Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 7 / JULY 1983 / PAGE 33

Sound software. (evaluation) Dale Archibald.


I have to admit, my previous exposure to sounds through the 2" Apple speaker has been limited. That is, I have heard guns go off, bombs explode, lases zap, swords clang, that sort of thing. For the most part I have been on the receiving end, able to emit only a plaintive beep now and again.

Not any more. Friends, I have heard the light. That is, I have heard how Audex allows the Apple user to manipulate sound, and it is amazing.

I won't take any more backtalk from my Apple. Instead, I'll snip sounds here and there, take a tuck in a tenor, falsify a falsetto. I'll tape record a hammer and rapidly repeat it to sound like a machine gun, or stretch it and expand it until it's an artillery shell arriving.

Audex, by Pete Kosel, is furnished with a 65-page instruction booklet. The instructions are clear, concise, and well illustrated. In fact, this is a much better book than those which come with some much more expensive programs. Happily, the program is a good match for it. Four Sections

There are four sections to the program, each based upon a complete tutorial approach in the booklet. First what a procedure does is described. then the user is taken step-by-step through the procedure. Help screens are abundant throughout.

Draw-A-Sound is the first program. It allows you to draw a sound pattern by individual sound pulse on the monitor screen, then save, transfer, modify, blend, and shape these patterns. In effect, this adds some of the options of a good graphics package to a sound program.

Part of Draw-A-Sound is Analysis/Adjustment. This lets you modify any part of entire segments of a pulse pattern. Using this, you can lower or increase pitch, increase or decrease pulse length, or make large or small differences in the contrast between pulses.

Excerpt-A-Sound, third utility on the disk, i s my favorite. It allows you simply to record audio onto a tape recorder, then transfer it into the Apple through the cassette port. It excepts that audio as a sound pulse, and lets you save it.

I'll admit, the sound is badly distorted, but you haven't lived until you have heared an Apple crooning part of "Lydia

the Tattooed Lady" in Groucho's voice.   ("She has eyes that folks adore so, and a torso, even

more so.")

Next, Build-A-Sound can examine the individual files in detail, connect short pattersn into longer ones as tables, and combine and edit pulses and tables.

Last, the Audio Opcodes give you a selection of six minor utilities. These let you mix all the sounds you have created with the above major utilities into your own programs. Sound Ideas

As I understand the explanation of sound generation in the Audex instruction book, this program stores the length of time a sound wave crosses from zero to zero in increments of 50 microseconds (millionths of a second) from 50 to 12,750 microseconds. See Figure 1.

The digitized sounds are played back through the tiny Apple speaker or a seperate amplifier as a series of clicks.

Digital recordings work more or less the same way, although with tremendous fidelity. For example, an audio engineer can re-record an old, scratchy record digitally, then set the equipment to remove all the frequencies that make up the scratches.

A digital tape recorder that costs over $150,000 slices each second of sound into 50,000 parts--20 times smaller than Audex can. Its fidelity, naturally, is much higher than that of the Apple.

Nevertheless, the Audex can do what a digital recorder does, even if only on a small scale.

Pulses are the basic building blocks of Audex. A pulse is a delay of from 50 to 255*50 microseconds followed by a click.

In the Audex vocabulary, 255 of these pulses make a sound, 255 sounds can be in a soundset, and you can blend these onto a disk.

When you select the DRAW NEW SOUND or REDRAW A SOUND ALREADY DRAWN from the Draw-A-Sound menu, you can select from either of the above, save or load soundsets to tinker with, or move into other options.

If you decide to draw a new sound, on the left side of the screen will appear an arrowhead. This can be moved from pulse to pulse (and silence can be a pulse) by hitting N back with L. If you put it on autocursor, C, the arrowhead pointer will continue moving in the direction you select until you hit another key.

You can Enter a pulse by length from 1 to 255, or use the right and left arrow keys to adjust the length. When you use the autocursor and hit N, the arrowhead will continue to add pulses of the previous value until either you hit another key to stop it or it reaches pulse 255. In other words, should you enter a pulse of value 40 on autocursor, then hit N, the arrow will tick down the screen adding pulse after pulse of 40.

