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A little background:
The Atari ST was a notable home computer, based on the Motorola 68000 CPU, with 512 KB of RAM or more, and 3½” floppy disks as storage. It was similar to other contemporary machines which used the Motorola 68000, the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga. Although the Macintosh was the first widely available computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), it was limited to a monochromatic display on a smaller built-in monitor. The Atari ST was the first computer with a fully bit-mapped color GUI. It had an innovative single-chip graphics subsystem (designed by Shiraz Shivji) which shared the full amount of system memory, in alternating clock cycles, with the processor, similar to the earlier BBC Micro and the Unified Memory systems that have become common today. It was also the first home computer with integral MIDI support.
The ST was primarily a competitor to the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga systems. This platform rivalry was often reflected by the owners and was most prominent in the Demo Scene. Where the Amiga had custom processors which gave it the edge in the games and video market, the ST was generally cheaper and had a high-resolution monochrome display, ideal for business and CAD. Thanks to its built-in MIDI ports it enjoyed success as a music sequencer and controller of musical instruments among amateurs and professionals alike, being used in concert by bands such as Tangerine Dream and 90s UK dance act 808 State. In some markets, particularly Germany, the machine gained a strong foothold as a small business machine for CAD and Desktop publishing work.
The ST was later superseded by the Atari TT and Falcon computers.
Since Atari pulled out of the computer market there has been a market for powerful TOS-based machines (clones). Like most “retro” computers the Atari enjoys support in the emulator scene.
Music / Sound
The ST’s low cost, built-in MIDI ports, and fast, low-latency response times made it a favorite with musicians.
The ST was the first home computer with built-in MIDI ports, and there was plenty of MIDI-related software for use professionally in music studios, or by amateur enthusiasts. The popular Windows/Macintosh applications Cubase and Logic Pro originated on the Atari ST. Even today some people (such as Fatboy Slim) are still using the Atari ST for composing music.
Music tracker software was popular on the ST, such as the TCB Tracker, aiding the production of quality music from the Yamaha synthesizer (‘chiptunes’).
An innovative music composition program that combined the sample playing abilities of a tracker with conventional music notation (which was usually only found in MIDI software) was called Quartet (after its 4-note polyphonic tracker, which displayed one monophonic stave at a time on colour screens).
Due to the ST having comparatively large amounts of memory for the time, sound sampling packages became a realistic proposition. The Microdeal Replay Professional product featured a sound sampler that cleverly used the ST cartridge port to read in parallel from the cartridge port from the ADC. For output of digital sound, it used the on-board frequency output, set it to 128 kHz (inaudible) and then modulated the amplitude of that.
In addition to the sound sampling functionalities, the availability of software packages with MIDI support for music composition and efficient sound analysis contributed to make the Atari ST a forerunner of later computer-based all-in-one studios.