Photo (CC-BY) Kevin Wong.

Photo (CC-BY) Kevin Wong.

“I’m the operator with my pocket calculator.”

No — like, actually.

HoustonTracker 2 runs on the TI-82/83/83+/84+ Texas Instruments graphing pocket calculators – the kind you probably had to buy for your high school math class. And it doesn’t just make the calculator into a sequencer. All the sounds come straight out of the calculator itself, thanks to some gorgeous-sounding 1-bit noises. (Who needs those 15 or so extra bits, anyway? This is beautiful.)

What do I mean? Just watch:

But wait, there’s actually a complete feature set for this:

3 tone channels
1 non-interrupting drum channel
up to 128 note patterns
up to 64 drum/fx patterns
sequence length up to 255 pattern rows
16-bit frequency precision
8-bit speed precision, can be configured per step
various effects, including:
L/C/R stereo hard-panning for tone and drum channels
8bit duty cycle control
duty cycle sweep
2 user definable samples
up to 8 savestates
edit during playback

Yes, that’s right: someone’s hand-me-down, obsolete graphing calculator you can probably get for free is now more capable than a lot of new drum machines you’d buy for the task.

houston

It’s free, open source software, with complete documentation. From Germany:

http://irrlichtproject.de/houston/

The original HoustonTracker has been out a couple of years, but version 2 is a complete rewrite and much more capable, out as of yesterday.

The app is free, but you can (and perhaps should) donate to creator/artist/coder Pater Maria aka irrlicht project.

What’s also lovely about this is, while I’m happy to write news items about the latest-and-greatest gear, projects like this save toxic electronics from an untimely death in landfills. There are more projects like this from the same developer.

And they said we’d never use Calculus again. Um, they were right – I’ve never used calculus again. But I might actually use the calculator now.

Obligatory xkcd TI calculator pricing reference. But if you opt for a “vintage” TI-82, it’s pretty darned cheap.

Previous post

Akai MPC Touch is an MPC with a multi-touch screen

Next post

Hacking filter FM makes the volca bass sound amazing

  • awesome!

  • awesome!

  • This is great!!

  • This is great!!

  • Igor Warzocha

    Project CALC? :)))

  • Igor Warzocha

    Project CALC? :)))

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Wow…that is so friggin’ cool! Thanks for sharing this! My daughter is still using her graphing calculator but I know what I’ll be doing with it once she finishes school!

    • Heh, and these grooves could help her stay motivated to get her work done! 😉

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Wow…that is so friggin’ cool! Thanks for sharing this! My daughter is still using her graphing calculator but I know what I’ll be doing with it once she finishes school!

    • Heh, and these grooves could help her stay motivated to get her work done! 😉

  • Ethan Bordeaux

    awww reminds me of what i was up to way back when… great stuff! didn’t even know those calculators had an audio out.

  • Ethan Bordeaux

    awww reminds me of what i was up to way back when… great stuff! didn’t even know those calculators had an audio out.

  • josh

    You’re way too optimistic about how easily you can get these things for free. They still sell for $120 new and usually go for about half that used, in my part of the world.

    (This is totally awesome though)

    • Will

      TI-82’s go for about $15 USD on eBay.

      • yeah, similar prices here in German on eBay Kleinanzeigen.

    • Heh, I forgot to paste this:
      https://xkcd.com/768/

      The key is which model. The older TI-82s are in fact pretty cheap. I think the trick is also, skip eBay and check someone’s closet. Okay, uh, ask them first, let me be clear about that.

  • josh

    You’re way too optimistic about how easily you can get these things for free. They still sell for $120 new and usually go for about half that used, in my part of the world.

    (This is totally awesome though)

    • Will

      TI-82’s go for about $15 USD on eBay.

      • yeah, similar prices here in German on eBay Kleinanzeigen.

    • Heh, I forgot to paste this:
      https://xkcd.com/768/

      The key is which model. The older TI-82s are in fact pretty cheap. I think the trick is also, skip eBay and check someone’s closet. Okay, uh, ask them first, let me be clear about that.

  • Will

    Honestly, I’d probably never make anything interesting with one but the song that closes out the video is great. On my third listen.

  • Will

    Honestly, I’d probably never make anything interesting with one but the song that closes out the video is great. On my third listen.

  • Tim Exile

    Fully Amazing. Reminds me that ever since I owned my first hardware sampler (Akai S1000) I’ve thought it would be amazing if someone did a firmware rewrite for those…. so many powerful E-Mu samplers knocking around doing nothing these days… a bit more powerful than a pocket calculator though

  • Tim Exile

    Fully Amazing. Reminds me that ever since I owned my first hardware sampler (Akai S1000) I’ve thought it would be amazing if someone did a firmware rewrite for those…. so many powerful E-Mu samplers knocking around doing nothing these days… a bit more powerful than a pocket calculator though