2011
06.05

The last SID 8580 on eBay

Going once… Going twice… Sold!

Go on, have a look.

Look at the going price. Then look at the item. Then have an extra look at the going price again just to confirm that the buyer is a complete nutter, and should be locked away for the rest of his life.
I’ll tell you a secret: I bid only slightly less than the going price on that one. And whoever overbid me seemed determined, so I let it go.
I have managed to secure two now, though I’d have to cannibalise a working Commodore C64C to get to one of those. This counts as a kind of sacrilege in my book, but I could do it if I really need to.
The 6581s I have are probably good enough for me, though.

“What on earth are you talking about you nutcase? Have you gone completely bonkers? ¬£30 for a stupid, old chip?”

Yes. Well. Except that we are talking about one of the more famous microchips in computing history. Have a listen to this:

Audio MP3

This is the theme music from Turbo Outrun. A game released in 1989 for the Commodore 64. The C64 itself was released in 1982. That is the MOS 6581 (SID) chip from a C64 playing that music. As far as I know, no other computer or even game console from the 8-bit era came even close to the sound you could get out of that chip. It still holds a lot of nostalgia to many, and most of all, it doesn’t just sound good compared to anything from that era. No, it still sounds good today.

So even today, people are creating synthesisers based on these chips, and creating music with it. Unfortunately:

1. While the C64 may be the single best selling computer of all time, it went out of production in 1994. The SID went with it, I assume.
2. Anyone with even a glimmer of geek left in them will find it hard to let go of a working C64, or even to cannibalise one for their own use.
3. If you’re not careful, it’s quite easy to burn out a SID.
4. Some people are creating synthesisers built for 8 chips or more. (Greedy bastards! But hopefully they’re doing some amazing stuff with them.)

Putting this all together, you end up with a bit of a shortage of SID chips. Thus the sometimes insane prices. Especially, it seems, for the 8580, as the bugs that were ironed out in it make it better for synth use.
Ironically, as some will recall, the removal of a certain bug in the 8580 revision also broke speech synthesis for many games (Turbo Outrun, for instance) on the C64. The SID was never designed for speech synthesis, but a bug with volume control in the 6581 made it possible. And that was exploited to great effect. A way was found to do it on the 8580 as I recall having read. But for that revision of the chip, speech was at least broken on all games and applications released until then.

Oh well. I should now at least have sufficient spares to build myself a MIDIbox SID for my accordion. The rest of the necessary parts are all standard, currently made electronics.

It’s enough to make me go all giddy inside…

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