COMPUTE!'s Sidplayer is a music system created by Craig Chamberlain and Harry Bratt for the Commodore 64 home computer. Sidplayer was the most popular Commodore 64 music system in the U.S., as measured by the number of songs available for download on services such as Compuserve and Q-Link (the forerunner to AOL).
The Sidplayer music system was featured in books published by COMPUTE! Books. The software included a song editor and a standalone player to create and play songs using the MOS 6581 SID (Sound Interface Device) chip, the 3-voice sound chip in the Commodore 64 computer.
This web site records the history of COMPUTE!'s Sidplayer and preserves some of the first songs created for this music system.
Read about some of the people involved in the early history of COMPUTE!'s Sidplayer.
COMPUTE!'s Gazette Sid Collection offers .zip files of thousands of Sidplayer .mus and related files archived by Peter Weighill. (Sidplayer was published in books by the same company that published COMPUTE! and COMPUTE!'s Gazette magazines, but Sidplayer never appeared in the Gazette, even though it is now known by that association.)
The Sidplayer music system published by COMPUTE! Books was not the only music system for the Commodore 64. Some professional composers used their own proprietary music systems to create music for commercial game programs. Editor programs for creating this music were not distributed at the time. The High Voltage SID Collection site offers information about the awesome ML-based game music SID artists such as Rob Hubbard.
Here are some important dates and events in the history of COMPUTE!'s Sidplayer, as best as I can remember them (corrections and additions are welcome).
|1981||Bob Yannes, system architect for the Commodore 64, in January starts designing a "synthesizer on a chip" to sell to whoever wants to make "the world's best video game." Completed in November, it is labeled the MOS 6581 chip and known as SID for Sound Interface Device.|
|May, 1981||High school students Harry Bratt and Craig Chamberlain meet each other at a career interest exploring seminar sponsored by Federal Mogul Corporation.|
|1982||The Commodore 64, using the SID chip, is shown at the Winter CES show in January. Volume shipment begins in August.|
|October, 1982||Craig and Harry publish the Pokey Player music system for the Atari home computer in SoftSide magazine. It is named for the POKEY chip in the Atari. This chip controls the POts (short for potentiometers, referring to paddle game controllers) and the KEYboard and also includes four tone generators. Craig is now a student at The University of Michigan.|
|April, 1983||Scott Card, editor at COMPUTE! Books, contacts Craig about rewriting Pokey Player and publishing it in book form. Sheldon Leemon points out that the new Commodore 64 offers greater opportunities than the established Atari market. Craig signs a contract with COMPUTE! Books for two books, "All About the Commodore 64, Volumes One and Two." Volume One is a tutorial on the BASIC language. Craig submits the text for Volume One just before Scott Card leaves COMPUTE!. Scott Card goes on to write award-winning science fiction books as Orson Scott Card.|
|Fall, 1983||Craig starts working on the assembly language portions of Sidplayer. Harry Bratt starts attending The University of Michigan and continues developing the original Sidplayer Editor in BASIC. The first Sidplayer song, "Peanuts" is created by fellow U of M student Steve Maggs using an early version of the Sidplayer Editor.|
|1985||The original Sidplayer is published as Part 3 of the book "All About the Commodore 64, Volume Two" by Craig Chamberlain, a COMPUTE! Books publication.|
|1985||The first Sidplayer songs are posted to the Delphi online service, in the MANiac section managed by Ellen Kaufman. I naively thought we would be able to number all of the Sidplayer songs. I was wrong.|
|1986||The Enhanced Sidplayer is published in the book "COMPUTE!'s Music System for the Commodore 128 & 64" by Craig Chamberlain, a COMPUTE! Books publication. It includes a new Sidplayer Editor written entirely in assembly language.|
|1987?||Mark Dickenson publishes a method for soldering a second SID chip into the Commodore 64 for stereo sound.|
|early 1987||Craig proposes the idea of a Sidplayer get-together at a meeting of the Commodore user group in Columbus, Ohio.|
|June 27, 1987||The first SID-Fest is held in Columbus, Ohio.|
|1988||Kent Sullivan has the idea of making a cartridge containing a second SID chip, as an alternative to soldering the SID chip into the Commodore 64. Rick Washburne designs the circuit board, Kent coordinates the acquisition of the parts and the manufacturing, and the SID Symphony Stereo Cartridge is sold by Dr. Evil Laboratories.|
|1988||SID-Fests are held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia.|
|June 23-25, 1989||A SID-Fest is held in New Orleans, Louisiana.|
|September, 1989||Q-Link begins supporting The Music Connection which allows playing Sidplayer songs while the user is online. The last I heard, Q-Link had more than 5,000 Sidplayer songs available for download, consuming more than half of Q-Link's online storage.|
|November, 1989||A SID-Fest is held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.|
|1990||A SID-Fest is held in Las Vegas, Nevada.|
|1991||Dr. Evil Laboratories sells the rights to the SID Symphony stereo cartridge to Creative Micro Design.|
|June, 1991||A SID-Fest is held in Miami, Florida.|
For a very interesting article about the design of the Commodore 64 and the SID chip, see "Design case history: the Commodore 64" in IEEE Spectrum, March, 1985.
The following is an excerpt from the article "Bach to The Future" by John Ryan, published in the April 1990 issue of RUN magazine. The full article listed the most popular music systems for the Commodore 64, and described the features and support of the Enhanced Sidplayer and the SID Symphony Stereo Cartridge.
|RUN magazine excerpt|
While looking through old files in preparing to create this web page, I discovered the following article that I wrote in 1988. It does a good job of explaining why Sidplayer became popular and how the Sid Editor worked.
|Sidplayer History and Promotional Information|
See what other people have to say about COMPUTE!'s Sidplayer in the guest book.
revised January 9, 2021 17:00 EST