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The days before Flowstone/SM

For general discussion related FlowStone

The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby MrFuls » Thu Dec 31, 2020 8:54 pm

Feel free to post anything about any projects you might've worked on in the days before finding out about this program, including early forms of any concepts that might've continued up into your current work.

I'm new here and am eager to get to know some of you better, but I generally get the idea that this is a very slow affair where patience is a virtue, so please don't rush to reply on my account. I am here to listen and learn.

Way back in 2009, I spent a lot of teenage days on Garry's mod, which was a modification for valve software's Half Life 2 videogame. HL2 had a robust-for-the-time physics system, so it was just the thing to build a multiplayer sandbox experience on.

[Begin explanation of what Garry's mod is. Those who know what is is can skip]

Various 3D props from HL2 (and other valve titles) could be placed into the world, welded together, and assembled into various constructions (like a primitive version of Fortnite for those youngins out there who are even younger than myself). You could fart around in gm_construct for about 5 minutes and assemble yourself a dopey l'il bathtub car that you could control with the numpad. All sorts of things could be made, like forts, ships, and giant robots, all collaged out of props from your wide selection. You could take these things, modify them, smash them around like a mindless idiot, blow them up, it was the perfect outlet!

Later on, the LUA scripting integration paved the way for a pretty diverse world of user plugins. You had all sorts of game-modes like Spacebuild (Build spaceships out of props, build life support systems, and fly between different "planets"). There were others like Roleplaying, which remarkably still sees activity to this day. All of this stuff was janky in its own charming way due to the community-driven nature of it all, and the old beleaguered Source game engine doing things it wasn't designed for.

One of said plugins was a thing called Wiremod. It allowed you to place all these little logic gates around whatever contraption you'd built, and control things with logic values, rather than the numpad. You had sound emitters (Like the sine or saw audio modules), constant values (stored values like Int/Float arrays), 7 segment displays, nors, nands, switches, display screens (ingame oscilloscopes, anyone?) , the whole works. You even had a special chip called "Expression 2" which pulled up a field in which you could code your own components (like a Ruby module!).

All of this would get "wired" together with a special toolgun. Point, choose output, shoot, point at next object, choose input, shoot. (Kinda like a virtual wirewrap gun now that I think of it!).

[End explanation of gmod, here's the point]

So, with this going on, now add the fact that I got bitten by the Hammond bug. Hard. Spent a lot of time on The Organ Forum soaking up any tidbit I could find about them. The wiremod contraptions below were what resulted from that time (I was blissfully unaware of SM's existence back then, somehow). These pictures are also all that remain; all associated save files are completely lost to time, I'm afraid.

(Got into some trouble figuring thumbnails out, so I will link the images for now.)

https://i.imgur.com/7bdgn2V.jpg

This was the first general design I played with. Each of those "tin cans" were individual sound emitters whose pitch inputs were governed by the velocity picked up from the spinning gear by a sensor, and multiplied by a unique constant value for each note. The spinning gear was a novelty thing, only really providing a global pitch bend effect.

https://i.imgur.com/Op7zelP.jpg

This was a later design, which actually starts to uncannily represent what was being imitated. Now you had multiple wheels governing pitches, likely governing top octaves (It never really saw completion, and the details are fuzzy). It was a neat piece because I'd finally started to use Expression 2 chips for various things, including fully animated keys and stoptabs.

At any rate E2 was becoming a necessity to make the generator work. I'd toiled for a while on it, but the game's physics simulation was coming short in a few ways. The tonewheels were just ordinary physics props with a motor constraint, using Euler rotation calculations which routinely ran into gimbal-lock. The wheels just wouldn't rotate at a constant enough speed to be on-pitch and usable.

A friend I'd made there helped me out, developing a new tonewheel that used an ApplyTorque method, allowing for quaternion rotations. I recall that working well, but it was all starting to get a bit complex at that point. You also really couldn't play these instruments worth a damn either when your only input method was pointing your ingame crosshairs to a key, and mashing the use button.

