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MIDI Supplement - Part Two

MIDI and the Micro

A complete guide to all the hardware interfaces for home micros available so far, plus the software that goes with them.


Ever since MIDI first appeared, researchers the world over have been developing means of using it to link electronic musical instruments with home micros. Some of the fruits of their research are now beginning to manifest themselves in the form of MIDI-equipped hardware interfaces and the software to go with them. David Ellis rounds up what's been announced so far.

The problem facing MIDI's incursion into the hallowed territory of a computer's motherboard is that, as a pipeline aimed specifically at musical functions, it's a lot more than just a means for the serial transmission of data.

The fact that MIDI also lays down a precise protocol as to the ways and means of communication between synthesisers and their controllers means that the standard is also laying down the law on something as fundamental as a programming language - the difference being that MIDI concerns itself exclusively with musical exchanges. Unfortunately, this doesn't fit in too well with the track record for programming languages in the micro industry, where idiosyncratic variations on a BASIC theme are par for the course, though invariably mutually incompatible - a state of affairs that would be anathema to MIDI and the musicians using it.

The way MIDI gets around this potential personality crisis is to make provision for System Exclusive data, so that a manufacturer can address his own synthesiser specifically without actually breaking the general MIDI rules. However, before we get to the niceties of direct programming of DX7s and the like, there's still a rough patch to be got over whilst different manufacturers ensure that they're all interpreting the MIDI protocol to the letter.

This, of course, is where the consumer can step in by making sure that the manufacturer is made aware of his shortcomings. The microcomputer industry is notoriously intolerant of bugs and glitches, and there's no reason why the music industry shouldn't be made just as accountable. The best way to view the next year's development of MIDI is to be really critical of it: if you encounter problems using any combination of MIDI keyboards, software, or micro interfaces, let us know and we'll pass your comments on to the respective manufacturers.

Options


Remember that adding on a micro to a synthesiser via MIDI should mean that options open up rather than close down. If a real-time MIDI sequencer program from one firm doesn't quite meet your requirements, you shouldn't have any problem finding an alternative that does, and still lets you use the same synth. Above all, linking a micro into the system should give you access to all the processing, display, and input/output options that computer enthusiasts have come to expect as a matter of course. If you pass by a shop selling word processing software, pop in and try to envisage doing the same sorts of operations on musical data - MIDI and a decent micro should be quite capable of giving you the step-time sequencer to top them all.

Moving down a peg or two, it's clear that a common format for encoding music and programming its synthesis could mean as much to the entertainments industry as it will to the professional musician. Indeed, it might even be seen as a natural progression to the manic automatism nightmare of the portable keyboard. If a manufacturer has added so much in the way of auto-play facilities that a keyboard virtually plays itself, the obvious next step is to let it do precisely that, courtesy of a MIDI-encoded score, and then add programming features that allow the user to interact with the performance to alter, say, instruments and their orchestration, timing or rhythm, or even the notes themselves. Well, at least the keyboard would then be playing from a real musical score instead of some R&D engineer's algorithmic conception of harmonic structure burned into EPROMs...

In fact, some Japanese companies are clearly doing a lot of crystal ball-gazing in this direction, and the activities of Rittor Music seem certain to cause a good deal of inscrutable head-banging. Aside from their activities in the publishing field (eg. the American magazines, Keyboard and Guitar), they're also a publishing house for sheet music, which undoubtedly gives them a fair degree of clout when it comes to implementing MIDI-encoded music for the masses and their micros. Whether or not this should be restricted to the soul-less regurgitation of pop 'classics', as the following Rittor selections suggest, is a moot point.

Collection of Baroque Masterpieces
The Best in Pops
The Best of Richard Clayderman
The Best of the Beatles
Collection of Movie Music Masterpieces
The Best in Japanese New Music

Let's hope that the implementation of MIDI-encoded music doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator so long as it's capable of being one of the brightest hopes for the micro industry in usurping the position of Manic Miner and the like at the top of the micro applications ladder. One micro magazine recently came out with the comment that 'the adventure game is the most creative thing that can be done on a home computer'. Like any musician who's made the move to the micros, I'd strongly contest that, and I'm sure that MIDI will provide the necessary ammunition!

