Revenge of the Human Interface! :)

From geoff
Sent Sat, Apr 1st 1995, 18:11

>> Matt Haines writes:

>> Yes, I have big respect for good digital synth concepts, especially if they
>> enclude lots of knobs :-) Nothing is more important than the man-machine
>> interface.
>
>Absolutely! Do you by any chance have any great ideas on how a midicontroller
>for such things should be done... err... Imagine a controller board with
>sliders and knobs and buttons and stuff, where everything is programmable to
>send out a particular type of MIDI message. Then digital synths needn't be
>just a "stepping-thru-the-menues" pain-in-the-ass.
>
>I have been thinking seriously about building such a controller... any ideas,
>someone?

Yes - I'm working on a prototype master-controller keyboard concept with a
graphic designer, an industrial design graduate and an ergonomic
engineering student.

Visualise, if you will, a keyboard about the size of a Kurzweil K2000.
Instead of the dingy LCD screen and small clutch of buttons we're used to
seeing on these wundersynths, imagine a 640x480 active matrix (fast!) LCD
screen mounted central to the unit, with eight infinite-turn controllers
arranged slider-style (see description below) to the left of the screen
with a common 2-line-by-80 alphanumeric LCD/LED display running underneath.
Like on the XPander, but bigger. Instead of having rotary knobs, the shafts
are mounted parallel to the surface of the case, with a portion of a
largish rubberised wheel protruding through the fascia (an idea which I
accredit to Ab, wherever he may be)

Nothing special? It gets better :-)  The main LCD screen has a
pressure-sensitive overlay, a la Apple Newton or Sharp ExpertPad, thus
giving true instant-feedback position of the "mouse" - the screen becomes
the pointing device. There's also a WaveStation-esque joystick, one
pitch-bend and two modulation wheels, as well as two patch select buttons a
la Ensoniq. The rear panel would look suspiciously like the back panel of a
large multi-port MIDI interface like the Studio/5 or similar, complete with
click, DINsync and SMPTE ports ...

Now, if we base the main smarts of this controller on something like a
PowerMac 6100 logic board, or from a PowerBook of some kind, we can then
run MAX as the programmable front-end. Create editing templates for all of
the off-board modules and rack units, alter individual values with
screen-drawable 'faders' (that are completely customisable) and other
graphically-represented controllers that match your fingertip's every
motion. With some thought, it would then be possible to meld your rack o'
synths into one giant virtual instrument - if you have the gear, you could
make a "prescence" virtual slider that could raise the volume of two synths
on a 1:1 ration, raise the filter cuttoff on a Juno-106 by 1:5, increase
reverb depth on a Lexicon by 1:10, and raise the send to a BBE exciter on a
MIDI controlled mixer by 1:15, all at once by sysex!

Being a Mac in muso's clothing, it would be able to run the Mac
sequencing/MIDI program(s) of your choice, even become the controlling
heart of a direct-to-disk recording system, or perhaps there could be room
in the chassis of the controller to hold one or two SampleDesign cards ...

I know it all sounds horrendously expensive - and it'll most likely be so
if it ever gets to market - but as a *decent*, human-friendly central music
controller for a MIDI studio, I can't imagine anything better short of a
direct neural interface :-)

A 'simpler' version of the interface could be done as a 6U (or so) rack
unit sporting a barrage of knobs, but each knob would have to have its own
tuny LCD or LED alphanum display under it for labeling. The pots could be
scanned by simple logic, and some onboard programmable smarts (which could
be reprogrammed from a computer) could store "patches" or templates of
different synths or MIDI devices. The ability to attatch more than one
variable sysex message to each knob or controller would be great, too.

Something like the Doepfer uWave/M1000 programmer would be ideal, but it'd
need to sport more knobs, labeling per controller and be more universally
programmable. LucasFilm had the right idea with their original ASP
controller panel, with tiny 4-character alphanum LEDs under eack knob or
slider that could be reprogrammed by the ASP's master controller CPU ...


Geoffrey

Really? Geoffrey Peters, Macintosh Support Wizard, redacted@example.com
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