This was a very shaky video from 2007 but it’s significant because it was the first one I ever put up on YouTube. It was of a Palm OS app, or rather a flash applet running inside the Sony Clie Flash player app. The applet was one of a series which were little more than sample players, but back then this was something you couldn’t really do on the Palm OS before PocketDJ arrived.
So, Marc Weidenbaum from Disquiet (you might remember he wrote a very nice interview with me) emailed me a question about using some old Palm PDAs. In fact the three palm devices in question were, a Palm IIIxe, the Clie SJ20, and the Tungsten T3. Marc suggested that I reply to him in the form of a post, so here we are with “there are some very cool things you can still do with an old Palm device”. Let’s start off with the Palm IIIxe.
The IIIxe is actually a very interesting device. Even though it’s old, it actually has a lot of potential, especially for anyone who wants to use it for MIDI. There are a few MIDI apps available for the older Palm OS. But before we go there, just a little history about the Palm OS and devices.
Palm devices like the IIIxe used Palm OS 3 or 4 and these devices used serial outputs which are generally speaking very good for old five pin MIDI. After Palm OS 4 came Palm OS 5 (not a big surprise there), and OS5 was more USB focused and not quite so good at MIDI either. However, it did have its other benefits and we’ll see those in a while.
For now let’s have a little look at the different possible MIDI apps you could find for a Palm IIIxe:
MixPad is great if you want to play MIDI files and mix them. It came from miniMusic who were real pioneers in the mobile music world. MixPad works well, but doesn’t allow you to change the MIDI file unfortunately. There were plans to do this, but sadly it didn’t come about.
Next let’s look at BeatPad. This is a Palm OS app that will be a bit more familiar. It has a drum part and a bass or mono part too. However, there’s a lot you can do to control what BeatPad does.
BeatPad is pretty cool and lots of fun to and gives you some nice control if that’s what’s important to you, but we don’t end there.
Another notable Palm OS app in the same series is NotePad, which is, as you might expect, a notation app. NotePad also has MIDI capabilities too so is worth a look.
The last of the miniMusic apps to look at is SpinPad which is a more interesting interface altogether.
SpinPad also has the added benefit of being free too. It was a miniMusic app that I’d always hoped that they’d do more with, but sadly that is now very unlikely.
So those are the miniMusic apps. But before we leave the IIIxe, and I hope that I’ve proved so far that there’s life in the old dog, there’s another group of apps that I need to mention. These are the Capers applets or demos. These are a group of apps that were meant to demonstrate some of the functionality for a replacement OS for the Palm OS which would have been a musical operating system. Sadly, it never saw the light of day,
But the Capers applets / demos are still available. One of my favourites amongst the applets is the Hedgehog. Here’s what it looks like in action:
The last video here bridges the gap between Palm and iOS with the old IIIxe driving an iPad app, Magellan. That about does it for the IIIxe. If you do take a look at the applets from Capers you’ll also find a PDF on how to use Hedgehog. Hopefully it’ll be useful.
Next we move on to the Palm Tungsten T3, and now it gets really interesting …
So, what can you do with a Tungsten T3 these days. Well, it’ll come as no surprise to many that I’m going to mention Bhajis Loops. Bhajis is still one of the most versatile and complete mobile music apps around, even though it has been out of development for years and years now.
I went looking for a few videos of Bhajis, but couldn’t find too much actually. However, this video from artist Transient.
Bhajis was, and still is for that matter, a unique a brilliant app for the Palm OS. I’d probably go so far as saying that it’s only relatively recently that apps on iOS have gone further, and there are still some things that Bhajis does way better than iOS. Add that Bhajis is now free, as is it’s little brother Microbe (which is also worthy of a look) and you’ve got a simple and cheap way to get a mobile music machine going. So if you want a cheap mobile music device, get yourself a Pam Tungsten T3 from eBay or a Palm Tungsten TX for that matter, then grab Bhajis for free, and Microbe of course, then, when you need some instruments and sample libraries, head over here for an Aladdin’s cave of Bhajis richness!
