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PMS - Qercus 281 - Finnybank

PMS - Qercus 281 - Finnybank

PMS - Qercus 281 -

Whatever Happened to Philip’s Music Scribe is a program for typesetting music that I originally implemented in the early days of Acorn’s 32-bit systems. Where it all started At the beginning of the 1980s I had written some text typesetting software for the then state-of-the-art daisywheel printers, and later I adapted it for the early, very expensive, laser printers. Then in 1987 along came the Apple LaserWriter, the first product to use the PostScript page description language. This was revolutionary, because it was a fully functional progamming language with graphics capabilities that also incorporated an impressive font mechanism. I had been wondering about the possibility of typesetting music by computer, but the lack of a convenient output device had put me off. In the era before digital output became common, other people’s attempts to set music used pen plotters, which were slow, expensive, used special paper, and did not produce particularly nice looking output. The arrival of digital typography provided the opportunity to do very much better. I realized that most musical signs could be printed as characters or combinations of characters in a PostScript font, and so the first thing I had to do was to create such a font, containing notes, clefs, rests, and so on. I also decided to make characters for the stave lines on which music is written, so that the font mechanisms for controlling their precise width and positioning could be used. Philip’s Music Scribe? Shortly after that, the first version of Philip’s Music Scribe was born. It was written in BCPL and ran on the University of Cambridge’s IBM mainframe and also on Acorn’s first 32-bit operating system, Panos, which ran on a Motorola 32016 processor connected as a second processor to a BBC Micro. (Later this combination was packaged in a single box and called the ‘Acorn Business Machine’.) The program read a text input file that encoded the music, and wrote out PostScript that could be sent with my personal font to an Apple LaserWriter. The result was high-quality music printed on standard A4 paper. Screen preview was a problem. I managed to make the program display very crude music on a BBC micro screen—enough to allow you to check that you had put in the right notes, but that was about the limit. Real proof-reading had to be done using the paper output. The first ARM systems were also BBC micro second processors, And then came the first Archimedes, running an operating system called Arthur, the forerunner of RISC OS. BCPL was available on these systems, and porting my software gave no problems. However, at this stage it was still a command-line program. The first users Word of the existence of Philip’s Music Scribe had got out, and I was approached by a local music arranger who wanted to buy a copy, and was prepared to invest in an Archimedes in order to run it. By this time, the Apple Personal LaserWriter, priced under £2,000 was available. I sold the first copy in June 1988, with an A5 manual that was 80 pages long. The feedback after it had been used for some time was interesting. The user arranged a lot of early music for performance, and had previously written it all by hand. He hoped that computer typesetting would save time. In the event, he said it took about the A program for typesetting music by Philip Hazel Qercus & 281 Celebrating 25 years of Acorn, BBC, and RISC OS computing 15

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