The Null Device


The C64Music! blog has a detailed and quite interesting academic article on Commodore 64 game music, looking at it from technical, cultural, musicological and aesthetic perspectives:

One of the attractions to Commodore's games over those of its competitors was their unique musical aesthetic. With screaming guitar-like square wave solos, full-length songs, attempts to re-create traditional "rock band" line-ups in its use of tone channels, and its increased use of percussion, Commodore music was like rock to Nintendo's heavily looped disco aesthetic.
Martin Galway was the first to use sampled sounds on the C64, in the Arkanoid (Taito, 1987) theme song, as he explains: "I figured out how samples were played by hacking into someone else's code ... It was a drum synthesizer package called Digidrums, ... I couldn't really figure out where they got the sample data, just that they were wiggling the volume register, so I tried to make up my own drum sample sounds in realtime—which is the flatulence stuff that shipped in Arkanoid."

(The hand-coded digi-flatulence technique pioneered by Galway became a standard part of SID composition, to the point where the reFX QuadraSID (a software synthesiser based on the SID chip) has a built-in "Galway Noise" setting, where those with the desire to do so can enter a list of hex values which will be fed into the SID chip's registers in the appropriate fashion. It comes with preset Galway Noise values, which are triggered by MIDI channel 10, though don't sound particularly like a useful drum kit.)

The article goes on to mention that many C64 games used melodies lifted from existing pieces of music, both classical and pop (with scant regard for credit, let alone copyright), the use of looping on various levels, the use of generative music techniques to avoid repetition, the (somewhat limited) influence of the Nintendo game-music aesthetic on C64 game music, and interactive aspects of game music, such as phrases triggered on entering/leaving rooms.

Tetris (Mirrorsoft, 1987), for instance, was very different than the versions released on the NES, showing this very different aesthetic particular to the C64. Not having any selectable music (which was an option on the NES), Wally Beben composed all original music—one very long (about 26 minutes—13Kb) track of many segments. In order to save space (likely), certain micro and mesoloops of the track repeat: for instance the bass/percussion line that begins the song repeats just one bar for about half the track, with different melodies coming over top and being layered with various accompaniments. This accumulative form—the gradual building up of a groove by adding sequential units cumulatively (Spicer, 2004)—was closer to the electronic trance music beginning to emerge in the late 1980s than any game music aesthetic of the time.

(via c64music) chiptunes commodore 64 computer music music retrocomputing sid 0

Among the research projects being funded by the US military in the age of terrorism is sensors for identifying enemies by scent:

"Recent experimental results" show that chemical compounds in a mouse's "urinary" scent produces an "odortype" that's unique to each individual rodent, Darpa observes in its original solicitation for the project. "Although experimental data for humans is far less quantitative," the agency is hoping that a similarly "genetically determined," "exploitable chemosignal" can be found in people, too.
Once that marker is found, Darpa's proposed 2007 budget notes, the agency wants to know what "the impact of non-genetic factors (e.g., diet, stress, health, age) [have] on the signal." That could help figure out how to "robustly extract" the signal "from a complex and varied chemical background."
This is by no means a new concept: the Stasi, the East German secret police, kept scent samples from known dissidents and suspects. Though the Stasi used an almost Victorian low-tech method (swabs of cloth in glass jars), whereas this, if it works, will take the technique into the 21st century, by digitising scent signatures. Then miniaturised sensors, dropped by the trillion from unmanned drones over Waziristan or Venezuela or whatever the future theatre of war may be, can not only phone home if they find Osama (or whatever enemy the state of the day—or, indeed, any non-governmental agency with the resources to deploy such a system—needs to hunt down), but report back on what he's been having for dinner and what state of health he's in.

Coupled with the sort of data-mining/pattern-matching that gives PNAC technocrats woodies, the possibilities are even broader. What if there are certain molecular aspects of one's smell signature that correlate with interesting aspects of one's ideological beliefs or behavioral tendencies (for example, whether one is a devout Wahhabi Muslim, or a vegetarian, or possessed of an unusually high sex drive or a propensity to anger). A fine mist of sensors could find potential jihadists before they ever strap on a bomb; as it could well find other people worth keeping an eye on, in the interests of national security, global stability, public order and/or the status quo. It's the old SubGenius idea of "whiffreading", updated for the post-1998 and post-9/11 Homeland Security Age.

(via Boing Boing) psychoosmology stasi surveillance the long siege 0

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and former anti-nuclear activist, has changed his mind about nuclear energy, and now argues that mass adoption of nuclear power may be our only hope of averting catastrophic global warming:

Here's why: Wind and solar power have their place, but because they are intermittent and unpredictable they simply can't replace big baseload plants such as coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Natural gas, a fossil fuel, is too expensive already, and its price is too volatile to risk building big baseload plants. Given that hydroelectric resources are built pretty much to capacity, nuclear is, by elimination, the only viable substitute for coal. It's that simple.
Moore then goes through the most common objections to nuclear power and offers refutations for each one:
Nuclear plants are not safe. Although Three Mile Island was a success story, the accident at Chernobyl, 20 years ago this month, was not. But Chernobyl was an accident waiting to happen. This early model of Soviet reactor had no containment vessel, was an inherently bad design and its operators literally blew it up. The multi-agency U.N. Chernobyl Forum reported last year that 56 deaths could be directly attributed to the accident, most of those from radiation or burns suffered while fighting the fire. Tragic as those deaths were, they pale in comparison to the more than 5,000 coal-mining deaths that occur worldwide every year. No one has died of a radiation-related accident in the history of the U.S. civilian nuclear reactor program. (And although hundreds of uranium mine workers did die from radiation exposure underground in the early years of that industry, that problem was long ago corrected.)
Nuclear waste will be dangerous for thousands of years. Within 40 years, used fuel has less than one-thousandth of the radioactivity it had when it was removed from the reactor. And it is incorrect to call it waste, because 95 percent of the potential energy is still contained in the used fuel after the first cycle. Now that the United States has removed the ban on recycling used fuel, it will be possible to use that energy and to greatly reduce the amount of waste that needs treatment and disposal. Last month, Japan joined France, Britain and Russia in the nuclear-fuel-recycling business. The United States will not be far behind.
Nuclear reactors are vulnerable to terrorist attack. The six-feet-thick reinforced concrete containment vessel protects the contents from the outside as well as the inside. And even if a jumbo jet did crash into a reactor and breach the containment, the reactor would not explode. There are many types of facilities that are far more vulnerable, including liquid natural gas plants, chemical plants and numerous political targets.

(via /.) contrarianism environment greenpeace nuclear power 6

A Palestinian man blew himself up in self-defence in a restaurant in Tel Aviv, according to a spokesman of the Palestinian Hamas government. The bombing was not organised by Hamas, though defended by them as "self-defence", to near-universal condemnation. Which suggests that they've given up on trying to convince the West that they're reasonable people.

extremists israel palestine terrorism 0