The clever musical gems for the Nintendo DS just keep coming. Nintendo’s handheld game console, in my mind, wins hands-down among mobile platforms in terms of sheer choice, even though the homebrew development is entirely unsanctioned by Nintendo.

The latest entry: glitchDS, a clever sequencer that uses a cellular automaton (a simple, grid-based model of the evolution of cellular structures). CA, particularly John Conway’s Game of Life rendition from the 70s, has been applied to music before; there’s a powerful version in the Newscool preset in Reaktor 5. But this happens to be particularly well-suited to a touchscreen, and to having something you can stick in your bag and fiddle with on the go.


  • Customizable Cellular Automaton sequencer

  • Create your own “trigger points”

  • Load in your own sounds

  • Save and load your work

  • BPM settings, or “strum mode” for controlling tempo

  • Up to 6 sounds can be loaded at once

  • Each sound has its own 32 step frequency modulation sequencer

  • Global Distortion setting

And the price is free. There’s even a series of free soundpacks to go with it.

The only catch is, of course, that whole “unsanctioned” bit: the preferred means of loading this is an R4DS card, though DSLinker, DSTT, CycloDS Evolution, Acekard 2, EDGE, and some others work. Be sure to check the documentation.

The design is really clever, potentially inspiring for other projects even if you don’t have a DS. One especially unique twist: “strum” mode lets you strum a sequence like a guitar, something I haven’t seen before. Thanks to Ronnie of the awesome for sending this in.

Want more cellular automata? It just happens that a video synth using CA, coupled with a patch bay and optical sensors and packed in a lovely case with an LCD, also happened into my inbox this week for Create Digital Motion:

Circuit-Bent Cellular Automata Video Synth Toy with Patch Bay