This, along with physics weirdness ultimately killed interest, at least for doing so in garry's mod. At any rate we'd moved on to this hip new thing called Minecraft, but I met a lot of good people there who got me through a typically tumultuous adolescence. One of which actually went out of their way to buy, and send me my first arduino (the conversation actually going "Here, you should check this thing out, it's like expression 2 but in real life!")

Despite making good headway in analog electronics, I was recently actually looking to get back into making virtual instruments, and Flowstone struck me as a way to do it infinitely better, without having to deal with an actual video game running on top of it, bogging things down.

Lurking for a bit, I found a post from Spogg, talking of the simple fascination of seeing these little seemingly magical components sitting on a board doing their job. That was the point where I decided that you all seem to be pretty cool people (To say nothing of Hugh, I went down the VDGG rabbit hole back in 2019, so there's a level of sheer geeking out I have to contain). Would've posted something like this in Offtopic, but that seems to have turned into a de facto spambot flypaper.

At any rate, once I stick my nose in the books, I hope to offset my babble with some form of contribution. May not happen for a while, but it's too good a job to rush :D

Hell, it's kind of a cursed situation now. Doesn't matter what you start, it won't get finished until 2021 :cry:
"The amount of screws left in any piece of gear is inversely proportional to the amount of times it's been serviced"
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby trogluddite » Fri Jan 01, 2021 3:21 pm

Great post, and nice to get to know you a bit! :D Musical gaming-engine physics-sims has to be one of the most unusual paths to FlowStone/SM that I've heard in all my years here! Gimbal-locking of the oscillators is possibly the strangest "bug" that I've ever heard of in a virtual synth, and being crazy enough to try it suggests to me that you'll fit in here very well indeed! :lol:

My computer/music dabblings go back to the days of the first wave of affordable home computers in the early 80's. The Sinclair machines that I started out with had terrible sound production - just the BASIC command "beep", which did exactly what it says - output a monophonic, badly-tuned, no-modulation, square-wave beep. But I sang in the school choir, played trombone in the school orchestra, and was an avid collector of electronic music (e.g. Jarre, Vangelis, Tomita, OMD, Kraftwerk, etc.). Just about the only TV shows I watched were science-fiction series and science documentaries, which introduced me to the idea of computers being used for composition and sound-production.

I was also into nerdy toys as a kid (still am, of course!). In those days, this meant Lego Technic, chemistry sets, microscopes, and, especially for me, DIY electronics. Every trip to the local library, I'd take out at least one Bernard Babani book - well known to any electronics hobbyist of the era - including volumes on how to interface with home computers and MIDI (there was no WikiHow in those days, of course!)

My first big computer music project was an audio sampling and playback add-on (for ZX Spectrum originally, later upgraded for Memotech MTX). It took me a long time to learn everything that I needed - analogue electronics for the audio amplification, digital electronics for the interfacing and sampling, and Z80 machine code so that the software would run anything like fast enough. I was very proud that I scored 100% for the practical part of my Electronics 'O' Level exams at school with this project. But by today's standards, it was terrible - two or three seconds of 8-bit sampling at about 2kHz maximum sampling rate, no anti-aliasing filters, and tuning it using loops of no-ops made it even more tone-deaf than the "beep" command! Not very "musical" at all really, but it entertained the other kids at school playing "Axel F" with burp and fart noises!

In my late teens and twenties, I moved on to spanking a bass and tuneless yelling in anarcho-punk bands, and did a little engineering for our band and others - working my way up though 4-track cassette, 8-track reel-to-reel, digital audio on VHS/minidisc, and eventually my first PC system shortly after Steinberg first released native VST audio processing. I carried on with the electronics too, building a succession of extremely temperamental "multi-FX" systems for my bass out of salvaged bits from knackered amps and mixing desks, plus Lego Technic and elastic-bands for the wah-wah pedal action! (They weren't as temperamental as me, though - a couple of my DIY pedal boards got kicked to smithereens mid-gig when they wouldn't behave. Thankfully, since we were an anarcho-punk band, we could pass it off as performance art! :lol: ).

