[Coco] My MIDI history [and other things] (Re: OS9 Unmodified MIDI file player)

gene heskett gheskett at wdtv.com
Thu Feb 23 13:49:42 EST 2012

On Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:55:18 PM Paul Seniura did opine:

> Hi again,
> I thought I'd quickly type this up,
> then send it to the list,
> to head-off any inbox-stuffing.  ;)
> My personal history on MIDI [all this is "AFAICR"]:
> I was a bit involved with MIDI as a developing standard.
> I had joined the organization in order to get their publications
> and perhaps affect future specs (at the time).
> After acquiring (relatively cheaply) one of Casio's keyboards
> that supported MIDI,

An MT-240 perhaps?

> the early problems came to light.
> The main issue was how to specify Instruments
> that can be agreed-upon by the various manufacturers
> to mean the same thing (e.g. Patch #001 is Acoustic Piano, etc.).
> Yeah I was in the early stages of MIDI that far back.  ;)

Yup, I was using an MT-240 with Mikes SW on a coco 2, then later came into 
a CZ-101, so I changed crystals in a converted modem pack and drove them 
both at the same time since Umuse can send a given voice to a given port.  
Worked well till the missus, a music teacher, left it running on batteries 
& the leakage ate into the pcb's.  But it worked well for as long as it was 
setup that way.  But I was never able to make that modem pack receive from 
the keyboard, nary a byte.

> But the three formats for Standard MIDI Files (SMFs) were pretty-much
> set.
> Already we all had access to tons of SMFs at various (dial-up) BBS
> sites.
> Somehow I had saved around $800 cash to buy a Roland MT-32
> available at a local university music shop.
> (I remember a coworker/friend and I raced down there during a lunch-hour
>  to pick it up before someone else grabbed it.)
> After that, the "General MIDI Spec" soon came,
> and we knew why Drums were usually assigned to Channel-10
> (that's what the MT-32 did,
>  but it was always changable with SysEx
>  or thru its panel buttons etc.).
> The CoCo3, with its smarter electronics, and even with OS-9 Level II,
> still had issues with the time-slicing / multitasking code.
> (I remember a secondary project I'd always wanted to attempt:
>  use the CoCo3's hardware timer 'chip' to facilitate the
>  task-swapping and other timing done in software, simply put,
>  to help alleviate "system overhead" and such.)
> I initially wrote the Type-0 MIDI player
> because this was the simplest format to play --
> all the 'timing' was already 'resolved',
> sort-of a 'pre-muxing' of the various tracks etc.
> But Type-1 files were the most popular,
> for obvious reasons (today as well as back then) --
> it was the easiest way to 'save' a composition
> and 'load' it back in
> to your 'music editor'.
> I believe I had tried a 'filter' program to translate Type-1 to Type-0,
> to be used in a 'pipe' CLI to drive the Type-0 player,
> but again the limitations of the CoCo3/OS-9LII system became too much,
> which showed as timing problems in the played music
> (but nary a crash, fortunately <g>).
> However, since the T1-to-T0 converter was written as a filter/pipe,
> it could save the output into a T0.mid file with simple shell functions,
> and then use the T0 player to play it, usually fine & dandy.
> Also, around that time,
> somehow I was led to one of the authors of a [famous] game outfit
> (I forget his name & company, I think it's "Sierra Games").
> Long story short here:
> Games usually use an internal MIDI player,
> whether the game is written for PCs
> or for 'standalone' (plug-in) consoles.
> Eventually, that person decided to publish this code (since he owned it)
> and the rest is history.  ;)
> My brain is fuzzy here, but I must've been the one who ported his code
> such that you wouldn't need the T1-to-T0 converter any more.
> I was rather adamant about Proper Attribution,
> (after writing Mike K about using my "V" theme,
>  I _knew_ the Global Copyright Issues were already coming, see),
> so maybe that's why my name wasn't mentioned as much
> for the new(er) MIDI player.
> But still we all do need to find the actual original author of that code
> and give him tribute for his contribution.

> Later on, I designed and built a couple prototype boards:
> a Centronics (IEEE-1284) Parallel Printer Port and OS-9 Driver,
> and a MIDI I/O Pak (IIRC using a clone of the existing OS-9 Serial
> Driver; yes it did Input as well as Output, and used the
> 'opto-isolators' as required by the MIDI hardware spec).
> These were designed for the CoCo Multipak
> which assumed you had the Multipak's Interrupt Pins tied together
> for those "sure-fire" signals.
> (I remember the crystals were very costly for our MIDI Pak prototype,
>  we were using a local company to make different frequencies.
>  Also a fellow electronics friend brought his oscilloscope over
>  so we could debug & tweak the simple oscillator used to
>  drive the crystal; I remember his congratulating me for
>  my "two gate" design which always started-up [I was told,
>  by many sources, that it was widely known for mis-starts
>  and no-starts, see].
>  Of course this board never gelled into an official product, however.)
Sadly, I likely would have bought one.
> I thought I'd finish my computer history here,
> even if a bit O.T.:
> Still later, the infamous 2-meg RAM kit came out,

I have one, very solid bit of hardware for me.  I wrote a ramdisk that used 
it, auto formatting when you needed it, for as long as you needed it, then 
a deiniz returned every byte to the main pool.  For those following along 
that is 'myram', on my web page if not all over the net.

