Old School Sequencing With A Mac SE & Cubase

Self-described nerd Bethany Fournier shared this video, demonstrating sequencing a studio of gear using a 30+ year old Macintosh SE computer and an early version of Cubase Lite.

Here’s what Fournier has to say about it:

When I found this Macintosh while picking in a barn a few years ago, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. This then unleashed a lot of time and energy spent researching and figuring out what I needed to do to make this happen. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot harder than I thought.

I now have a working Mac SE that is able to control my studio via MIDI, and I love it. It’s interesting to see how music had to be made back then.

The closest thing I’ve been able to liken it to is LARPing. When you have something like this, you get to LARP as a bedroom composer in the 90’s, figuring out exactly the tricks they had to use to make the sounds they wanted.

If you have the same questions as my friends: why? I can give you the short answer and the long answer.

The short answer is that I’m a nerd who gets obsessed with things easily and needed something to focus on during quarantine.

The long answer is that I started to notice when listening to old computer-sequenced dance music that there was an interesting sort of lag happening. It wasn’t each track drifting out of time, because it didn’t continue to get worse over the course of the song, but every now and then some things were slightly out of time, and then would resync themselves. I wanted to be able to make that myself.

It comes from the computer not having enough RAM to run all the tracks simultaneously, so sometimes a few hi-hat beats may be off time because the bassline came in. To me, it’s fascinating. If you read this entire thing, thank you. I hope you enjoy the nerdiness as much as I do.

13 thoughts on “Old School Sequencing With A Mac SE & Cubase

    1. Yes! The version shown was very close to the Atari ST version which had the best workflow and timing of any sequencer I have owned, on any hardware, to date. MIDI timing is very very poor in software on modern computers. Including the Mac SE unfortunately. This Cubase was just like the Atari version, but with bad timing. I owned both. Steinberg himself personally wrote a new operating system for the Atari version, in assembly language, which he called MROS: MIDI Realtime Operating System. It was good.

      1. I learned about MIDI on my first sequencer which was Master Tracks (Pro?) on an Atari ST. Not long after that I got a Mac IIci, and started learning Performer.

        Also had Digidesign Sound Designer? Sound Tools? I don’t even remember what it was called now. It was early “mastering/editing” software.

        I used it at various studios in the early 90s.

        I don’t particularly remember good or bad MIDI timing back then. It was all fine as far as I could tell.

    2. Try adding more or maximum ram spec, someone maybe be selling some on ebay or somewhere!. I have a llcx running cubasis as I was not sure I could run the full cubase due to computer spec at the time. Is there a copy of the full cubase file I could find online and burn to a floppy? I heard you had full midi cc control of digital synth settings parameters, so would be nice to see if that was true.

  1. I started out like this too. I then proceeded to buy more powerful Macs and got swept away by 3d modeling and image processing and Web development. Still trying to recover…

  2. C-Lab Creator on an Atari ST; bought a new power supply for my Stacy a year ago and just haven’t had the heart to plug it in and hear the hard drive – yet! :p

    1. The incredible thing about C-Lab Creator is that now, 33 years later, the same exact C code is running inside Apple Logic, and has the exact same unfixed bugs which I’ve been reporting to C-Lab/Emagic/Apple for THIRTY THREE YEARS now.

      You can’t say they are not consistent!

      1. That is amazing to hear. I suppose if MIDI can last that long, I could see that Apple might reuse whatever it can get away with. (bugs and all).

      2. Sorry man, but that can’t be true, because OSX/macOS does not use the Carbon libraries anymore neither does it run the M68k runtime environment for old G4 code.
        All modern Apple apps use the Cocoa/Objective-C/Swift libraries.

  3. (as one Bufo Marinus said to another) “… is this beaker getting uncomfortable? Too Hotz for me!!” – but seriously folks … 33 years?!?! … The Count of MIDI Christo!!! You will be avenged m’Load!!!
    Can I sell you my Ataris perchance? Just kidding, “M” still works great!

  4. > All some of us are waiting for is
    > another midi only sequencer

    forget computers. get a used mc-909. its timing is rock solid. no drift, no jitter.

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