Friday, November 04, 2005
The ATARI ST
Atari is currently celebrating the 20th Anniversary of its Atari ST.
Known more for manufacturing games and game machines, the ST was Atari’s first major foray into the world of personal computing.
Like the Macintosh and Amiga, the Atari ST was based on the Motorola 68000 processor. It offered medium resolution color graphics and high quality stereo sound, and its GEM operating system featured a graphical user interface.
With an 8 MHz CPU, one MB RAM and no hard drive, its suggested retail price was about $1,000.00 back in those days. I got mine for $800.00 at J&R Electronics in downtown Manhattan.
Unfortunately, Atari ST was unable to compete with the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh for mainstream business purposes. As for graphics and games, the Amiga pretty much had that market covered. As a result, the ST struggled to find its place, but it managed to carve out a niche in the music and audio editing market, where many music professionals used it as an advanced sound mixing and sound effects machine.
During that period, I was taking private music lessons from a great teacher, Sam Kanter. With the aid of an Atari ST, sequencing software, a Roland drum machine, and a Korg M1 keyboard, he molded me into a better lover of music through the rudiments of composition, arrangement, orchestration and sound design. Suddenly, I became a proponent of Brian Eno’s theory that anyone can play music.
Subsequently, as a way to interact with musicians and other students to further expand my horizon, he sponsored my membership to an exclusive music-related BBS or bulletin board system.
Before the Internet became publicly accessible, BBS enabled large amounts of people with personal computers, modem and telephone line to connect with one another. Most early computer bulletin boards were run as free public hobbyist systems — mostly for game enthusiasts — or as exclusive membership-only systems.
Back in those days, you must strictly comply with their rules of etiquette when posting your opinions or responding to someone else’s. A sysop or system operator closely monitored every forum. Knee-jerk responses were discouraged. Your posting must be written as coherently as you possibly could; otherwise, it would be deleted.
On the upside, through the BBS, a lot of project collaborations were formed, as well as job leads to be discovered. Resources were plentiful for all music enthusiasts — professionals and students alike.
Modem connections were primitively slow back then compared to today’s standards. Nonetheless, file sharing was possible, and artists from various locations were exchanging MIDI files; creating incredible original works thousands of miles apart.
What did I get out of those four years of private music lessons? Not much to rave about or worth carving onto my tombstone.
I had nothing that made it on Billboard’s top 10 or top 1000, or even top one million for that matter. However, being accepted as a member of the American Society of Authors and Composers and BMI helped me land projects to defray the costs of my private lessons.
But the most exciting was my participation as a technical legal assistant in a patent infringement case that involved the compact disc technology. I held with my own hands the prototype of the compact disc which was made of glass; it was twelve inches in diameter while its player was a hefty box made of plywood. Two of our witnesses were Nicholas Negroponte of MIT’s Media Lab and Robert Moog, the man who invented the Moog synthesizer. We won the case.
I’ve had a few computers since the Atari ST, but as in any love affairs, memories with the first one tend to last forever even if the object of desire is no longer around; especially, when that first one has transported you to higher realms of ecstasy never before experienced in life.
More on ATARI ST (technical Specifications, Origins, Software, Screenshots)
MIT Media Lab
Robert Moog (Moog Music)
Thompson v Quixote
Labels: Life in New York
posted by Señor Enrique at 6:00 AM
Came upon your blog -- thanks for rembering me in such a good light!
Sam Kanter, NYC
- Senor Enrique said...
What a wonderful surprise your having run into my blogsite!
I've always appreciated your patience and great interest in sharing your knowledge with your students. I will always treasure the years I spent learning music from you. You are indeed a fine teacher!
Here is an another atari games blog: