Issue 16: Feb 2002






GAME, set, match!


Tip of the day


Atari Emulation


Giving windows a color cut


Atari pitch invasion




Full Steem Ahead


The MultiJoy8 Interface






[Tim's Atari MIDI World banner]
Full Steem Ahead

Atari MIDI programs acquire a new following with the advent of Steem, as Tim Conrardy explains...


As web master for Tim's Atari MIDI World, I get plenty of mails asking if these great Atari programs work on a PC. In the past, I would have had to say, "no". Atari programs only work within the TOS operating system. The Atari emulators for other platforms did not work with MIDI. While they were fine for games and other applications, the MIDI routines required for stable timing were not present for these emulators to run the programs well.

This has now changed! There is now an Atari emulator for the PC platform that works with MIDI programs. It is called "Steem Engine", and emulates an Atari STE. Granted, the faster machine you have, the better it works. I have been able to get good results from my ancient 233 MHz PC. It was amazing to see some of my favorite programs up and running on the PC with sound output working well. Examples are Tunesmith by Jim Johnson, Dr T's KCS sequencer system, Schoenberg Composer, Fractal Music ST and much more.

[Screen-shot: Steem running Atari MIDI software]

However, there are a few programs that do not work, such as Eric Ameres' M and RealTime. It is a mystery, but these seem to be the only programs that have been reported as not working properly in Steem. However, with the number of applications that do work, this would be a small percentage to worry about.

Since Steem has been introduced, a new following of Atari MIDI users are coming into the fold. These users do not use a real ST, but their PCs running Steem and Atari MIDI software. One such user is Gavin Stevens, composer and pianist. He has this to say about Steem:

I installed Steem earlier in the year for the sole purpose of looking at music software, especially generative programs. I tend to judge such software on its musical merits, no matter what the original platform. An interesting situation has emerged in that I am using Atari software via Steem more than I use PC based generative software (with one or two exceptions). The music I have created using programs like Schoenberg 5 and more recently Fractal Music ST (now released as freeware) has stimulated positive feedback and discussion. So thanks, Steem authors, for opening up a new dimension in my exploration of generative software.

Many programmers are also releasing their former Atari programs because of Steem. Examples include Gareth Jones (Schoenberg Composer) and Johanna Bindgen (Simon ST). They have even created .ST files for use in Steem's A drive.

Steem offers a unique opportunity for PC users to try out some of the more adventurous Atari MIDI programs as well as bread-and-butter applications such as Dr T's KCS. One KCS user, Tim Wilson, even uses KCS as his main sequencer and then uses Hubi's Loopback to connect to soft synths on the same PC.

Although there may not be a substitute for the "real" thing, Steem comes very close and also enables Atari MIDI programs a future in the times ahead.

Steem installation guide

  1. On your PC, create a folder called steem
  2. Within the steem folder create another folder called c-drive. You can put any Atari programs in this directory. This means it is only a matter of downloading the files (say, from TAMW) and unzipping them into this directory.
  3. Create another folder called a-drive. You can put any Atari disk images that have the .ST extension in this folder.
  4. Unzip the contents of the Steem archive into the steem folder. Also unzip the TOS image you will be using for Steem in the same directory. Most MIDI programs work with TOS 2.06, so when you are at the Steem site, download this image.
  5. Run the Installation program.
  6. It will ask you where your a:\ drive is. Browse to the a-drive folder you just created.
  7. The next prompt will ask you where your hard drive is. Browse to the c-drive folder you just created.
  8. It will ask if you want a folder for your d:\ drive. Choose "No" (unless you want to create a folder and call it d-drive).
  9. Steem will go through the rest of the installation process and start up. It will probably start in what is called low res.
  10. For color MIDI programs you will need medium resolution. Go to Options>Set Preferences on the Atari desktop and pick medium resolution. Steem will change accordingly. You can click on the c:\ drive icon and display any programs you have in the c:\ drive folder. The same goes for the a:\ drive.
  11. You can save your desktop settings by going into Options.
  12. You can also change your desktop colors by going into View and selecting Set Color & Style.... Close and go to Options again and Save Desktop to save the settings you just created.
  13. To change to monochrome (ST high resolution) that some programs require, hit the [Pause/Break] key on the PC keyboard. This gives you access to the Steem menu. Find the icon that looks like a "chip". There will be a setting to change to monochrome monitor. Select it and close. Steem will "reboot" and go to ST high resolution. Steps 11 and 12 also apply to this resolution.
  14. Hit the [Pause/Break] key again to gain access to the Steem menu:
    Hard drive icon: disk manager. You can re-organize your virtual hard drives as well as putting virtual disks (.ST files) into the a:\ drive.
    Joystick icon: configure joystick and keyboard to emulate the joystick. Chip icon: adjust your settings for how much memory you want (such as 4 MB). Monitor icon: display options. Piano keyboard icon: to select your external devices. These would include the MIDI drivers. This is important if you want to do MIDI on Steem. You can select if you want to hear sounds through the computer's internal sound card, or external MIDI (which would require a MIDI sound module). Arrow icon: shortcut settings for use in Steem. "i" icon: general information about Steem. This covers the above in more detail. Go into each of the menu items and set what you want. Close. You can also select the maximize button on the menu bar and Steem will go to full screen mode. Then click into the main Atari desktop screen and you are returned to your Atari desktop.
  15. You can enhance the desktop by installing auto programs that speed up the mouse, alternate desktops with icons and so on. These are regular Atari programs that can be downloaded from the internet. Read the Atari Quick FAQ for these locations. Read the Atari Quick FAQ for these locations.

Useful links

  • The official Steem site
    Here you can download the most recent version of Steem as well as the disk images you will need to run it. There is also a Steem mailing list if you want to ask the programmers specific questions on the emulator. Highly recommended.
  • Tim's Atari MIDI World
    Download and enjoy some of the best Atari MIDI programs now available, thanks to the programmers and companies for their consent. Unzip the programs directly into the folder you are using for Steem's c:\ drive.


[ Top of page ]

MyAtari magazine - Feature #8, February 2002


Copyright 2002 MyAtari magazine