You could just have dived from computer keyboard to synth keyboard for the last time. Tim Goodyer looks at a useful Atari remote which takes sequencer control wherever you want it.
EVEN IN A small studio, it's easy to find yourself in the situation where your Atari is simply too far from one piece of gear or another for comfort. Let's face it, the computer can only be in one place at a time, so if you've mounted it above your main MIDI controller keyboard, it probably isn't readily accessible from your mixing desk when the time comes to do a mix. On the other hand, if you've mounted it above the mixer...
Many of us - me included - have consequently set the record count-in on our sequencers to accommodate the dive from computer to keyboard before the downbeat of the first bar. It's not great, is it? True, there are solutions to the problem: moving your Atari around is one of the less practical, assigning sequencer control to actual keys on your controller keyboard or using foot pedals are a couple of more practical ideas. These latter two, of course, are only available where the software supports them. All work but have drawbacks which equate to inconvenience of one sort or another. If only someone, somewhere made a small remote control for the Atari...
OK, it was a set up. The Friendchip K..AT is a cable remote unit for use with the Atari ST/STE computer. It offers 14 user-definable commands which can be set to perform any software functions accessible by Atari keyboard strokes. As such it's perfect for controlling your sequencer, and has the additional advantage of being mobile enough to be moved around the studio with you.
Looking at the K..AT more closely, you'll find a grey-finished plastic box bearing nine momentary buttons (seven function buttons and two "2nd" buttons for accessing seven second page functions). On the right-hand side of the box are the cable for connecting the K..AT to the second joystick port of your Atari and a 3.5mm jack socket for the connection of a footswitch (dedicated to duplicating the record function). The supplied cable is 5m in length but extensions can be used. Along with the K..AT itself, you get the requisite software and a "manual" - a folded sheet of A4, but it tells you all you need to know.
Although the K..AT's software allows you to set the unit up for control of any piece of ST software (as long as it's controlled by key strokes), the front-panel screening suggests dedicated uses for the seven buttons - Play, Stop, Record, +, -, », « (use of these buttons in conjunction with the "2nd" buttons is not marked). While this is an arbitrary assignation on behalf of Friend Chip, it does serve to make the K..AT very musician-friendly. The Record button is even coloured red! Without its software, however, the K..AT's hardware is useless.
Supplied with the hardware is a disk containing .ACC, .DAT and .RSC files. To use the K..AT you must power up your Atari with these either on your boot disk or in the C partition of your hard drive. Once loaded, control and definition of the K..AT's functions is from the desk accessory. Easy.
Opening the accessory you are presented with four dialogue boxes. The first box allows you to scroll through the 16 sets of key definitions supported by the DA. These can be named (in up to eight characters) and the definition selected when the accessory is closed (using the Exit box) is the one currently in use. Along the top of this definition box there is a bar identifying the current selection as either the Actual Configuration or the Boot Configuration. Only one configuration can be designated Boot, and will automatically be active when you boot up your Atari. Below the config box is where you define the K..AT's keys. Two boxes - the left-hand one marked K.AT Key, the right marked Atari Key - allow you to select (by pressing) the K..AT's buttons and assign (also by pressing) the Atari key equivalents. In the Atari Key box there is a Rpt On/Off message. Toggled by clicking on it with the mouse, this facilitates the equivalent of successive key-presses by holding down the K..AT button - useful for track selection, say, but not for entering Record mode. Once a complete set of K..AT keys has been defined, it can be saved using the Save box.
The review K..AT came with definitions already programmed for C-Lab's Creator and Steinberg's Cubase sequencers. Setting up the hardware took a matter of seconds, booting with the K..AT disk took a couple more - booting Creator took longer. Opening the desk accessory and selecting the Creator option (Cubase had been assigned the boot config) left me with the K..AT up and running in only slightly more time than booting Creator alone. And it worked first time.
For me, Friendchip have solved a long-standing problem. In spite of being another piece of technology intended to solve a problem thrown up by technology - a plot usually destined to make the use of technology a less attractive proposition in the first place - the K.AT comes over as friendly, ridiculously easy to use and almost indispensable once you've worked with it. And that's without even considering its potential outside use with a sequencer.
Price £69 including VAT
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Review by Tim Goodyer
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