Just a fun anecdote

Sorry for those who consider this a waste of your time, but I came across my old copy of 1990 “Keyboard” magazine and found this list of HW requirements for Cubase in it… Just too funny to keep to myself…

It was not available for PC yet, only on Mac or Atari ST, who was the king of the hill in 1990.
NB it needed 1Meg of RAM… Yes… it’s MegaByte NOT even GigaByte…

Storage need was “dbl-sided FD”.
I bet some younger readers did not figure yet this meant “double-sided Floppy Disk”…
Hard drives were just becoming popular then (the largest one I found then was 20MB and was quite $$), so many/most machines still relied on floppy disks only.
Double-sided disks meant a whooping 720KB of painfully slow storage.
That’s about 1M times smaller than your average SSD today.

Note of course that Cubase was not yet a full-blown DAW but mostly only a MIDI sequencer.


and that’s when I was using Bars & Pipes Pro !
I don’t know why but I still have some of that old equipment like my Amiga lots of FD’s :slight_smile:

I loved Bars & Pipes. It was the first GUI based sequencer I ever had - which does correctly imply some prior text based sequencer who’s name I’ve forgotten.

I used to build these kind of Rube Goldberg MIDI routing configurations that could take the output of say a drum machine and transform it into multi-timbrel harmonic rhythmic parts. I’ve tried to do similar using Cubase, but never got it to really work right.

and then Microsoft bought out Blue Ribbon Bakery, the developers of B&P Pro and said they would develop it for the PC but of course they never did and buried the company, was very sad for me.

Actually Blue Ribbon Soundworks - I’m looking at the manual right now. My impression was that MS bought them to obtain some IP that Blue Ribbon had. The guy who wrote it, Todor Fay was at MS for awhile and then left to start a video tool company.

While looking for this manual it reminded me of the first software synth (way pre VST) I got called Reality. It wasn’t very useful. It basically turned a PC into hardware MIDI sound module that you could then record onto tape. No PC based audio recording at the time. However it did have the best opening line for a manual ever - “Thank you for buying Reality”

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Why I said Bakery is beyond me :rofl:
Guess I should have looked for the manual too, except I’m not sure where it is right now, in one of the outbuildings here on the Farm !

Back when I started with an Atari. I actually managed to get an external Atari hard drive to save all my projects to. It was the size of a 12 inch lp and about 3 inches deep. The storage seemed huge at the time.

For awhile I had an Amiga emulator on my PC so I could continue to use B&P

Seems like there was some company with “bakery” in its name back then. There were a lot of oddly named companies & products in those early days.

In 1990 I would have turned 15 years old and just started playing guitar. The baritone horn had officially been replaced (I really want to get a baritone now, but I think I might have to try a trombone) …

Anyway, computers were the furthest thing from my mind at that point in time. Skateboards and girls were much more entertaining! :grin:

I have a deep fascination now with how things got started in the “computer music” world and I find these types of posts highly entertaining. Thank you to the frontrunners of this amazing thing we now take for granted called the modern DAW.

I’ve been using the Amiga Forever program for a few yrs, is great for running all the old games, but never even thought about trying B&P, maybe I will try it sometime.
I know that “bakery” wasn’t my imagination, hopefully I can suss it out !

Oh, please do that. If B&P can run on a modern PC that really opens some interesting doors. Imagine using some virtual MIDI cables for it and Cubase to communicate. Take all the MIDI weirdness B&P can produce and play that on some great sounding VSTi’s.

I’ll see what I can do, first I’d have to install Amiga Forever on my DAW and then see if I can actually find the B&P program to run on it.

You can download it free from here: (if your setup can run *.lha files)

Apparently it can be done!

And I found this in the testimonials:

Your product has meant that I can use Bars & Pipes again right here on my PC to revisit some old compositions from past projects… which is a total Godsend!

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Thanks for that, much appreciated !!

