The future of the NES synth

May 10, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized 

Watch it here >>

Here is what the author has to say about it:

I am prototyping, designing and assembling a special cartridge called Chip Maestro which can be used in any Nintendo Entertainment System. This cartridge will accept a MIDI input from any instrument, and by passing the MIDI notes through the NES, the cartridge will make the NES synthesize 8-bits of awesome in true NES squarewavey goodness. See the video for more details!

Most chiptune artists today use ‘software synths’ to try and recreate the sound we grew to love. By providing artists with a low-cost and easy to use hardware solution, they can use a real NES to compose their music, and even play it live on stage! And if you don’t have a MIDI instrument, don’t worry; you can use your PC with an inexpensive USB-MIDI converter, or create your own instrument using Arduinos or other microcontrollers that can output MIDI, so you can turn anything into an 8-bit instrument!

Getting this cartridge into the hands of musicians takes a bit of funding. All the money raised will go towards finishing the prototype, a thorough debugging, and beginning production. This entire project will be showcased on Kickstarter as well as my site, and every backer will get backdoor access to my build logs. And, best of all, it will all be open source! Yes, even though there is money involved, I am still putting all my schematics and code on the internet! This way people can improve on my design, and remix it into their works. These remixes come back to me, and I can improve the original product based on those works. It’s an endless cycle of creativity, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Background on the NES:

The Nintendo Entertainment System (also called NES or Nintendo) is an 8-bit video game console that was released by Nintendo in North America during 1985, in Europe during 1986 and Australia in 1987. In most of Asia, including Japan (where it was first launched in 1983), China, Vietnam, Singapore, Middle East and Hong Kong, it was released as the Family Computer . In South Korea, it was known as the Hyundai Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. In Russia, an unlicensed clone was manufactured called Dendy (Де́нди). A clone that was popular in Eastern Europe in the 1990s was the Super Design Ending-Man BS-500 AS, also known as Terminator. Similarly in India, clones were popular by the names of Little Master and Wiz Kid, in Poland there also was a clone produced, called Pegasus. in Argentina, the clone was called Family Game. It was succeeded by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

As the best-selling gaming console of its time, the NES helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983, and set the standard for subsequent consoles of its generation. With the NES, Nintendo introduced a now-standard business model of licensing third-party developers, authorizing them to produce and distribute software for Nintendo’s platform.In 2009, the Nintendo Entertainment System was named the single greatest video game console in history by IGN, out of a field of 25. 2010 marked the system’s 25th anniversary, which was officially celebrated by Nintendo of America’s magazine Nintendo Power in issue #260 (November 2010) with a special 26-page tribute section. Other video game publications also featured articles looking back at 25 years of the NES, and its impact in the video game console market.

Technical details:

I am exploiting the 2a03 chip inside the NES by keeping it in an infinite loop, and injected note addresses and data using opcodes derived from NES note tables. The internal circuitry inside the cartridge translates MIDI note data into NES note opcodes, and sends that to the 2a03 APU, which synthesizes the notes on the appropriate channel. Full technical details will be up in a week, and all backers will receive a link to a secret page with all the details!

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