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Synthcart Beat Contest

Update - February 23, 2002:

Paul Slocum has chosen the three winners for the Synthcart Beat Contest! Out of the many wonderful beats submitted, these are the three that will garner their creators a free Synthcart:

We encourage you to listen to the three winners by simply clicking on the above links. And if you want to listen to all the submissions, follow this link to the bottom of the page. Remember, these beats were recorded straight from an Atari 2600! Paul will also be including additional entries on the Synthcart, and will be announcing the complete list of beats to be included in a few days. If you'd like to discuss the contest results with other AtariAge visitors and Paul Slocum, please visit our Contests Forum.

We thank everyone who took the time to submit entries and hope that you all had fun!

Paul Slocum and AtariAge are sponsoring a contest that will allow you to contribute to Paul's upcoming Synthcart cartridge for the Atari 2600. Paul has created a Beat Box Programming Kit that will allow anyone to create beats that can then be played on a real 2600.

Three winners will be chosen by Paul among those who submit beats that are included with the Synthcart. Those winners will receive a free Synthcart! Each contestant may only win one cartridge. However, Paul has room to fit over 30 beats on the Synthcart, so even if you're not one of the lucky winners, your beats can still be included! More information on how to enter the contest can be found below.

The Synthcart is a rather unique cartridge that allows you to play music on the Atari 2600 using a pair of keyboard controllers. Each keyboard controller controls one of the two oscillators in the Atari 2600. Some features of the Synthcart include:

  • Play using an assortment of familiar Atari sounds
  • Use two different sound types at a time, one assigned to each controller
  • Intelligent voice management constantly reassigns the two oscillators for maximum perceived polyphony
  • 8th, 16th, and 32nd note arpeggiator
  • Can arpeggiate both oscillators simultaneously
  • Beat Box with many preprogrammed beats and fills
  • Play two beats simultaneously to create custom beats
  • Two tremelo settings
  • Four attack/release settings
  • User interface designed so that you can program and play the synth without a TV. Modify your Atari with an audio out, and you just need your Atari and an amp.

More detailed information about the Synthcart and its capabilities can be found on the Synthcart Home Page.

Here are some sample beats that Paul Slocum has created. These are examples of live, real-time output from a single Atari 2600. The melodies in the first two examples are being played live while accompanied by programmed beats. The third example is all programmed beats with the Atari output run through reverb and a filter.

There are some additional examples below.

The contest will run until Midnight (CST), Sunday, February 17th, 2002. All submissions must be received by this time! Paul Slocum will choose the winning entry after the contest deadline has passed.

How To Enter

In order to create beats that can be used with the Synthcart, you'll need to download the Beat Box Programming Kit:

Beat Box Programming Kit

Instructions for using the kit are as follows (they are also in the Readme.txt file included with the kit):

The beat player Atari program is the beats.bin file. This will run in emulators, can be loaded into the Cuttle Cart, loaded into a Supercharger with the WPlayBin program, or burned on an EPROM.

The beat player supports two beats. Turn on/off the two beats individually using the left and right difficulty switches. The B&W/Color switch controls the tempo. To edit the beats and make your own, open the beatdata.h file in a text editor. Read the instructions in the file, and make your modifications.

After you have modified the beatdata.h file, save it and then run asm.bat. This will re-compile the beats.bin file. Re-open beats.bin in your emulator or re-load it on your Atari and see what your beats sound like.

Len Charest has created a web-based graphical interface for generating the beatdata.h file required to enter the Synthcart Beat Programming Contest. This tool allows you to create new beats using a fairly intuitive interface, and there's even help available should you need it.

Here are some tips from Synthcart's creator, Paul Slocum:

The beat player program actually has the space for two beats to be programmed, and is capable of playing both of them simultaneously. The Synthcart is also capable of playing two beats at once, so try programming two beats that work together.

Listen to example (combine.mp3)

A "beat" doesn't have to necessarily sound like a drum beat. The beat player is capable of producing many different kinds of sounds, so you can do bass lines, note patterns, or just about any crazy thing you can think of.

Listen to example (weirdness.mp3)

Although the beat player doesn't support it, the Synthcart will also support fills. When playing a beat, every fourth measure the Synthcart will play an alternate version of the beat. If you submit a beat, you may (but are not required to) submit an alternate version of the beat for me to use as a fill.

Listen to an example (fill.mp3)

Submission Guidelines:

  • Once you have created some beats you are happy with, you can submit them by emailing the beatdata.h file to [email protected]. You can also just copy the beat data text into an e-mail and send it.
  • Each submitter is limited to a maximum of five entries. If after submitting five entries you'd like to replace one of your existing beats (presumably with one you like better), we'll allow that.
  • Submissions will be posted publicly on this page as we receive them.
  • You can discuss this contest with other AtariAge visitors and Paul Slocum in our Contests Forum.
  • The contest ends at Midnight (CST), Sunday, February 17th, 2002! All submissions must be received by this date!

Good luck!

Visit the Synthcart Home Page
Click for larger screenshots
Click for larger screenshots
Click for larger screenshots

Beat Submissions

Adam Lewis:
Jeff Gregory:
Chris Johnson:
R. Stevens:
  • Submission #1 - John Cage's I Ching Random number set combined with "Go Hang a Salami Im a lasagna hog" ANSI data
  • Submission #2 - Pascal's Triangle number set combined with "Natasha lived as a devil ah Satan" ANSI data
Magnus Ultramagnussen:
Randy Ball:
Matt Gauslin:
Scott Kinnebrew:
Hernan Callo: