26 thoughts on “Atari ST Computer Still Useful For Music In 2019

  1. 7:48 – love it!
    That is why I do this every day of my life.
    His surprise and joy and laughter.
    Thank you for this awesome video.

  2. Well, the Atari ST machines were specced with musicians on the MIDI aspect in mind to make sure there were no timing/lag issues regarding it’s MIDI implementation, which is why it’s so highly regarded. I’ve heard of a number of artists STILL using an ST for MIDI use over the past year or so.

    1. Sadly, TOS/GEM was terrible and no other OS’s at the time had any products. Too bad they didn’t use OS9 at the time. I had four ST’s (with DIY memory upgrades) networked running MiNT, chucked them and bought an SGI instead.

          1. So you replaced 4 8MHz computer who could barelly run MINT with a 100MHz 3D graphics RISC based workstation. That’s a BIG upgrade.

  3. The ST series certainly made computer MIDI sequencing a little more affordable, but I don’t know if I’d call it “innovative”. For starters IIRC Atari got in trouble with Apple over their Mac-like UI and had to change a few things.

    Also, I was happily composing using a C64, and the studio I recorded at was running Performer on a Mac, both well before the Atari ST line was on the market.

    1. I’m trying to find a timeline for this. Is it this: Steinberg Pro 16 (C64) released 1984; MOTU Performer (Mac) released 1985; Steinberg Pro 24 (Atari) released 1986?

    2. DRI (not Atari) was in a lawsuit over the “look and feel” of GEM– the PC version of GEM had to change, not Atari’s. While there certainly were earlier MIDI implementations (the ST came out in mid-1985) the ST combined the 68000 CPU, built in MIDI ports (I think the Yamaha CX5M was the only other at the time, and it was basically just an MSX machine), a ‘cartridge’ port (useful for expansion), and a DMA driven hard disk interface that gave high sustained transfer speeds, plus a faster CPU (8MHz), good RAM (1Mbyte standard on the 1040ST) and high resolution (640×400/72Hz monochrome) display. There was no multitasking (and little system overhead for video, disk transfers, etc.) so the program that was running had absolute control over data transfer to/from the MIDI ports. (Hence that legendary time-keeping.) There were a lot of ‘firsts’ made possible with the combination– the DMA based ACSI port had enough bandwidth for direct digital recording (the ADAP sound rack), the cartridge port was comandeered to allow multiple MIDI ports, SMPTE code readers, etc. which made hundreds of MIDI channels available and time locked for video and film scoring, etc. For a number of years there all the ‘new’ MIDI based stuff was developed for the ST first.

    3. Yeah, the Commodores were starting to develop some muscle and would later take over the video world with the Amiga and the Toaster, but the Mac world was a frickin’ mess during that time period (trust me: you wouldn’t believe the number of “why don’t you sell that piece of junk and buy a real computer” arguments I got into in the mid-80’s with stoopid Macheads who were completely clueless about this stuff).

      In the Apple world, there was no standardization at that time among hardware MIDI devices. Which meant that software was only compatible with specific hardware, most often from the same manufacturer. You wanted to run Performer, you had to buy the MOTU MIDI interface. For Vision, only the Opcode hardware worked. For Southworth… etc., etc., etc. And then those hardware devices weren’t always stable either, as many of the companies involved were just starting to figure out that particular aspect of manufacturing. Usually and with only a few exceptions (MOTU), either the software or the hardware ended up sucking, depending upon the overarching company focus (software companies didn’t make good hardware; hardware companies couldn’t code good software).

      And that’s the way it continued until the Mac software companies (marginally) started to get their sh*t together, but that wasn’t until the late ’80’s. The Atari had a distinct advantage for years in that the software devs never had to worry about interface issues. They merely coded to the chipset specification for the board, and away they went — easy, peasy. Which is another reason why Atari took off in the MIDI world so easily.

  4. I still have two, in use and in storage. Used for 20 years live and at home. I produced accompanying synth tracks in my home studio to use with my 3 piece I’ve act. Eventually, I left the Atari at home and played disks through a Roland midi file player on stage (whew)…Electronic drummer, guitar, and synth (me) hearing HH synth track, all instruments going to PA including guitar, no amps on stage. I became so skilled in the 480 ppq milieu that everything else that followed seemed so overkill.