> then the 32K-Cache floppy and hard drive kits, etc.
> I had also stayed current with dial-up modem speeds,
> getting a 9600-baud, then 14.4K, then 28.8K,
> then finally 56K when our phone lines were 'upgraded' as required.
> I overhauled the power in the CoCo3 itself,
> adding a huge outboard transformer, and even bigger filter caps,

I tore all that psu stuff out, both cc3 and mpi, & its all running on an 
old, apparently bulletproof AT supply for close to 20 years now.  With a 
63C09 in it, the most heat rise is about 2F on top of the memory.

> acting as an UPS (I didn't know anyone making cheaper versions).
> I'd then ran RiBBS for a short while.
> Sometime more later,
> I had acquired an Atari ST, 512K model,
> from another coworker (he needed funds for a house; ended up as
> manager). I had vastly increased the ST's hardware --
> doubling the CPU speed and capability (adding cache and FP chip),
> lots more RAM (but IIRC it was still a 24-bit bus{!}),
> a SCSI hard drive kit,

That it times out and skips when the ST225 starts being slow to spin up.  
Mine has to be rebooted 10 or 15 times to find the drive. PSU soft in its 
old age maybe.  Haven't found a quarter to call someone who cares.

> and finally I seeked-out OS-9/68K (OSK) directly from Cumana Ltd.
> Suddenly our MIDI opened-up here, too;
> but still the ST's internal sound and graphics were still not enough
> for what was coming (Usenet, Internet, HTTP, 'videos', etc.).

I have an 1040 ST-E in the basement, but what it has for an OS is AFAIC, 
being very pretentious to call it an OS.
> But I left most things there
> when Apple finally succumbed
> to go with PCI and other industry standards
> and dropped prices for their 7600 model.
> Then their PowerPC towers looked real good
> (the PPC is a "68K on steroids", see).

At one point, we had available, albeit at prices out of my reach, some 
250mhz PPC boards available for the amiga's but I settled for a PP&S 040 
board with a broken scsi interface and 64 megs of dram in my A2k.

> The OSX project was started,
> we "talked" Apple into using FreeBSD as a base,
> especially since I had experience with it at my day job,
> and again the rest is history.  ;)
> (Exactly why Apple dropped PPC
>  is publicly blamed on IBM
>  but I for one am not sure at all,
>  in fact I am still extremely miffed about this.
>  I'm afraid the Actual Facts
>  we will never know
>  and went to the grave with Steve Jobs.
>  After all, M$/Xbox and Sony/PS both still currently use
>  further iterations of the PPC line.)
> Might as well say this to wrap up my life:
> I'm basically medically disabled / retired
> with 38+years work on record
> (related mainly to IBM mainframes and related equipment).
> Ok DHS has helped me,
> now stuck in a retirement village.

With no room to store or setup ones lifetime, Sucks about a 10-33 torr 
vacuum I'd say.  My sympathies Paul.

Fortunately, when both of us were working when we married 22 years back, I 
had sense enough to go re-fi this place, trading in a 30 contract for a 7 
year with not quite doubled payments.  Its been free and clear for well 
over a decade.  We have enough SS & PEIA to cover the taxes & insurance & 
still enjoy our hobbies as much as the bodies will let us.

> Nowadays all the above projects are lost.
> I ain't got nuthin left to prove none of it.
> (triple negative, figure it out <g>)
:-) at first, but then a :( for the loss.

> (Other aspects as to why I'm disabled etc.
>  are yet more long histories
>  and can be discussed via email if interested.)
> I now have a lowly iMac made in late-2006 with Core2Duo chipset,
> my only 'puter ATM,
> with other various added critters
> such as several HDHomeRun boxes (used for OTA only).
> This past week the fruity company strongly hints
> that they won't support this iMac model anymore
> when "OS-10.8 aka Mountain Lion" comes out.
> I try to stay involved with open-source projects
> mainly to help keep my mind active and 'sharp'.

I think there is something to strongly advise that.  After I retired from 
55 years in electronics, I have turned to my second love since I have time 
for it, carving both wood and metal. Some furniture and an occasional 
gunstock, and making the machines to help do that. You ideally never quit 
learning, the problem at 77 for me is trying to remember it a month after I 
last did it.  Its not a bit funny as some of the other oldtimers on this 
list can probably testify to also.

> But also because I've always felt this is a way out
> from the political / financial mess we are all in
> thanks to the corporations and banks
> and especially thanks to the *AA folks.

Yup, the one percenters.  In times a century+ back, the word "bounty" comes 
to mind, it was how a surplus of something was handled.
> I'm trying to spread the word:
> I'm 100%-against The NWO
> and 100%-for Dr Ron Paul.
> There, I've said it.  :|

We are in violent agreement on that.  See my sig.  And keep your powder 
dry, I fear we may need it before all this is done. I sure am.
> Thanks for reading.

My pleasure Paul. Thanks very much for the update!  Stick a few words in 
edgewise now & then for as long as you can to help keep the youngun's 
coming in on the right path so to speak. :-)

Cheers, Gene
"There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
 soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
-Ed Howdershelt (Author)
My web page: <http://coyoteden.dyndns-free.com:85/gene>
"We all know Linux is great...it does infinite loops in 5 seconds."
(Linus Torvalds about the superiority of Linux on the Amsterdam
Linux Symposium)

More information about the Coco mailing list