Skip to content
Science, Maths & Technology
  • Audio
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Chiptunes

Updated Tuesday 26th May 2009

It's not just the computer industry that took inspiration from the code-breaking machine Colossus. The BBC/OU series Digital Planet discovers a unique fusion of retro gaming and music

Once upon a time, games consoles were for playing games on. But as we saw at the Maker Faire, sometimes the tinkerers of the world step in an re-imagine what's possible.

Take for example Matthew Applegate, aka chiptunes artist Pixelh8. It's amazing what he can do with a Game Boy Advance... Like recreate the sound of Colossus...

And as a special treat for Digital Planet listeners, he also put together a special mix of the the Digital Planet theme tune, which presenter Gareth Mitchell is currently using as a ring tone on his mobile phone!

Copyright Used with permission

Hands on With Pixelh8

If you fancy a go at creating you own chiptunes, you can download some software from the Pixelh8 website that will turn a Game Boy Advance into a chiptunes synth. If you do download the software and create your own chiptunes, or maybe create your own chiptunes using some of the personal computers of yesteryear, then why not post a link to them on the Digital Planet Listeners' Group on Facebook. Who knows, if even people post enough links, we might be able to run a chiptunes festival here on open2.net!

Taking it Further

If you'd like to learn more about the role of audio in computer games, it's one of the many topics included in the Open University short course Digital worlds [T151].

The course is structured in terms of weekly topic explorations, one of which covers "An Introduction to Game Audio". And who do you think features in it? You guessed it!

Question 4: What are chiptunes, and what is generative music? How do they relate to game audio?

Chiptunes are are tunes that are played using game console sound chips. So for example, if you have a GameBoy Advance or Nintendo DS, then software developed by chiptunes performer Pixelh8 is capable of turning it into a chiptunes instrument.

Generative music (a phrase apparently coined by Brian Eno) refers to algorithmically produced music, in which a MIDI file, for example, is created according to a set of parameterised rules defined and configured by the music designer. Potentially, generative music can also respond adaptively to current or anticipated events within a game.

See also: Video Game chiptunes playlist

 

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Mapping the world with data Creative commons image Icon Locals and Tourists #1 (GTWA #2): London / CC BY-SA 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Mapping the world with data

Technology lets us remap our world better than ever before. Tony Hirst explores where the data comes from and what we might use it for.

Article
Tantrums in the internet playground Creative commons image Icon biatch0r under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Tantrums in the internet playground

When the Wikileaks website appeared to disappear off the internet, a few net-savvy people knew just where to find it. Tony Hirst explains why a name isn't an address.

Article
Make it Digital Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The BBC activity icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Make it Digital

To celebrate the BBC's Make It Digital season, which includes three co-productions with The Open University, we have collated together a wide array of digital delights for you to get stuck into!

Activity
Everything you've ever wondered about Tor Creative commons image Icon Matt Katzenbergerlicensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Everything you've ever wondered about Tor

We shine the light on the pros and cons of using Tor, a highly secure method of sending and receiving information across the Internet.

Article
Social networking Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team audio icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Social networking

The Long Now's Stewart Brand and The Open University's Magnus Ramage explore how social networking is changing all communications.

Audio
10 mins
The information economy Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

The information economy

The Open Minds programme explores the information economy.

Article
Simple Coding - Selection Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Nikolaev | Dreamstime.com activity icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Simple Coding - Selection

Further investigate the Python programming language by learning about conditions. 

Activity
Learning Programming from Scratch Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Dreamstime article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Learning Programming from Scratch

Scratch looks like child's play, is easy as child's play, but Tony Hirst thinks it's ideal for adults who have the itch to write computer programmes.

Article
Cybercrime: Mass surveillance Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Cybercrime: Mass surveillance

In 2013 Edward Snowden removed and leaked files from the National Security Agency which revealed numerous global surveillance programmes.

Video