Issue 16

Jul/Aug 1985

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COLOURSPACE is the Atari development of Psychedelia which is available for other micros. Jeff Minter changed the name because the program grew in stature so much on its translation to the Atari that Jeff virtually considers it to be a new program. He states in the manual that "The difference between Colourspace and Psychedelia is as pronounced as the difference between a Mini and a Ferrari"! That's what translations to the Atari should be. It is about time programmers realised just how much more powerful the Atari is


Colourspace is going to be difficult to put into words. It is easier to describe what it is not. It is not a game, it is not a utility, it is not an adventure, you do not score points, there is no goal, no competition, no final outcome. What on earth is it then? It is what no software company has come up with for many years something quite unique. I don't know of any other program quite like it or any program that will show off the Atari's colour and hardware capabilities in such a dynamic way.

Let's start by saying that you will either be mightily impressed or singularly unimpressed with Colourspace, it depends on your own sensibilities, on the way you perceive light and sound, on whether you can 'see' sounds and 'hear' colours. The best analogy is with the live performance of rock music, but if that turns you off read on anyway for you can use the program in any way you wish. If you have ever been to a rock concert where the stage lights and effects enhance the performance and create a new sense of 'sight and sound' combined, you will know exactly what Colourspace is. Stick on some headphones or turn the stereo up loud and you will have your very own light show, controlled entirely by you in any way your mood takes you. On its own Colourspace is pretty - very pretty - but marry it with music and get the timing just right and something magic happens. Something that does not exist in either the music or in the program but which you will feel instinctively when you create just the right blend.

If you do not understand all this business of lights and music, maybe Colourspace is not for you but try it anyway. Light and movement enhances any type of music - that's what ballet and opera and stage shows are all about - and you may well find that your favourite music takes on anew character and has new depth. At worst you will end up with a truly amazing demo of the capabilities of your Atari and that can't be bad can it?

The manual for Colourspace runs to 16 pages and only tells you how to use the various facilities of the program. It does not explain what you can achieve for only you can determine that. The results depend on your own imagination and ability. The program is described as a 'light synthesiser' and it is exactly that - an instrument producing colour and light which you can learn to 'play' like any other musical instrument. The more experienced you become the better will be the results but, unlike conventional instruments, you can gain enjoyment from it even if your talents are very limited - or you can just sit back and watch someone else play.

The range of light and colour and movement is enormous, from pre-set patterns to user defined colours or graphics. Foreground patterns overlaying dynamic effects, 'curved' screens, multiple images and more. Literally thousands of combinations and every one controlled by you using the joystick. You can record sequences in memory and play them back or save sequences on tape. You can use the program with another person each creating their own patterns or you can interact with the computer.

You can create the gentle and soothing or the dynamic and aggressive. Pretty patterns or meaningful colour 'lyrics'. In short you can come close to expressing in a tangible form what you feel from music.

The program has far too many possibilities to go into great detail so I will finish with a recommendation. If you are into rock music, buy it without hesitation. If not, try it as something quite unique and you may end up with experiences you did not expect. If you are still unconvinced, try to get along to the PCW Show in September where Jeff Minter promises something quite spectacular.

Just one gripe. Colourspace is available only on cassette which is just plain crazy particularly as it has the facility to save unlimited sequences. The Atari owners likely to be most impressed by the program will be sufficiently committed to their system to require it on disk. Why spoil a graphic masterpiece by putting it in the wrong frame?