So Marc, does that give you enough to go on? I hope it does. In my view both your T3 and your IIIxe are very useful indeed. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the Clie SJ20. Well, of the three, in my opinion this is the least interesting. It was running Palm OS 4.1 which was ok, but not with serial so not much good for MIDI. It’s an ok device overall but for musical applications, not so good.
So, to recap, both Bhajis Loops and Microbe are still completely excellent mobile music making apps for Palm OS, and as you’ve already got a Pam Tungsten T3 which was arguably the best Palm for running Bhajis then you’re good to go!
I think that there are still some quite interesting things that can be done with Palm devices these days, and I hope that I’ve gone at least a little way to showing that.
Boom 808 integrates one of the most popular drum machines of the 80’s into the modern mobile producers workflow.
With Boom 808, getting the classic 808 drum sounds into your music has never been easier. Audiobus compatibility, background audio, and audio export options allow Boom 808 to fit into your music without slowing you down.
Personalize your beats with the sound of the 808!
High fidelity audio
Audiobus and background audio modes
Record and export live performance to Soundcloud, Audio Copy, email and iTunes file sharing
Boom 808 provides the superb audio quality found in our other Pulse Code apps. Along with the classic drum sounds, Boom 808 has a built in compressor that is tuned to add punch to your drum beats. Soft saturation overdrive rounds out the signal chain adding warm crunch to your beats.
Using Boom 808 with Audiobus allows you to add any number of Audiobus compatible effects as well as record your beats into the app of your choice. Writing beats is easy by using the internal step sequencer or trigger the drums with CoreMIDI. Control your groove with two swing variations.
Here it is, we’ve waited a long time for this and all thought it was vapourware, but it isn’t. Here’s all the details …
The VCS3 was created in 1969 by Peter Zinovieff’s EMS company. The electronics were largely designed by David Cockerell and the machine’s distinctive visual appearance was the work of electronic composer Tristram Cary. The VCS3 was more or less the first portable commercially available synthesizer—portable in the sense that the VCS 3 was housed entirely in a small, wooden case.
The VCS3 was quite popular among progressive rock bands and was used on recordings by The Alan Parsons Project, Jean Michel Jarre, Hawkwind, Brian Eno (with Roxy Music), King Crimson, The Who, Gong, and Pink Floyd, among many others. Well-known examples of its use are on The Who track “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (as an external sound processor, in this case with Pete Townshend running the signal of a Lowrey Organ through the VCS3’s filter and low frequency oscillators) on Who’s Next. Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” (from The Dark Side of the Moon) made use of its oscillators, filter and noise generator, as well as the sequencer. Their song Welcome to the Machine also used the VCS3. The bassy throb at the beginning of the recording formed the foundation of the song, with the other parts being recorded in response. The VCS3 was also a staple at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, and was a regular (and most frightening) sound generator for the Dr Who TV series. Many fo the monsters and atmoshere;s created for the show came directly from the VCS3.
The VCS3 has three oscillators (in reality, the first 2 oscillators are normal oscillators and the 3rd an LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator), a noise generator, two input amplifiers, a ring modulator, a 18dB/octave (pre-1974) or 24dB/octave (after 1974) voltage controlled low pass filter (VCF), a trapezoid envelope generator, joy-stick controller, voltage controlled spring reverb unit and 2 stereo output amplifiers. Unlike most modular synthesizer systems which use cables to link components together, the VCS3 uses a distinctive patch board matrix into which pins are inserted in order to connect its components together. Keyboards controller
DK1 keyboard controller
Although the VCS3 is often used for generating sound effects due to lack of built-in keyboard, there were external keyboard controllers for melodic play. The DK1 in 1969 was an early velocity sensitive monophonic keyboard for VCS3 with an extra VCO and VCA. Later it was extended for duophonic play, as DK2, in 1972. Also in 1972, Synthi AKS was released, and its digital sequencer with a touch-sensitive flat keyboard, KS sequencer, and its mechanical keyboard version, DKS, were also released.