In music clubs and dorm rooms around the world, intrepid geeks are transforming Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy system into a do-it-yourself musical instrument. The device can be made to sequence its embedded sounds – digital blips and bleeps of the Donkey Kong sort – as if it were a synthesizer.
First you find a programmable Game Boy flash memory cartridge and hook it up to your PC. Then you download a “chiptunes” music program, some of which are freely available, and transfer it to the cartridge. Once your Game Boy is loaded, you hit its controller buttons to arrange its signature sounds.
The results sound like computer game music of unusual complexity. Online, Game Boy musicians have posted their arrangements of songs ranging from “Let It Snow” to “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode.
Game hacking is nothing new. Enthusiasts of classic computers such as the Commodore 64 continue to churn out new uses for old systems. But chiptunes is the hot trend these days. In 2005, the alternative rock artist Beck embraced the medium, releasing Game Boy remixes of four of his songs.
Nintendo won’t comment on the trend. But silence doesn’t necessarily mean condemnation. “If it doesn’t affect bottom line and [does] create interest in the platform in unique and novel ways,” says Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at JupiterResearch, “companies like Nintendo are comfortable with it.”
How SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket might unlock the solar system—and beyond
With the first orbital test launch of Starship on the horizon, scientists are dreaming about what it might make possible— from trips to Neptune to planetary defense.
DeepMind says its new language model can beat others 25 times its size
RETRO uses an external memory to look up passages of text on the fly, avoiding some of the costs of training a vast neural network
The therapists using AI to make therapy better
Researchers are learning more about how therapy works by examining the language therapists use with clients. It could lead to more people getting better, and staying better.
What it will take to unleash the potential of geothermal power
Four new pilot plants funded by the US infrastructure bill could help expand the range of the “forgotten renewable.”
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.