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Jeff Minter's X360 'light synth'

Say hello to Neon.

Missing Jean-Michel Jarre? Like watching trippy explosions of colour and light, but too young/broke/sensible to take drugs?

Then get yourself an Xbox 360, come November, since each one comes with a new "light synthesiser" program built-in.

Entitled Neon, it's "capable of generating anything from soothing ambient swirls to strobing multicolour explosions," according to developer Llamasoft. You'll find some screenshots and trailers here.

You can control Neon using up to four joypads, or it'll take its cues from any music you choose to play. It's "infinitely configurable thanks to its modular nature, and always stunning to look at."

Neon is the brainchild of loveable old hippy Jeff Minter, who first came up with the idea of developing a light synthesiser back in 1984 and called his invention Psychedelia.

It got mixed reviews, as Llamasoft's website observes - one journalist wrote that "mere words are too cumbersome to describe its brilliance," while another described it as "pointless hippy nonsense."

"It was certainly something that I used a lot - many spliffs were smoked and much Pink Floyd listened to whilst using Psychedelia," says Jeff, not doing much to shake off the whole hippy thing.

Jeff's original idea has come along way since then, though. "Without giving any secrets away and getting myself into trouble with Microsoft," he writes, "I can tell you that the Xbox 360 can bring to bear an absolutely *staggering* amount of computational power on each and every pixel, and never drop below 60 frames a second.

"The thing's a *monster*."

Since the inclusion of Neon into the Xbox 360's firmware is the culmination of more than 20 years' of work for Jeff, he's rightly mightily chuffed.

"I believe it finally begins to achieve the potential that I saw all those years ago when I first made Psychedelia... and I am happier with it than I have ever been with anything I've created in my entire career.

"At last... after more than 20 years' work, one of my light synths is going to reach a decent sized audience. Millions and millions..." of pounds, Jeff? Anyway, well done sir, we salute you.

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Ellie Gibson


Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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