After having had a long break from coding, I got back into it when I dicovered that I could use SynthEdit to make my own VST plugins. But I soon found SynthEdit a bit frustrating, as it didn't have coding embedded inside it (no equivalent to the DSP/assembly/Ruby primitives, you had to use external C++ compilers). I then saw a review for SynthMaker shortly after it had been commercially released, and I've been here ever since!

I have also had a little dabble with physical modelling before. I used to have a Yamaha hardware synth with a physical modelling section, which did make some really expressive brass and woodwind instrument sounds (sending the right [wrong] MIDI control messages could make it sound like a beginner's first saxophone lesson!). I also used the Ruby plugin API for the Sketchup 3D modelling software quite a bit. That was mostly for a CNC operator/CAD job that I had at the time, but had some fun playing with its physics engine plugin - no sound facilities there, though; I mostly just made silly Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg contraptions.

MrFuls wrote:I hope to offset my babble with some form of contribution. May not happen for a while, but it's too good a job to rush

Concepts and brain-teasers are just as important as modules and code, I've always thought. It's amazing what even "off topic" threads like this one can inspire people to build sometimes, so don't be afraid to chip in, no matter how bizarre you think your ideas might be! :D

(PS: You do right to post in 'General'. Unfortunately, the forum admin's are pretty much AWOL, and us moderators have been allowed very few useful tools. As you deduced, we leave 'Off Topic' just as a honey-pot for spam-bots these days - we'd post a sticky to let new members know that, only we don't even have the power to make stickies! :cry: )
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby MrFuls » Sun Jan 03, 2021 5:23 pm

trogluddite wrote:I was also into nerdy toys as a kid (still am, of course!). In those days, this meant Lego Technic, chemistry sets, microscopes, and, especially for me, DIY electronics. Every trip to the local library, I'd take out at least one Bernard Babani book - well known to any electronics hobbyist of the era - including volumes on how to interface with home computers and MIDI (there was no WikiHow in those days, of course!)


I had my own share of nerdy toys, including LEGO, K'nex, and an electronics set or two. The biggest thing for me was having a father who, in addition to playing guitar, had been in the business of designing oscillators back in the 90's. The company he worked for either closed down or moved out of state, but he got to keep a lot of decent electronics equipment, including a Textronix 2465 oscilloscope, a spectrum analyzer, and a host of benchtop power supplies and function generators. He also did some hobby stuff on the side, one project I remember being a little robot that scooted along the floor in a pre-determined pattern.

After the oscillator gig ended, my father moved on to software engineering, so all that equipment went into storage as time went on, up until I decided one fateful day in 2010 that I wanted to learn electronics, with the end goal of building a polyphonic tone generator of some description. I assembled all his old equipment on a workbench, most of it still functional, and started on knowing little. I think the closest I got in those days was a 555 timer oscillator with yet another 555 as a freq. divider. Never got anywhere past breadboarding, but I did have some fun sticking potentiometers in random spots and hearing all the strange sounds that resulted!

it was terrible - two or three seconds of 8-bit sampling at about 2kHz maximum sampling rate, no anti-aliasing filters, and tuning it using loops of no-ops made it even more tone-deaf than the "beep" command! Not very "musical" at all really, but it entertained the other kids at school playing "Axel F" with burp and fart noises!


I'm sure the thing had it's own character, though! Growing up with modern DSP already pretty much already commonplace, the hardware side of lot of early sampling stuff fascinates me (Things like the Fairlight CMI and Synclavier). And who doesn't love some good tasty bitcrushed sound effects?

a couple of my DIY pedal boards got kicked to smithereens mid-gig when they wouldn't behave. Thankfully, since we were an anarcho-punk band, we could pass it off as performance art!


