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Mod tracking all started when Commodore Amiga introduced computers with the Paula sound chip.

History of Trackers and Module Formats:

Mod tracking all started when Commodore Amiga introduced computers with the Paula sound chip. Paula was a big step for home computing. Until then home computers had barely any capability of playing digital sound, but Paula changed that with 4 8-bit PCM sound channels. It should be noted that through software mixing the Paula can produce more channels than the original 4.

Soon after Amiga computers with Paula were introduced a man named Karsten Obarski wrote Ultimate Soundtracker in 1987. Soundtracker was based on the tracker concept invented by Chris Huelsbeck which was first used in his own C64 music editor. Soundtracker is known as the father of all Amiga trackers and future trackers improved upon the tracker concept itself and the .mod format giving more advanced alternatives as computers evolved, but not replacing .mod. Many clones of Soundtracker appeared such as NoiseTracker, a modified version of Soundtracker with many improvements and Protracker one of the most famous trackers of all time. Protracker ran on newer versions of Amiga OS and was very stable to boot. Some trackers such as OctaMED took advantage of tricks like software mixing to give the artist more flexibility in song writing.

Mods were originally intended to be used in games, but the demoscene and musicians started composing them for other uses. As you can guess musicians just plain made music with them, and the demoscene used them in demos. Coincidentally the demoscene, being full of talented programmers and musicians, pushed trackers and the .mod format into what it is today. Many wrote their own trackers with features not present in Ultimate Soundtracker, and musicians took full advantage of these features creating music as beautiful as the efficient code in demos.

Of course other computers at the time had digital audio capabilities, but none were as influential as the Amiga. If you happen to own an Atari ST, Apple IIgs, or even a Spectrum 48k you can still use sample trackers on them too. (There are probably other computers, but I'm too lazy to research it.)

While Amiga trackers gave musicians digital audio some yearned for the distinct sound of older sound chips. This is were the term Chiptune originated. Artist looped very short samples, often pulse waves, to emulate vintage sound chips. In doing this they created a charm that the old chips didn't have, the sound of repitched and aliased wave forms. Now of course the primitive synthesizers in old computers and game consoles aliasing, but mods have a different and more desirable characteristic, as seen by the Pro Sound mod phenomena.

Originally posted 2018-01-08 19:52:21.

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