  5. would be nice if a single Midi interface manufacturer since 1985 could actually make something as Nuns Ass tight as the good ole original Atari ST midi ports. Nothing has sounded as locked in timing-wise since i moved on from my beloved ST…sometimes newer is not better.

  6. The video was a little redundant considering the keyboard he’s using (Korg Triton Le) has a pretty capable sequencer on board with better storage options. With that said I have a beloved Atari 1040 STe in the closet. I had to retire it after getting the dreaded ‘row of bombs’ all the time. The fact that his Atari is still running without having to bang or drop it on it’s side is impressive.

    I thought all those songs were lost. Fortunately, I used Hybrid Arts’ software instead the Steinberg and Emagic stuff. One cool thing about the Hybrid Arts sequencer is they didn’t use a dongle for copy protection. A decade later I was able to run my old software in a Atari ST emulator on Windows XP, load my files right off the Atari formatted floppies, and the emulator could even access my USB midi interface. I couldn’t tell if there was a difference in the midi timing, it felt just like using the Atari, except with a thinner monitor and better mouse (wink, wink). I was able to transfer a bunch of songs easily.

    1. Steinberg 24 and Emagic Notator are much more capable than the Korg shit. Only Korg M3 and Krome have a score editor for midi tracks. Even the Kronos has no score edit. The touchscreen is a complete waste on that overpriced machine.

  7. Used it in the late 80s/early 90s – first with Emagic Creator with the Unitor, then later with Cubase and the Midex+ which had SMPTE to sync to my Fostex R8 reel 2 reel. That was the tightest software Midi sequencer I ever used, so no surprise it’s still in use. I remember when I purchased the 30MB (!) hard drive for it which was a friggin’ boat anchor sitting under the monitor and was at least as big or bigger than the actual computer…but what a revelation that was! lol

    But my first software sequencer was Steinberg’s Pro 16 on a Commodore C64…miss those days!

  8. I was one who graduated from C64 to ST. The Atari ST was primarily sold at mom and pop shops, not at large retailers. I always attended the music gear demos at my local shop. One time, I think it was Hybrid Arts to demonstrate SMPTE Track, the grumpy old owner of the store interrupted the demo yelling, “Why don’t you guys play some music? Everyone comes in here and makes noise, but noise does not help me sell computers!”

  9. Christopher at his best. Yep, Atari still works. Get it out of the box after years switch it on and its ready for recording. Greets from one of the former gods of flux ? K.

  10. The Atari St/e/series. The behemoth ADAP huge rack system based on the Mega-ST series. And the SMPTE boxes/interfaces from Hybrid-Arts, and Cubase/Emagic/ Notator…yummy. The good old days, when the technology did what it was supposed to do, without too many diversions and distractions. In the current sea of Macs and PCs in our studio, the ‘old boys’ still kick some serious a$$es when it comes to ‘tight’ MIDI timing.

  11. I wrote for ST Informer for a few years doing an article called “Music Thru Midi”, reviewing various Atari music software including X/OR, Hearmaster and several other programs. I loved my Ataris (started on a 1040 ST and my final machine was a Mega STE with a whopping 4 MB of ram and a 120 GB HD). Great machines and really stable. For the time they were leaps and bounds past the PC offerings of the time.

    1. When I got started, my 1st sequencer was an Alesis MMT-8 in mid 80s. I moved to Germany and the locals convinced me to get an Atari 1040ST. It was like moving from bumpy crooked road to a newly paved one. Emagic’s Creator was the sequencer I used, then Notator, Notator Logic, then I upgraded to Atari Falcon 030 with Notator’s Logic Audio. I sold the Falcon in 2010 but kept the ST (in storage). I fired it up last month for the first time in more than 20 yrs, installed Emagic’s Notator (realized I have serial number 3 of the software).

      This machine’s midi timing is still rock solid so I think I’ll play with it for a few more years.

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