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far-extending

OctaMED

OctaMED is a popular sound tracker for the Commodore Amiga, written by Teijo Kinnunen. The first version, 1.12, was released in 1989 under the name MED, which stands for Music EDitor. In April 1990, version 2.00 was released with MIDI support as the main improvement. In 1991 the first version with the name OctaMED was released, so-called as it could replay eight independent channels on the Amiga's four-channel sound chip. This was also the first commercial version of the software. The publisher throughout has been RBF Software of Southampton, UK which is run by Ray Burt-Frost.

The distinguishing feature of MED and OctaMED in comparison to other music trackers on the Amiga was that MED and OctaMED were chiefly used by musicians to create stand-alone works, rather than by game or demo musicians to make tunes that play in the context of a computer game or demo. Firstly, this is because the MED and OctaMED music replay routine is simply too slow to be used in a game or demo. Most trackers are optimised for speed of replay code, taking less than 3% of CPU time. MED took roughly 20% of CPU time. Secondly, and this is also one of the reasons why MED draws more CPU power, the MED format allowed a greater degree of complexity in music construction, with arbitrary length of pattern sheets, sections and blocks rather than a simple pattern-list, and a greater number of effects for the sound. This additional complexity was welcomed by music composers, who preferred more sophisticated structure to their compositions and did not see it as a simple list of timed note-presses.

The technique of playing more channels of music than the Amiga hardware was capable of was first introduced with Jochen Hippel's "Hippel 7V" routine, which used one hardware sound channel, and performed software mixing of two channels as the source of the remaining three Amiga hardware sound channels. The reason for using seven channels rather than eight was because the sound routine required more processing power than the 7.14MHz 68000 CPU in the older (and later low-end) Amiga models could provide. The seven-channel routine then appeared in TFMX. Finally, the routine was optimised so it could mix an additional channel, resulting in eight channels of sound. The 8-channel routine first appeared in another tracker called Oktalyzer and Face The Music. Finally, this appeared in OctaMED.

OctaMED was developed on the Amiga until 1996. The last version, called OctaMED Soundstudio, had features like MIDI file support, ARexx support, support for 16-bit and stereo samples, hard disk recording, and support for up to 64 channels.

Teijo Kinnunen handed over the development of OctaMED to other programmers soon after the final Amiga version was released. The new programmers later released a Windows port, but the lack of features and presence of noticeable bugs meant this edition did not achieve the same level of fame as the Amiga release. More versions of the Windows port were later released. It was subsequently renamed to MED Soundstudio, and has had several releases under that name.

A later approach to extend the features of the Amiga version of OctaMED was performed by Kjetil Matheussen starting in 1997. By hacking the binary he managed to make a more low-level plugin system than was already available via the ARexx language. With the help of NSM the users could now get access to the CAMD MIDI library, 48-channel MIDI interfaces, signal processing plugins for the sample editor, interaction with the sequencer Bars&Pipes, and many other esoteric features, far extending the features offered for the commercial Windows version of OctaMED.

Although there are relatively few people still using the Amiga computer, RBF Software claims to still have people working for them to develop a new version of OctaMED for Amiga.

OctaMED is reportedly used by Calvin Harris in production of his 2007 album "I Created Disco".

Current version is available for Windows and AmigaOS platforms, called MED SoundStudio.

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