20 - RealSound™ and Voice Characterisations
How a quest to put sound in a couple of games in the mid-1980s led to a revolution in computer game audio design and production.
These are, in a sense, the sounds of a revolution in video game history, the sounds of a change so profound that it opened the door to entirely new genres. They’re digitised audio samples, a recorded analogue waveform converted into a digital signal — and then back into analogue audio through your headphones, in this case, via a couple of Macintosh games from 1985 and 86.
We take this capability for granted nowadays, as we use our voice calling apps and record videos with our smartphones. But you only have to roll back the clock 35 years to get to a time when this sort of technology was beyond the reach of the masses — when digital audio was something only used by specialist researchers and archivists and cutting-edge or experimental sound engineers. And when the thought of using it on an off-the-shelf personal computer was almost unheard of.
But then the Apple Macintosh came out in January 1984. And Apple's so-called "computer for the rest of us" had a secret capability that would unlock this door to digital audio for the masses.
Featuring interviews with tech entrepreneur Charlie Jackson (Silicon Beach Software founder and Airborne designer) as well as former Silicon Beach Software VP of R&D Eric Zocher (who later worked as an executive at the likes of Adobe and Microsoft).
Adapted from a chapter on Silicon Beach Software in my book The Secret History of Mac Gaming.
A partial transcript of this episode is available at https://lifeandtimes.games/episodes/files/20, along with all of the show notes and past episodes.
Music and Sound Effects credits:
- A Dreamer's Holiday by Dick Noel with Ray Anthony and His Orchestra
- Crowd noise
- Continental Airlines ad from 1969
- Game audio clips taken from:
- Airborne (Mac, 1985)
- Dark Castle (Mac, 1986)
- The Three Stooges in Brides is Brides (arcade, 1984)
- Galaga (arcade, 1981)
- Donkey Kong (arcade, 1980)
- Ground Zero (Mac, 1984)
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (DOS, 1992)
- Dragon's Lair (arcade, 1983)
- PowerMonger (Amiga, 1990)
- Phrase Craze Plus (Mac, 1986)
- Spaceship Warlock (Mac, 1991)
- Spike (Vectrex, 1982)
- Sinistar (arcade, 1983)
- Shufflepuck Café (Mac, 1988)
- Elite (BBC Micro, 1984)
- Alley Cat (Atari 8-bit, 1983)
- Choplifter (Apple II, 1982)
- Ant Attack (ZX Spectrum, 1983)
- King's Quest (PCjr, 1984)
- The Black Cauldron (DOS, 1986)
- Manic Miner (ZX Spectrum, 1983)
- The Manhole (Mac, 1988)
- At the Carnival (Mac, 1989)
- Air Ace 2 (Amiga, 1989)
- Uncharted 2 (PS3, 2009)
- Mercenaries 2 (PS3/Xbox 360, 2008)
- Everything else is my own work
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