If you read , well, I'm not quite doing audio output yet, and I decided I would make use of some spare time by getting better at surface mount soldering. To that end, you can see a new board on the left sporting a YM2149 I got from Shazz/TRSi (greets!) while I was at @party.
Originally I snapped this picture "just because", but then I realised it's rather significant as both the first and last sound chips used by Atari are present (Okay, except for the Jaguar, but that's a different beast). The YM2149 was in every Atari ST/TT/Falcon made, and of course the TIA was in the good ol' 2600 VCS (and even went on to do video and keyclick in Atari computers in modified form).
The YM2149 is a clone of the General Instrument AY-3-8910 which was invented in the mid-to-late 70s. It went in so many different devices of my childhood and retro collecting obsession: The Intellivision, Vectrex, MSX, later ZX Spectrums, Amstrad, and a pile of arcade machines all included it in one form or another. It got made into soundcards for PC and Apple. It is cloned in the highly-sought-after Sunsoft Famicom title, Gimmick! It was even available as an off-the-shelf Radio Shack part.
I figured with the crazy number of things this chip has been in that the designer would be well known. Hell, the SID was only in the Commodore 64 (well, and 128/MAX, but I digress), and everyone knows Bob Yannes designed the SID, but I just couldn't find anything on the 8910. The datasheets I have are eerily clean and comprehensive with no mention of names. So, while I was wiring everything up, I got a little too curious.
General Instrument broke up in the 80s and its microchip division got spun off into the aptly named Microchip Technologies. Although Microchip has completely forgotten that they used to be another company, I was able to finally reach someone after maybe a dozen calls and transfers that had some good suggestions, and a few emails later I had the name of the designer of the 8910. My contact information was handed off and I received an email that gave me the impression Microchip wanted to wash their hands of ever communicating with me.
I figured I would wait a few days to hear from the engineer. Surprisingly, I heard back very quickly and even got a short history of the chip in the email! It must be the future or something! Reading the history though, I realised that I had many questions to ask this guy, and his introduction even generated a few more that I hadn't thought of. I couldn't find any interviews with this guy and I don't know why nobody has looked him up (spoiler alert: Japanese chiptune expert and scene friend Hally wrote a book and interviewed him) so I took to social media yesterday to see if anyone else had questions for the guy. Likewise, if you have a question, please ask in the comments!
While getting feedback from my posts and tweets, I scheduled a phonecall with the guy. I'll be talking to him in roughly 12 hours.
I'll report back here with the story!