Atari 520ST, Music Maker, goes on display in Manchester museum 1


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atari 520stYou may not have realised it, but the Atari 520ST was pretty influential in the late ’80s and ’90s Manchester music scene.

The first commercial computer to incorporate dedicated MIDI ports, it made it easy to connect up to synths and other MIDI-compatible devices.

A working 520ST has now gone on display at the Museum of Science and Industry to help tell the history of Manchester music.

Julia Adamson was a sound engineer and musician working in the Strawberry Studios in Stockport.

The ST could be hooked up to an Akai S1000 sampler, increasing the audio possibilities on many hit records.

“In the past, the synthesiser could link in with a drum machine, but the computer was a more sophisticated system,” she said. “It could delay notes or bring notes forward, so you had more control.”

“In The Charlatans’ The Only One I know’, for example, they would use it like a metronome to work with so they played in time and then could add strings to the sound too.”

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Julia also used the equipment on stage as a member of The Fall (see picture), replacing parts as they wore out over the years.

I had the ST’s less powerful baby brother, the 520STE, which I ran with Steinberg‘s Pro 24 sequencing software. Interestingly (for me) it wasn’t my first foray into MIDI music making, though it was probably the easiest I’d tried to date.

Before I was gifted the STE, I had an 8-bit Atari 130XE. Some bright spark had built a MIDI interface (MIDIMATE) for that and bundled it with some extremely rudimentary sequencing software (MIDITrack).

Anyway, there’s the aside. The technicalities of computer music making are much more advanced these days, but in some ways a lot simpler. At least you don’t have to fight the machine itself to get it to work (usually) 🙂

(Via MEN Media and BBC Radio 6)


One thought on “Atari 520ST, Music Maker, goes on display in Manchester museum

  • David Ventura

    Writing a book on pop music. This is the first time a band (the Charlatans) have been mentioned in association with sequencers that I have come across al day. Desperate to find out who used pro-24 in the 80s, or even early 90s. I don’t think anyone used them, except those that could afford fairlights or synclaviers.

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