a lesson in here for us all

I haven’t written about my midibox lately. There really hasn’t been that much to write, since I’ve been lax about working on it. I fried the microprocessor, and that soured the experience so much that I let it languish for a couple of months. I’ve recently made a promise to myself to work on it more often, and I’m going to try to stick to this plan of at least three hours a week.

Today, as part of a great UPS adventure, the first non-homebuilt bit of MIDI equipment in the setup arrived. For those of you that don’t know, MIDI is the protocol that most electronic instruments use to talk to each other — it’s how you program a drum machine or make your keyboard control that rack of blinking lights over next to the bassist.

Anyway, I’m building a MIDI controller, which will have buttons that I can press, which will hopefully send a signal down a wire to another MIDI device, which will make a pleasant noise, if all goes well. I’ve built a horrible, annoying PC out of parts I scrounged from work, and I built a joystick-to-MIDI converter, mostly out of electrical tape. I’m using this to plug my “midibox”, which will be the grand controller full of buttons and knobs, into this awful PC by way of programming it.

Anyway, nothing I’ve built from scratch was working with the store-bought bit, which is going to allow my wonderful Apple Powerbook to communicate with MIDI devices over USB. Everything I made myself worked great among themselves, but the professional quality thing wasn’t working at all.

It turns out I’d made everything exactly wrong. In all four MIDI ports on both boxes I built, I’d swapped the same two wires. As if I’d invented a bizzaro-MIDI, an anti-MIDI that worked great on its own, but which exploded on contact with real MIDI. (Thank god nothing exploded.)

DIY is nice, but compatibility with the real world is also nice.

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