Mod files were unique in that they enabled the average user to become a musician overnight and distribute their work easily. Assuming someone already owned a computer, the only additional costs would be the tracker registration fee (if any) and possibly a more robust soundcard. With a modem, the aspiring musician could upload their creations to a BBS (and later, the internet) and spread it worldwide.

It was the precursor to mp3.

Its only limitation was the amount of sample data that could be embedded, thus effectively eliminating vocals. With the advent of newer trackers that could take advantage of extended or onboard (soundcard) memory, it became somewhat feasible (ie., Scirocco's rapping in Suburban Gangsta), but it was still a severe limitation.

To some, it was a challenge. A subgenre of the mod scene was the chipmod. They often arose out of competition, where the best song had to be packed in the smallest amount of space. It is truly amazing what one could get out of a single cycle of a square wave.

That, to me, was the beauty of the scene. It was ingenuity exercised.

The innovative part of MOD files was that you were not limited to using your computers typical FM- style synth; instead, you have near-infinite composing freedom due to the fact that you use your own custom samples.

Original MOD files had 15 or 31 sample slots and 4 channels.

IIRC, you can spot a MOD file by the "M.K." signature at around offset 1080.

mockingbird = M = mode

mod vt.,n.

[very common] 1. Short for `modify' or `modification'. Very commonly used -- in fact the full terms are considered markers that one is being formal. The plural `mods' is used esp. with reference to bug fixes or minor design changes in hardware or software, most esp. with respect to patch sets or a diff. 2. Short for modulo but used only for its techspeak sense.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Mod is short for modification. This term is normally used in the world of online gaming, where people can download a version of the game with a modified code, that for example changes Quake III Arena into a game more like Counter-Strike, while keeping it in the Q3 engine that is far superior.

A product of working-class British youth of the mid-sixties, there are many theories and reports about what this group of people were.

Quick Background:
Brighton beach, a scene that looks like it has been taken directly out of The Outsiders. Where the Rockers (greasers) face the Mods (socs) for yet another violent clash.

So what was this culture known as The Mods? Think A Clockwork Orange, think Paul Weller, think scooters. Fashionable, modern and casual with a whole musical genre to its name.

So does mod come from "modern"? Perhaps. Another theory stems from the vehicles driven by the two violent factions. The Mods, driving scooters and the Rockers driving the motorbike. The motorbikes of the time having to be "rocked" to get the petrol distribution correct whilst the mopeds had modern technology to circumvent this need.

I remain cynical as to the above theory, but it still remains.

There were Mods in the late 50s but they were limited to the younger teenagers. When these teenagers grew older, the 60s happened and the mod culture exploded, where it became a culture that included drugs, scooters as well as fashion and music.

The Who became THE Mod band of the sixties.

But alas - the violence and media coverage ensured the mod movement blew itself out...until the 70s when Paul Weller appeared on the scene, now the culture started to appear in America, as the Anglophile USA craved a replacement for Beatlemania. The US got Punk and Mod.

Once again the Mod movement was marred by violence, this time with petrol bombs.

Mod(ern) Revival picked itself up off its battered legs in 1989 with the advent of Acid Jazz, and was helped along in the early 90s with the Manchester music scene, the Stone Roses, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, and the Hacienda club (RIP).

The Late nineties saw the "indy" scene somewhat work along side the Mod Scene and sometimes they were synonymous, bands such as Blur and Pulp were such borderline bands, who embraced the Mod lifestyle but were labelled as indy.

The Mod scene in the 21st Century is somewhat subdued. It's out there, but who knows how it will surface this time? Plenty of British grafitti artists have made it clear it has for the time split into the mainstream and the underground. The RAF "target" symbol that has been unofficially adopted by the movement, appearing in bus shelters throughout the land.

What the hell is a .mod? A short history of module music

Generically, the term ".mod" refers to a music module or tracker module, although it is also the name of the first file format used to store such files. A tracker module differs from modern computer music because it is a sequence of short samples (and/or synthesized sounds), whereas a modern computer music file is just a single sample. Think MIDI vs. MP3 (although MIDI sequences do not contain any samples, they are just sequences that can be interpreted differently by the hardware and software used to play them). In the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the Commodore 64 was the hip computing platform, all computer music was sequences, although these early computer compositions had no samples, just synthesized sounds. Such chip tunes have their own strange aesthetics, as well as a quite devoted following -- witness the popularity of C64-era SID tunes in the modern computing underground, and bands like Press Play on Tape who play old chip tunes on "real" instruments.

The Amiga era: Sampling and Tracking

When the Amiga showed up, lots of people in the demo scene and game maker communities didn't really feel that the old chip tunes cut it any more, given that the Amiga was quite capable of playing back sampled audio. But on the other hand, storing music as one big sample was seriously limited by the fact that the usual storage medium on early Amigas was 880 kilobyte floppy disks. MODs attempted to give the best of both worlds. You could sample short sounds, typically the sound of a single instrument (a bass note being plucked, a strum on a guitar, a short drumroll, or something similar), and repeat it to a rhythm, alternating the sound's pitch. .MODs had a somewhat "artificial" sound, because such samples lack the minute imperfections and nuances human musicians add to the sound. But on the gripping hand, the demo scene was all about making art on a minimalist computing platform, and both scene and game musicians managed to make .MODs into an art form in itself. An example of this was the chipmod, essentially an all-synthesized MOD with no samples, bringing .MODs full circle back to their roots.

You'd compose your .MOD masterpieces using a "tracker" (or sequencer, although nobody called them that), and there was several possibilities. The Mother of all Trackers was SoundTracker, written in '87 for the Amiga by Karsten Obarski. While SoundTracker development continued, a couple of successful clones were made in NoiseTracker of '89 and ProTracker of '90. Teijo Kinnunnen made a similar, but not identical, music sequencing system in MED and its bigger brother OctaMED. Most x86 PCs around this time were limited to their puny internal speakers for sound output, so tracking software didn't appear on that platform before the early to mid 90's. Nobody could stand listening to those damn internal speakers anyway, they sounded like a flock of mutant geese subjected to the Spanish Inquisition's tender care. ScreamTracker, developed by Future Crew was one popular PC tracker (and one which would later introduce lots of improvements to the original .MOD format). It was also the first tracker made for musicians rather than coders (demo scene musicians tended to be part coder, part musician). FastTracker was another, later, PC tracker.

.MOD tech specs

The first .MODs were limited to four channels of output, a maximum of 15 samples, and a maximum of 64k size per sample. .MED had 31 samples, and by OctaMED it could handle eight channels of output, due to some clever hackery by its maker -- the Amiga only had four audio channels on its built-in Paula sound chip. Later extensions to the .MOD format include .STM, with 16 channels and 31 64k samples, and .S3M, which has 48 channels and 31 1024k samples. Both these were introduced by ScreamTracker. .XM has 64 channels and 63 1024k samples, and came into being with FastTracker. .IT added a few special features to this, for use in Impulse Tracker. Threed mentions the .MTM, .FAR and .669 formats in his writeup, I sadly don't know anything about those. I drifted out of the tracker community around the time when .XM was all the rage.

Like many other such early technologies, .MOD files had a devoted following and a sense of community around them that you don't see a lot of in the modern computer underground. And no politicians or recording industry maniacs were trying to outlaw tracker-mods either. Now I'm going to stop writing before I turn into a wretched mass of computing nostalgia.

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