So I took the C64 plunge

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
User avatar
Walter Ego
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 897
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:17 pm
Gear: Various noisemakers hidden around my home and classroom. And a great quantity of caffeine.
Band: 12"VS
Location: Near Boston

So I took the C64 plunge

Post by Walter Ego » Fri Jan 09, 2015 7:12 pm

Why? We may never know...

I found a Commodore 64 with the Passport Designs MIDI interface cartridge (IN/OUT and analog Clock/Stop Start out), which comes bundled with the MIDI 8 sequencing software. It also came with Dr. T's DX editor.

I haven't even hooked it up to a monitor yet...and I also need a disk drive. The whole thing is probably going to be a trainwreck, but I just couldn't resist.

Was there a CZ editor for the Commodore?

Anyone used or still using a Commodore? Is it fun or just as counterintuitive as the manual's instructions on writing music in BASIC?
Walter Ego
seamonkey wrote:I nominate this for STUPIDEST THREAD ever in the history of the internez. ;)

User avatar
silikon
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2006 1:21 am
Real name: Ms. Jackson
Gear: Random bullshit with knobs and buttons.
Band: Year with no summer
Location: East.
Contact:

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by silikon » Fri Jan 09, 2015 7:29 pm

Walter Ego wrote:Why? We may never know...

I found a Commodore 64 with the Passport Designs MIDI interface cartridge (IN/OUT and analog Clock/Stop Start out), which comes bundled with the MIDI 8 sequencing software. It also came with Dr. T's DX editor.

I haven't even hooked it up to a monitor yet...and I also need a disk drive. The whole thing is probably going to be a trainwreck, but I just couldn't resist.

Was there a CZ editor for the Commodore?

Anyone used or still using a Commodore? Is it fun or just as counterintuitive as the manual's instructions on writing music in BASIC?
I've got heaps of C64 stuff. I believe I even have an extra 1541 Floppy drive (the big old brown version). I don't know if there were CZ editors for C64, but I have literally HEAPS of floppies and cables and... drop me an email, I can help you with that end. Vintage old computers are always a trainwreck. (which is why I have so much extra stuff lying around) :lol:

...but sometimes things work out rather well.


If you don't still have my email, PM me.
echo 1 > /dev/awesome

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1568
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by commodorejohn » Fri Jan 09, 2015 7:34 pm

As you may have guessed, I've been a fan for years ;) I don't have a MIDI interface for my 128, but I enjoy mucking around with SID composition in GoatTracker (once you get a floppy drive and a means of transferring files from a PC, I've hacked up a little bare-bones player tool for GT songs I can send you, if you like.)

One thing I've wanted to do for a long time is hack up a little program to play the SID's three voices as a three-oscillator monosynth; the filter doesn't get close to self-oscillation, but it's a terrific sound nonetheless :)
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

User avatar
Walter Ego
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 897
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:17 pm
Gear: Various noisemakers hidden around my home and classroom. And a great quantity of caffeine.
Band: 12"VS
Location: Near Boston

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by Walter Ego » Fri Jan 09, 2015 7:41 pm

silikon wrote:
Walter Ego wrote:Why? We may never know...

I found a Commodore 64 with the Passport Designs MIDI interface cartridge (IN/OUT and analog Clock/Stop Start out), which comes bundled with the MIDI 8 sequencing software. It also came with Dr. T's DX editor.

I haven't even hooked it up to a monitor yet...and I also need a disk drive. The whole thing is probably going to be a trainwreck, but I just couldn't resist.

Was there a CZ editor for the Commodore?

Anyone used or still using a Commodore? Is it fun or just as counterintuitive as the manual's instructions on writing music in BASIC?
I've got heaps of C64 stuff. I believe I even have an extra 1541 Floppy drive (the big old brown version). I don't know if there were CZ editors for C64, but I have literally HEAPS of floppies and cables and... drop me an email, I can help you with that end. Vintage old computers are always a trainwreck. (which is why I have so much extra stuff lying around) :lol:

...but sometimes things work out rather well.


