samples, as there was no real synthesis to make them (and software synthesis must be pretty CPU intensive on an A500).

I would guess the first primary use for chiptunes was crack intros - they had to use minimum disk space so the games would still fit on the disks. Then they evolved into an art of its own - like the chiptune musicdisks from 4Mat and so on.

I would call "a protracker tune that has 14 samples and 1 lead instrument as a triangle wave" a chiptune, as that's the way a lot of the so called chiptunes were made. Of course there was the emphasis on making all the other samples as short as possible, too.

I guess the term is a bit loose, we all know chiptunes by the sound...
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Old 03 March 2010, 19:02   #5
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Maybe you should count anything made with chiptracker by Kris of Anarchy :P
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Old 03 March 2010, 19:47   #6
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@PMC: Do you know how i can find that demo? Hm, not very good at finding Amiga demos it seems...

For those interested, 4-mat posted his story about how he started making chip-modules (in 1989) here: http://ihearthesoundofwaves.blogspot...rofit-not.html ... and Metin Seven, one of the ppl behind SIDmon, writes this: http://www.metinseven.com/the-origin...-phenomenon/en
 
Old 03 March 2010, 21:05   #7
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We just called them chip modules (my first memories of chip modules are also from around the year 1991-92).

I was really amazed when people on the internet started talking about "chiptunes" and brought up the 8-bit NES. That was like sacrilege.

To me they were always made with protracker or sidmon or fc1.4 or whatever, we never really gave much thought as to why they were called "chip" modules, they just were.. :-D

C-64 music was "sids", NES music was "nes music".. :-)

Last edited by Jope; 24 March 2011 at 11:27.
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Old 03 March 2010, 22:24   #8
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@ goto80 - the version of that demo I'm referring to is on disk 2 of Newsflash disk magazine issue 15. That issue came out end of 1990 I think so I doubt that the "short synthetic / long sampled" distinction terms were new by then.

http://www.exotica.org.uk/wiki/Newsflash

Interestingly though, Brian Postma (Exodus of The Timecircle) made his own chiptune type tracker program called Soundmon available on his website - although I don't think I've ever been able to get it to work properly.

http://www.brianpostma.com/amiga.html
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Old 03 March 2010, 22:38   #9
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to me chip tunes are ones where the instruments are created by the computer
ie no digitizing/sampling involved
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Old 04 March 2010, 09:19   #10
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@photon : i'm agree with your definition.

@Goto80 : nice links. Interesting 4-Mat's article. The Syntrax music sound amazing ! I like those newschool chipmusic

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Old 04 March 2010, 13:02   #11
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@pmc: great, thanks! i'm in touch with brian postma now to see how he remembers it

@photon: if a definition of chipmusic does not include protracker chip modules, i am a bit sceptical. apart from the difficulty of defining it in terms of hardware/software, chipmusic has expanded during the past decade to become a pop phenomenon, where technology/history is often irrelevant. ie, it's a socially constructed genre like any other. perhaps it always was.

@frog: hehe, yeah, mobile phones has been a forgotten tool for chipmusic. with smartphones now, it's beginning to change. emulation population!
 
Old 04 March 2010, 16:26   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goto80
@pmc: great, thanks!
No problem man.

Quote:
Originally Posted by goto80
i'm in touch with brian postma now to see how he remembers it
\o/

That guy was one cool Amiga coder back in the day!

See if you can entice him to come to EAB! Maybe we can convince him to make demos again!
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Old 04 March 2010, 16:27   #13
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Just noticed bpostma is reading this thread!!!

Big bowdown to you guy!
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Old 04 March 2010, 16:35   #14
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Well... to be honest, back in the scene days we never used the term Chiptune (as far as I can remember).
I cannot remember it being used at scene parties either. I actually think the PC scene started the terminology when they switched from adlib music to sampled music. Before that happened I think music was just referred to as either modules or synthetic modules. C64 songs were just sids.
And even after that transition the name chiptune was only used for SoundTracker/NoiseTracker modules that used short samples instead of doing actual synthesis effects.

Anyway.... That's how I remember it.... A lot of time (alcohol) has passed since then.
 
Old 04 March 2010, 16:38   #15
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Originally Posted by bpostma
A lot of time (alcohol) has passed since then.
LOL.

Ever considered getting back into doing Amiga stuff Brian...?
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Old 04 March 2010, 16:50   #16
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I've still got a collection of Amiga's in my attic. 2 of them are setup in an active state. My old (t)rusty 2000, which I actually don't use that often anymore, and an 1200 which I still use quite a bit. But that's mostly for watching demo's and playing some of those classic games. My personal favourite is still "Hybris". Which actually is the game that made me create "Soundmon" because that game was also using very short samples (maybe even synthesis, but I don't think so) and I really liked the sound of it.

Programming wise, I'm not doing much on the Amiga anymore. I think my 68000 assembly skills will probably be very rusty.
Having said that, I still find it a lot of fun to try and port the soundmon player to as many devices as possible. Currently these are usually handheld devices like the Gp32, Gp2x, Nintendo DS etc. In addition to that I've been working on a FPGA implementation of the basic soundmon synthesis algorithms in addition to more advanced digital filtering schemes. Basically this should become a synthesizer-on-a-chip with a midi interface. Unfortunately I haven't been able to work on it much lately, too much to do, too little time.....
 
Old 04 March 2010, 16:56   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpostma View Post
Programming wise, I'm not doing much on the Amiga anymore. I think my 68000 assembly skills will probably be very rusty.
Excuses excuses Anyone who could code this gem back in the day should be able to get back into 68k easily. I demand Megascroll, 2010 edition. :P
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Old 04 March 2010, 18:19   #18
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Quote:
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I demand Megascroll, 2010 edition. :P
Seconded! Megascroll kicks ass.
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Old 04 March 2010, 19:15   #19
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Excuses excuses Anyone who could code this gem back in the day should be able to get back into 68k easily. I demand Megascroll, 2010 edition. :P
That's a funny thing... I've never seen that link before. Nice to know that people are still interested in that old stuff. Means I'm not the only one....

Maybe I could do an OpenGL remake or something.... Then again PC programming is very boring. No new hardware to "learn", everything is the same. Consoles and portable devices are usually more fun, because there is still hardware features/bugs to discover and to exploit.

But... Let's see if I can still find the 'seka' assembler in my Amiga collection. It would actually be fun to do something like that again.
 
Old 04 March 2010, 20:01   #20
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But... Let's see if I can still find the 'seka' assembler in my Amiga collection. It would actually be fun to do something like that again.
Yes! \o/
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