Commodore PetSynth: Hardcore Chiptunes
By James Grahame
Chiron writes, "I've written software that turns an old Commodore PET into a playable synth. I've created [a] website and have released it as GPL open-source software, so anyone can download it, use it, share it, and modify it if they're interested. The original PET didn't have a dedicated sound chip, so the vibrato, distortion, and drums sounds represent unique innovations."
Check out the audio demo -- it's surprisingly good considering the hardware limitations. Man, how I wish this had been available in 1984 when my school had a couple of PET 4032s in a large closet that had been hastily converted into a computer lab.
The PET 4032 ($1295) was released in 1980 as an upscale version of the original PET 2001. It featured a 40 x 25 character 9-inch monochrome screen, 32K of RAM, built in BASIC and a versatile IEEE-488 port that allowed you to chain up to 15 devices. The machine was clearly targeted at business and educational institutions since its audio capabilities were limited to a tiny piezoelectric buzzer and the character graphics were crude even by early 80s standards.
I fear the potential audience for PetSynth is constrained by the number of functional Commodore PETs lurking in attics and basements. Of course, that just makes it cooler.