We had an after-school performing arts band run by the psych teacher, who was himself an accomplished musician and engineer, with his own band. My Sophomore was the year of a theme show, which was decided upon to be Van Halen. I had a 3rd-gen M-audio oyxgen 49 connected to an asus eee netbook, running VSTHost. The poor oxygen 49 had its bottom octave of keys colored blue by a permanent marker (to indicate where a keyboard split had been), and was subject to my own abuse; issues with the setup caused no sound to play earlier on in the set, so it had gotten kicked over once or twice in my (no doubt Keith Emerson-inspired) wacky stage theatrics during the last song of the set (roaring cheers from the audience ensued :lol: )

I plonked on VSTs for a while, but something about hardware synths always drew me in. I grew up in the 90's and early 2000's, where computers were already comparatively pretty close to how they are now. While modern techniques could probably do what it did in a chip that fits on your fingrnail, the Hammond organ called to me with all its spinning bits and accessably crude tech.

That need would be sated when I acquired my own organ as a birthday present (An E-112). I hung out on the Organ Forum at the time, members of which made it clear that tube amps can be lethal, so I steered clear of touching them. Mods did start to creep in, however, starting with click filter removal, and an unsuccessful attempt to replace the "volume soft" tab with a variable knob.

I had no leslie speaker, so one early mod involved detaching the main-shaft-driven vibrato unit from its original mounting place (In a very terrible tight place with awkward angles), and attaching an independent drive motor (from an erector set, the bracket and pulley assembly itself being of erector set construction) to it to get the slow chorus and speed changes of a leslie. It even worked! The first version was a terrible belt drive thing which clattered away incessantly and drowned out pretty much everything, but a direct drive version soon followed. This was, of course, very haphazardly controlled by a pot connected with jumper leads, drooping off the top of the console. All made moot, of course, when I accumulated the parts to assemble a proper leslie.

I also used the Ruby plugin API for the Sketchup 3D modelling software quite a bit. That was mostly for a CNC operator/CAD job that I had at the time, but had some fun playing with its physics engine plugin - no sound facilities there, though; I mostly just made silly Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg contraptions.


I used to mess with sketchyphysics at a time. People used to upload these smashable building scenes. Entertainment for hours! :lol: Sometimes literal hours were spent waiting for the entire thing to collapse, I don't think my celeron or whatever processor appreciated that.

Concepts and brain-teasers are just as important as modules and code, I've always thought. It's amazing what even "off topic" threads like this one can inspire people to build sometimes, so don't be afraid to chip in, no matter how bizarre you think your ideas might be! :D


This is one of the things I enjoy about FS; is its off-the-cuff nature. I love how one can have a silly idea for some simple, goofy little widget, whack it together, and share it on here for all to tinker with.
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby trogluddite » Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:26 pm

MrFuls wrote:I did have some fun sticking potentiometers in random spots and hearing all the strange sounds that resulted!

Ah, a bit of "circuit bending"! That makes me a bit nostalgic - everything becoming tiny self-contained surface-mount digital chips has taken most of fun the fun out of it now. There's not much room in between "works as intended" and "release the magic smoke" these days! :lol:

MrFuls wrote:something about hardware synths always drew me in

I got my timing all wrong there. When I was too young to afford them, I drooled over the synths that I saw my favourite artists using. Eventually, a friend sold me a Korg MS10 mono-synth dead cheap, which was great fun to mess around with, but a bit limiting. By my 20's, I'd got into the punk scene in a big way and ditched that for my basses and amps. I shudder when think of all the bargains I walked past in the second-hand music shops back then - for a while in the late-80's/early-90's, it seemed like you could barely give analogue synths away for free! But I didn't really re-kindle my interest in electronic music until they'de become unaffordable to me again (except in VST form, that is!)

MrFuls wrote:I had no leslie speaker

You're gonna hate me for this - but I could have owned a Leslie cab' for free, only I hadn't the slightest idea what it was at the time. It was just this "weird amp that no-one can get to work properly" in a mates' cellar where we had band practices. I think he'd been given it by someone as clueless as we were, and it ended up getting left behind as junk when he moved house and didn't have space for it any more. It wasn't until years later that I recognised the distinctive pattern of the grilles in a magazine, and realised what a bunch of idiots we'd been. I like to think it was karma for punks sneering at prog-rockers and that the poor thing ended up finding a more deserving owner!
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby MrFuls » Tue Jan 05, 2021 2:15 pm

trogluddite wrote:Ah, a bit of "circuit bending"! That makes me a bit nostalgic - everything becoming tiny self-contained surface-mount digital chips has taken most of fun the fun out of it now. There's not much room in between "works as intended" and "release the magic smoke" these days! :lol:


That certainly seems to be the case these days, with blob chips and surface mount stuff. On the other hand, I once tore apart an old fisher price toy ROMpler piano from the 80's to figure out how it all worked. This thing had a DIP through-hole ROM chip, along with an 8-bit microcontroller! You won't see that nowadays!