At the bottom of the screen is a listing of which pulse the cursor is on, the sound number you are working on, and the value of the pulse designated. By hitting K you get a help screen.

One weakness of the program is that you can't just enter the pulse to whch you want the arrowhead to move. You must use either L or N with the autocursor. Then you must wait while the cursor ticks its steady way up and down the screen. That can take a while for a sound of 255 pulses.

When you have finished "drawing" a sound, you can select the second part of the utility, Analysis/Adjustment. This lets youmodify entire segments of the sound at one time. You select the range of pulses you want to adjust.

You can lengthen the average pulse and lower its pitch, or reduce the average and raise the pitch. You might adjust the percent of drift to set the shift o f the pitch. (A long block of pulses st with a 100% drift could sound like a bomb dropping.)

Finally, the contrast adjustment contrasts each pulse with its neighbor; high contrast makes jagged pulse arrangments, while zero contrast looks and sounds smoother.

The lengthier the sound you are working upon, the longer it takes to change all the figures when you make an adjustment. After an adjustment is made, you are shown the chart of the sounds like.

You can save the sound to disk whenever you are ready, redraw sounds, hear the sounds you have already drawn, delete individual sounds from memory, even clear all sounds from memory. Each of the above is part of the Draw-A-Sound menu. Excerpt-A-Sound

With the Excerpt-A-Sound utility, you can digitize tape recordings.

Simply play them into the Apple cassette port, then select the segments you want to save. You can excerpt any selected portion you wish up to 255 pulses long. Later, you can edit these sounds on a pulse-by-pulse basis using the Draw-A-Sound utility.

Another neat trick is to attach a microphone to the tape recorder, then select Load Audio from Cassette from the Excerpt-A-Sound menu.

Hold the little tab on the upper left side of the cassette in while you press the record and paly keys at the same time. With many cassette recorders, you will then be able to speak directly into the memory of the Apple. Note: the Heartape utility also allows you to do this.

Raw sound is organized into 28 segments of 256 bytes each, but only 128 bytes can be displayed at one time. By running through the segment in memory, you can pick the page inmemory in which that segment is located.

Move to that page, and you can adjust the length of the sound you want to excerpt, up to 255 pulses. As an example, you might have a hammer pounding that you want to change in to a machine gun through repetition, but you don't want the dog barking in the background.

Looking at the pulses onscreen is rather like looking at seismograph printouts: even on the left, extending to the right. By moving your starting cursor to the beginning of the hammer bang, then adjusting the finishing cursor to the end, you exclude the unhappy pooch. As you are adjusting the pointers, you can hit H to hear what the sound is within them.

When satisfied, save that soundset to disk. Build-A-Sound

Build-A-Sound lets you connect the sounds you have digitized into a Jabber table, then combine and edit the soundsets and tables. For example, you might want the dog's bark to be repeated four times, then have the sound of the hammer going off in a machine gun burst 10 times.

The Audio Opcodes section has several machine language programs to install in your own programs. These include Squalk, to play sounds from a soundset; Jabber, a high speed multisqualker; Heartape, that transfers the signal of the cassette input port directly to the speaker until the appropriate key is pressed.

It also offes Audio-in, which loads sound from the cassette port into memory in 256-byte pages; Playback, which can take data from memory and play them back through the speaker as if they were sounds; and Tone, which generates single high-precision tones.

I wish there were some way the user could get printouts of the various screen patterns. These might be helpful to experimenters.

I also found it was necessary to blend short sounds rather than use long ones. A word like "three" taks up a great many pulses. As the manual explains, the program is for sound effects rather than voice.

Overall, however, I would have to say that this is a very interesting and complete program for anyone interested in playing with sound. For the price, it is an amazing value. Sight 'n Sound

If it were only possible--and I'm sure some bright programmer will uncover a way--to blend a sound utility with this one . . . . As it stands, Sight 'n Sound by Ray Balbes is one of the most unusual utilites I have ever run across.

Basically, it is designed to animate a specific type of Apple graphic in time to vocie or music from a separate sound source. That is, as your cassette player belts out a song through an auxiliary speaker, the graphic on the TV or monitor will keep the beat.

