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


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!

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

Conditionals and Compound Statements Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Dreamstime article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Conditionals and Compound Statements

Learn how to execute several actions at once by using compound statements.

How Bitcoin works Creative commons image Icon Richard-G under CC BY 2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

How Bitcoin works

Everything you need to know to get started with Bitcoin. 

Five ways to... make a difference online Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Five ways to... make a difference online

The power of the Internet can change the world. Learn five ways to make a difference online

What is a password manager - and should I be using one? Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: stevepb article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

What is a password manager - and should I be using one?

Password managers can make keeping track of your online security a little easier. But are the downsides to using them?

The Online Gamble Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

The Online Gamble

What are the rules that apply for a gambling business when it moves online?

Digital skills Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Andrey Popov | activity icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Digital skills

Are you looking to expand your digital skills?

What are your chances during a zombie apocalypse? Creative commons image Icon Sam Javanrouh under CC BY-NC 2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

What are your chances during a zombie apocalypse?

According to mathematics we'd all die in a zombie apocalypse but nature and computer science offer us more optimistic outcomes. 

Computers and computer systems Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 2 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Computers and computer systems

Computers and processors are ubiquitous in everyday life, and they're not only found in your PC. This free course, Computers and computer systems, introduces the different parts of a computer system and their use of binary code. Using the examples of kitchen scales, a digital camera and a computer artwork the course, with the help of flowcharts, discusses how computers process data and instructions .

Free course
20 hrs
Riding on eBay's coat-tails Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Dreamstime article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Riding on eBay's coat-tails

Elizabeth Daniel explores the growth of a piggy back economy created as online businesses grow up that add an extra, personal touch to other companies' offerings.