back to article Chiptune to brighten your afternoon: Winning 8-bit throwback music revealed

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) has announced the winning entry for its BBC Micro-inspired music challenge. BBC Micro Model B BBC Micro Model B The winner, a 15-year-old brit, nabbed the top spot with a composition inspired by Toby Fox's Undertale, a delightfully retro-styled RPG. The audio is heady stuff, taking …


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  1. MiguelC Silver badge

    Wow, that Chucky Egg picture on the SoundCloud page really brought memories of entire childhood afternoons gone playing on my Spectrum.... None of my mates could ever beat my Chucky Egg 2 score :)

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Just an afternoon? Elite took out an entire summer holiday!

      1. Quando

        Just a summer holiday? Playing Spectrum games led to a 20 year career in game development!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Just 20 years? Owning a Dragon32 when I was 8 years old led me to work with computers for 42 years now. Starting selling my computing services when I was 14, never went to college and managed to get by on my good looks and charm...might account for my less than stunning contracts lately! Ha ha!

          1. Admiral Grace Hopper

            The Dragon 32 was bought for my brother, but I was the one who learned to code on it. I've been doing that sort of thing since then, more or less. Fine machines that spawned many career.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Just 42 years?

              Ee, when I were a lad, we used to grind out code 25 hours a day on ticker-tape made from discarded newspaper, and queue for time to run it on a CPU made from a shoe box, in the middle of a road.

              And you tell that to the kids of today, and they won't believe you.

              1. Jonathan Richards 1

                Re: Just 42 years?

                A shoebox...? in't middle o't road? That were luxury; our kid used to 'ave to write 4004 machine code on an old abacus dah'n t'pit.

          3. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

            Just 20yrs, I've been playing games for some 40yrs now... Started with pong as a toddler and progressed through, Atari 2600, Vic 20, Commodore 64, Spectrum 48k, Amiga, Atari ST, NES, SNES, Megadrive, Playstation, N64, Gamecube PS2, Xbox, Wii... and of course nearly 30yrs of PC gaming too... and that's just what I've owned.

            I've probably played on every generation of consoles since the 80's including some of the ones that really failed like the Jaguar and the Megadrive CD, Sega Dreamcast that never really went mainstream.

            It's been a fun life.

            The ones I remember the most though are the Jeff Minter games on the C64... Hover Bover, Revenge of the Mutant Camels and so forth...

            It's been a very, fun life.

          4. Falmari Silver badge

            CNC lathe

            Dragon32 Spectrums hah the mahine that led to my programming career was a CNC lathe.

    2. Peter Mount

      I still play Chuckie Egg every so often as I've still got 2 BBC's working & occasionally still write stuff for them.

  2. Jaspa

    Ron Hubbard?

    Surely Rob Hubbard, audio wizard and all round good egg and not a Scientoligist ?

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

      Re: Ron Hubbard?

      I can still remember his Monty on the Run theme tune, and the epic remix of it. Surely one of the best ever from the 8-bit era.

      That's Rob, not L. Ron BTW.

      1. W.S.Gosset

        Re: Ron Hubbard?

        Of course it's not L. Ron!

        L. Ron was an elf in Lord of the Rings. Purely for tax purposes, mind.

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Ron Hubbard?

          And not to be confused with his younger brother N. Ron, who also had some slightly unusual financial practices...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Ron Hubbard?

            Or their musical cousin Da Do Ron Ron. (Getting vaguely back on the musical topic :-))

      2. JerseyDaveC

        Re: Ron Hubbard?

        Yep, definitely Rob and not Ron. He also did "Hunter Patrol", which was very good (but not an 80s anthem like "Thing").

        There was some amazing music in the 80s - I remember the Commie 64 version of "Elite", which serenaded you with The Blue Danube while the docking computers docked you. And there was a game that was something to do with a train, which had a rendition of part of Jean-Michel Jarre's "Equinoxe" (I think it was Equinoxe V).

        1. Jaspa

          Re: Ron Hubbard?


          Try taxing me a little more ;)

        2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Ron Hubbard?

          But the Danube isn't blue, it's green...

        3. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

          Re: Ron Hubbard?

          Arrrggghhhh that train game... I remember it so well, the soundtrack did indeed include some Jean-Michel Jarre.

          But I'll be buggered if I can remember what it was called... I owned it, and it had a sequel on the C64 too.

          It's going to bug the crap out of me for the rest of the day.

          I've even been trawling through wikipedia lists of all C64 games trying to find it... but there's thousands.

          1. Jaspa

            Re: Ron Hubbard?