I saw something like this at a word processing trade show once. At the IBM booth was a large TV screen with a cartoon of a man. He would look left, right, or straight ahead, gesture, and move his mouth.

Hovering in the background, I'm sure, was an IBM employee with a microphone who might say "You, madam, in the gray suit. Aren't you impressed with the way our new Displaywriter operates?" The little cartoon would move its mouth in time to this, the woman in the gray suit would stutter, and the crowd would chuckle appreciatively.

Sight 'n Sound could do the same sort of thing--that is, move the mouth--using an Apple. According to the memory map in its 22-page instruction booklet, it does this by taking up memory from hex 800 to 8000.

This area includes the main Sight 'n Sound program, primary and secondary hi-res screens, and other information.

It is a copyable program, although if you want a DOS 3.3 copy you will have to Muffin the 3.2 version. Kaleidoscope

There are two formats for Sight 'n Sound shows. One is a kaleidoscope using shapes sotred on the disk. You can use a standard drawing program to make the shape, then save it under an SH designation. Any of nine shapes can be saved and inserted into the kaleidoscope.

The program divides the screen into four sections. Enter the coordinates at which the four shapes should begin, and the color in which the shapes should be drawn.

When you begin playing music or voice through the Apple, the frequency makes the shapes move away from the center in the appropriate direction. The higher the frequency, the farther the movement. Treble will affect movement, but volume has nothing to do with it.

You can select five parameters for the kaleidoscope. First is the length of time the program monitors frequencies before putting a display on the screen. Higher numbers give greater displacement but less synchronization.

Second is scale. Each increase or decrease of 1 doubles or halves the displacement.

Next is density. This adjusts the number of complete shapes that can be on screen at any time.

there is also a wraparound option for use when the frequencies shoot the shapes offscreen; and the kaleidoscope option. If this is ON you can use the kaleidoscope effect, and also change shapes.

A background for the kaleidoscope can be added by BLOADING, DRAWing, or HPLOTing to a secondary screen. This is explained in a sample program that is included in the instructions. Line Format

It is the line format section of the program that interests me, however. Set the kaleidoscope option to OFF, and the line format begings to operate.

With this one, you enter a series of points, each with its own direction (or color. Each point automatically connects to the previous one with a line.

When you play sound through the machine, each point reacts to its individual instructions. The first three parameters used in the kaleidoscope section are also here in effect. Each point stands still, or moves in the direction you have chosen for it and st-r-e-t-c-h-es the line with it.

I plotted the points for a pair of lips, for example. When I played music through it, the lips moved in time.

(Once again, I selected Groucho's "Lydia The Tattooed Lady" as my subject matter. "For two bits she will do a mazurka in jazz, with a view of Grand Canyon that nobody has ... And on a clear day, you can see Alcatraz. You can learn a lot from Lydia.")

The menu allows you to load or save data. It will run the data in memory; most important it will allow you to create new data.

You can display the various points in memory at any time in text. This gives you the hi-res X,Y coordinates, the direction the point will move, and the color. The color is determined by the following point. That is, if point 3 is blue, the line from point 2 to point 3 will be blue.

It is possible to plot a color black1 or black2 which will not be visible when the program is operating. Improvements

Sight 'n Sound needs stronger error-trapping, however. You can work on only on eshape at a time. If, when you are finished with the shape, you accidentally hit number 4, Create New Data, instead of 3, Run Data in Memory, you lose everything you have created. Save the data on disk, and to add on more points you are forced to insert each one singly.

There should be an Add Points on the menu along with the Change, Insert, and Delete a Point. I would like to be able to see what a shape looks like, then be able to jump back to continue working on it. It would also be h andy to be able to print out the data in memory.

Even with its flaws, this is a novel program that could be useful for commercial applications of some kind. You might also enjoy trotting it out at a birthday party, for example. Your kaleidoscopic shape could be the guest of honor's name, age, or whatever.

Like all good utilities, Sight 'n Sound offers a great deal of scope for the user's imagination.

Products: Sirius Software Audex (computer program)
Compugraphics Software Sight 'n Sound (computer program)