Rob Hubbard

I think it would be impossible to write an article that could over emphasise just how inspirational Rob Hubbard was to computer music. Before Rob Hubbard, most game music was a series of pitiful beeps and bleeps! Simply put there was no one prepared for what Mr. Hubbard was to bring to the Commodore 64 game scene.

The Commodore 64 was a machine with a number of notable features that were superior to its competitors - one of these was the SID (Sound Interface Device) - a dedicated sound synthesiser chip by sound engineer Bob Yannes.

Commodore intended to market the Commodore 64 primarily as a business machine - therefore fancy sound was not needed. However, because Commodore really didn’t specify exactly what they required - Bob Yannes almost had a ‘blank canvas’ to design the dream sound chip!

Therefore, Commodore’s original intention for the C64's sound chip was a lot more mundane than what the sound engineer Bob Yannes eventually created! When the Commodore 64 was released in 1982 it featured the SID (Sound Interface Device). While other machines had sound chips as an afterthought. The SID was a powerful and versatile sound chip that was beyond anything in the home computer market at the time.

The prestigious BYTE magazine in their September 1995, 20th Anniversary issue, listed the SID chip in their hall of fame as one of the most important chips ever manufactured.

Byte September 1995 Magazine
Byte Magazine September 1995
20th Anniversary Edition by CMP Media

When Rob Hubbard discovered the power of the SID chip he harnessed it in a way that would not only astound Commodore 64 owners, but change the perception of home computer music forever.

In the early 80's Rob Hubbard decided to submit examples of his work to software companies to try and get a job composing music for their games. Fortunately, Gremlin Graphics recognised the raw talent of Hubbard and gave him a lucky break - they wanted him to compose music for a new platform style game in development called Thing On A Spring.

Thing On a Spring
Thing On a Spring by Gremlin Graphics

Thing On a Spring (Gremlin Graphics 1985) is one of my favourite Commodore 64 games - it was technically impressive due to the look and design of the levels with colourful, cartoonish graphics, and superb sprite animation on the main character.

Unfortunately it was hampered by some overly difficult game play - but had the saving grace of a wonderful cheat mode, which thankfully allowed you to experience the beauty of the whole game!

It also happened to be the first 'commercially successful' game that Rob Hubbard composed a soundtrack for, and therefore the first time I had heard a Rob Hubbard soundtrack. The music was amazing! Perfectly capturing the mood of the game. Loud, bouncy, energetic sound with clearly recognisable instruments, including the violin and even a harmonica!

It may be one of his early efforts, but in my opinion this is one of Hubbard’s best tracks, yet it is often overlooked. It’s the sheer quality of the arrangement that just impresses so much. It’s a masterpiece that deserves far more recognition - and it really adds to the overall enjoyment of the game.