Developed the first and only digital turntable software for the vintage Commodore Amiga computer in team with my good friend Ian Ford from Unstable label, available for free from its website for anyone who wants to use it (you can also like its FB page if you want to show support!).
Here’s a demo of it followed by a back story and production images:
I started making music in 1993 when a fellow Amiga user gave to me a copy of a program saying he had “no idea what it is about but I have a feeling you will figure it out and enjoy it”. Little did he know he would start in me a passion that has not stopped since!
Back then the Amiga computer was the poor-man’s entry level gear to any budding musician. Costing a fraction of what music equipment did and also useful for other important tasks (like playing videogames! 😛 ), it was the cornerstone of many musicians at the time (especially those into drum&bass and jungle like Aphrodite). it spearheaded a movement of underground electronic musicians who used the .MOD Protracker audio format to share their music online in BBSes (long before the web was a popular thing). This format had the special quality of being open source: everyone could open it in their tracker software, see how it was made, mess with it and re-release it or use parts of it as they pleased. Truly revolutionary.
When I started playing music live and DJing around 2004, I always wanted to use the Amiga in my live sets but basically there were absolutely NO tools that would let me perform naturally and organically with an Amiga in a live setting. I toyed for years with the idea of making a program that would allow me to do what I wanted, even though I had no idea of how to code for the Amiga. But it wasn’t until around 2008 that I started to gather ideas and somehow figure out if the possibility of what I wanted to do was real.
I created a thread on a famous Amiga forum, the English Amiga Board, after I found the source code for an obscure version of Protracker that allowed some sort of real time manipulation, pondering about the possibility of timestretching and pitchshifting modules in real time. Most people said it wasn’t possible. I kept looking at the code but couldn’t really make heads or tails from it (especially since it had almost no comments).
Meanwhile, I took this source code and with the help of my friend Delek I modified it so I could have a play with it live. A few modifications allowed me to make some rudimentary DJ sets that I put online for people to see and that I tried at one gig’s occasion. The concept worked but the implementation was poor. I needed to step it up.
I kept badgering at that thread, posting alone but investigating. I came to the idea of how this would work in a very basic, laymans terms version. Then my friend Ian jumped in and found the relevant code in the Protracker 1.2 source and said “THAT’S IT!”. A few days later a demo for what I wanted to achieve was in my inbox, in the form of an Amiga executable. Amazing! Couldn’t believe my eyes.
From that point on for the following year and a half or something, we worked on this on our spare time. I was working mainly on the user interface and we were going back and forth with the concept. Ian, as a musician and DJ himself, understood exactly what I wanted to do and he knew exactly how the program should behave. We were on the same page 90% of the time, incredible.
I became the main tester, willing to try our monster on live gigs and face whatever errors might happen due to buggy, unfinished code. I also demo’ed the tool online many times with some Youtube videos that created some buzz among fellow musicians who have the Amiga in a soft spot of their hearts.
In the end and by the time of Revision 2014, the most famous demoscene party, we managed to release version 1 of our software, PT-1210 Mk1, a digital turntable program able to play .MOD format audio files as if they were tracks on a CD with a CDJ deck, with the added bonus of extra features that this format permits, like the muting of individual instrument channels (the Amiga has 4 of them). The software was very well received and hyped around music blogs like Create Digital Music and Synthopia, and is it a funny coincidence that a year after our release, Native Instruments announces their Stems format which is a 4 channel open source audio format that will allow people to individually mute tracks in a song? I like to think it isn’t 🙂
Find below graphics from old versions of PT-1210 going all the way to the current one, plus videos of Youtube sets I have recorded live using this program.
Very first version. It was nothing more than some data and a spectrum analyzer of each channel’s sound:
Second version. The program looked like this for a long while during our functionality testing, I’d say like 6 months at least.
This is the pre-final version. During the last 3 or so months of development, it looked this way, which is almost the final look for the program:
This is the final look of the program’s main screen, followed by the splash screen:
Here is the splash screen in development, tested on a real Amiga 600 running my favorite pixeling software, Deluxe Paint IV:
I came up with a catchphrase to promote the software and put it on some t-shirts of which I made a very limited run:
And here’s me playing some sets using it: