Category: midibox

might not be in the cards

I’m thinking that learning PIC assembler and writing from scratch the code to implement a slightly-complex MIDI controller might not be the best use of my time. Who writes in assembler anymore? Crazies.

Now I’m leaning towards making the device as simple as possible, and writing logic on the computer end of the cable to interpret the button presses. This means figuring out how to get MIDI events out of my dreams and into my car.

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.

oldest working computer

The Register offers a light piece about the oldest microcomputers still in use. I love the idea of some guy buying a VAX for personal use in 1987.

shattered remains of old

I also love the idea of someone scavenging a bunch of old Commodore 64 units just to tear out the old SID synthesizer chip, then building a new device to hook three or four of them up to modern equipment. Check out a near-pornographic photo of one of these boxes. I can understand nostalgia for the kind of sounds old vacuum tubes or analog synths produce, but old digital synth chips from consumer-grade hardware? Wow. Not that I didn’t love listening to my C-64 playing “The Entertainer” back in the day.

parts list continues to grow

I’m building one of these, and yesterday I discovered I’m going to want a hundred or so of these:

line drawing of a
electronics part

Confused? Well, it’s a “HOLDER LED PANEL 3MM BLACK NYLON”, Lumex part number SSH-LX3050.

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