Not all Atari programs are completely serious. This month Derek Johnson discovers one that could give your band a name and you a lot of laughs.
One of the most thorny problems that will ever be encountered by a band or artist is what to call themselves. Atari users can forestall the inevitable vicious rows (drummer likes 'Thong', while vocalist favours 'Hello Clouds') with Band Names for Atari. The software was written by Dan Wilga, of Gribnif Software, the company behind the NeoDesk 4 replacement desktop, amongst other ST software, and I found it on the Gribnif web site (www4.pair.com/gribnif/wares.htm). This is a tiny piece of software (the readme file, at around 3k, is larger than the program itself!), and simply generates phrases by arranging words from a data file according to some simple rules. The results can be silly, eccentric or strangely evocative (Dan originally designed the program as a generator of bad poetry, which was so bad that it rarely made any sense at all). You can use the supplied collection of words, or edit the data file to include words of your choice. Using Dan's list, the software quickly generated some real gems for me, including Air Is Golden, Stab Me Rosy, The Aches, Gripping Forests, Large Hairy City, Attitude For Deaths, Oprah Of Knuckle, Greedy Steams, Moist Feral Hand, Valley And The Goers, Pope Of The Raisin and many, many more. There have been some rather silly band names over the years — perhaps we've found their source?
Band Names is, not surprisingly, freeware, though the web site does mention 'chocolate ware' in passing. It's your choice!
While digging around some CD‑ROMs of Atari public domain software and shareware, I came across a couple of programs that haven't made it into this column before. I was particularly intrigued by Mainstream Music's 1992‑vintage Final Score v2, which offers an interesting approach to score creation, layout and printing. The software's WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) environment, with almost all functions under mouse control, behaves quite like a drawing package in the way it allows elements to be added to a score. There are no MIDI capabilities at all — no MIDI File import and no MIDI proof of an on‑screen score.
But the lack of MIDI doesn't detract from a program that offers most of the basic layout facilities that you'd need, and is also reasonably easy to use. The comprehensive palette of musical symbols, accessed by a right click of the mouse, includes clefs, notes, repeat signs, rests, piano pedal markings and chord boxes. Text, using a choice of five screen fonts, can be entered onto a page, with automatically centred titles. In this version, there are five built‑in score formats, of between one and five staves, though you could create a page with more staves if required. Note that staff size cannot be changed, so there's probably a practical limit of 10 or 11 staves to a page. When using the five‑stave layout, two systems can appear on a page, with one visible on screen at a time; the keyboard's up/down arrow buttons are used to scroll between upper and lower parts of the page.
Layout is mostly by eye, though a ruler is available to assist in the correct placing of bar lines, notes and other elements. Editing facilities include magnification, cut and paste options, and an erase function which lets you physically rub out unwanted elements (bringing me to that graphics package comparison again). A finished page can be printed to an Epson‑compatible printer, though I wasn't able to test this. Final Score pages can also be exported in the widespread Degas (a popular Atari‑based drawing program) PI3 format, so they can be used in other compatible software. Using a utility such as Jeff Lewis' Imagery for the Mac, PI3 images can even be imported into Mac‑based DTP or graphics software.
Though most functions are accessed by the mouse, a number of hot keys are available from the Atari keyboard: for example, it's possible to scroll through the entire symbol palette using the plus and minus keys on the numeric keypad, and certain commonly used elements (ledger lines, dots or bar lines, for example) can be selected with their own keyboard shortcut.
I haven't been able to dig up any further data on this software or its creators, nor am I sure whether it's free‑ or shareware; what I am sure of is that the software is included on Floppyshop's Sounds and Stuff CD‑ROM, which, since Floppyshop departed from the Atari scene, is now available from Electronic Cow. This great collection costs just £18, plus £2 postage (cheques and postal orders only). Details on +44 (0)411 544133 (email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the web site at ds.dial.pipex.com/electronic_cow/cownet.shtml).
We've covered HearCoach, a Swedish ear‑training package, in these pages before. However,a recent visit to its author's web site revealed that development continues and that one of the promised extra functions has now been added. This is a useful and well‑written piece of software, but at the time of its last mention it offered just an interval drill. As of v0.964, a chord trainer has been added, with rhythm and scale exercises still due at some point in the future. Output is over MIDI, you have a certain amount of control over which intervals and chords will play (as well as the note range in which they'll be played) and on‑line help is even provided, as long as you have the shareware utility ST Guide installed. Registering HearCoach costs a minimal US$3, and it can be downloaded from hem.passagen.se/gokmase/atari/main.htm.