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Kick Out the Jams with Chip Maestro

| 11 May 2011 16:05

Do you want to play your favorite Nintendo themes live at a bar? The Chip Maestro cart will let you do just that.

Chiptune, music that replicates or directly channels old videogame system sound chips, has grown in popularity over the years through dedicated music labels (such as 8bitpeoples) and live performances on tour and at gaming conventions.

Now, Nintendo Entertainment System owners can turn their keyboard or PC into an NES synthesizer by inserting the Chip Maestro cartridge into their system. By plugging a midi instrument into the midi cable attached to the cart, anyone can utilize the NES's internal sound chip and output to a TV, amp or any set of speakers.

"Most chiptune artists today use 'software synths' to try and recreate the sound we grew to love," Jarek Lupinski, the project's creator, wrote. "By providing artists with a low-cost and easy to use hardware solution, they can use a real NES to compose their music, and even play it live on stage!"

Lupinski, a biomedical engineering student from Hoboken, NJ, posted his project on funding site Kickstarter.com, on May 8. Since then, he's received $3, 678 -- over double his initial goal. The initial round of funding will go toward finishing the prototype, debugging it and producing the carts one-at-time. However, Lupinski plans to eventually mass produce the cart. The funding from preorders will go toward this goal.

The project's source code will be open for other to implement and build upon, which is unusual for a Kickstarter project.

"Yes, even though there is money involved, I am still putting all my schematics and code on the internet!," Lupinksi wrote. "It's an endless cycle of creativity, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

It's time to dust off that Rock Band 3 keyboard, get your cousin to play bass via the Commodore 64's similar MSSIAH cart, and jam to some Zelda!

Visit the project's Kickstarter page for technical details, a live demo and preorder info.

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