inessential by Brent Simmons


I’ve been waiting 20 years for GarageBand.

Back in the early ’80s, when I was a teenager—before there were even Macs—I had an Apple II Plus with a cool piece of software named ALF II. (This was even before the sitcom named Alf.)

(Actually, it wasn’t just software: there was a card you had to plug into the computer.)

It was something like an early, early GarageBand—you could create music and save songs and play them back. The music played through some car-stereo speakers I plugged in to the ALF card.

You had to actually enter notes into a staff on-screen, using the twin roller-paddle-things that came with the Apple II Plus. (No mice yet, at least not for the mass market.) There was no way to plug in an instrument and just play.

It had up to nine tracks, and it had some basic things like setting the synthesizer settings and telling sections of a track to repeat.

It was cumbersome and the sound was totally electronic, but it worked. I made dozens of songs. I loved it.

And I’ve been waiting 20 years for the chance to do that again. Sure, I could have had this already, but for a bunch more money. Since composing music was just a hobby for me, I never wanted to spend a bunch on music software. Now I don’t have to.

This software excites me personally far beyond anything Apple has announced since OS X. More than iPhoto, iTunes, Safari, iPods, and everything else put together.

Of course, I haven’t actually tried it yet, but it only has to be half as good as the demo to be a wonderful (to me, at least) piece of software.