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A Pictorial History
of Emagic/ C-Lab Sequencers

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Notator first arrived in the USA from Germany in the fall of 1988 with version 1.12. This was a tremendous event for those who were trying to do electronic music on computers. Notator was developed by a company named C-LAB, which later became known as Emagic. Digidesign was their early US distributor. There was also a version called Creator, that came out a year or so earlier, that was the same as Notator without the notation editor. Creator got rave reviews in the trade magazines and when Notator arrived it quickly became the program to have according to the growing ranks of serious MIDIphiles. It only took a few seconds to figure out why. Up till this point, sequencers were crude and clumsy, or were esoteric and difficult to navigate and had few if any graphics and didn't use the mouse. Notator was like a dream come true in terms of ease of use. It had a clean "hi res." paperwhite display, like the Mac, but larger, and its complex midi crunching functions were non-destructive and a mere mouse click away! It was also relatively expensive. Notator 1.12 had a suggested list price of $649, but I don't know anyone who complained of the price.

Just for a bit of historical flavor, lets see what was "hot" in Nov 1988. The Korg M1 had dethroned the DX7, which was finally selling with the "E!" multitimbral upgrade. Roland's D110 and D20 are out, the Proteus is being rumored. Kawaii has its K1 and K5 out. Alesis is enjoying phenomenal success from the HR-16 and planning the "B" version. Reasonably priced midi devices were here. On the high end, New England Digital was about to releNotator Logoase the Synclavier 9600 ($42,000 for the stripped down 32 voice 32 meg version). Emu was introducing the Emax at 4 grand with a scsi option.


 

Everyone I knew who had Notator was in awe of its power. At the beginning, there was little competition in its class. While several companies had sequencers and notation packages, none of them were as tightly integrated as Notator. The Atari ST had sequencer and score offerings from Steinberg/Jones, Dr. T, Intelligent Music, Hybrid Arts and Sonus, but with these companies had a separate program for sequencing and another for notation. On the Mac, MOTU's "Performer" version 2, ($495), and "Vision" from Opcode are both sporting a graphic interface. On the Mac notation side we had Finale 1.0 (list $1000!) On the PC platform there were the early versions of Cakewalk, and Master Tracks Pro 3.0 ($395) was around. On the notation side, Passport was releasing Score 2.05 ($795 list) and Dr. T's Copyist 1.5 level III for an "inexpensive" $399. Recall that this was before Windows 3.1 was released. PC's or "IBM's" as they were popularly called, only ran in MS-DOS and typically came with 640K. In fact, the Yamaha C1 music computer was released on a custom '286 with 1 meg. (Can you imagine anything like Notator working on an IBM 8088 or even the then almighty 2 meg MS-DOS driven '286?--shudders!)

Notator ran exclusively on an Atari ST (1 meg!), which had its debut in 1985, and the new more powerful Mega ST (2 meg). A variety of options were available, including an output expander called Export, which added 3 additional MIDI outputs, and Unitor-N (and later Unitor 2), which was a 2 in 2 out MIDI expander with a SMPTE/EBU Synchronizer. Near the end of Notator's development life, version 3.21 added support for LOG 3 which added another 3 outputs. A VITC reader called Steady Eye was introduced, which allowed for integration with time coded VCRs for film production, and also a peripheral called Human Touch which allowed Notator to chase a trigger signal... This gave Notator a grand total of 3 merged inputs and 9 MIDI outs, or 144 MIDI channels, made it the audio centerpiece for film production, and it could clock to you tapping your foot on the floor. And this was on what was popularly known as a "game computer".

 

NOTATOR's MAIN SCREEN: Doesn't it make you want to click it? Notator's front screen is power-packed with recording, playback and arrangement features. And there were hidden functions too. . There was also a generous number of key commands allowing mouse free operation. Note the Up Beat/Cut feature at the bottom left. This simple device allowed the user to "tighten" sequence start times and helped give songs an unmistakable "edge".


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Review of Cubase 5
Logic Studio 9
Pro Tools LE 8.1
Logic Studio 8
Review of Sonar
Review of Reason
Reason (1st review)
Ableton Live
Logic Pro 7
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Logic Platinum 6
Logic Platinum 5
Digital Performer
GarageBand
Sony's Acid
Vintage Sequencers
Early History of Logic
Mac vs PC for Music?
Project 5
Sequencer City!
Cubase SX (original)
Cubase SX3
Using a Mac Pro as your DAW
Using Notebooks as your DAW
Which Sequencer is Best?
MIDI Time Code and Sync Issues
Custom Bank Select Methods in Logic
Write a Sonar Instrument Definition File
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