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‘It was the poor man’s studio’: how Amiga computers reprogrammed modern music | Music

“Phat as fuck.” This was how jungle legend Gavin King – AKA Aphrodite – described the powerful bass capabilities of his Amiga 1200 home computer in a 90s interview. Several decades later, it remains in his studio. With its drab grey buttons, it looks more suited to tax returns, but Amiga machines are instrumental in electronic music as we know it.

“The thing about the Amiga bassline is that it was constant volume, it didn’t waver,” King says now, “so when you pulled it up to the maximum volume that you could press on to vinyl, it made it, well, phat as fuck.”

In the early 90s, the artists who used these Amigas didn’t know it yet, but their experimentation would become central to the burgeoning hardcore, jungle and drum’n’bass scenes, and pave the way for the accessible home electronic music production of the future.

Today anyone with a laptop can make music, but, at the dawn of home computing, music production was prohibitively expensive. Back in 1985, Atari released its ST home computer, which instantly became a hit with gamers and DIY producers. Rival Commodore quickly followed up with the Amiga 1000, but things really changed in 1987 when the company released the Amiga 500. It may only have had 512 kilobytes of memory – that’s 0.0128% of what an iPhone 13 has – but the Amiga was transformational due to its four-channel stereo sound. “It went much further into that bass register than any computer of the time,” says Ben Vost, former editor of Amiga Format magazine, who praises simple music sequencer programs, such as OctaMed, that allowed users to compose their own beats.

Gavin King, AKA DJ Aphrodite.
Gavin King, AKA DJ Aphrodite. Photograph: –

Inspired by Britain’s second summer of love, King was a house DJ until about 1990, when the hardcore era was beginning to take shape. It was at this time, during his third year in university, studying computer science, that he stumbled on an Amiga playing a looping sample at a friend’s house. “I was like: what’s that? I need that,” King recalls. “By hook or by crook, I managed to get one by borrowing money from my dad, saving, earning.”

He started experimenting with the machine, and inserting his own creations into mixes, before he and three friends, all armed with Amiga 500s and calling themselves Cellar-4, got together in a basement and made “a terrible record”. King threw 150 copies into a skip when he was moving house – “sad, really,” he says, because they now sell for £50 each.

But King’s next track, made with Claudio Giussani under the Urban Shakedown moniker, wasn’t destined for landfill. Fellow junglist Mickey Finn overheard an early version playing in the City Sounds record shop in London, approached King, and together they produced Some Justice in Carl Cox’s living room. With its reverb-heavy big beats and blaring honks – “How on earth did we make a riff from a car horn?” asks Finn on YouTube – this pioneering tune flew into the UK Top 40 and charted for five weeks.

“Our mission was just to make music and to DJ,” King says. “The Amiga was just a tool that allowed us to do that … unbeknownst to us, we would be put on the cover of Amiga Format.”

For Marlon Sterling, AKA drum’n’bass producer Equinox, the Amiga’s sound quality “wasn’t great” but it had a “certain sound”, which he loved for its gritty sampling and “Mentasms” – the grizzly hoover noises named after the Joey Beltram track.

When mentor and fellow Amiga user Bizzy B introduced Sterling to the Med V3 production software, it was a “massive gamechanger”, he says, giving him the chance to experiment with music on a budget. Equinox’s first tunes were recently released as Early Works 93-94 to a positive reception – “a shock, considering how bad my quality was” – and listening to them now catapults him back to being 15 again. “You found ways to do things,” Sterling says. “I think the limitations back then made you more creative. It wasn’t the sound why I used the Amiga, it was all I could afford. Back then, you needed all sorts of hardware to make music, but just having the Amiga sound sampler and OctaMed, you could get great ideas down without the need to hire a studio. It was the poor man’s studio – even the software was free!”

Marlon Sterling, AKA Equinox.
Marlon Sterling, AKA Equinox. Photograph: Courtesy: Marlon Sterling

Meanwhile, producers such as Dex and Jonesey broke into the Top 40 with Amiga-made tracks like their souped-up remix of Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness, and even caught flak from the music establishment for daring to eschew the pricier Apple computers most professionals used at the time.

But the Amiga’s powerful bass sound and punchy, unique grooves were hard to imitate. Unlike music software such as Cubase or Logic Pro, which reads from left to right, Amiga’s equivalents cascaded from top to bottom in a lo-fi graphical waterfall of bits and bytes. “Because only eight things can play at once at any given time, it makes you work harder,” says King. “You need to go into the actual soundwave.”

This hyper-granular approach allowed King to be “forensic right down to the 1,000th of a second” in a way that would take “10 times as long” with Cubase. “I was obsessed with having everything perfectly matching and going at the same time,” he says – still a painstaking task considering the software only showed numbers passing by, rather than labelled blocks of drums and basslines that could be shuffled about more easily.

But this learning curve didn’t put off the many Amiga alumni, including a whole cast of fellow junglists, like Dlux, TDK, Zinc, Paradox, and Bizzy B, whom King once spent 18 hours with extracting sounds from their floppy discs. Australian breakcore troublemakers Nasenbluten wielded the machines to devastating effect; away from breaks, Mike Oldfield used an Amiga, while Japanese composer and P-Model frontman Susumu Hirasawa – who used an Amiga to compose the soundtrack for Satoshi Kon’s anime film Paprika – remains an enthusiast, and created the startup sound for a retro Amiga operating system in 2005. Amigas have been employed by contemporary pop producers, too, such as Calvin Harris, who put together debut I Created Disco on an Amiga running OctaMed.

Back in the 90s, a buoyant “demo scene” coalesced around the Amiga, where home programmers put together animated music videos, fitting them on tiny 880k floppy disks. Pirated software, meanwhile, would usually feature home-brewed intros, complete with the pirates’ own music, that users had to sit through before they could access their bootlegged copies.

This “cracktro” scene had a “huge influence on electronic music that’s often overlooked”, says Danny Wolfers, better known as Legowelt, who learned to make music on his Amiga 500 and still uses the machines today. He says 75% of his first records were made with the computers, he plays live with them, and his upcoming first full-length animated film can also be partially credited to the Amiga, with which he first learned animation.

Wolfers and his peers would “load game discs or demos to hear the music and have it in the background. This was, for a large part, the first pure electronic music kids were exposed to intensely, making them more receptive to stuff like the techno emerging from Detroit.

Danny Wolfers, AKA Legowelt, with an Amiga 1200 computer in his studio.
Danny Wolfers, AKA Legowelt, with an Amiga 1200 computer in his studio. Photograph: Sara Pedroso

“There were no YouTube channels explaining everything – maybe a few Amiga magazines gave pointers, but that was about it,” he adds. “You learned by analysing the music files that came with the software. It was fundamental in my career, giving me a chance to make music while having no access to expensive studio gear or synthesisers.”

The Amigas probably launched hundreds of other music careers – including that of Venetian Snares and possibly even Kanye West, who owned one at 14 – teaching aspiring musicians music theory, notes, scales and octaves through determined experimentation. And, even though Commodore declared bankruptcy in 1994, the legacy of these achromatic slabs lives on.

Thirty-five years after the debut of the Amiga 500, a new generation of retro-curious musicians will have the chance to experiment with the machines, as the A500 Mini has recently launched. Perhaps it could be as loved as the original – King’s Amiga may now go unused in his studio, but it’s too difficult for him to say goodbye. “I was using it right up to 1997, even after Commodore went bust,” he says. “I just loved it.”

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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