I still have my Atari 1040ST, upgraded to 4MB of memory on which I started out using a cracked Cubase 2.0 back in 1991. After a year or so I bought the official 3.0 and also invested in the Midex5 because I had the SC Prophet5, Elka22 and Roland D50 synths. In the beginning I used a 12 inch 30MB Atari hard drive. Later I bought a 105MB 3,5 inch drive, which was actually a SCSI drive with an external drive interface to the Atari. Around 1995 I switched to PC and upgraded to 2.8 windows version. I had to deliver my Atari dongle in order to get the Windows parallel port dongle which I stll have. So unfortunately I can’t start my Cubase 3.0 on the Atari anymore but the machine itself still runs without any issue. I try every year or so and last year it still ran without any issue. Even my 30 year old HD still runs and connects!

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Wow. Still functional?

Pt. 1
Shortly after the big bang my first computer was an Apple ][ Plus - a device so ancient it didn’t come with lower case letters (a 3rd party ROM could be added) and it maxed out at 48K memory!!! This is also before MIDI was around. We’d heard something called MIDI would be rolled out in awhile and it was supposed make synths “talk” to each other - whatever that might mean.

Into this environment a company call Syntauri releases an Apple computer based synth called the alphaSyntauri. It consisted of a musical keyboard that connected via a ribbon cable to a card that plugs into the Apple along with 2 more cards which provided the digital oscillators. These last 2 were actually made by Mountain Computer Music in Scotts Valley CA which is in the mountains between Santa Cruz and the then accurately named Silicon Valley - so a company of surfer, hippy, nerds.

Combined the cards provided 16 voices of 8-bit wavetable audio. However the stock sounds were fairly limited and I realized being able to create more wavetables was the way around that. So I made a little editor that had 4 buffers to hold wavetables which you could manipulate against each other (add, multiply, etc), generate new sine, saw, etc. waves plus ways of scaling different portions of wavetable. Ended up I could create some pretty rich sounds - still 8-bit of course. But way more sophisticated than the 8-bit sound chips that define what we now think of as that 8-bit sound. Oddly one of the coolest sounding waves I had consisted of the random content in one of the buffers before using it.

While double checking some names on the internet I came across this article

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This thread sure has pushed my nostalgia buttons. Had to do some file cabinet spelunking for this bit.

Pt. 2

Currently my keyboard playing skills are better than they have ever been. They also currently suck, so…

…So, the Mountain Computer Music cards were much more interesting than the keyboard they came with, and I wanted to make them play music all on their own. So basically I designed a data structure to describe a Song and built a Player to take that data and have the cards play it.

Each oscillator on the card had these controls you could set by stuffing a value into a specific address on the Apple

  1. The location in memory for a wavetable
  2. How fast to step through the wavetable - this determines the pitch
  3. The output volume of the oscillator - this lets you make Envelopes and create silent sections (aka rests)

And that’s all the control you’d get. Also the shear lack of computing horsepower limited what was possible. For example I started off trying to use ADSR Envelopes, which were quite common on the hardware synths of the day. But it turned out calculating the envelopes in realtime took more time than I had before the cards need to be updated. I asked my boss at the time (a brilliant chip circuit designer) if he had any ideas on getting around the limitation. And he suggested using tables for the Envelopes just like the Waves. His reasoning was that memory was a cheaper and more available resource than CPU cycles. An observation that still seems valid-ish. Also it turns out having total control of an Envelope’s shape can be real interesting.

Remember this is before MIDI and at that time there wasn’t a common way to think about how to structure musical data. Hardware sequencers existed (although those might seem more like arpeggiators nowadays). They were Event based which is the approach that MIDI also ended up using and now seems like the standard way to go. But back then it was all up for grabs & I took a different path. My data structure wasn’t based on a linear sequence of Events but instead on the idea of Musical Motifs - patterns of Pitches, Rhythms and other elements that could be mixed and matched with each other. Taking the opening of Beethoven’s 5th as an example. The first 4 Notes would be Rhythm Pattern A and Pitch Pattern A while the next 4 notes would be Rhythm Pattern A but Pitch Pattern B.

Here’s an outline of the whole data structure

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