If you don't still have my email, PM me.
Yeah, I have your email. I'll get in touch! And I just looked it up...there's a Dr. T CZ Patch editor. But I can't find squat about it in the internetz.
Walter Ego
seamonkey wrote:I nominate this for STUPIDEST THREAD ever in the history of the internez. ;)

User avatar
Bitexion
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 4230
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:43 pm
Gear: Alesis Andromeda A6
Roland D-50
Creamware Minimax
Yamaha DX7s
Analogue Systems modular
Ensoniq SQ-80
Waldorf Blofeld
Location: Drammen, Norway

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by Bitexion » Fri Jan 09, 2015 9:51 pm

You'll need a specific program to be able to play it as a synth. Either that, or learn basic or preferably Assembly programming. It is INSANELY convoluted to even get sound out of the thing, let alone make music with it.

You could hook it up to your HD TV with the correct cables, they can be bought anywhere like ebay for a few bucks.
Lots of stores sell them online too.

There is a cartridge called MSSIAH that is kind of emulating a Prophet-5. But the famous SID composers of the day used only an assembler and tons and tons of programming routines.

For me the C64 was just a game machine though. I tried diving into assembler programming on an emulator by following online guides but it was just impossible to keep track of.

User avatar
RetroSynthAds
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 71
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 12:04 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by RetroSynthAds » Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:38 am

Congrats! I also have the C64/Atari/Amiga MIDI bug and started scouring used computer stores for hardware and software. I've managed to find a number of C64s and diskdrives in good working order as well as picked up three old C64 interfaces - a CLab, a Syntech and a Passport Designs. Haven't done too much with them yet but I'm enjoying hooking them up to a 42inch flat screen and just figuring out how a few different MIDI sequencers work. Everything is a keyboard shortcut!! :)

I was also recently picked up two Kerberos interfaces - new C64 interface cartridges WITH FLASH MEMORY!!!!! Haven't played with them too much yet, but it comes with Steinberg' s PRO16 sequencing software installed (and a few other programs) on it and I've booted it up to make sure the cartridges work. Can't wait to figure out how to transfer programs to it.

You can find more info here:
Kerberos page

I've includes a few photos below for interest's sake... R!

Image

Image

Image

Image
d**k Martini
If you are bored... check out my blog: http://retrosynthads.blogspot.com

User avatar
Bitexion
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 4230
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 7:43 pm
Gear: Alesis Andromeda A6
Roland D-50
Creamware Minimax
Yamaha DX7s
Analogue Systems modular
Ensoniq SQ-80
Waldorf Blofeld
Location: Drammen, Norway

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by Bitexion » Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:20 pm

The problem remains to actually PLAY anything with it, even if you got MIDI interface cartridges plugged in. That effectively blocks the cartridge port for MSSIAH and others. Do you use a music program from tape/disk? What's it called?

Cos just typing s**t in basic gets old FAST.

User avatar
Walter Ego
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 897
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:17 pm
Gear: Various noisemakers hidden around my home and classroom. And a great quantity of caffeine.
Band: 12"VS
Location: Near Boston

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by Walter Ego » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:13 pm

Bitexion wrote:You'll need a specific program to be able to play it as a synth. Either that, or learn basic or preferably Assembly programming. It is INSANELY convoluted to even get sound out of the thing, let alone make music with it.
Yeah, the manual is quite comical. It's a very nice manual with clear instructions, but the section on sound creation is hilarious..."You don't have to be a musician to make music with your Commodore 64! You just need..." to POKE two different codes, with two different numbers to instruct it to play ONE NOTE. Then enter all the ADSR info with a similarly obscure, arcane and non intuitive programming technique. But what the heck...seems like a fun challenge...until I throw it out the window. It's like programming a patch on the VL-Tone, but about 100 times more frustrating.

RetroSynthAds wrote:I was also recently picked up two Kerberos interfaces - new C64 interface cartridges WITH FLASH MEMORY!!!!!
Sounds cool.


