Portfolio Noah Vawter: TIA Sequencer

TIA Sequencer

by Noah Vawter

TIA is the multimedia chip inside the Atari VCS/2600. The sounds and music it can make are very attractive to me for two reasons. Firstly, it is an engineering masterpiece, demonstrating how to get the most flexible sound with very few resources. Second, since so many people my age played Atari, recognize these sounds and enjoy them, a wide opportunity for nostalgia exists. Now, with a sophisticated controller attached to a laptop simulation of this delightful chip, I can make high quality music. (Move your mouse over the picture to see it next to my drum machine.)


I wrote this software in my spare time on public transportation. I use it to write patterns of notes, waveform changes and volume tracks. Then, I sequence the patterns together to form songs, sometimes coordinating with other electronic instruments, especially drum machines. Although there is no MIDI Sync, I took extra time to ensure that the sequencer timing is accurate. It loses only 1/96th of a beat in five minutes.

Sequencer User Interface

I always feel very lucky when I write a sequencer, because I write snappy user interfaces with flexible and innovative options. TIAseq is based on tracker interfaces, which means emphasis on the cursor keys for flitting about and number keys for entering notes. There is also ample support for editing functions like insert, delete, home end, etc. And of course you can edit patterns will they're playing.


The patterns themselves are innovative and flexible, because there are actually 6 tracks, three tracks per voice. Each voice has an independent track for note, waveform and volume. In addition to looping and ping-pong modes, each track can have its own tempo. The benefit is that polyrhthmic effects can be composed. For example, one can very easily beat a three note arpeggiated chord against a four-step waveform sequence with any ratio of periods.


Dreary (mp3). A short, plodding loop.

JP Juggling (mp3). Originally written with TIAseq as the score for a juggling video.

TIA Steppe. A short two-step demo track using TIAseq.


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