Impulse Tracker’s military-esque beige gives me the warm-and-fuzzies. This was the first piece of software I encountered that felt limitless. Sure, my underpowered x486 would buckle when playing back some of the more ambitious arrangements out there—especially those by Finnish demogroup Future Crew, creators of the original MOD editor Scream Tracker—but the actual process of making music felt “right” and it was empowering. Pieces were composed procedurally: Pick an instrument and place a single note (e.g. “F#”) on the exact beat of the measure you want it to be played on. From there, you could bend the note’s pitch or modify its playback in a number of ways.

Because each individual part was treated functionally, I was able to “reverse engineer” songs shared by the community of composers. I was teaching myself to play guitar in real life, but Impulse Tracker provided me a means to teach myself music theory and composition.

I’ve been designing and building things on the web since ‘96 — professionally since ‘07. I’m primarily self-taught and much of my coding chops come from dissecting other people’s work. That’s my preferred learning style, for better or worse. Only now, as I write this, do I realize that this is why I loved Impulse Tracker so much.

Matt Sisto is a designer and coder in the Providence area.