Virtual Light Machine

Jeff Minter's association with the Jaguar is well documented and his seminal Tempest 2000 is always mentioned when we talk about the best games on the Jaguar...and likewise with the recent TxK on the PS Vita. What a lot of people may not know is that Minter also had a hand in the Jaguar CD (not literally, although I guess he could have technically put his hand inside one at some point. I digress.) as he was instrumental (geddit?!) in the development of the VLM, or Virtual Light Machine - a light synthesiser that plays on the screen whenever you put a music CD into the Jag CD. These days, random colour generators are pretty commonplace - there's one in iTunes, there's one on my Xbox, there's one in my BlackBerry for drokk's sake...they're everywhere. Back in the early 1990s though, they were a pretty new thing. Here's an excerpt on the history of the VLM from Llamasoft's website:

One day I got a phone call from a couple of engineers working at Inmos, the UK firm responsible for the Transputer, one of the first commercially available CPUs intended for parallel computing. They had been thinking about making some kind of realtime graphics generator to accompany music, and then had been surprised and impressed when they stumbled across Trip-a-Tron, so called me to ask if I'd be interested in doing some work on Transputer hardware. This appealed to me and in due course they came to visit and installed a Tranny system in my PC.

The whole VLM story is very interesting if you're into this kind of thing and is well worth a read. Go here for further information.

Of course, me blathering on about the VLM is all very well, but what does it look like in action? Happily, I've made a little video showing the thing in full swing on a real-life Jaguar CD:

The CD player interface is pretty good to be honest - there are plenty of controls and the usual functions (FF, RW etc) and a handy on-screen volume control, as well as support for CD+G (which is something I've only ever seen once and it looked like a really bad Teletext screen so I wouldn't get too excited about that).

The only issue I have found so far with the Jag CD being installed in my Jaguar is that I can no longer mess around with the Jaguar cube on the boot screen...but it's a small price to pay for being able to enjoy the VLM.


  1. If you were referring to the Xbox 360, then Jeff Minter was responsible for that VLM too :D It was also used in the Xbox 360 version of Space Invaders Extreme. :)

    1. Didn't know that - thanks for the information. I was going to add that next time I bump into him at a convention, I'll ask him about that...but he's probably sick of the sight of me by now haha!

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