1985 saw the release of the Casio SK-1, a compact sampling keyboard that brought the technology to a lower price point than ever before. However, one drawback of this was that it comes stock with only a 2.5 octave keyboard. [Jonas Karlsson] wanted a little more range out of the instrument, so set about hacking in his own octave mod.
The build consists of fiddling with the SK-1’s microprocessor clock to change the pitch of the notes generated by the instrument. The original clock is generated by a simple LC circuit, which in this mod is fed to an inverter, and then a pair of flip-flops to divide the clock by four. The original clock and the divided version are then both sent to a mux chip. With the flick of the switch, either the original or downshifted clock can be sent to the microprocessor.
With the slower clock feeding the microprocessor, all the notes are downshifted an octave. The resulting sound, which you can listen to on Soundcloud, is similar to what you get when chopping down sample rates. It bears noting, however, that as this mod changes the master clock, other features such as rhythms are also effected.
The Casio SK-1 keyboard is fairly well-known in the “circuit bending” scene, where its simple internals lend themselves to modifications and tweaks to adjust the device’s output in all sorts of interesting ways. But creating music via circuit bending the SK-1 can be tedious, as it boils down to fiddling with the internals blindly until it sounds cool. [Nick Price] wanted to do something a bit more scientific, and decided to try replacing his SK-1’s ROM with an Arduino so he could take complete control it.
That’s the idea, anyway. Right now he’s gotten as far as dumping the ROM and getting the Arduino hooked up in place of it. Unfortunately the resulting sound conjures up mental images of a 56K modem being cooked in a microwave. Clearly [Nick] still has some work ahead of him.
For now though, the progress is fascinating enough. He was able to pull the original NEC 23C256 chip out of the keyboard and read its contents using an Arduino and some code he cooked up, and he’s even put the dump online for any other SK-1 hackers out there. He then wrote some new code for the Arduino to spit data from the ROM dump back to the keyboard when requested. In theory, it should sound the same as before, but with the added ability to “forge” the data going back to the keyboard to make new sounds.
The result is what you hear in the video linked after the break. Not exactly what [Nick] had in mind. After some snooping with the logic analyzer, he believes the issue is that the Arduino can’t respond as fast as the original NEC chip did. He’s now got an NVRAM chip on order to replace the original NEC chip; the idea is that he can still use the Arduino to reprogram the NVRAM chip when he wants to play around with the sound.