One point to bear in mind when looking at MIDI software is that the price of the micro has absolutely no bearing on the musical potential of the software. Unfortunately, many musicians have become conditioned to expect that a 6000-note sequencer with step-time programming is going to cost well in excess of £1000 - the Roland MC4, for instance. Well, all that changes totally once you start using a micro with MIDI. A 48K Spectrum should be just as capable of accurately controlling four synthesiser voices via MIDI as an MC4 and its CVs. Indeed, the insides of the two machines are all but the same apart from fine print detail (Z80, 48K RAM, etc.). The big difference, of course, is the 15:1 ratio in cost, and that's because the Spectrum has sold a million whereas the MC4 only trickles in by the hundred.

In fact, the MC4 is nothing more than a standard eight-bit micro with some additional CV-producing circuitry, though without either a proper QWERTY keyboard or a video interface for a TV or monitor. The same is also true of the first stand-alone MIDI sequencer, the Roland MSQ700. So, if value for money is of prime concern, the conclusion is obvious: go for the package that adds on any manufacturer's MIDI software and hardware to a standard micro like the Spectrum or Commodore 64, rather than the hard-wired approach that obliges you to limit your diet to a pre-programmed menu of rather fixed MIDI options.

THE LIST



What follows is a list of all the MIDI software that has made it into E&MM's collective consciousness in one way or another. Please remember that many of them are sight-unseen, so, as they say in the small print, no responsibilities can be taken for injury to man or machine...



Sinclair Spectrum



The major drawbacks to the Spectrum are its dreadful keyboard and the idiosyncratic approach of using schizophrenic split-function keys for programming. It's beyond me that Sinclair afficionados swear by the latter, but I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Anyway, aside from all that nonsense, the Spectrum is undeniably good value, has plenty of memory, uses a good BASIC, and its graphics are eminently pleasurable if you take the trouble to machine code them. In addition, the advent of the Microdrive makes storage and retrieval of note files a good deal less painful than the previous wearisome cassette.

Upstream


Upstream's MIDI offering seems to be the first totally UK-grown product, which makes for welcome news in these days of balance of payments deficits. The Spectrum interface itself includes both a trigger output for drum syncing and a MIDI Thru socket. Software is provided on cassette and provides 3500-note real-time or step-time entry on up to six tracks, with the options of a graphics display of dots and staves plus full editing facilities. Other software under development by Upstream includes a DX7 sound programmer, and the Spectrum interface includes the facility for adding this as a retro-fit. The combination of hardware and software is currently retailing for £179. However, to coincide with this MIDI supplement, it's available at the special offer price of £139 from Upstream, (Contact Details).

Heart


Heart's ARTEC interface and software looks to be one of the more advanced MIDI products appearing on the market, in that it goes a few stages further than just having a single MIDI bus. However, probably because of this, release of the system has been held up somewhat. Anyhow, the basic plan of action is a 16-channel sequencer that works in both real-time and step-time, with timing resolution down to 64ths, a display of scores three staves at a time, lots of editing facilities, the option of 'arbitrarily planked repetition signs', and also the ability to print out parts or full scores. Well, that's what we're told in advance of its actual appearance.

Where ARTEC makes a great deal of sense (and what should make it worth waiting for) is in the outputs department, since not only does it have a couple of MIDI buses (two lanes of traffic being faster than one), an analogue I/O sync-to-tape, and a couple of trigger outputs in the basic version, but there'll also be an additional analogue interface for providing eight channels of CVs and gates, and a two-channel eight-bit parallel interface that gets to the parts of a synth that others can't - the memory map of the CPU.

Precisely in what form ARTEC is going to appear is uncertain at present, as the original idea of a plexiglass box housing the interface plus a lot of extra stand-alone processing power (the idea being to make ARTEC a unit that can run under its own steam away from the Spectrum home-base - rather like the MPC Percussion Computer and its link with the ZX81) is being re-thought. So, bearing that in mind, the originally quoted price of DM 1680 (around £420) may be a little off the mark. For more information and an anticipated release date, try contacting Heart at 4(Contact Details), or their prospective UK agents, Ultra Design, (Contact Details).

XRI Systems


Another indication that the British software industry is eagerly taking MIDI under its wing is suggested by XRI Systems' Micon MIDI Controller for the Spectrum. Software provides both real-time (with a typical capacity of 8000 notes) and step-time (eight tracks, each with 3000 events) options, extensive editing possibilities - including a display of entered notes - plus repeat and track merging facilities. The hardware provides MIDI In, Out, Thru, and a trigger output. The complete Micon package sells for £108 and is available direct from XRI Systems, (Contact Details).