I don't know if I really plan on playing the SID, as cool as it could be. But maybe I'll dink around with creating some sounds and sample them. It's mostly so I can channel the mojo of the age.
Walter Ego
seamonkey wrote:I nominate this for STUPIDEST THREAD ever in the history of the internez. ;)

User avatar
bytexion
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri May 18, 2012 9:48 am
Gear: Alesis Andromeda A6
Yamaha DX7S
Analogue Systems modular
Yamaha Motif XF6
Creamware Minimax
Ensoniq SQ-80
Roland D-50
Roland Gaia

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by bytexion » Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:36 pm

Remember that the SID musicians of the day didn't use Basic and POKE's, they used machine code language (assembly) which gives you complete control but requires even more studying of hexadecimal adresses and stuff just to initialize a sawtooth waveform.

So the DIY method is definately not recommended. There are some dedicated programs that access the SID chip for you and lets you play it via the C64 keyboard. And I guess you could record the output. There are also trackers you can input notes into and make full songs that way.
But mostly the old guys were programmers that competed in bringing out the coolest features of the chip, so you can actually hear the difference between a Rob Hubbard song and a Martin Galway song.
"This synth is OLD, like your mom!"
-Deadmau5, regarding his EMS Synthi A

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1568
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by commodorejohn » Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:43 pm

Walter Ego wrote:Yeah, the manual is quite comical. It's a very nice manual with clear instructions, but the section on sound creation is hilarious..."You don't have to be a musician to make music with your Commodore 64! You just need..." to POKE two different codes, with two different numbers to instruct it to play ONE NOTE. Then enter all the ADSR info with a similarly obscure, arcane and non intuitive programming technique. But what the heck...seems like a fun challenge...until I throw it out the window.
Yeah, the manual goes overboard trying to make things sound "friendly" even when they aren't. But the SID itself really isn't that complicated, especially if you know your way around synthesizers to begin with; the trickiest bit (and the one I haven't quite worked out) is coming up with a good computationally-cheap way to do pitch bends when the frequency registers follow a linear instead of logarithmic progression. I should probably pick around in the source of some different playroutines...

Of course, to get there at all you need to get the hang of 6502 assembler first - which is doable, but a bit of a project. Mostly it's all about breaking things down into very small steps, and then breaking those small steps down into individual machine instructions. It can be slow going, but there's kind of a pleasant Zen quality to it, for the right kind of mind.

If you're serious about getting into C64 programming, get as many books by Compute! as you can lay your hands on - but especially get their Mapping the Commodore 64. It's the best reference I've ever seen. The official Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide isn't too bad either, and it's got a solid quick-reference on 6502 assembler. Both books are long out of print, but can be found on online dealers or downloaded from:

https://archive.org/details/Compute_s_M ... mmodore_64 (PDF format)
http://unusedino.de/ec64/technical/proj ... g_c64.html (plain text in HTML)
http://www.bombjack.org/commodore/books.htm (tons of other great books here, including a number of Compute! titles and this book on machine-language programming by all-time Commodore guru Jim Butterfield)

http://www.zimmers.net/cbmpics/cbm/c64/c64prg.txt (plain text)
http://www.freeinfosociety.com/media/pdf/4890.pdf (PDF format)
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

User avatar
salwa
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 327
Joined: Sun May 20, 2007 7:12 pm
Location: Gdynia, Poland

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by salwa » Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:54 pm

In my days I was using simple basic program (called intricately "Sythesizer"), which allowed to play notes on QWERTY keyboard (years later I found out, that Fruity Loops can do that too and I was home :) ). You could access ADSR envelope there, change waveforms and filter's cutoff and resonance. Unfortunately - no sequencing, but it was my first synth and I loved it. Also I can recomend program called "Microdisco", which is monophonic drummachine and is easy avalible now online.
Casio CZ-1, Elektronika EM-25, Yamaha TX81Z, Roland JV-2080, Novation KS-rack, Korg Poly 800, Casio SK-1, Casio SK-8, Vermona E-piano, Akai S2000, Roland SP 404, Roland TR 505, Yamaha MR 10, Yamaha RX 5 and more
https://www.facebook.com/DOMmusicpl

User avatar
bytexion
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri May 18, 2012 9:48 am
Gear: Alesis Andromeda A6
Yamaha DX7S
Analogue Systems modular
Yamaha Motif XF6
Creamware Minimax
Ensoniq SQ-80
Roland D-50
Roland Gaia

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by bytexion » Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:57 pm

The way we're used to things now isn't what they were doing in the early 80s. We're used to plugging in a midi keyboard and test out a few dozen "patches" in a VST synth and maybe sample the output or record into a sequencer via MIDI.