        4. Jonathan Richards 1

          Unexpected Strauss

          > The Blue Danube

          That was one of the most startling moments ever: I was playing C64 Elite at about two in the morning, and had gone through the grind of getting enough funds for the Docking Computer. The first time I used it, I nearly fell off the chair.

      3. John Riddoch

        Re: Ron Hubbard?

        Monty on the Run was an excellent soundtrack - there's a band "Press Play On Tape" who do "real life" covers of 80s game music, it's worth a listen to their version too.

      4. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ron Hubbard?

        "I can still remember his Monty on the Run theme tune"

        The Commando theme is the definitive Hubbard tune to me.

        Good game too, although Rambo and Who Dares Wins 2 were better (in the same game type).

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Monty On The Run

          Damn you all to hell, that damn earworm is creeping into my skull.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Indulging my feelings of nostalgia and refusing to consult the internet.... didn't the BBC micro have an ENVELOPE command to define sounds? I seem to remember hijacking the keyboard interrupt to play music while my home brew game loaded (CHAIN?) from tape...... a mis-spent youth....

    Of course I tell my own children that they need to pay more outside :-)

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      The Envelope command allowed you to set the Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release of notes queued up to the sound chip. It was actually a software feature of the BBC Micro, not a feature of the sound chip, and was interrupt driven by a timer. This would be applied over a note for which you could specify shape of the wave form as sawtooth, square or sine wave, and the pitch, and you could do this for all of the three voices. The noise channel could also have an envelope specified, but it worked a bit differently as you didn't select a wave form, but a type of noise.

      Another trick you could do was to synchronise the voices, so you could program them, and then trigger them together, something that enabled more control when you were generating sound from basic.

      ADSR was a common feature on synthesizers at the time. I remember that I had a Casio VL-Tone micro keyboard (a bit like a strange calculator with a one-channel plus percussion sound system grafted on) which allowed you to use it.

      This sample actually sounds more like pulse code modulation of the sort that you found on the Spectrum which did not have a dedicated sound generator. I was listening to it, and found it reminiscent of that style of sound. I actually never worked out how it worked, but I know that it was possible as the Computer Concepts Speech! software voice system used it.

      What made the Commodore 64 SID chip more capable was that things like envelope control and queueing of notes were in hardware, and there were more pre-set waveforms and noise types that you could choose from. It meant that the processor was less bothered by running the sound system than in the BBC, which helped as the 6510 processor in the C64 was clocked more slowly than the 6502 in the BBC micro.

      1. JerseyDaveC

        There was a chap called (I think) Paul Layzell, who did some cool music in the 1980s on the BBC Micro. "Sweet Dreams are Made of This" and the theme from "Hill Street Blues" are the two I remember.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          You may find that he used either a Acorn Music 500 or a Hybrid Music 5000 (effectively the same things) synthesiser add-on to the BBC micro. (

          This turned the BEEB into a fully functional computer controlled multi-voice synthesiser, able to produce professional grade music.

        2. Sammy Smalls

          'Swedre' was something that a friend had in a ROM. Happy Days.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I remember spending an afternoon typing in the code to play "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" on an Acorn Electron. I had a 6502 co-pro on that one, though I don't think I used it for that piece. I do remember using it to recode a maze game that originally was just a wire frame into one with solid (and shaded) walls. All the kit is still in my attic, most repacked into original boxes, but I don't think I would be able to remember how it all went together: the Electron, Plus1 extension with sideways RAM and two vacant slots for cartridges (one for the co-pro), Plus3 3.5" FDD, 5.14" FDD. Two of the plug in cartridges were for a word processor and a spreadsheet.

          I planned to upgrade it to the Archimedes, for which Acorn were also going to supply a PC board (to give a degree of compatibility with MS-DOS software that was looking to become the business standard. However, Acorn dropped the HW part and went to a software emulator. Since I was going to need the PC side for work, I ended up going an Amstrad - nowhere near as powerful but, with space for extension cards (one being a second HDD), it made more sense as my next step. My next couple of PCs were home assembled, before going to laptops for a few years, and then over to Mac (albeit with a Windows VM to ease the transition)!

        4. Steve K

          Tim Sorrell?

          I had some done by a chap called Tim Sorrell in circa 1984

          "Sweet Dreams are made of this" and "Golden Brown" are 2 that spring to mind.

          I think they used DATA statements at the end of the program to hold the note data.

        5. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Damn You All To Hell Part II

          I'm getting flashbacks of attending Computer Tradeshow's as an exhibitor around 196/87, with various games & music being played on 8 bit Micros, including but not limited to:

          Biggles (Lyrics by Jon Anderson, being sampled to add to the torture).

