AMCS - the Advanced Music Construction System
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HISTORY					AMCS
BACKGROUND				the Advance Music Construction System


SUBJECT

	History: Background


SUMMARY

	A brief introduction to the inspiration and realisation of AMCS - the
advanced music construction system.


DESCRIPTION

	In the early 1980s, microprocessor technology became commercially
available, shrinking what would have been the size of a large room into a
unit that could fit on to a desk. Shortly after, the reduction in the cost of
manufacturing means computers are affordable for average person and opens up
the micro-electronics market to high street stores which at the time was only
available to businesses. Then in 1983 a new device communication system called
MIDI is launched giving the ability to control synthesisers digitally and the
home computer market quickly adopts this with external adaptions being released
like the UMI sequencer for the Acorn BBC Micro, which was used by Vince Clarke
to create a fair staple of the pop music at that time.

	By the mid-1980s, micro-electronics progress in processing power and the
era of 16-32bit digital systems comes about, making home computers more capable
at producing music and video. Three manufacturers at the time dominated the
british home computing market; Commodore with its Amiga range, Atari with its ST
range and Acorn with its Archimedes range. Atari had built MIDI capability in to
their machines by default and it soon became the platform for professional music
production with two main software products seating themselves as an industry
standard. The Commodore Amiga went on to find its niche with movie and
television by its 3D graphics rendering adaptions and a software product that
also became an industry standard. However, the new range of Acorn computers did
not find a creative or business market to fit in to, and stuck with the british
education market which it had since its previous generation of machines, this
eventually sealed its demised later in time.

	Making music was always seen as specialist area of expertise, but the
home computer gave rise to a certain type of creative person, the hacker. It
wasn't long before people found entertainment in the challenge of pushing a
computer to the maximum capability with visual and audible results deemed near
impossible for a system so limited. Through this, a type of software known as
Tracker was created, purely for the purposes of making background music whilst
remaining light on the computer processing during playback. It was extremely
limited, in most cases having no more than four tracks and samples which
although could be looped, had to be short and low quality to conserve memory.
The alternative for making music, required expensive adaptions to enable the
MIDI communication system and generate sound externally from the computer.
Music software support on computer systems other than the Atari ST were dire,
with pretty much the only choice of software for music production on a budget
being Tracker.

	By the mid-1990s qUE had started a hobby in DJing, something he grew
up with during the 1980s and was now earning enough money to afford it. Through
buying vinyl he was able to discover the various forms of electronic music, but
hit on something which sounded very similar to what he had been making prior
on an Acorn Archimedes A3000 home computer with a Tracker software obtained from
a magazine. At that point it was quite clear the artists making music on the
vinyl had better music production equipment than a home computer with Tracker
software. After some research, it became apparent that sound synthesisers and
drum machines were being used to create the music he had heard, and so he went
and bought a MIDI capable music keyboard. Next was the issue of how to control
it, the Acorn Archimedes had absolutely no software which was even remotely like
what he was used to using, it was all squarely aimed at instrumentalists and not
geared up for electronic music production. He felt it was excessive to buy a new
home computer for the sake of creating music when his current computer was
potentially capable.

	Around 1995-1996, with a small amount of computer programming
experience qUE embarked on creating some music production software for his
Archimedes home computer. The first version named "qUE's Music Sequencer" was
developed entirely in BBC BASIC and suffered from a combination of timing
issues from the software running through a computer code interpreter and no real
concept of what was needed other than something similar to the Tracker software
he had previously used. The interface was incredibly simple, constructed
entirely of text other than a virtual piano, but it worked. The next version
saw improvements in the look and response of the software, it now had colour
icons and was slowly moving away from the Tracker software into a completely new
concept. By the third version, qUE had started to tinker with the assembler
programming language in an effort to improve the playback timing of the system.
There was a complete redesign of the interface ushering in a totally unique way
of creating riff and rhythm patterns, 32 tracks of cues, a virtual mixing desk
and MIDI instrument pre-setup. Friends started to ask why this was not a product
available for everyone to use, although it was perfect for his needs, qUE felt
it was not ready for other people but always had that thought "what if it could
be". The fourth and final version saw a major shift, it was renamed to "the
Advanced Music Construction System" to de-personalise the name, it is entirely
programmed in assembler, the whole system is multi-tasking with the ability to
do almost anything whilst playing the music, it has 256 tracks of cues, full
Instrument Configuration and was eventually modified to replace the operating
system for the Acorn Archimedes A3000 due to very slight interference in timing
and the requirement to have the system as firmware.

	At that point there was a stall in development, a hiatus had been
reached, for other people to use the system they needed an Acorn Archimedes
A3000, by this time these machines were over 20 years old and in short supply.
And due to a lack of electronics knowledge adapting the computer to work with a
PC keyboard and mouse was proving tricky, with the advent of software sequencers
the market for hardware music sequencers had practically folded. Meanwhile since
the collapse of Acorn in 1999, the processor wing of the company splintered and
had seen great success in portable devices due to its power efficiency. Devices
containing the processor where rapidly getting more prevalent and affordable.
This was potentially great news except the processor had changed just enough to
make it very awkward to shift to, something had to give. Further research into
emulation was proving difficult but possible and the AMCS system had so many
alterations in its past it was messy internally, any new ideas were difficult to
implement. The bullet was finally bitten and a complete rebuild was due.

	The fourth version of the system was totally rebuilt complete with all
the new concepts dreamed up since, and with a renewed aim of being a standalone
system for portable devices.


RELATED

	General: Glossary

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