30 years working with DAWs

These days mark the 30th anniversary me working with DAWs.
Early May 1994 I had acquired an Apple Macintosh Quadra 650 to kick it off….

Original specs:

  • 33Mhz 68040 CPU- additional PPC601 66MHz few months later
  • 8 MB RAM (finally 100 MB)
  • 163 MB HD (finally 500 MB)

Additional audio hard-/software

  • Digidesign Audiomedia II NUBUS card
  • Sounddesigner 2.5 editor (included)
  • OSC DECK II 2.2 Multitrack-audio software
  • JL Cooper Fader Master to move faders on screen via MIDI.
  • external 1GB Lacie SCSI HD
  • later 2 more SCSI HD plus IOMEGA JAZ
  • ….

First DAW on Apple Macintosh Quadra 650 in 1995 – Foto: wb

A total investment auf approx. 20,000 DM (10,000 €), financed through a loan over 4 years – quite a challenge for a young freelance radio journalist at that time.

It was a journey into terra incognita: there was no consulting from vendors, nor tutorials or trainings for that field (unlike for DTP). So pure trial an error. Only a little far-scattered network of like-minded, exchanging over BBS, USENET, IRC, CompuServe (look-up the acronyms if you’re too young to know them!) or, just about to become common: E-Mail. Thanks, the Q650 was also perfect to „get online“ via a 14kbps modem.

But the system granted independence to produce whenever I wanted and freed me from begging for (very rare) courtesy studio hours in ARD program exchange.

Eventually I only had to go in to broadcasting house to ‚re-analoguise‘ the ready DAT bounced mixes onto M15 reels , which were then relayed on analogue telephone lines to ARD broadcasters. It was not until ca. 1999 one could deliver audio as mp3 – attached to e-mails!

However, recording my voice with the machines on was no-go. The fans of the Mac and HDs added to a solid sound level way above 50dB in the room. So text had to be recorded with everything off onto DAT with a SM58 and then copied over.

Invaluable: The possibility to use arbitrary cross-fades in editing enabled to create smooth transitions for my ‚binaural walks‘ recorded with in-ear-microphones (OKM) captured on DAT (e.g. with Alan Parsons in Abbey Road Studios, Henry Steinway in Steinway Hall NYC and many more (examples https://bit.ly/bs-bin-mic)

I still have all that gear. In fact it’s been in use until 2010.

To celebrate this anniversary, last Saturday I set everything up and hit PowerOn.
And there it goes. Up an running!
The Mac’s battery hadn’t failed so far and the clock of the reanimated machine displayed accurate date and time.

Reanimated Quadra 650 DAW in May 2024 – Foto: wb

Last time I’d activated the system in 2013, I’d even got it into into the internet (see my blog post: https://bit.ly/bs-20y-pWWW). This time, in a new network environment, I haven’t yet figured that out.

Obviously, look and operations in DAWs hasn’t changed much in 30 years.
Already then, reducing the system extensions to the minimum, I could mix up to 8 mono tracks simultaneously to create reports, documentaries and sound collages.
Restarts were regular, though. And ‚⌘-s‘ became a manual auto-action to any edit step.

I’m glad and thankful I’d been participating in the ‚Digital Audio Revolution‘ that early and gained so much experience over the decades.
And – thus contradicting a famous quote – this revolution did not ‚devour each one of the children’…

Front page of Deck’s brochure from 1995. Despite the statement – it’d only just begun. I reckon this a bold design classic.