Released: 1984


I think this had been trying to come into existence for a while; I'd had odd thoughts about dynamic interactive pattern generators before, but never actually sat down to write any code. Then one day I was out running and an just appeared unbidden in my head. I still remember the exact bit of road I was on when it happened }:-). It was a simple algorithm, just seeding patterns along a path; the patterns were to expand and change shape and colour over time. I got back from my run and coded up the algo - it fit in about 1K of 6502 assembler code. I ran the code and a white cursor appeared on the screen. i picked up the joystick, moved the cursor, and pressed down the fire button.

In that instant my life changed }:-).

I was completely amazed. It was such a simple toy, but it was so satisfying to put some music on and just paint with dynamic patterns and colours. I got my mates to come round and play with it too and everyone really enjoyed it, simple though it was. I remember I showed it to my brother, and he said that if anything I made was ever going to make me rich, then this would be it. It's never made me rich... not yet anyway };-)...

It just felt wonderfully new, and somehow primal... it was like the patterns and mandalas that have fascinated humans for millennia, but come to life, under your control... in fact I was so moved by what I'd found that at first I refused to make it commercial... I felt that something so basic and lovely deserved more than just being another thing to be sold and profited from. I actually gave that first algorithm away in listing form to a computer magazine. But my parents argued successfully that there was no shame in making some money from it, and so in due course I created a somewhat expanded version with more patterns and control options, and that is what was released as Psychedelia.

I called the program a "light synthesiser", and advertised it as a new, non-competitive form of entertainment... no enemies, no killing, just light and colour.

Reviews were mixed - it was clear that some people just didn't "get it" at all and couldn't see what I was trying to do, whereas others obviously saw the same potential in it that I did. I guess it was hard to review since it wasn't a game, and all the reviewers were used to was games. I got the worst review I'd ever had (for the Spectrum version, which was denounced as "pointless hippy nonsense" in some magazine I can't recall) and the best review I'd ever had (by a journalist who evidently saw something profound in it too, and wrote that he found "mere words too cumbersome to describe its brilliance".

I was once rude to Barry Norman who was the guest of honour at an Ariolasoft bash where they had a big screen (I think that was the first time I ever saw a video projector). He was talking to Ashley Gray (the boss of Ariolasoft), and I was trying to badger Ashley into giving me some projector time for Psychedelia. I interrupted them and told them I had something to show that would "blow their minds". Barry Norman replied that he wasn't sure he wanted his mind blowing, to which I replied that I wasn't sure he had a mind to blow };-).

I never did get that projector time - Ashley basically told me to sling my hook as I hadn't paid for the hire of the equipment and he had }:-).

It was certainly something that I used a lot - many spliffs were smoked and much Pink Floyd listened to whilst using Psychedelia, and at computer shows we'd always play music whilst I would demonstrate the program to passers by.


Lightsynths: Released on:
  • C64
  • Vic 20
  • C16/Plus 4
  • Spectrum
  • MSX
  • Amstrad CPC 464
Beam me up Scotty!