Jellinghaus Music Systems


The MIDI Computer Interface that JMS produce for the Spectrum goes under the tag of 'the big interface', big in this instance implying versatility rather than any quality that might tickle Mae West's fancy. The nice thing about this interface is that it's designed to be pressed into service for any 6502 or Z80 micro provided you've got access to expansion connectors, and includes a MIDI In, three MIDI Outs, and an external clock facility. Software available for the Spectrum includes three types of sequencers, two of which operate in real time (Einspiel Sequenzer and Live Sequenzer) and the other in a combination of real time and step time (Multitrack Composer). The Live Sequenzer claims 9000-note capacity (surely the Spectrum doesn't have room for all those, five bytes a time?) and will record dynamics, pitch bend, sustain, after touch, and program changes, with the option of looping on playback. The Composer software, on the other hand, offers eight channels for note entry, with a maximum capacity of 8300 notes, including velocity, gate length, and program changes. JMS also produce a DX7/9 Cassette Interface and software that provides '128 new sounds for the DX7'.

Outside Germany, prices are still under discussion, so the following country-of-origin prices should be taken with a pinch of silicon dioxide: MIDI Computer Interface - DM330 (£90), Einspiel Sequenzer - DM90 (£25), Live Sequenzer - DM180 (£150), Multitrack Composer - DM200 (£55), and DM50 (£14) for the DX7 Cassette Interface. Contrary to what was reported in Rumblings in E&MM April, JMS (formerly Music Center) products will not after all be distributed by Digisound. Instead, they're being distributed by Rosetti Ltd., (Contact Details). Alternatively, contact JMS themselves at (Contact Details).




Commodore 64



In many ways, the Commodore 64 is a real gift of a micro for MIDI activities. It's cheap (and getting cheaper all the time), compact (you don't really want an IBM-sized machine perching precariously on top of your keyboard stack...), well-endowed with memory (64K, though not all of this is directly addressable), reasonably cheerful when it comes to graphics (there's nothing to stop you from using the 'sprites' to produce music notation), and has a keyboard that's a good deal more responsive than the Spectrum's. However, against these plus points is the fact that writing your own software on it can be a pain because of its exceptionally deficient BASIC.

For serious use of the 64 as a compositonal/performance tool, you're more or less obliged to use a disk drive rather than cassette for storage of note files. However, it has to be said (and moaned about) that the disk drive that Commodore supply for the 64 is diabolically slow at getting its act together. This is a pity, as quite a few companies seem to be directing their attention to this micro: perhaps some enterprising firm will come up with a way of improving this aspect of the Commodore's performance? There are actually a couple of other disk drives now available for the 64: the MSD SuperDrive (only available in the States so far, at around $350) and the Commodore SFD1001 (1 meg of storage for £570, but also needing an IEEE interface).

Sequential Circuits


SCI's Model 64 MIDI Sequencer provides over 4000-note real-time storage, multitrack overdubbing, some editing facilities, auto-correction (if you want it), transposition, song construction from sequences, footswitch control, and the provision for an external clock input. A software extension coming shortly will add step-time input and full control of the SixTrak polysynth from the micro - including mult-timbral sequencing and assignment of tracks to specific MIDI channels and keyboards. The hardware plugs into the Commodore 64's cartridge connector and contains software in ROM, which means that the program doesn't have to be loaded up every time you want to use it - a particularly important consideration if you're using an £80 per hour studio! In addition, the unit can be used without a monitor by keeping a close eye on the various status-indicating LEDs strategically sited on the top of the interface. The suggested retail price is £185 ($199). For more info, contact Sequential Circuits Inc., (Contact Details), or Rod Argent's Keyboards, (Contact Details).

Jellinghaus Music Systems


JMS provide two versions of interfaces suitable for the Commodore 64, one specifically for the 64 (the Mini Interface) and one general type for both 6502 and Z80 micros. Whereas the former has just two MIDI Outs and a MIDI In, the latter also provides a MIDI Thru and a drum sync facility. The Multitrack Composer software gives 9000-note storage onto a maximum of six tracks. Aside from step-time programming of pitch and duration, the software also makes provision for the specification of staccato or legato articulation, dynamics, and program changes.

JMS have also developed an intriguing Sound Editor program that makes use of a light pen to program new sounds into the DX7 (and the poor, left-behind DX9) via the cassette interface. UK prices are stil being finalised for these products, but to give you some sort of guideline, JMS prices in Germany are DM99 (equivalent to £27) for the Mini Interface, DM330 (£90) for the MIDI Computer Interface, DM170 (£45) for the Multitrack Composer, and DM (£50) for the DX7/9 Sound Editor. For more info on these products, contact either of the addresses given above in the Sinclair Spectrum section.

