Thursday, October 6, 2011

Passport Designs Master Tracks MIDI sequencer software, Keyboard 1986

Passport Designs Master Tracks MIDI sequencer software "The 1-2-3 of MIDI Sequencers" 1-page advertisement from page 11 in Keyboard February 1986.

// begin sappy //

I originally had another blog post pretty much ready to rock, but when I heard the sad news about Steve Jobs, I decided to post this advertisement. I know it sounds sappy, and you've been hearing it everywhere lately, but this ad literally changed my life.

Although I would currently define myself as a Windows-based music producer using mostly Sonar and ReNoise  (and even more recently, testing an Ubuntu/ReNoise combo on a first-gen netbook :), my first music production love affair with a computer was an Apple IIe running PassPort Design's Master Tracks. A Mac IIci running MOTU Performer was my second.

Before using a computer, I thought sequencing with the Six-trak's and CZ-5000's on-board sequencers was the bee's knees. But when this advertisement presented itself, it was enough to pull me away and get me interested in computer-based music production. 

I have fond memories of walking into my local music store and special-ordering Master Tracks software along with their MIDI interface. They had never sold either the software or the hardware before. But just now, reading Passport Design's Wikipage, has brought back some not-so-good memories of trying to install that MIDI interface (or the extended memory card - can't remember which, but pretty sure it was the Interface). Twice I took back the interface because it wasn't working properly and had to wait for them to ship another.  All the while the music software sat on my desk waiting to get put into action.

I was frustrated. So was the manager of that music store.

The third time I got the interface - it too didn't work. But my older brother who was much more wise in the ways of the mysterious Apple IIe (it was actually his computer until he moved out of town for grad school), read through the manual and proceeded to either move the interface or extended memory card into slot #1 rather than slot #2 (or some similar silliness).

He then turned on the computer and loaded the software. And it worked like a charm. Gah!

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Chances are when something doesn't work - it is user error. :D

Back in the day I would lug that IIe onto the stage, along with a Yamaha TX81Z, Kawai K1 and Mirage sampler. I can't even recall what drum machine I used.  And this fading memory of that time period is probably for the best - looking back, trying to compose a mixture of angry industrial and electronic music a la NIN probably wasn't working so well for me.   :)

It was only years later that I admitted to the manager what had happened with the MIDI interface. And that was well after he gave me a number of synth belt buckles

I've only recently come back to Apple with the iPad 2, experimenting with music apps like Synthetic Bits FunkBox, and now Little Midi Machine with the Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer. And I plan to have even more fun downloading some of the newer composing apps this Thanksgiving long weekend.  I'm hoping to be ready to try and leave the laptop at home during my next out-of-town trip - trips that have become good test scenarios for my increasingly frequent mobile/netbook composing habits.

I'm sure Apple is in good hands with new CEO Tim Cook, but I don't think the company will ever be the same without Steve Jobs.

// end sappy //

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