One Snapshot from Tom’s Finale History Slideshow

Last time I talked about “Tom’s Top Ten Tips” but only got through three of them. I will get back to the rest, I promise, but first I wanted to share a story with you.

The year is 1988, and it is a cold January night at the Coda Music Software (now MakeMusic) offices in Bloomington, Minnesota. I had started with Coda in March 1987, and was still amazed to be part of this “music and computers” thing. (At the time, Coda was a distributor of other company’s fledgling music software offerings.) Perhaps my enthusiasm explains why I was one of the last two people still in the building at 7:00 PM on this particular evening. The other person is Phil Farrand, the original programmer/creator of Finale. Phil is working in an adjacent room, in front of a MIDI keyboard connected to a Macintosh SE30, when he calls out: “Hey Tom, let me show you something I’ve come up with!”

I enter the dark room, sit behind Phil, and watch. As he plays a piece on the MIDI keyboard, his performance is miraculously notated onto a grand staff on the computer screen. I immediately have a sense that I am watching history in the making. By today’s standards the transcription and redraw were slow, and the Mac’s screen was tiny, but in 1988 no one had ever seen anything like this before!

The state of the art at the time was Mark of the Unicorn’s two programs, Professional Composer and Performer. You used Performer’s sequencer functions to enter your music and then transferred the Performer file into Professional Composer to get a semblance of notation. It was quite a process, and the result left a lot to be desired (for example, you could have any kind of beams you wanted as long as they were flat and horizontal). But on this night, before my eyes, the world changed. I was watching a person play music and simultaneously seeing it notated. As I keyboard player myself the repercussions were enormous: “What would Mozart have done with THIS?!”

Over the next nine months Phil continued to tinker, innovate, and amaze his coworkers. On September 16, 1988 he amazed the world with the release of Finale 1.0, but for me the revolution had already started.

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