You're gonna hate me for this - but I could have owned a Leslie cab' for free, only I hadn't the slightest idea what it was at the time. It was just this "weird amp that no-one can get to work properly" in a mates' cellar where we had band practices. I think he'd been given it by someone as clueless as we were, and it ended up getting left behind as junk when he moved house and didn't have space for it any more. It wasn't until years later that I recognised the distinctive pattern of the grilles in a magazine, and realised what a bunch of idiots we'd been. I like to think it was karma for punks sneering at prog-rockers and that the poor thing ended up finding a more deserving owner!


That actually depends. If it was one of the 'rotosonic' models, or one of those isomonic models meant only for Gulbransen organs, you would probably be off the hook :lol:

I'm sure we really have stubborn old Larry Hammond's rejection of the thing to thank for the fact that there seems to be more organs (tonewheel, even!) than leslies :D

I hear finding either gets harder in the UK than it does in my neck of the woods. I kludged mine out of various parts that I picked out from various online hammond organ supply shops (turns out an actual genuine leslie horn is/was just 60 bux). Sounds much better than it has any right to! The 8 ohm speaker output jack on the Peavey amp powers the thing for now.

You guys will probably hate me for this: despite having 90% of the parts to build a 122-style tube amp (Even a matched pair of sovtek repro Tung-sols!), procrastination (really just too busy on other things) still emerges victorious. Argh!

https://i.imgur.com/2zVb60H.jpg
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby trogluddite » Tue Jan 05, 2021 4:16 pm

MrFuls wrote:This thing had a DIP through-hole ROM chip, along with an 8-bit microcontroller! You won't see that nowadays!

That was the bane of my last job. We made electronics kit for schools - so the students had to be able to see the discete components that they built their circuits from. It also rather helps for the components to be very, very sturdy and easily replaced (I've worked as a school lab-tech too, so I know just how destructive the little buggers can be!) Sourcing those kinds of parts became the hardest part of the job. You can get them still, but they're getting really expensive because the military is just about the only major market for them (contrary to what many people think, a lot of military hardware isn't the latest flashy kit that you see at airshows etc. - they use plenty of gear that was designed long before I was even born.) Even NASA has had to resort to trawling used-part traders at times.

MrFuls wrote:I hear finding [Hammonds or Leslies] gets harder in the UK than it does in my neck of the woods

Reputedly so, though I don't know how much truth there is to it. Hugh would likely know better than I do. I was once told that it was because they never became popular for places of worship over here, which was a common source for used models in the USA. I don't suppose it helps that the tonewheel speed is a function of the AC frequency, so they need some tinkering if they cross the Atlantic (the UK AC supply is 50Hz).

MrFuls wrote:procrastination

Ah - say no more. I was just talking with another member about how it is that the more free time I have, the less I manage to get done. I was posting several schematics a week back when I was working full time. Now that I'm jobless and in Covid lock-down, I just watch funny cat videos and spend several hours a day trying to decide what I want for dinner! :lol:
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby Spogg » Tue Jan 05, 2021 5:01 pm

It’s been fascinating reading this and it certainly takes me back, further than is decent probably.

To save time (mine) here’s a link to a bit of my pre-history:

http://flowstoners.com/why-quilcom

I hope others will join in soon.
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby tulamide » Tue Jan 05, 2021 10:38 pm

My first ray of light was, when I secretly took my father's "Wandergitarre". I am surprised that there is no translation for this. It was an acoustic guitar with 6 steel strings but a smaller guitar body and neck, so that you could carry it quite easily, while hiking. My father used to do this with his friend on father's day, with lots of alcohol they put in a cart.

