RCA Plug Plays Sixteen-Minute Chiptune Piece, All By Itself

Frequenters of arcades back in the golden age of video games will likely recall the mix of sounds coming from a properly full arcade, the kind where you stacked your quarters on a machine to stake your claim on being next in line to play. They were raucous places, filled with the simple but compelling sounds that accompanied the phosphor and silicon magic unfolding all around.

The days of such simple soundtracks may be gone, but they’re certainly not forgotten, with this chiptunes generator built into an RCA plug being both an homage to the genre and a wonderful example of optimization and miniaturization. It’s the work of [girst] and it came to life as an attempt to implement [Rob Miles]’ Bitshift Variations in C Minor algorithmically generated chiptunes composition in hardware. For the first attempt, [girst] chose an ATtiny4 as the microcontroller, put it and the SMD components needed for a low-pass filter on a flex PCB, and wrapped the whole thing around a button cell battery. Stuffed into the shell of an RCA plug, the generator detects when it has been inserted into an audio input jack and starts the 16-minute piece. [girst] built a second version, too, using the Padauk PSM150c “Three-Cent Microcontroller” chip.

This is quite an achievement in chiptunes minimization. We’ve seen chiptunes in 32 bytes, Altoids tin chiptunes, and an EP on a postage-stamp-sized PCB, but this one might beat them all on size alone.

12 thoughts on “RCA Plug Plays Sixteen-Minute Chiptune Piece, All By Itself

  1. I just listened to some of the Orb’s track on the link above, good. I tried to hear some faint tones on the above article video. Minus 23.7 dB, almost a record low. Only by the usual Audacity check and amplify the playback was I able to sit at the computer and hear some of the playback. Seems that full level is getting to that spectrum app on the phone but nothing worth a penny gets to the mic in the camera.

    There is only one proper way to handle audio. It is not a personal taste issue. When live sounds have to be mixed there are redundant volume controls, yet a standard setting for all but the final pot. There shouldn’t even be a volume slider on YouTube etc or streams. Leave it at 100%. Set sound-card screen slider to somewhat below what causes amp clipping at it’s input (which might be max) and leave that slider alone too. The amp’s control is where it’s at. Nothing can ever over-level in the digital realm anymore than in radio transmitting on FM.

    As in radio the need to have something like full (not Orban-ized) is not to be questioned but done right. None of the NPR stations I stream would ever be under modulating their transmitters in their home turf, but the mostly weak and occasionally digitally clipped carelessness that I run across on the web is the norm. You will never get blasted by surprise if these rules are followed. Only irked by whispering wimpyness.

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