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Access a Nord Micro Modular in 2023

So if you've read my rtpMIDI Adventures post from 9th May 2022, you'll note that I had problems accessing the PC ports on my Nord Micro Modular. Well, here's how I eventually got to access a Nord Micro Modular in 2023.

Well firstly, for those that aren’t familiar with the Nord Micro Modular, let me take a short step back. Launched in about 1997, the Nord Micro Modular hosted a revolutionary concept for the time. Having two pairs of MIDI ports, one pair was used exclusively to program the machine via some beautifully graphic software (for the time), running on a computer. If you're curious, you can read more about this range, here.

Nord Micro Modular
Notice the two pairs of MIDI ports on the Nord Micro Modular. One pair is used to program the unit.

Anyway, in my previous post, I mentioned that the Micro Modular’s PC ports could be flaky, even back in the day and with my new rtpMIDI set-up, things weren’t any better. The irony here is that it was a well-known fact at the time, that an unreliable connection to the Nord’s PC ports was inevitably due to a ‘slow’ MIDI interface. Remember that USB only came out in 1996.

I tried bypassing my new rtpMIDI network and attached the Nord directly to my Windows 11 computer. Ruling out rtpMIDI and the iConnectivity mio XLs, I tried several MIDI interfaces and it now seemed that the problem was either computer hardware or operating system related.

In the end, I took the Nord down to the lab and pulled out an old Apple G4 Cube I had all wrapped up in the loft, to experiment with older hardware and OS. Although there was an editor for Mac OS 8 / 9, it seemed like Nord was really addressing the Windows users market, so it might have made more sense to mess around with an old XP or perhaps even a Windows 7 machine. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything like that conveniently to hand. Hence, my decision to have a go with my old Apple Cube.

Apple G4 Cube and M-Audio MidiSport 2x2 used to program my Nord Micro Modular
I normally deal with vintage synthesisers and guitar amps. My computers are all fairly up-to-date so working with this original Apple Cube was a bit weird.

To cut a long story short, my Apple Cube running OS X Tiger ( in conjunction with an old M-Audio MIDISport 2x2 worked just great.

NOTE: Nord only had a beta version of the Modular editor software for OS X but I also found this great website which is trying hard to keep the editor alive for this platform;

So, if you're a little persistent like me, there's one more thing to try...

I connected my Cube to my network and you guessed it, I made a session in rtpMIDI for the Nord's PC ports, tried to connect and guess what... it didn't work! 🙁

So it seems that there's a combination of just too many things that prevents the Nord editor communicating with the hardware, in a modern set-up. Such a shame.

Anyway, with no fan, one would expect the Cube to be nice and quiet but by today's standards, the electromagnetic hard drive makes this cute little thing way too loud to have in a recording environment. I built my studio computers myself and they're seriously quiet but I still keep them in a cupboard in a separate room to the control room.  Even tucked away in that cupboard, I wasn't convinced that I wouldn't hear the Cube.

So I had this whacky idea to replace the HDD with a small SSD type but the drive interface in the Cube is PATA IDE and everything’s packed really tightly in that little precursor to the Mac Mini. I did find some resources on-line as the HDD / SSD transplant idea, obviously wasn’t unique.

Being IDE based, replacing the electromechanical HDD with a (no moving parts) SSD wouldn’t make the machine much faster but it would make it dead quiet and so to that end, I cloned the Cube’s drive to an old 60GB SSD I had lying around. It all worked so if anything, at least I’ve ended up with a silent Apple Cube, now! 😊

SSD in Apple G4 Cube
My very first SSD, a 60GB ADATA that’s got to be well over twelve years old, has a new home in my Apple G4 Cube.

I set up Apple Remote Desktop on the Cube to accept VNC connections and although a little draggy, running VNC on either my studio PC or Mac worked fine.

SIDE NOTE - For anyone insane enough to try remote access to a computer this old, please note that changing the computer's desktop background to a solid colour (unlike that shown above), really speeds things up.

No desktop peripherals are attached to the Cube but hooking up a VGA emulator ensures that the screen resolution of the Cube via remote access is a full 1920 x 1200. The only connections are power, Ethernet and USB (for the MidiSport).

Oh and one last hack... The Cube is now hooked up to one of my Google switches so I can switch it on by simply saying "Hey Google switch on the Cube". 😀

Oh wow! I've finally got to access a Nord Micro Modular in 2023! 😀

I must remember to update my MIDI reference schematic...