I lived in an abusive family and I had to be careful. Whatever I loved to do had to be done in secret. When they noticed it (and they did a couple of times), it was beat-up time and of course I was forbidden to do it.

So I took the guitar and I loved the tones I heard. I secretly went to a library and borrowed a self-learning guitar book (with Get Back as the first song to learn, which was a brilliant choice) and trained until my fingers literally started bleeding from the steel strings. Up until today I have such thick scarf-skin on my fingertips, that you could ram a nail into them, and it would stick without me noticing. :lol:

Around the same time my aunt, who was a teacher, not only brought me many books to read, but one time also a DIY electronics kit (this one https://blog.fh-kaernten.at/ingmarsretro/files/2015/03/IMG_3775.jpg)

21 different electronic devices could be built with it. I learned a lot about resistors, transistors, condensators and magnetic coils. That was interesting, but it got way better, because I started to secretly watch a show called "Computerclub" on TV. It was not, what you would expect nowadays from such a title. It was all about how to BUILD a computer. Later, when the thing was built, they even sent modem signals over the tv signal, that you could record with yout cassette recorder and playback to your computer to load programs. Of course I never built the computer, because I had no possibilities to buy the electronic bits and my parents ... see above.

In the Gymnasium (I think, comparable to UK's sixth form, where you do your A-levels) I began to blossom. Away from my parents I was encouraged to so many things by my teachers, that I thought I entered paradise. I became pretty much a jack of all trades, doing every workgroup and other activity offered by the Gymnasium. I did Photo, Film, Art, Chess, Russian, Theater, Musical, Singer in the school band, Choir, created my own theater group which was into improv comedy and ... the computer workgroup. I even became headboy, but only for a day. I did the whole election process, holding speeches and such, but I was never serious. On the contrary, I was amused that I could say stupid, nonsensical things, and they'd cheer me for it. Guess my surprise, when I got elected! I thought about it for a while, and then came to the conclusion that #2 would be much better suited.

However, in the computer workgroup I was soon way ahead of the others and my teacher decided to give me the key to the computer room, so that I could go there whenever I felt like it. The computer we had was a C-64, and of course I did not just serious work. I got hand on a tape full of games, and started playing. And here my second passion started. Contrary to most others I soon started to think about HOW the games were made. How do the assets move, why do they interact with the player, how does the game know if I won, etc. I started programming, and again self-taught it, just by doing.

A year or two later, there was something incredible! I started one of the tapes with the games, but this time there was no game. I got one of the first "demos", as it would be called later on. An extremely talented programmer who wanted to showcase what could be done with the C-64, bringing it to the limit. What I saw was a short movie. Very short. Extremely short :lol: About 8 or 10 seconds of the Alf show's title music, together with maybe 4 or 5 64-color pictures of Alf, that you could imagine as a movement if you were gracious. For me it opened my eyes. Digitally represented music? OMG. That's it. I discovered the tracker scene.

Later, when I had my own used Atari 520 ST, I even programmed my own tracker, but using oscillators. Three independend tracks with an oscillator each and a pattern oriented sequencer. From drums to leads, from bass to pads, I could do it all.

My first fulltime job was another kind of paradise. Working for the youth welfare service, we had a lot of youth clubs. In one of them I was working and my task was to guide children making music with a multitimbral synth (M1) and midi software (Notator, predecessor of Logic) on an Atari 1040 ST. For the most part of the day, I could just do my own music. My boss was ok with it, and even came by every so often to listen to it. One day he gave me the key to his shack and invited me to go there, whenever I wanted to. I did. I couldn't believe what I saw. Towers of synths, more synth than I could fathom. From today's perspective I was in electronic music heaven, but of course I didn't know it back then. And so I just used the Roland D50, TR 909, JX-8P, Alpha Juno 2, JV 80, Yamaha RX 7, DX7, TX16w, TG77, Korg M1, and others I don't remember, as if it were nothing special.

