Fat hardware is no excuse for lazy software

You'd be amazed at what can be done in severely constrained hardware with tight, low-level code

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I happened across a RADAR 24 recently, courtesy of my good friend Vinx, who has used it in his studio for a decade. For the first time in its long life, it wouldn't boot; naturally, I took it apart. It was running a Celeron 667MHz CPU and had 384MB of RAM. By today's standards, that's basically a pocket watch or less overall power than a Raspberry Pi.

This thing could record WAV audio at high bit rates to a single SCSI disk and was used to produce untold numbers of albums in studios all over the world over the years. The key to this was that it ran BeOS 5 and leveraged tight integration between the software and the custom audio hardware. Essentially, iZ Technology wrung every possible bit of performance out of that computing platform and made it look easy.

To put this into perspective, many recording studios that use Pro Tools or Logic or any other DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software generally run the software on high-power workstations: Intel Westmere or Sandy Bridge CPUs, 16GB of RAM or more, SSDs, and a host of outboard AD and DA gear to get the cleanest sound and allow for large numbers of simultaneous tracks at 48KHz or 96KHz sampling rates.

Granted, these systems are running a full DAW, whereas the RADAR 24 was essentially a multitrack read/write device. But the enormous difference in computing power used now to achieve the same result is impressive to consider. This is a great example of where eschewing several levels of software abstraction in favor of writing code almost as low as you can go can produce surprising results on what would otherwise be considered inadequate hardware.

You can still buy RADAR recorders. The newest model is the RADAR 6. iZ is mum about the internal specs, but this box can record 24 tracks of 192KHz audio to a 64GB SD card, which you can then drop right into your laptop to work with that audio on a DAW. It's safe to say that iZ is still squeezing everything it can out of its hardware. Many other software companies could learn a thing or two there.

This story, "Fat hardware is no excuse for lazy code," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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