How to turn a graphing calculator into a 1-bit music machine

19 Oct 2015

With the help of a small bit of open-source software and a 20-year-old graphing calculator, you can turn it into a sweet 1-bit music machine.

In this particular instance, which was recorded on YouTube, user The Lowest Fidelity used his rather old Texas Instruments calculator to create a musical masterpiece.

According to Ars Technica, a German developer organisation called the Irrlicht Project created the calculator mod called Houston Tracker 2, which adds a sequencer and drum machine to the TI-82, 83, 83+, and 84+ range of calculators.

The developers have released the software online in open source for any frustrated student or engineer to kill some time by building their own music marvels.

The Houston Tracker 2 software includes some pretty nifty features, including a 16-bit frequency precision, 64 drum/fx patterns, as well as up to 128 note patterns.

I’m not gonna lie, I wouldn’t even dare to attempt to create any music like what we see here, but it certainly takes you back to the glory days of ’80s and ’90s computer games, although even I think games wouldn’t have had music as detailed as this.

Calculator keys image via Shutterstock

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic