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SC Basics: System Description, Requirements, Getting Started

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SC Basics: System Description, Requirements, Getting Started

Note: this page is outdated. see sc info for up to date information.

Q: What is SuperCollider?
A: SuperCollider (short: SC) is an object oriented programming environment for making audio applications of all kinds. Here is a fuller description by James McCartney, the developer of SC, quoted from

SuperCollider is an environment for real time audio synthesis which runs on a Power Macintosh with no additional hardware. SuperCollider features: a built in programming language with real time incremental garbage collection, first class functions/closures, a small object oriented class system, a mini GUI builder for creating a patch control panel, a graphical interface for creating wave tables and breakpoint envelopes, MIDI control, a large library of signal processing and synthesis functions a few of which are found nowhere else, and a large library of functions for list processing of musical data. The user can write both the synthesis and compositional algorithms for their piece in the same high level language. This allows the creation of synthesis instruments with considerably more flexibility than allowed in lower level synthesis languages. Since it is easy to create control panels and graphic displays, SuperCollider is well suited as a tool for teaching various synthesis techniques. SuperCollider reads Sound Designer II and AIFF files and writes Sound Designer II files. It can input and output audio from either the Sound Manager or streamed from/to a file.

See more at: and SuperCollider swiki.

Q: What computers and operating systems does SuperCollider run on?
A: SuperCollider runs on any Macintosh PPC. It runs on PowerBooks, but you cannot do many things on any processor below about 90 MHz. Best is G3 of course. SuperCollider runs on MacOS 7.x to 9.1.
SuperCollider 3 runs fine on MacOS X. Some people use it under Linux and some people are trying to get it to run under Windows.

Q: What sound cards does SuperCollider support?
A: Korg 1212, all cards by Digidesign, Sonorus (?). As of 28.3.1999 a driver for support of the MOTU Audio 2408 Multichannel sound I/O module is in preparation.

Q: On how many audio channels at once can SuperCollider input or output sound?
A: Practically as many as the compatible hardware on the Mac-Host which SuperCollider is running on will support.

Q: Can SuperCollider record and play-back from disc?
A: Yes. Several commonly used sound formats are supported.

Q: What kind of programming language is SuperCollider?
A: SuperCollider is an Object Oriented Programming language very similar to Smalltalk. The syntax of SuperCollider is however somewhat similar to C and C++.

Q: How can I begin to learn SuperCollider?
A: You do not need to be a programmer to learn SuperCollider. Learning it is (almost) as easy as learning a graphical music and audio design language, except you need not to be afraid of code, and to develop the patience for looking at code carefully. A way to get familiar with the system is to play with the examples, and trying to change some code (after you have at least read the introductory chapters of the online help provided with the system). Once you have done some first steps, you may want to read some good books on object oriented programming. I highly recommend Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns by Kent Beck (Beck 1997). This book will certainly help you understand some things which seem strange at the beginning: for example why many methods in SuperCollider contain just one or two lines of code, and other things which belong to an experienced "object oriented programmer"'s frame of mind. You may also want to look at the introduction to Object Oriented Programming on this site, which is geared more towards musicians.
Finally, if you want to get a taste of a fully-blown OOP environment a-la Smalltalk, try Squeak the free version by the original developers of Smalltalk. It is fun, and contains many more features than the older or commercial versions of Smalltalk.

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