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Computer Musician

Questionnaire Results (Part 1)

After several weeks of collating your replies, an explanation of the results of this revealing survey.

First of all, many thanks for your response to our questionnaire. That's not to say that it was exactly brilliant as far as numbers went, but it was enthusiastic, and it certainly looks like being a good pointer as to what the 1983/84 micro musician is up to. A number of readers also sent in letters with their questionnaires to clarify certain points, and we'll be including some of these in the Letters page over the next few months. Anyway, onward to the results and analysis.

Question 1/2

Of 215 questionnaires returned, 170 readers owned up to having their own micro. Eight had two machines (usually a ZX81, either languishing in a drawer or used as an elegant door-stop/paperweight, plus something else), and some had three (obviously musos making a packet out of PRS royalties...). This grand total of 182 micros breaks down into makes as follows:

Model Number
BBC Micro 59
Spectrum 36
ZX81 22
Commodore 64 15
Vic-20 20
Oric-1 7
Dragon 32 6
Atari 6
Apple II/IIe 5
Microtan 4
Pet 2
Video Genie 2
Sharp MZ80K 1
PAiA8700 1
Sage II 1
Transam 1
Electron 1
Acorn Atom 1
UK101 1
Jupiter Ace 1

There were a good few surprises buried in these results, not least the domination of the market by the BBC Micro and the Spectrum (together making 52% of the total), and unpopularity of the Apple (a miniscule 0.03% of the sample). Perhaps we'll take this as a gentle hint to switch our attention away from the Apple to more popular pastures... Actually, on a ranking basis, these results aren't too dissimilar to the weekly Top Twenty charts that appear in Personal Computer News. For instance, comparing the questionnaire's results with the PCN chart for the week Nov 17-23, 9 of the first 10 micros are to be found in PCN's Top Ten, though admittedly with a good deal of position-changing:

CM Questionnaire Personal Computer News
Model Rank Model Rank
BBC Micro 1 Spectrum 1
Spectrum 2 BBC Micro 2
ZX81 3 Commodore 64 3
Commodore 64 4 Vic-20 4
Vic-20 5 ZX81 5
Oric-1 6 Oric-1 6
Dragon 32 7= Dragon 32 7
Atari 7= TI99/4a 8
Apple II/IIe 9 Atari 9
Microtan 10 Apple IIe 10

So, how do these results compare with the conclusions of the Which Micro? At A Glance in the November issue? Well, the Top Ten status of the BBC Micro and Commodore 64 seems to be fairly unequivocal wherever you look. The biggest difference of opinion lies with the Spectrum (which benefits in terms of sales from the vast number of games written for it) and the Apple (which does badly in the UK because it's over-priced and long in the tooth).

Question 4

49% of respondees said that they did have access to a micro at school or work, 33% replied in the negative, and 18% didn't respond at all (the unemployed, perhaps?).

Question 5/6/7

68% said that they had written their own music programs, and 32% said they hadn't. These covered the entire gamut of complexity, ranging from a large number of Beep sequencers on the Spectrum to some sophisticated-sounding MIDI programs for the Commodore 64. Here are some tasters of our readers ingenuity:

- Simple sequencer for Yamaha DX-9 and drum-machine (BBC Micro)
- OMDAC control of Syntom/Synbal drum modules and synths (Spectrum)
- 3-note polyphonic synth from QWERTY keyboard (BBC Micro)
- Multi-part stochastic composition (Pet)
- Qwerty keyboard synth with sequencer and MCL (Vic-20)
- Multi-channel MIDI composer (Commodore 64)
- Composer program for analogue synth and drum machine (Vic-20)
- Drum-machine controller (Spectrum) Sound sampling (Vic-20)
- Drum sequencer and OMDAC driving program (BBC Micro)
- 3-channel sequencer (Oric)
- Drum program using E&MM percussion generator board (BBC Micro)
- Casio 202 sequencer (Commodore 64)

Of the 68% (146, in fact) that had spent time burning the musical midnight oil, wading through GOSUBs (or PROCs, if of the BBC ilk), 42.6% (62) said they weren't contemplating sending in their efforts to Program Corner, 37.7% (55) said they were, and 19.7% (29) said they were thinking about it. In a few cases, the reasons for not sending in programs were simply that their authors had £ and $ flashing in their eyes. And who can blame them? If you've spent the time developing a sophisticated bit of MIDI software, why not flog it to the highest bidder?

However, in the majority of cases people seemed to be belittling their efforts at programming. Please, if you've got some anywhere near decent software, send it on to us. Shortish, listable programs will earn £60 if they're accepted, and longer programs will be subject to favourable royalty deals if they're distributed on cassette or disk.