Passport Designs


Passport's MIDI card for the Commodore 64 comes with MIDI In/Out and drum sync sockets. With their MIDI/4 software, up to 16 real-time tracks can be merged into each of four channels to give what they claim is unlimited overdubbing ability. Each track is said to be fully independent, with its own selectable MIDI channel (1-16), preset number (1-128), and user-definable instrument name. In addition to picking up pitch and duration for each track, the software also registers velocity, pitch bend, preset changes, and after touch data. Editing is limited at present to a punch in/out facility for correction of goofs. A drum on/off option gives realtime control of drum machines by sending clock and stop/start data. Other features include sequence looping, real-time transposition, and a click-track. The RRP for the 64 version of the MIDI card is $195, while the MIDI/4 software goes for $99. For more info, contact Passport Designs Inc., (Contact Details); or Syco Systems, (Contact Details).

Siel


Siel's MIDI/Computer link includes two MIDI Outs, a MIDI Thru, a clock input, and the capability to control a chain of their Expander modules, since each can be allotted its own identification code. In fact, the Siel interface was originaly designed by German firm Music Center, and is now made under licence from Jellinghaus Music Systems. Software has yet to be released, but provisional details suggest that there'll be both real-time and step-time sequencers available for this micro. However, the MIDI/Computer link is available now and carries an RRP or £99. For more information, contact Siel UK, (Contact Details).

Moog Music


Moog Music are another of those firms that have been showing off prototype MIDI software at shows around the world, but so far little has been revealed about release dates. Anyhow, we do not know that they're working on a prototype system called The Producer (any votes for 'Springtime for Hitler' as one of the demo pieces?) that runs on the Commodore 64 and is capable of controlling MIDI synths, producing CVs for monophonic synth control, and towing along the odd drum machine or two. Moog Music are also showing considerable enthusiasm in the direction of educational applications of MIDI. For more information, contact Moog Music Inc., (Contact Details), or Moog Music, (Contact Details).



BBC Model B



As micros go, the BBC is still a youngster in the global popularity stakes, which means that its potential delights have still to enter the frame of consciousness of most R&D departments indulging in MIDI. Time alone will rectify this situation, and, apart from EMR below, companies known to be thinking seriously along the Beeb's low profile lines include Roland DG and Siel.

Indeed, given that MIDI is a fairly labour-intensive activity for any make of computer, the BBC should have a positive advantage in this respect, on account of its 2MHz 6502A (the Commodore 64 and Apple II both make do with a processor running at half that speed). On top of that, the BBC B has a reasonably fast disk system (in contrast to the Commodore 64) that's also reasonably cheap (in contrast to the Apple), and, to put the icing on the cake, the graphics capabilities are excellent.

Electromusic Research


So far, EMR are the first British (or any other nationality) company to bring out MIDI products for the BBC Micro. Their MIDI computer interface unit connects to the 1MHz Bus of the Beeb and provides MIDI In, MIDI Out, and an internal sync input of the five-pin DIN variety. EMR's first item of MIDI software goes by the name of MIDItrack, and, unlike most sequencer programs being produced at present, uses step-time input only on up to six tracks, with a total capacity of 7500 events. Each track stores details of pitch, duration, dynamics, and what EMR call 'style' (gate length, perhaps?), as well as program changes. Editing facilities are provided to optimise a musician's interactions with the Beeb's QWERTY keyboard, and any combination of track and channel assignment may be selected to control up to six MIDI instruments.

The BBC Micro interface unit retails for £64.95, and the MIDItrack software for £55: EMR are offering the two together for a special price of £109.95. For sales and further information contact ex-E&MM editor Mike Beecher at Electromusic Research, (Contact Details).



Apple IIe



The Apple II only benefits MIDI applications in one major respect - namely its now infamous expansion connectors. That said, the Apple has a nice homely quality about it (you feel that it's never hiding anything from you - a point which could never be said to be true with the BBC and all its *FX secrets) which encourages a good working relationship. And even if the recommended retail price of the Aple IIe makes you see red, you could always give a thought to the various low-cost lookalikes that are constantly springing up with wild abandon from Taiwanese and Arabian production lines.

