Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vintage Pro Tools

My workspace, this evening...

This Pro Tools "rig" was put together in 2002 and is the guts of my recording studio.  This is Pro Tools version 5.3.1 (currently, the official Pro Tools is version 11.3 about to go to 12), running on a Mac G4 using Mac OS 9.2.  I'm using the fancy "HD1" D/A interface that was the hot new thing in 2002; it was so new that my dealer was required to sell me the old version and then fall all over himself apologizing that he couldn't offer me the new HD1 because he had to be silent about its existence, and then he changed everything out and his diligent complaints to the company got me a "free" $1K reverb program along with the new cutting-edge high-definition digital recording setup.

Soon after I had this system up and running, Apple released OSX, and everyone I knew was hot for the new software upgrade.  Some little voice inside me said don't do it!  So, I didn't upgrade.  OS 9.2 was so stable.  Everything finally worked together perfectly.  I had just gotten to the point where I had unlimited top-of-the-line professional-quality audiophile multitrack recording time.  I think it would be hard for any professional musician who was making music in 2000 not to appreciate the creative power that was made available by Pro Tools HD on a Mac G4 running OS 9.2.  It was a major technological revolution.  I had a Waves bundle, I had Reverb One...why would I want to change anything?!  I had work to do! 

So, from that point on, I never upgraded and I've been making records and doing projects ever since.

Had I gone to OSX, the first thing that would have happened was that my "Waves Bundle" would have ceased to function.  Doesn't sound like much, does it... but it has all the functions--plug-ins--that make a recording device into a studio.  Compressors of various sorts that can bring out he musical sound quality of a recording, equalizers that are endlessly-adjustable tone controls for any recording--for example, you can easily take out a nasal sound that you hear close to a singer's face, but you don't hear ten feet away.  Anyway, I never calculated the exact figure, but I think the immediate cost to me would have been something like $5K.

In 2012, in the midst of a CD project, I had two interesting disasters that alerted me to my peculiar technological situation.  First, one day I went in the studio to do some editing of the previous night's session (fortunately I had backed it up), and my computer completely died.  Not just the "mother board" had died, but the MOTHER of all motherboards, the "logic control board" had died.  I was a bit panicky.  But I took the computer into the local Mac repair place, and the guys had an old G4 sitting right there--I bought that computer and they had everything transferred in a couple of hours, and I was back out the door and better than ever for $250.  Right away I jumped on eBay and bought another G4 for $150 just to keep in the closet ready to go.  It does seem amazing that you can buy a computer that cost over $2K in 2002 for $150 ten years later.

Then one day a few weeks later I went to work and all of a sudden I get an error message from the fancy "Reverb One" program, saying that "the date on this computer is incompatible with the operation of this software."  Hunh?!  So, I changed the date on my computer to the previous day and everything worked.  Yep, the designers of Reverb One had determined that surely no one would be using this software ten years after they released it, so from there on, my computer has always been in January of 2012.  In the image above, there's a little sheet of paper to the left of the keyboard that lists the first week of 2012, so that I can periodically switch the date back and match the day of the week.

So, on the phone last week with Mark, my helpful Sweetwater Pro Gear customer representative, I determined that my suspicion was correct, that while the current Pro Tools is "faster," there's a lot more "processing power," in fact, the sound quality is not any better.  And if I decided to upgrade, my set up is so old that while I'd get a certain amount of trade-in value for my old HD1 converter, essentially I would have to start over with everything.  New computer, new interface, all new software...Something like $15K.  More expensive than it was in '02.  I can buy A LOT of used Mac G4s on eBay for $15K...

Score one for the Luddites...