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The pipe organ is a complicated musical instrument which has advanced over many years through improvements in technology. The pipe organ dates back to the 3rd century B.C. and continues to please the world today. In its simplest form, a pipe organ has pipes, a chamber that stores wind (with pressure generated mechanically), and wind-access to pipes controlled by a keyboard. [1]

Changes in technology have changed the method of controlling the generation and delivery of wind to each pipe that produces sounds. Beginning in the 17th century, pipe organs began to use mechanical or ‘tracker’ action so that they could be made larger with more variety of sounds from different types of pipes. But they proved costly to maintain and lacked flexibility so that only the larger and wealthier institutions could afford them. Hence, in the 1840’s pipe-organ builders attempted to use pneumatic action to overcome the mechanical limitations. In the 1860’s they graduated to tubular-pneumatic technology and, with the increasing availability of electricity, to electro-pneumatic action. Electro-pneumatic action uses an electric current controlled by the keys to open valves under the individual pipes. The high voltages and currents of early electro-pneumatic systems caused key contacts to arc and burn as well as rapidly depleting batteries that were then the only source of direct current. In 1900, a reduction in voltage and current due to improved magnetic technology, combined with the use of small, high-current, rotary generators, became widespread. Electro-pneumatic action allowed a greater distance between keys and pipes [2] resulting in larger organs with improved controllability. However, as the organ increased in functionality to include all manner of coupling between keys, the amount of wiring involved with electro-pneumatic action became excessive [3].

To facilitate coupling while overcoming the inconvenience in wiring, electro-pneumatic action was superseded in the mid 1920’s by a variety of electromagnets and relays. Pipe organ relays, Coupler relays, Chimes relays, Unit organ relays and electronic organ relays all attempted to reduce the quantity of contacts under each key. Contacts under the keys would be wired to a multi-contact key relay with contacts that fanned out to 61-contact relays for each coupler. Their wires would eventually go to magnets on the pipe chests to perform Pipe organ keying and coupling functions. It all resulted in masses of wiring. One of the early attempts to reduce some of this switching used two diodes and a resistor to replace all contacts but one under the keys and controlled signals for coupling. [3] This system is commonly referred to as the organ diode-coupler.

The invention of transistors in 1948 brought about the solid-state organ relay/solid-state switching era in organ design [2]. Transistors could control a large current by means of a small current which eliminated the arcing of key contacts. They also allowed the size of the relay to be greatly reduced as each relay contact was replaced by a transistor. The amount of wiring, however, was not greatly reduced.

The development of integrated circuits, and subsequently microprocessors, has led to the implementation of combination action (combo action) as well as organ multiplex functions in small units containing modular circuit boards which are flexible and customizable to the needs of organists and organ builders. Multiplexing converts parallel information from key switches, stop switches, pistons, etc., into a high-speed serial data stream which can be manipulated by a micro-processor system for coupling and other functions before being converted back to parallel information to drive the pipe magnets. In such systems, all the coupling is done within a computer program through the use of numbers - no moving parts whatever between the key switches and the pipe magnets. Hence, a minimum of wiring. In fact, even the key switches can be done with electronic optical devices requiring only a light-interrupting shutter under each key. The whole organ can be specified on a programmable "chip" while the hardware is basically the same for any organ. It is incredibly flexible and can be changed in a moment to suit changing requirements in the organ specification.

Continuing in the tradition of using technology to improve the pipe organ, Classic Organ Works is bringing MIDI into the pipe organ. Our Pipe organ MIDI system is implemented in our industry-leading Console Control Computer and Pipe Control Computer boards. Now, our innovative line of MIDI products brings the organ into your home for practice purposes. Like those before us who contributed to the modern organ, Classic Organ Works research and development uses technology to improve functionality, flexibility, and reliability for your musical enjoyment.

 

References


1. http://panther.bsc.edu/~jhcook/OrgHist/begin.htm
2. http://www.zianet.com/fpc/organmusichistory.htm
3. http://www.albany.edu/piporg-l/FS/bb.html

For those who want to use OrganWorks™ but wish to use an Apple MacIntosh™ computer, here is a solution. Unfortunately, OrganWorks is not available for the MacIntosh environment but it is possible to use it perfectly well with the aid of Windows-emulating software.

OrganWorks can be run on a Power MacIntosh™ computer if one installs the Virtual PC™ program (from Connectix). This software emulates a Windows-95, 98, NT or XP environment entirely in software and makes use of the MacIntosh’s capability of reading and writing to MS-DOS-formatted disks as well as other features such as “Drag-and-Drop”. OrganWorks works exactly as it does on a Windows-98 computer.

Here, at Classic, we have a Macintosh Power PC™ G3 PowerBook of 400 MHz clock speed using System 8.6 with Virtual PC 4.0 software installed, and it runs OrganWorks Version 3.1 at about a quarter of the rate it would normally operate at. This is the equivalent of a modest 100 MHz Windows-98 machine and is quite adequate. For a G3 (or G4) MacIntosh, Operating System 8.0 or later is required with a minimum of 64 MB of RAM and 320 to 520 MB of hard drive space. System 9.0 is required if USB devices are to be supported.

 

Virtual PC 4.0 (and 3.0) will run the older OrganWorks 2.20 in a Windows-95 environment on MacIntosh 603, 603e, 604 or 604e with 180 MHz clock speed, or faster, and operating System 7.5.5 or later. 200 to 260 MB of hard disk space is required with a minimum of 48 MB of RAM. Incidentally, you can save the latest OrganWorks 3.1 files as 2.20-format files by selecting Export. Other Windows software emulators, such as SoftPC, should work much the same as Virtual PC. We have not tried them but several of our customers have with satisfactory results.

Virtual PC 4.0 typically creates the normal Windows-98 operating environment in a window of 640 x 480 pixels (i.e., a normal 15-inch VGA display) but this can be enlarged to fit a bigger screen. It will control the MacIntosh CD drive and you can partition the hard drive into ‘c’ and ‘d’ drive areas if desired. Any normal Windows or MS-DOS software (and CDs) can be used as well as OrganWorks.

 

Since the MacIntosh will read and write MS-DOS disks, it is very easy to transfer Windows and OrganWorks data files to and from MS-DOS-formatted disks whether floppy or Zip™ (if you have a MacIntosh with a suitable drive – the latest ones do not have floppy drives). Simply drag the icons from the MacIntosh desktop onto the Windows desktop, or vice-versa, when the files will be copied. Long filenames are supported by Virtual PC (though not currently by OrganWorks) and external drives show up in the ‘My Computer’ window. You can also use a MacIntosh with Virtual PC in a Local Area Network and transfer files that way.

If your MacIntosh is set up for e-mail you can send OrganWorks data files as attachments by first dragging them to the Mac desktop and sending them from there. They can also be zipped up on the Mac with DropZip™ so that they will open on either PCs or Macs. You do not need to set up e-mail in the Windows environment. We also recommend that you keep back-up copies of your OrganWorks data files in the Mac environment in case the Windows emulation system becomes damaged. To work with OrganWorks (or any other Windows-type) files that have been sent to you via e-mail, unzip them with Stuffit Expander™ and simply drag them onto the Virtual PC desktop.

The latest Apple computers such as iMac, eMac and iBook, which do not have floppy drives, will need System 9.0 if any kind of external USB storage medium is to be used, such as a Zip disk. Of course, you could always e-mail the OrganWorks data files as attachments to a Windows machine if you do not have a USB drive and System 9.0. Zipped files may be opened on the Mac using Stuffit Expander™ 5.0 or later.

 

How to get OrganWorks into such a MacIntosh? Download it or ask for it on a CD.

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