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Musical Applications of Microprocessors
by Hal Chamberlin
Published by Hayden Book Co Inc.
Price £14.85

Here's a book that is truly for the E&MM 'Electro-Musician' of the future. I haven't stopped reading it since I picked it up (some time ago I must confess!). Its 600 pages are packed with the most up-to-date information on making electronic music through your micro and it really does give practical examples that will give you numerous building blocks for experiment.

Although many computer music techniques have been developed since the 1960's, their widespread use in electronic music production and their possibilities of interfacing with commercial and kit synthesisers are only just being realised. This is not to say that we shall have to wait a little longer for computer music composition to become feasible for the 'ordinary' musician working with limited financial resources. In fact, the hardware is available, as this book proves, and all the reader needs in addition is an understanding of BASIC, machine code and peripheral interfacing.

The first section of the book covers background material, analogue and digital musical synthesis principles as well as introducing specific microsystems from Z-80 to 6502. The second section deals with computer-controlled analogue synthesis and the final part has digital synthesis and sound modification.

In particular, it teaches the reader the vital controlling and interfacing techniques needed to link your Pet, Sharp or popular micro to input/output ports and shows practical ADC and DAC circuits as well as possible keyboard matrix scanning systems. (This month's 'Alphadac 16' uses this type of application.) The book uses minimal mathematical theory and maximum circuit examples and/or sample programs — from organ interfacing to percussion generation. Finding the answers to using the electronics is the stumbling block for many musicians and this superbly written book with accurate wave diagrams and circuits will be a tremendous help.

The Joy of Minis and Micros
by Philip Stein and Howard Shapiro
Published by Hayden Book Company Inc.
Price £5.95

An odd title but a book full of constructive advice, easily digested wit and many a true word on the faults that can accompany the sort of computer destined for the consumer market.

The book is typically American in format using an abundance of cliches, puns and sheer lunatic headings to introduce each section, but it is this kind of informal approach that lends itself so well to a subject that has become over-rated and over-publicised.

At last here is a book purposely written for those who do not own a micro-computer. A book which aims to resolve the computer's usefulness or role and if necessary advise against purchasing such a unit without even an inkling of what to do with it when you have bought it.

The subjects covered are:— Do you or don't you need a mini-computer? What about main frames or micro-computers? How to pick the right mini-computer? (and it is here that such considerations as which language do you require or do you need time sharing, are considered). Hooking it up with the rest of the world (I think they mean interfacing). But what are you going to use it for? And a very brief chapter on how does it work?

It is 100 per cent devoid of any form of illustration which judging by most American books is another point in its favour. From a software point of view, there is very little unexplained, however, I must underline the fact that it is only a preliminary guide to the subject and at no point goes into deep or gory detail.

The main text is preceded by an incredible 20 verse poem, the purpose of which is quite obscure — even having read the book. Nonetheless, my advice is if you are thinking of purchasing a home computer some time in the near future then this is certainly as good a volume as any to choose in an effort to start you off in the right direction.

Electronics Pocket Book
by E. A. Parr
Published by Newnes Technical Books
Price £5.60

The fourth edition of this popular reference book has been completely rewritten in an attempt to cope with an electronics technology that progresses at an astonishingly rapid rate. Since making its first appearance eighteen years ago, the book has seen the simple germanium transistor technology of those days grow into the sophisticated microprocessor chip systems of today. Indeed, one is reluctant to produce a reference book these days for fear it will be outdated before even leaving the printers' press. I must give full marks to Mr Parr for achieving considerable success in producing a book that is up to date yet retains some of the more 'old fashioned' techniques upon which the technology is still based.

In his preface, the author states the book's unchanged philosophy of 'a non-mathematical presentation of the many varied topics covered by electronics'. This I found, generally, to be so. Although no claims are made for completeness (and indeed who would be so bold as to try to write a complete book of electronics today) I found the wide range of topics covered quite surprising.

The various sections dealing with, for example, basic atomic structure, electronic components, simple circuits to more advanced computer circuits, power supplies etc., are concisely presented but perhaps, a little too brief in parts.

Nice to see Teletext and Prestel mentioned but disappointing to find no reference to glass-fibre optics as a communication means — currently being introduced by British Telecom and undoubtedly the data transmission medium of the future. The usual reference data section is included at the end of the book.

Summarising: A book of use to the student and enthusiast as well as of possible use to the designer for quick reference. However, for detailed information, reference elsewhere would be required.

Practical Electronic Calculations and Formulae
by F. A. Wilson
Published by Bernard Babani
Price £2.25

Almost invariably the books that are reviewed in the various electronic periodicals consist of project books, teach yourself books or theory books. Whether you are a newcomer to the subject, a budding amateur or even a fully fledged professional, it is virtually impossible to remember or recall all the mathematical calculations and formulae required to bring your various electronic designs to a fruitful conclusion. There are many publications that cover this aspect of electronics and make very handsome items of support documentation to compliment the other books on your bookshelf but in my opinion F. A. Wilson's "Practical Electronic Calculations and Formulae" stands out on its own. It is an excellent book and has been compiled to suit all levels of technical knowledge. If the arithmetic involved is likely to be too advanced then maximum use has been made of tables and graphs.

It is primarily a reference book and has been divided into six sections: Units and Constants, Direct Current Circuits, Passive Components, Alternating Current Circuits, Networks and Theorems, and Measurements. You will notice that these sections follow the format applied to teach-yourself or elementary theory books on electronics.

The amateur should never feel that having to refer to books such as this is indicative of his not being able to grasp the subject fully. The fact is professionals always make good use of reference books because the more involved one becomes in electronics, the more confusing and similar the methods of calculation become.

It would be impossible for me to give a brief outline of the contents or even to precis the subjects covered within the text - it quite simply covers the lot. Every symbol, every constant, every unit of mensuration is there for those who have never quite been able to grasp those complicated formulae involving vectors, time lag and phase difference, which are so common in AC theory, this is the book for you as I have never seen a better approach to or explanation of this very difficult area.

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Jul 1981

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