Raspberry Pi Chiptune Player Rocks a Sound Chip from the 80’s

Sometimes it’s worth doing something in an inefficient way. For example, it might be worth it in order to learn something new, or just to use a particular part. [Deater] did just that with the Raspberry Pi AY-3-8910 Chiptune Player (with LED visualizers!)

The venerable General Instrument AY-3-8910 series sound chips were common in older hardware like home computers and game consoles as well as sound cards for the Apple II family. They were capable of generating three channels of square waves with various effects. Developers eventually squeezed every little bit of performance out with clever hacks. The Raspberry Pi has more than enough power to do all this in software, but as [Deater] puts it, it’s far more interesting to use an actual AY-3-8910 from the 80’s. Some LED bar graphs and matrices round out the whole system.

All the code for the Raspberry Pi AY-3-8910 chiptune player can be found on [deater]’s github repository for the project. A video of the player banging out some sounds is embedded after the break.

[deater] got interested in a sound chip from the 80’s used in sound cards for the Apple II family because of the work done on making a port of Kerbal Space Program for the Apple II. The AY-3-8910 had some contemporary equivalents, one of which (the Yamaha YMZ294) was used in this curious “8-bit” Harmonica.

13 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Chiptune Player Rocks a Sound Chip from the 80’s

  1. I have a “new old stock” AY-3-8912 stuffed away somewhere that i really want hook up to my Arduino. I got it in 1987 but it’s still unused in it’s original Radio Shack packaging. But now I can’t find it!

  2. Far be it from me to accuse HaD editors of not bothering to do their due diligence when writing up an article, but really, calling the venerable AY-3-8910 “a sound chip from the 80’s used in sound cards for the Apple II family” is both technically true and really, really misleading in terms of the vast breadth of both computers and arcade games that used the AY-3-8910 and variants.

    1. The AY-3-8910 series sound chips were common in older hardware like home computers and game consoles as well as sound cards for the Apple II family. That’s a direct quote from the article, by the way.

      You might have focused too much on the last paragraph where I mention only the Apple II, because it’s how the builder got interested in the AY-3-8910 the first place (they were making an Apple II software port at the time.)

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