martes, 30 de diciembre de 2008

Fairlight CMI

The "Computer Musical Instrument" was the first polyphonic, digital sampling synthesizer, designed in 1979 by Fairlight founders Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, in Australia.

It was heavily used by 80's musicians such as Trevor Horn (and a number of ZTT's artists like Art of Noise and Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Herbie Hancock, Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, Bill Sharpe, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Jean Michel Jarre and Alan Parsons, amongst others.

The CMI featured two Motorola 6800 8-bit microprocessors, and a modified version of the Motorola MDOS operating system, called QDOS.

In 1983 MIDI was added to the CMI. Apart from the keyboard, a light pen was used on a green monochrome CRT for interfacing (this CMI feature can be seen on Duran Duran's 1984 video for The Reflex). Later models dropped the light pen in favor of a graphics tablet.

Sadly, Fairlight couldn't keep up with the high costs of CMI's production (built by hand with top-of-the-line components), so they went bankrupt, and the last CMIs where sold as word processors...

Notable albums that used the CMI in its production are:

Magnetic Fields, Jean Michel Jarre, 1981.
Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, 1982.
Future Shock, Herbie Hancock, 1983.
The Unforgettable Fire, U2, 1984.
Songs from the Big Chair, Tears for Fears, 1985.
How to be a...Zillionaire!, ABC, 1985.
Planet Rock: The Album, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, 1986.
Hysteria, Def Leppard, 1987.
Automatic, Bill Sharpe + Gary Numan, 1989

Notable videoclips that feature images of a CMI are:

The Reflex, Duran Duran, 1984.
Change Your Mind, Bill Sharpe + Gary Numan, 1985.
Miami Vice theme song, Jan Hammer, 1985.
Sequencer, Al Di Meola, 1983.
Hanging on a Heart Attack, Device, 1986.

* Tony Wilson said that producer Martin Hannet quit Factory Records after the label put money on the Haçienda instead of buying him a CMI.
* Lots of reverbs were used on Art of Noise's Into Battle to mask the CMI's initial low sampling fidelity.
* The orchestral stabs heard on Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock where made using a rented CMI.

Photo Credits:


Fairlight CMI on "This Week" ABC TV
Bob Moog Fairlight Intro
Al Di Meola - Sequencer

martes, 23 de diciembre de 2008

About MAME datfiles

Auditing and rom management utilities are useful tools, complimentary to your favorite emulator. Since emulators are always under developement (looking for the 'perfect emulation'), changes are always present. These changes are reflected the roms they use too: rom file renaming and new available roms dumps for old games come from time to time. Here's where rom managers come to the scene.

Rom managers help you to audit your roms, deleting unnecesary roms, warning about duplicate dump, missing dumps, bad CRCs, etc.

The way a rom manager is aware of the list of supported games (and roms, samples, artwork, etc. used by every game) is by means of a DATFILE.

An emulator should be able to generate a DATfile containing all the details of every game the emulator supports. If the emulator is not able to generate this file, then the author should provide a companion datfile together with the emulator.

Up to version 0.83, information on all the details of every emulated game by MAME was displayed by using the 'listinfo' parameter:

C:\mame\mame -listinfo

Here's a sample of the output generated:

With the advent of XML, MAME started using a new parameter, "listxml". Since version 0.84, this parameter formatted the output using the XML format:

C:\mame\mame -listxml

Here's a sample of the output generated:

In the case of the MAME emulator, datfiles are created redirecting the output information generated by the emulator itself, to a text file.

For MAME versions up to 0.83, use:

C:\mame\mame -listinfo>mame.dat

For MAME versions since 0.84, use:

C:\mame\mame -listxml>mame.dat

Rom managers must be aware of the differences between datfiles created using -listinfo and the ones created using -listxml. For instance, ClrMamePro uses different profile atributes for this.
There are some datfiles repositories over the net, here are some of them:

But now you are able to generate your own MAME datfiles ;-)

martes, 18 de noviembre de 2008

What? Me worry?

I've been always amazed by the shocking similarity between MAD Magazines's icon Alfred E. Neuman and the current President of Banco Central de Chile, José de Gregorio.

In fact the Neuman's catch phrase 'What, me worry?' fits de Gregorio's current situation, since chilean economy at the moment looks more or less stable in the middle of the world economic crisis. de Gregorio hasn't lost his weight and hair the way the secretary of the US Treasury, Henry Paulson, had the last month...


Photo credits:

Montage credits:


lunes, 10 de noviembre de 2008

Fun with dates

On Oracle databases, dates are stored using 7 bytes that keep information regarding date and time, including:
  1. Century
  2. Year
  3. Month
  4. Day
  5. Hour
  6. Minutes
  7. Seconds
So when querying dates, TO_CHAR plus the proper date format must be used. For instance:

SQL> select to_char(sysdate, 'dd/mm/yyyy') from dual;


SYSDATE is an internal PL/SQL function that returns the current date and time, it returns a DATE type value. 'dd/mm/yyyy' is a valid date format. 'dd' means 2 digits for the day number, '/' means the date part separator (other value could be '-', for instance), 'mm' means 2 digits for the month number (starting with 1 for January), and 'yyyy' means 4 digits for the year number.

