[islandlabs] Local SID chip source

C. Chris Peters cchrispeters at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 13 07:51:58 EST 2010

For Jonathan and those interested,

Through a strange double twist of fate, I might be able to get a hold of some old Sound Interface Device (SID) chips used in the Commodore 64 and other early "home computer" machines marketed during the mid 1980's. A college friend of mine has a brother who had a business selling computer peripherals. His wife and daughter happen to be in my daughter's religion class. 

Jonathan mentioned last Wednesday that he and a few others where working on a project involving SID chips. Just for giggles I asked my fiend's brother's wife, if her husband had any old stock items like the SID chip and gave her my business card.

Well, he called back last night after I went to bed and left a message. I have his number and I will try to call him today to try to find out what (if anything) he may still have. I should know more later today.

Please reply to this email if you want me to pursue this any further.

C. Chris Peters

From: "Burns, William" <burns at cshl.edu>
To: Island Labs main mailing list <list at islandlabs.org>
Cc: cchrispeters at yahoo.com
Sent: Fri, January 8, 2010 9:01:55 PM
Subject: FW: IslandLabs Music Meeting

I'm sure you could teach us a lot.
No-one at IslandLabs has done anything like the stuff you're doing.
When you say audio filter, I think of simple high-pass, low-pass filters that can be done w/ capacitors.
Is that what you're thinking, or are you thinking of chips w/ "effects" filters?
I'm not sure if I can tell you anything useful re: a business model.
If education is your goal, you might consider publishing a book that includes all your designs.
That way there'd be book revenue.
If you want to sell a kit, most people would want it to be a *complete* kit.
I see what you're saying now about a concept where people could pick-and-choose the parts the want. They could buy their own cabinet elsewhere, etc.
But I think some people would be turned off if they didn't have the option of buying the whole thing from one source.
If you really want people to buy their own stuff, you could set a high price on a complete kit, and recommend other sources for lower pricing.
Are any components in your prototypes mounted thru-hole style, or is everything breadboarded?
I'm thinking that it might be possible to mill a reusable template that could be used to mask a copper-clad board before acid-etching.
That way, for low volumes, you could do reliable PCB production at home.
In fact (if you want) you could ship a template along w/ a finished PCB so people have the option of making more of them.

From: C. Chris Peters [mailto:cchrispeters at yahoo.com] 
Sent: Friday, January 08, 2010 10:08 AM
To: Burns, William
Subject: Re: IslandLabs Music Meeting

Hi Bill,
I had fun and got some great feedback on our educational classroom synthesizer project.
Inspired from Wednesday’s meeting, I discussed with my partner Ron the possibility of creating a desktop synthesizer that will be available as an educational kit or classroom educational tool. The CB 6000 prototype I brought to the meeting we put together about four years ago. We had hoped that we could get some grant money to fund a community-based educational project where high school or college students interested in music and/or science could learn to build their own instruments. Unfortunately we found that our model was a bit over the heads of our potential student population. We used the experience we had building the CB 6000 to create four other hardware-based educational devices, that when patched together, make up a professional modular analog synthesizer instrument on par with the models made by Moog, Buchla, Oberheim and ARP from the 1970s area. You have seen our instruments played on WUSB FSRT broadcasts.
Over the years, we have been looking at several business models of musical instrument manufacturers. There is plenty of information about them online and in text books. The original Serge Modular systems were actually made by a team of college students and an engineer as a group project and sort of social experiment. Currently there are several Modular synthesizer makers we have been watching that do the bulk of their business online. Typically customers order kits and build their own instruments (PAIA, Blacet Research, MOTM, Moog)) or order pre-assembled modules (Synthesizers.com, Modcan, Doefer). 
The problem with kit building is that you get very skilled at soldering, cutting wires and following instructions but often haven't a clue about what you are doing or get to learn about the concepts and technology behind what you are building.. This may be ambitious on our part, but we would like to offer some sort of technical curricula that at least in some way attempts to explain the appropriate concepts involved. 
One of my favorite boutique electronic musical instrument sites to find out what is currently happening in the marketplace is http://www..analoguehaven.com/. You can see some very interesting, bizarre and original instruments there.
Being primarily hardware guys who started building things in the 1980s neither Ron nor I are familiar with the more recent DSP or circuit simulation technology that is presently being taught in schools. For the most part we are pretty good at "rolling our own" circuit designs or adapting documented designs from the past to fit our purposes. Skills that we are afraid are being lost in today’s world and possibly overlooked in many of today’s education programs.
One of our biggest problems is that many of the classic analog chips are no longer made. NOS (new old stock), is getting harder to find and getting more expensive to buy. Their replacements are often mulit-purpose chips that are built to do many more things than we need them to do.
Our instruments are intended to encourage experimentation, exploration and user serviceability. We would like to provide a sort of open source manufacturing environment similar to the online kit makers to make our instruments generally available, mainly because Ron and I are designers and educators, not wishing to become manufacturers. What we want to offer creatively and educationally with our instruments seems to run against current manufacturing trends and philosophies. We feel that musical instruments are works of art and should be able to be used and maintained far longer than the average lifespan of a computer operating system.
As for the new desktop instrument we are considering, we are thinking of copyrighting the PC boards and front panel artwork. We would provide complete schematics and assembly instructions online. To pay for the site and our time, we would only sell printed front panels and unstuffed PC boards to interested customers.. It is up to the customer to buy a recommended cabinet, all components and perform all the necessary assembly work. We would make sure that we use components that are readily available from mail order suppliers like Digikey.
So far we are thinking of using a PIC chip for envelope (attack, decay, sustain) functions and a TC9400 (voltage to frequency / frequency to voltage converter) for tone generation. We have yet to find an authentic sounding or musically useful filter chip that isn't too expensive, DSP or discontinued, we are considering building a simplified version of the classic Moog ladder low pass filter using discrete components. We chose this filter because there is a lot of information about its design online its design at this point is public domain, and for its characteristic analog synth sound. If we can get the part count down effectively, we feel that building this filter Other alternative suggestions to this are welcome., along with a proper discussion on differential equations, would be a worthwhile experience for many engineering students and hobbyists. 
Now that you have some background about what Ron and I are trying to accomplish, we are hoping that some of you at Island Labs might take an interest in our project. We would appreciate any suggestions, comments and creative insights you might have. If any of you are interested in seeing or working with our four other instrument prototypes or would like to use the sounds they make in a creative project, as part of a music lesson or science lesson, please let me know.

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