Passport Designs


As in the case of their hardware for the Commodore 64, the MIDI card that Passport produce for the Apple has MIDI In, Out, and drum sync. The MIDI/4 software would appear to have the same specs as that for the Commodore 64 (see above). However, Passport also have a piece of MIDI software specifically for the Apple, namely the Polywriter transcription program. This transcribes in real-time from any MIDI keyboard onto screen-displayed staves. Timing resolution extends from whole notes to triplet 16ths, and up to twelve voices per stave can be accomodated. Extensive editing is possible from the QWERTY keyboard (including the addition of text above and below the stave), and the printout formats extend from single parts to full-blown, 40-part orchestral scores. Recommended retail prices go as follows: $195 for the Apple MIDI card, $99 for the MIDI/4 software, and $299 for Polywriter.

Syntauri


Syntauri is something of a dark horse when it comes to MIDI products. They've already done a good deal of the groundwork when it comes to interfacing keyboards, micros, and synthesisers with human beings by virtue of their three-year-old alphaSyntauri system, and they were also one of the manufacturers who met around the table in the early days of drawing up the MIDI specs. However, their interest seems to lie only with the Apple II, and the MIDI products that are expected 'in a few months' time' will be specifically for that machine. Apart from the suggestion that the software will be in the Metatrak format, ie. real-time sequencing onto 16 tracks, that's all they're saying at the moment. For more info (nearer the time perhaps?), contact Computer Music Studios, (Contact Details), or Syntauri Corporation, (Contact Details).

Roland DG


The MPU401 MIDI Processing Unit is one of the first MIDI/Computer links to be produced by one of the Japanese giants (or, in this instance , their American off-shoot, Roland Digital Group), so there's a good deal of anticipation surrounding its release. The basic unit has the usual MIDI In, Out, and Thru, but also adds sync out, tape in/out, and metronome out. Roland label the MPU401 as an 'intelligent interface' because it's able to keep the bits streaming down the MIDI bus whilst the micro gets on with such housekeeping chores as note file saves and loads. So far, there's no clear indication what the software that goes with the MPU401 will do, but the metronome facility is a pretty clear indication that it's probably angled in the real-time direction.

One encouraging move that Roland DG have made is to release the communications protocol used by the 401 so that others can get in on the software act. So, just because you bought their interace, doesn't mean you're obliged to buy their software too. A gold star for Roland DG, then. The projected retail price of the MPU401 is 'under $200', while the software is expected to go for 'around $100'. For more information on Roland DG's MIDI products and a copy of the MPU401 programming specs, contact Roland (UK) Ltd., (Contact Details), or Roland DG Corporation, (Contact Details).

LEMI


This Italian firm has recently entered the MIDI arena with a MIDI card that plugs into one of the expansion connectors in the Apple and two items of software for the aforesaid. First is AMP 83, a polyphonic sequencer of joint American/Italian authorage that's mainly in real-time but includes sophisticated editing and transposing facilities, variable quantisation levels, sync to and from tape, a software-simulated digital delay, and a sort of automated split keyboard feature whereby programs are changed according to the note being played. The Italian retail price for the package of the Apple MIDI card and AMP 83 software is 600,000 lire (around £240).

Next, there's the intriguingly-named Future Shock, a combination real-time and step-time sequencer that's ambitiously intended as the MIDI sequencer to end all. This is still under development, but it does sound very much worth waiting for. Other software that they're working on includes a DX7 programmer (yes, another one). In fact, LEMI were demonstrating this on the SCI stand at Frankfurt, and very impressive it looked, too. Other plans include adapting their software for the Commodore 64. No UK distribution details are available at present, but LEMI can be reached at (Contact Details).

Syn-Comp


Syn-Comp's MIDI Sequencer provides 4500-note real-time storage and multitracking up to 16 tracks. At present, the software supports only pitch, note on, note off, and program change, and included with the Apple MIDI card are cables and documentation. Since the software was written by one Oz Flail, who's work on controlling the Prophet 5 from an Apple II was greeted with a good deal of enthusiasm from certain sectors of the synthesiser fraternity in the States, his MIDI Sequencer may well be worth looking out for. However, no price details are known, and, as far as we know, no UK distribution is planned. For more info, contact Syn-Comp, (Contact Details).

Rittor Music


Like other Japanese firms concentrating on their own market, most of what Rittor are doing seems angled at micros more or less peculiar to Japan - the various NEC models, Fujitsu's FM7 and a whole host of MSX machines that the Japanese seem to be consuming like sake and puffer fish. And, even though they are now thinking beyond insularity towards the Western environs of the Apple IIe, MIDI products for this micro are in the main 'projected' (interesting how often that word crops up with MIDI software...) rather than existing in a current space-time dimension. Furthermore, Rittor don't seem to have any plans for making an Apple MIDI card available. That said, they do seem to be making up for this shortcoming with a plethora of projected MIDI software that leaves one gasping for breath (not to mention another slug of sake).

