Swedish engineer creates playable accordion from 2 Commodore 64 computers
At the end of October, a Swedish software engineer named Linus Åkesson unveiled a playable accordion – called “The Commodordion” – which he made from two vintage Commodore 64 computers connected to a bellows made of floppy disks glued together. A demo of the hack debuted in an 11-minute YouTube video where Åkesson plays a Scott Joplin ragtime song and details the creation of the instrument.
Åkesson, himself a versatile musician, can actually play the Commodordion in real time like a real accordion. He plays a melody with his right hand on a C64 keyboard and controls the chord of a rhythm and bass line loop (which he can pre-record by flipping a switch) using his left hand on the another keyboard.
A good deal of custom software engineering and hardware hacking went into making the Commodordion possible, as Åkesson explains in an article on his website. He builds on previous projects (which he says intentionally led to this one), such as the Sixtyforgan (a C64 with spring reverb and a chromatic accordion key layout) and Qwertuoso, a program that allows to play live from the famous SID of the C64. sound chip.
So how does the Commodordion work? Åkesson wired in a custom power supply, and when he turns the unit on, both Commodore 64 machines start up (no display needed). Then he loads custom music software he wrote from a Commodore Datasette emulation card into each machine.
A custom mixer circuit board brings the audio signals from both units together and meters the bellows input to control the volume level of the sound output. The bellows, made up of numerous 5.25-inch floppy disks cut and glued into shape, emits air through a hole when pressed. A microphone mounted just outside this hole translates the noise it hears into an audio envelope that manipulates the sound output accordingly. The Commodordion itself has no speakers but instead outputs its electronic audio through an outlet.
The Commodordion has one huge flaw, writes Åkesson: ergonomics. When playing, the unit puts pressure on his left wrist, arm and shoulder due to the position of the keys on the left side of the instrument and the fact that his left arm must also support the weight of the instrument. ‘unity. “It rather undermines the Commodordion’s potential as a viable musical instrument,” he wrote.
Yet for a one-of-a-kind homemade hack, the resulting music – especially when skillfully played by Åkesson – sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a 1980s video game. It’s a letter d 8-bit love of a bygone era.