What would a computer sound like if it could sing? Well, thanks to the artistic efforts of one Linus Åkesson, we can now listen to the voice of that vintage machine, the Commodore 64. The result, A Mind Is Born, is a dark, trippy audio-visual experience that you could imagine luring more than a few sun-starved, black-clad music obsessives to listen to it in an abandoned warehouse downtown.
I played my first ever #VideoGames on the Commodore 64 so I have pretty fond memories of the device, although I do remember that some soundtracks sounded oddly eerie though the machine's crunchy sound.
Watch and listen to this mind-blowing demo below:
The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit computer that was first released in 1982, and yet Åkesson has, through some black magic, managed to manipulate this relic in order to produce some pounding, glitchy techno music that sounds thoroughly modern (and dope).
So, how did Åkesson get the Commodore 64 to do this? And... why?
A Big Hit On The Scene
The demoscene is an international computer art subculture that is centered around producing demos: small, self-contained computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations. The point of a demo isn't just artistic expression, it's also a display of programming skills.
Quite a few demoscene artists end up using their talents in the video game industry, where their gift for creatively stretching the limits of hardware comes in handy. One particular example is the Finnish company Remedy Entertainment, known for the Max Payne series, which employs many former or active Finnish demosceners.
A Mind Is Born won first place at the Oldskool 4K Intro competition at this past week’s Revision 2017 event and it's a remarkable piece of work. One of the main challenges of making a demo is teasing as much as you can out of extremely limited hardware.
The Commodore 64 is basically an abacus nowadays, but it used to be serious business, as you can see from the 1982 commercial below:
A skilled demoscene artist can tease a cool audiovisual performance out of a tiny bit of code. Amazingly, the 2:21 long video that comprises A Mind Is Born uses no more than 256 bytes.
To accomplish this feat of programming, Åkesson generated his music semi-randomly through the program itself, rather than telling the program to play a planned sequence of notes, which would have taken up a lot more memory. In a sense, you could say that the demo is making it up as it goes along, almost like the Commodore 64 is expressing itself.
If you're interested in how Linus managed to achieve this feat, you can check out a detailed breakdown of the process on his website. There you can also download the track in both Commodore 64 ROM and MP3 format.
If, like me, you're digging the vibe of A Mind Is Born and want to see what it was up against, you can check out the other demos of the Revision 2017 event here.
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