If proof were needed that the Atari ST still has something to offer the working musician, it comes in the form of producer Steve Levine: in the midst of his state-of-the-art 32-track digital home studio sits a humble Atari Mega 4 ST, with hard drive, happily chugging away as the sequencing centrepiece. As Levine says in Paul Tingen's interview in this issue: "I can do everything on the Atari that my Mac with Notator Logic software upstairs can do. I have the Atari in my studio because the majority of people I'm working with use an Atari, and it's absolutely fine for sequencing and synth editing. Unless you want to do hard disk recording there's no point in getting rid of your Atari." 'Nuff said!
While indulging in a little web surfing recently (to compile the 'net address section elsewhere on this page), I spotted the intriguing Groove Analogue Sequencer Simulator. The author, Tim Wright, was inspired by Doepfer's excellent, but expensive, MAQ16/3 analogue sequencer for MIDI instruments, and decided it should be quite easy to simulate it for the Atari ST -- which he did, as part of a music technology course, writing the software with STOS, which is better known for games creation. Talking to Tim recently reveals that he hasn't done much with the software since its release, although if he can find the time, he might have a go at fixing some bugs. As it stands, the software offers three channels of up to 16 steps each, and steps can be freely turned on or off, to alter the apparent length of notes. Note data can obviously be transmitted (with velocity), as can pitch-bend and other controller information. Patterns can be transposed in real time, played forwards or in reverse, and chained into songs. The interface is basically user-friendly, although some may find certain functions a little obscure -- probably the result of the software having been written in STOS. However, experimenting is fun and rewarding, rather like the using the real (antique) thing. The only real problems are a lack of any kind of external synchronisation, and a strange -- though useable -- tempo control; the documentation also indicates that the software may not be compatible with Falcons or TTs. New users may wonder where the 'Quit' button is: [Control] C is what you're looking for. This command, apparently second nature to Unix users, isn't in the user notes. My copy was downloaded from the Shareware Music Machine (http://www.hitsquad.com/smm/midi/atari.html), a brilliant web site that contains a huge collection of MIDI, music and audio software for all platforms, not just the Atari. If you haven't got web access, give Goodman PDL a call (01782 335650); they should be able to get hold of the Groove sequencer for you.
If you're looking for a cheap way to add SCSI peripherals to your Atari setup, Abingdon Synthesis Projects (01235 534152) are on your wavelength. They've just launched the SCSI Burster (£18), a cable which allows you to easily access bare hard disk and CD-ROM drives mounted within a basic PC case. PC cases and bare SCSI drives can be very cheap these days, and this could be much more cost-effective than buying ready-cased hard drives or CD-ROMs. The SCSI Burster consists of 90cm of cable which attaches directly to your ST (providing it's equipped with a SCSI host, such as the ICD Link 2); at the other end there's a special bracket and three internal 50-way IDC connectors. The cable mounts to a standard PC expansion bracket (where you'd normally install an ISA card), with the three internal connectors interfacing with whatever drives are in the case. The result is a tidier work surface, since the case will house your drives, cabling and power connections: power comes from one PSU, and many cases also offer a mains through connection that you could plug your ST into. Optional extras are further internal connectors, longer cable lengths, and external connectors to allow additional devices to be placed after the Burster-equipped case. This concept should also work with other SCSI-equipped devices -- including samplers and Macs.
Paul Ward, in his Long Live The ST article in October 1996's issue, mentioned the internet as a valuable resource for back-up, contacts and software, and this month I've rounded up a few more URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) for you to check out. There are dozens of Atari user groups and fan pages worldwide, and one of the best is run by THE NOVA SCOTIA ATARI COMPUTER USERS GROUP (http://www.ccn.cs.dal.ca/technology/nsacug/nsacug.html).This site contains everything for the Atari user: FAQs, a worldwide FTP list, a software library, and a great list of links to other sites. Some seem to be a little cold, but there's still plenty to be going on with.
Playing with NSACUG's links led me to the WESSEX ATARI GROUP, here in the UK, on http://www.compulink.co.uk/~mrgs/wag/ welcome.htm. This site is run by a local Atari club, and offers a good collection of Atari web sites and contacts.
In the same session, I visited THE ATARI WEB PAGES (http://www.mcc.ac.uk/~dlms/atari.html), which contain loads of tips, software, reviews and links to other web sites for all flavours of Ataris, whether it's STs, Falcons, or even Jaguars and 8-bits.
TUMBLEVANE PUBLIC DOMAIN LIBRARY's web site is on http://www.compulink.co.uk/~mrgs/pd/ welcome.htm. It provides an on-line catalogue, with the majority of software available for just £1.75 per disk. There are no credit card facilities, but if you can scrawl out a postal order (or a cheque), then this site's worth a look.
You might also like to visit Toad Computing's ATARICENTRAL (http://www.ataricentral.com:80/). This site is run by a pair of Atari enthusiasts from way back -- they started retailing the platform out of one partner's parents' basement in 1986! The company have grown over the years, and must be one of the largest Atari retailers in the States. Once again, this site is a great source of information and links. I particularly liked the Atari ST message board, where people can post tips, ask questions, and generally share information.
Interestingly, UK-based Atari specialists SYSTEM SOLUTIONS have their web page piggybacked onto Toad Computers' site; get to them via AtariCentral's Virtual Village page, or beam direct to http://www. ssolutions.com/.