Their Music Player software allows step-time entry of up to six tracks using the QWERTY keyboard. Enterable data for each event includes pitch, duration, dynamics, sustain, and pitch bend. A wide range of editing functions is also provided, including copying and moving of measures. The suggested retail price is 9800 yen (around £30), but no UK distributor has been appointed yet.

Next, the Sound Creator software provides direct programming via MIDI of the DX7's FM synthesis parameters by interaction with a screen display. Other functions include 'the simulation of sound waves using 3-D graphics' (presumably a simulation of the Fairlight) and 'random voicing' for the Yamaha DX7. Versions for other MIDI keyboards are also planned, once other system exclusive data formats have been released... The retail price is undetermined both in the Land of the Rising Yen and over here.

Other software products include the MIDI Song Album series mentioned in the introduction and the Multi Recorder (a real-time sequencer that's only available for NEC and Fujitsu micros at present). For more information, contact Rittor Music Inc., (Contact Details).




Yamaha CX5



Yamaha were showing some MIDI software for the Apple II last year (dancing bar graphs and so on), which basically just churned out pre-programmed pops in a Rittor-like way for the purpose of catching eyes and ears at music fairs and the like. However, all those plans have been largely superceded by the launch of the CX5, Yamaha's own MSX-standard micro incorporating MIDI and an FM synthesis module. And although the CX5 will function like a DX7 itself, it's the MIDI connection that's the pipeline to its future.

The range of software being produced includes a multitrack composing program, with the option of either real-time or step-time entry, a DX7/9 sound programmer, and various programs with an educational flavour. But the major point to bear in mind is that this software runs either the built-in FM synthesis module, a MIDI-connected DX7, or even a gaggle of FM chips in the shape of the soon-to-be-released T8PR rack-mounting unit.

Perhaps it's somewhat impudent to include in this survey a micro that's not actually available, but Yamaha's entire design concept is so tight that the CX5 must be a surefire success. Aside from the inclusion of MSX (which turns out to be rather better than one was led to believe) in the CX5, the micro also includes a MIDI link as standard. Although some micro magazines have been reviewing a Yamaha MSX micro called the YIS503 (which also includes an FM synthesis module), it's important to realise that this machine was intended only for the Japanese market. This probably explains why the music software released with the YIS503 was of the auto-accompaniment/pre-programmed instruments variety, and therefore not as exciting as we'd been led to believe from advance publicity for the CX5.

In fact, the only MSX/MIDI/FM micro that Kemble-Yamaha will be importing into the UK is the CX5. That's definite. System prices for the CX5, FM module, keyboard, and software are predicted to start at around £500, but nothing is expected to appear on the market before the late autumn. For more info, contact Yamaha Special Products Division, (Contact Details).

Conclusions



Just from this brief survey of MIDI software, it's become abundantly clear that lots of people are busy doing virtually the same thing. Indeed, looking at the specs for different real-time and step-time sequencers, it's hard to avoid a nagging feeling that we're going to see another cycle of the clone-like proliferation that hit the software industry with games like Space Invaders and Pacman. In some ways this could be a good thing, because going over the same ground time and time again will eventually clear away the debris to reveal the real McCoy, while at the same time forcing software prices down. On the other hand, it's also a bandwagon that any Tom, Dick, or Harry in the music business can jump on, which could mean all the attendant problems of software piracy and variations on a theme that look all too lacklustre.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to envisage someone taking the critical machine code routines for MIDI transmission and receiving from one manufacturer's software, tagging these on to some different graphics on the same or a different micro, and then reselling it under a different name in the hope of making a fast buck from the MIDI-seduced public. Just as worrying is the increasing tendency for small ad hoc companies with limited finances to pre-advertise their products so that demand can be judged before actually supplying the goods. After all, if someone like Sinclair can get knighted despite such a hit and miss approach to consumer relations, why shouldn't Joe Soap with his do-everything MIDI software?

So, there are really two messages to get across. First, to the software developer, please use your imagination to develop MIDI software in a way that'll maximise what can be got out of the standard. Second, to the musician, don't part with your hard-earned cash until you've got an absolute assurance that the product is fully-developed and available.


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

 

Electronics & Music Maker - Jun 1984

MIDI Supplement - Part Two

Feature by David Ellis

Previous article in this issue:

> Inside MIDI

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