I got back to programming games and tools for game designers, when I did my second fulltime job, which introduced me to the new Apple Macintosh computers. But I also started making music with my beloved JV-90 and Cubase. I still remember the famous 3.51 update, which brought effects (reverb, echo, flanger, chorus, phaser) to the Mac and tracks to record your synths to, with a technology Steinberg called VST. And let us take a moment to appreciate, that my 250 MHz Mac with 64 MB RAM (state of the art at the time, €5000!) was able to run 32 tracks parallel with all 4 effect slots used on all tracks. No dropout, no issue (ask PC users with 3.51 of Cubase what THEY experienced ;) ).

All my passion for programming and all my passion for music always wanted to come together. But my handicap was that I could adapt to OOP without issue - but only on more descriptive, straightforward languages like BASIC dialects or Python. I never understood C++, the learning curve was just too steep. I had discovered a full gaming development environment for 2D games. And I loved it, because everything was streamlined to generating games. A visual editor for layout and asset placement, a simple visual programming language (very similar to Scratch), 3D sound ability and much more, all in one box. Even the compiling process (to exe with DirectX 9) was part of the package and nothing more than a mouseclick on "Run". I used it for years and always thought "something like that but for VST instruments". Then I saw Synthmaker, but I was just following the forum discussions. I had tested the demo, but it didn't convince me. With Flowstone and Ruby however I thought, "this could be it". It wasn't, you still need to be a DSP expert if you really try to build a good synth, which disappoints me to this day. It lacks too many building blocks. But it is the best of all alternatives.
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby trogluddite » Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:55 pm

tulamide wrote:DIY electronics kit

Those really take me back: This is the one I started out with I think, or something very similar. The components were connected by trapping tinned wires in springs - tinning the ends of the wires when they snapped was my first introduction to soldering.

tulamide wrote:That's it. I discovered the tracker scene.

I never got into the "scene" as such, but during my twenties a house-mate used to let me use his PC which had a basic SoundBlaster card in it and a sample-based tracker program. Learning the tracker was made more interesting by it being German and with no English language option! I don't recall much of it now, but I ended up learning this really bizarre chunk of German vocabulary that was only useful for sequencing and modulating samples. It did end up getting used for a couple of tracks on the demo for the band I was in at the time - I'll have to rummage through my tapes, as I must have a recording of it somewhere. The sound of fading the final mix into the 8-bit quantising noise was very distinctive!

tulamide wrote:ask PC users with 3.51 of Cubase what THEY experienced

I was astounded by it on the Pentium 200MMX that I had at the time. But looking back - what a nightmare! My machine was quite stable, at least, as I bought it from a place that specialised in setting up PCs for studio use (there was no such thing as "plug and play" in those days!). But crafting a track involved endless track bouncing, as I couldn't run more than a couple of VST effects at the same time. To spare the PC's blushes, I had a minidisk 8-track sync'ed by SMPTE time-code to help with the track-count, but using SMPTE sync with multiple audio-sources was another kind of nightmare (though at least I'd escaped the hassles of using tape by then!)
All schematics/modules I post are free for all to use - but a credit is always polite!
Don't stagnate, mutate to create!
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Re: The days before Flowstone/SM

Postby tulamide » Wed Jan 06, 2021 12:27 am

trogluddite wrote:I'll have to rummage through my tapes, as I must have a recording of it somewhere. The sound of fading the final mix into the 8-bit quantising noise was very distinctive!

Yes, please! I'd love to hear it. My own tracks were just recorded to cassettes using the onboard soundchip's D/A. A few years ago I went through all of them in an attempt to save as much as possible (some of those cassettes are 40 years old now and of course they wear off). I recorded with the built-in A/D from the cheap soundchip on the motherboard, and the cassettes weren't in good shape. But if you're interested, here are two tracks I could save. The second one is very experimental, as I tried to do high-tempo techno, and techno is not what I grew up with :lol:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pzxtm99n4agsg58/tracker_01.mp3?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/klgpikqzbcuush0/tracker_02.mp3?dl=0
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