UK's National Museum of Computing asks tunesmiths to recreate bleeps, bloops, and parps of retro game music

Competition in celebration of the BBC Micro's 40th anniversary


The UK's National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) is running a competition aimed at recreating the bleeps, whistles, and flatulent squawks of video game music from years gone by.

It's all in honour of the 40th anniversary of the BBC Micro, which, if memory serves, was not really a ball of fire in the sound department when put up against the Commodore 64 Sound Interface Device (SID) chip.

Then again, we have fond memories of laboriously typing in lists of SOUND statements (and fiddling with the ENVELOPE statement) in order to persuade the computer to output a recognisable rendition of a popular tune.

Interestingly, the BBC Micro shared a sound chip with the TI99/4a home computer. Users had access to three tone channels and one "noise" channel. The Beeb's ENVELOPE, however, hinted at what those willing to sidle a little closer to the silicon could achieve. The conversion of the arcade game Spy Hunter even managed a bit of sampled speech and sound effects.

In an attempt to recreate those bygone days, TNMOC is looking for 30-second .mp3 files spat out by software running on a Raspberry Pi. Entries are by age group and judging will be based on authenticity (so using or emulating sounds from the original computers will be a plus), concept (this is for a fictional game), and catchiness.

This hack can still be heard humming the main theme of Thing on a Spring nearly 40 years after it first graced the shelves of UK retailer WHSmith.

The closing date for entries is 19 August and judging will be performed by David Housden, a BAFTA and Ivor Novello-nominated composer and Matthew Applegate, a composer and BAFTA Young Game Designers Mentor Award Winner.

Nowadays the epic orchestrations of today's game music, "much of which is up there with some of the finest music ever made," according to our resident gamer, have been freed from the silicon limitations of the past to generate theme and atmosphere.

Be that as it may, it is still Outrun's "Magical Sound Shower" rather than the haunting and beautiful melodies of Skyrim that remains firmly wedged in this writer's brain. ®

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