Date formats can be used to take parts of the date. For instance, if you are only interested on the current month number, you use:

SQL> select to_char(sysdate, 'mm') from dual;


One interesting example of date conversions is how to get the month name out of a date. The first approach (the 'beginners' approach) is here:

SQL> select DECODE (TO_CHAR (SYSDATE, 'mm'),
2 '01', 'January',
3 '02', 'February',
4 '03', 'March',
5 '04', 'April',
6 '05', 'May',
7 '06', 'June',
8 '07', 'July',
9 '08', 'August',
10 '09', 'September',
11 '10', 'October',
12 '11', 'November',
13 '12', 'December')
14 from dual;


There's a better way to do this, and that's using TO_CHAR together with the "MONTH" date format. This format returns the month name. Here's a better approach:

SQL> select TO_CHAR (SYSDATE, 'Month') from dual;


Moreover, you can use the optional "PARAMNLS" TO_CHAR parameter to get the month name in other languages. For instance, the month name in spanish:

SQL> select TO_CHAR (SYSDATE, 'Month', 'NLS_DATE_LANGUAGE = ''SPANISH''') from


miércoles, 5 de noviembre de 2008


"Eight o'clock in the morning" is a short story by Ray Nelson published in 1963.
Pretty interesting reading, it resembles the "V" 80's TV series.
I recommend reading this short story, that influenced John Carpenter to such extent that he made a movie based on it ("They Live", 1988, John Carpenter).

I was doing a little research on subliminal advertising, and that made me remember the movie, that led me to this cool short story.


martes, 4 de noviembre de 2008

Taito SJ rom swap: success! Part II

Last friday I burned the Jungle Hunt romset on 19 eproms (It takes 20, but 19 was all I had at the time). I bought some EPROMS on Ebay a month ago, but I still haven't received them (Damn local Customs, they take years to process my shipments!).
Plugged the 19 eproms on my bootleg Elevator Action and the game launches! No sound though, probably because of the missing eprom.

Taito SJ games that won't run using this method are:

* Alpine Ski (protected).
* Bio Attack (Game launches, but resets after losing a life)
* Elevator Action (Requires security board).
* Front Line (Requires security board).
* Wild Western (Requires different layer PROM).

Next step, do the same thing with Jungle King, and later with Space Cruiser.
And of course, post all info gathered while playing with this board.

martes, 28 de octubre de 2008

Taito SJ rom swap: success!

Last night, I burned the Water Ski romset on 13 eproms. Took my bootleg Elevator Action board, took away the eproms, and put the new Water Ski eproms on the board.

Guess works! Now I have a Water Ski working on my bootleg Elevator Action board.

More details on the way...

martes, 21 de octubre de 2008

Everything's Connected (Pt. II)

By the middle of the 90's, in the middle of a tv zapping, I was hooked with a scene of a movie that featured a spaceship exploding in the air, with a terrific score on the background. I waited for the ending credits, and after a little research, I discovered the movie excerpt I saw was the ending of Godfrey Reggio's 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi, and the background music was made by a guy named Phillip Glass.

By the end of the 90's I was hooked on Aphex Twin music, and on Chris Cunningham videoclips. I had access to several AFX albums, and I caught my ear on some piano-only tracks, those were pretty interesting, and very different to the rest of the album. One of those tracks I liked the most was "Icct Hedral", and some time later I discovered that track was orchestrated by Phillip Glass himself...

(Left, Glass. Right, James).

By the same time I was hooked on Aphex Twin, I had the chance to see on TV some excerpts of a very interesting documentary named "Baraka". After researching I discovered it was directed by Ron Fricke, who was the cinematographer of...Koyaanisqatsi.


Photo Credit:

lunes, 20 de octubre de 2008

Everything's Connected

By 1984, maybe a couple of years before, I got my hands on the "Views" book by Roger Dean, terric art and drawings. Very inspiring. To this day, I recognise drawings made by Dean on 70's album cover art, it's really one-of-a-kind.
By 1984-85 I had the chance to listen to Jelly Bean Benitez's "The Mexican". I was immediately caught by the breaks and beats. I love that song.
Recently I made an internet reserch on "The Mexican", and I discovered that it was not a JB song. It was a song by a 70's english band named "Babe Ruth", and that JB re-made the song, and hired original vocalist Janita Haan to re-sing the song. The song appeared on the BR's "First Base" album, that featured, to my surprise, cover art by Roger Dean...

viernes, 17 de octubre de 2008


Here are the Vpp for various EPROMs I was able to burn using my "Dual Power Willem Universal EPROM Programmer" sold by

1.- Hitachi HN462732G

Vpp = 25V


Vpp = 21V

3.- Intel D2732A

Vpp =

4.- NEC D2732D

Vpp = 21V

5.- Toshiba TMM2732D

Vpp = 25V

More on the way.