Question 8/9

Probably a badly-phrased question, this, but most people seemed to get the gist of what we were getting at by using the adjective 'serious' being not so much an actual professional musician as a state of musical mind. In fact, only 27.4% put themselves in this category, with 71.1% content to retain their 'unserious' status, and 1.5% (rightly) questioning the meaning of 'serious'! It's a dog's life sometimes... Still, here are how some of the serious folk are using their micros:

- Studio synth control via OMDAC/PAiA/ custom interfacing
- Alphadac control of synths in rock band
- Interfacing with JX-3P/DX-7
- Transcription to hard copy from MCL
- Control of stage light show
- Computer graphics synced to sound
- AlphaSyntauri/Soundchaser systems in studios
- Making soundtracks for slides and videos
- Compositional teaching aid

Questions 10/11/12

29.2% of readers said they did have hardware add-ons; 70.8% said they didn't. Of the latter group, a resounding 81% said that they were contemplating something along these lines. This question brought out the major groan of musical micro owners: why the lack of cheap(ish), high quality sound hardware for adding on to machines like the BBC Micro? Well, watch out for the May issue of E&MM and you should see some of your prayers answered... In the meantime, here's what that 29.2% have been using:

- OMDAC (4)
- Phonosonics D/A converter (2)
- Electronics & Computing D/A converter(1)
- E&MM Percussion Generator board (2)
- Top-octave generator plus dividers, EGs, et al. (1)
- I/O ports to Wasp and Clef drum-machine (1)
- Zon-X sound generator (2)
- Mountain Computer MusicSystem (4)
- Interface for Yamaha MR10 (1)
- William Stuart Systems soundboard (2)
- Soundchaser system (2)
- MTU DAC board (1)
- Interface for DX-7 (1)
- AlphaSyntauri system (2)
- Polyphonic keyboard interface (2)
- E&MM Spectrum MIDI interface (5)
- E&MM Signal Processor (2)
- Roland Compu-Music CMU-800 (2)

Questions 13/14

Surprise, surprise. Only 13.8% thought that the musical exploits of their micro were adequately covered by the micro press. The less easily-satisfied put the following topics on their list (arranged in approximate order of popularity):

- Sound sampling;
- External sound hardware;
- MIDI interfacing;
- Interfacing to analogue synths and drum machines;
- Multi-channel sequencing software;
- Music Composition Languages in practice;
- How to make a start in computer music;
- The potential of computer music;
- Emulating acoustic instruments.

Question 15

Arranged in order, here's what readers are doing with their micros other than the obvious musical pursuits:

Activity Number of readers partaking % (of 215)
Games 133 61.9
Graphics 32 14.9
Databases 25 11.6
Accounts 24 11.2
Word processing 17 7.9
Learning to program 15 7.1
Homework (!) 14 6.5
Business 11 5.1
CAD 10 4.6
Education 9 4.2
Utilities 8 3.7
Technical 4 1.9

Well, it just goes to show that even musicians need to get their fingers in a Hobbit's cave and around a joystick now and again...!

Questions 16/17

Considering the plethora of micro magazines on the market, it's hardly surprising to find that attention is scattered fairly widely over the available reading matter. A number of readers own up to the technique I generally adopt - that of browsing through all the mags each week and only buying one if the contents page takes my fancy. WH Smith's may not thank you for that, but it sure does avoid a whopping great dent in the household budget!

Magazine Number of readers buying it % (of 215)
Nothing (!) 48 22.3
Your Computer 42 19.5
Personal Computer World 31 14.4
Acorn User 31 14.4
BBC Micro User 27 12.5
Practical Computing 19 8.8
Personal Computer News 17 7.9
Popular Computing Weekly 15 7.0
Byte 12 5.6
Electronics & Computing 11 5.1
Computer & Video Games 9 4.2
Commodore Computing 8 3.7
Computing Today 7 3.2
ZX Computing 6 2.8
Which Micro 6 2.8

Obviously, the 22% of readers who read 'nothing' are getting all they need from the pages of E&MM! The reason for asking who had come across the Computer Music Journal was simply that this is more or less the official mouthpiece of the more respectable side of computer music. Over the six or so years that this has been going, it has undoubtedly become more professional and glossy. However, it frequently seems inclined towards academic overkill and, at $29 for an overseas quarterly subscription (i.e., just 4 issues), is something of a luxury for all bar the most dedicated computer musician. In fact, only 11% of questionnaire respondees said they'd ever read a copy of the journal, though an equal percentage expressed interest in getting hold of it. There are two ways of going about this: first, direct from the publishers, MIT Press, at 28 Carleton Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, U.S.A.; or second, try ESSP, PO Box 37b, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9JB (tel: 01-979 9997).

Questions 18/19/20

 Good Average Rather not say
BASIC 48.9% 36.7% 14.4%
Machine code 17.2% 25.3% 57.5%

Well, it was really encouraging to see such a terrific degree of computer literacy amongst our readers, especially when it comes to programming in machine code. Given the exacting demands of musical programs, perhaps that's not surprising. Of course, it could be argued that it's only those readers with a high degree of computer literacy who felt up to filling in the questionnaire. For those who feel left behind, look out for Musically BASIC in these pages, a sort of 'teach yourself programming' series that's specifically angled at the musician. It was also gratifying to find out that 64.4% of this sample of CM readers were interested in joining the Software Panel. That works out to the impressive number of 132 programmers with at least average competence in BASIC, machine code, or both. Once we've assimilated the questionnaire's results and charted the course for CM's future, we'll be contacting some of the above hopefuls with ideas for them to mull over.

Series - "CM Questionnaire Results"

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Music Composition Languages

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Circuit Maker

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


Electronics & Music Maker - Mar 1984

Computer Musician




CM Questionnaire Results

Part 1 (Viewing) | Part 2

Feature by David Ellis

Previous article in this issue:

> Music Composition Languages

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> Circuit Maker

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