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[ PREV | TIME-LINE | NEXT ] (The original video documentary covering this segment can be viewed here.)


In the late summer of 1986 I married Lisa Turetsky and bought my first IBM PC.

We took our honeymoon in 1987, a car trip around the western U.S. states.

When Lisa was driving, I designed the user interface.




I'm a pianist and have a lot of neurons dedicated to finding my way around on a piano keyboard, so I made the user interface to the Music Animation Machine's performance editor almost completely controllable from a MIDI keyboard, augmented by a trackball (on a stand so I don't have to reach too far for it).

When you're sitting at a desk in front of a computer, the natural place for a mouse or trackball is to the right of the keyboard.

When you're sitting in front of a piano keyboard, that's not possible.

This stand places the trackball close to the keyboard, but just slightly below, so that it doesn't interfere with playing.

At the bottom of the screen in the performance editor, you see a little one-octave keyboard graphic -- the menu:

The black notes are the main categories; when you press one of the corresponding keys on the piano keyboard, (Run is selected here), seven white-note sub-categories come up; pressing one of them brings up further sub-categories, and so on, until you've selected the operation you want. So, all the commands become little licks, which, because I'm a keyboard player, are really easy for me to learn and do -- fast!

There a couple of nice things about this arrangement:

  • The piano has a very distinctive topography, so I can feel where I am without looking.
  • The editor functions can all be selected with one hand, leaving the other hand free to work the pointer; instead of using a pointer to pick an operation from a menu, then moving the pointer to where I want to do that operation (as in most GUI interfaces), I can point with one hand at the same time I'm picking what to do. This setup makes editing very quick. I can move a note a little in time, then change its pitch, then change the dynamics, and change the timing of the piece, then scroll back and play it all very quickly.