But in the C64 way, every SID song is a complete assembly program with hundreds or thousands of lines of code.

The composers made the song on a normal synth, but getting it to play via the SID chip required good old 6502 assembly programming skills, inputting every note and filter parameter by hand. Plus a huge set of code to initialize the chip itself and make the "patches" that would play and when they'd play.
Naturally they made routines that would copy/paste into the next project, but still a heck of a lot of programming to do.

I did some digging into SID programming a while ago and found some sites with assembly tutorials, and they even had a full Rob Hubbard song in assembly code fully commented as an example. But it was just too much to get into from a musicians point of view.
"This synth is OLD, like your mom!"
-Deadmau5, regarding his EMS Synthi A

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1568
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by commodorejohn » Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:22 pm

Well, not every C64 musician coded their own playroutine, although most of the real legends did. The reason each SID file is a memory dump is because there's so many different playroutines that it's simpler to just emulate the whole computer (minus the video chip) than to implement modern players for each. But there is at least one distribution format (.mus, for Compute!'s music player) that includes only the song data.

And certainly nobody wrote new playroutines from scratch every time they wanted to make a new song. It's all about having a piece of code with enough features that you can just come up with new song data any time you want to do a piece.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

User avatar
Walter Ego
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 897
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:17 pm
Gear: Various noisemakers hidden around my home and classroom. And a great quantity of caffeine.
Band: 12"VS
Location: Near Boston

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by Walter Ego » Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:40 pm

Well, I also want to use it as a conventional MIDI sequencer and as a patch editor. The CZ Android program for C64 uses visual envelopes that you can just click and drag. But it's less about ease of use than mindset, I suppose. I like surrounding myself with 80s stuff. It just makes me feel weirdly calm and at home...I don't know how deeply I'm willing to dive into the SID world, but as a separate project at some point, I might try to get a handle on the assembler.

I really appreciate all the C64 info though. I certainly won't have an excuse to be bored anytime soon. I will probably check out MSSIAH at some point too.
Walter Ego
seamonkey wrote:I nominate this for STUPIDEST THREAD ever in the history of the internez. ;)

User avatar
silikon
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2006 1:21 am
Real name: Ms. Jackson
Gear: Random bullshit with knobs and buttons.
Band: Year with no summer
Location: East.
Contact:

Re: So I took the C64 plunge

Post by silikon » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:26 pm

There are only so many times one can get on a C64 without pulling ones' hair out. I usually find myself getting really tired after a few hours of dealing with the archaic mechanisms and the super-slow loading times to do pretty much anything. Coming from someone who used to spend days upon hours on his personal one back in the 80's, the romantic notion of doing it only lasts so long before I yearn to be able to move around in a quick manner. I can appreciate someone with the patience to work on one for a length of time for whatever motivation - but I find myself tiring of the 'charm' of waiting essentially minutes to load 40k worth of data (good luck if that data is on a cassette) just to work in 16 color, clunky f**k interfaces.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate it for what it is and what it did back in the day (it and my VIC-20 was my gateway to the world of BBSs and shite like that), but going from working on a modern interface in any given DAW or plugin is or most likely will also be an exercise in patience and perseverance.

There are also alternatives to going strictly back to a C-64. For example; one could obtain/build MIDIBox SID or source one of the other SID-based instruments.

Like I said, if you're strictly interested in C-64 stuff, I have a wealth, and happy to share where/when I can.
echo 1 > /dev/awesome

Post Reply