          Status Quo - In The Army Now.

          Jean-Michel Jarre (Various).

          The scream of the players Avatar in Space Harrier every 15 - 30 seconds on 12 full sized games cabinets directly beneath our stand at Earls Court.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sine waves were not available on an unexpanded BBC Micro, you might be thinking of another type of computer or an expansion board. The plain BBC was square wave only (apart from the noise channel).

        The envelope parameters did however let you specify pitch changes as well as volume, so you could define notes that warbled.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          How time fades the memory. I was so sure that it could generate different waveforms that I didn't look it up before I posted. But it is probably 35 years since I played with sound on any system.

          The only other system I did any significant work on was a ZX81 with the Quicksilva sound board, which used a General Instruments AY3-8910. But looking that up, even that could not generate a sine wave, but could produce various square and triangular waveforms.

          One of my University electronics practicals was to get a KIM-1 with a simple D-A converter to generate a sine wave (in 6502 machine code). The easiest way was to have a pre-computed lookup table of values, but a basic KIM-1 only had 1KB of memory, and I seem to remember that not all of that was available. The result was that most of my fellow students had a relatively poor resolution sine wave, as they coded samples for the entire cycle of the sine wave, but I realised that you only needed a quarter cycle, as you could scan it up and down and negate it to get the entire cycle. Made the programming a bit more complex, and it was necessary to take care of the number of clock ticks taken to generate each quarter cycle.

          IIRC, I got it near tick perfect for each quarter cycle, but I think there was one extra instruction (two ticks maybe) during the crossover stopping it being perfect, and I could not easily code around it without limiting the maximum frequency it could generate (part of the marks we for the maximum frequency you could generate)

          On a related note, I think I used either a Sinclair Cambridge Programmable or an original TI-57 (the LED version) to generate the lookup table in hex. My thoughts are it was the Sinclair, because the TI-57 only worked for a short time, and I took it back under warrantee. That Sinclair should be around somewhere, I would not have thrown it out. I wonder where it is?

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


            I have to note that I was working on the KIM-1 before any of the other work with the ZX81 or the BBC Micro,

  4. JohnG are an Austrian group with tracks "8 Bits" and "I love 64" that seem appropriate to this article.

    1. gotes

      I like it, but chip tune it ain't.

  5. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    Talking of classics...

    The music for Spectrum version of Robocop will always be a nostalgic highlight. Transcends the game itself massively.

  6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    15? Well done!

    Maybe there is hope for the next generation :-)

    I'd like to see him write a blurb about how he did it. Very impressive, and it does leave you wanting to hear more.

    // wearing my MOOG t-shirt today

  7. juice

    Ah, chiptune

    I've had much fun over the years, attending various chiptune-related events. There is something spectacular about primitive electronic music being fed through really loud speakers...

    One interesting spin off (of sorts) is the Algorave, where people build music in real time via a customised programming language.

    The most common approach (in brief) is that you edit a text file, in which each line represents a channel of music, and every time you save the file, the music generator updates it's configuration.

    This is from the first one I attended, back in 2013.

    And they're still going strong - there's one planned for Manchester, later this month!

  8. Chewi
    Thumb Up

    SID metal

    Good stuff! If you like your tunes on the heavier side, check out Sweden's Machinae Supremacy. They really rock that SID. They do some amazing covers too. A Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies mash-up? Oh god, yes.

  9. Sloppy Crapmonster

    I love chiptune

    First of all,

    Individual artists? Knife City, Jellica, The J. Arthur Keenes Band, Nullsleep, too many more to mention

    Video games lost something when you could stream digital audio instead of generating your soundtrack on a synthesizer. Not that current games are bad, but there was something special about everything coming out of your game being done on-the-fly.

  10. ClockworkOwl

    General Instruments...

    ...were also involved with the AY-3-891x range.

    This was my first digital electronics project, point to point wiring a sound card with an AY-3-8910, associated logic and addressing for the NASCOM2 we had.

    Worked as well, though it was a bit of a pain to use without any set BASIC instructions...

    Later versions of this chip were used in quite a few machines.

  11. Jow Blob

    I was at one of the ITeC's (Youth Training Scheme centre for 16 year old delinquents) in the 80's and someone brought in the code for a Model B to play The Stranglers Golden Brown. Bleeding awesome.

    I have yet to track it down to play on an emulator :(

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Golden Brown is disk JJR1 here.

  12. spireite Silver badge

    Old barstewards come here to die....

    My god, I never realised so many of us frequented ElReg.... but this comments sections has me me realise we're not alone.

    I particularly love the Pythons Yorkshireman sketch (ElReg style) previously in the comments

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