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1996 November

Posted on : 01-11-1996 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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19961122 OTL Approves AWE64 usage

19961103 Joanne Martin (JM) Marketing
19961112 Custom Sycom Voice Recorders

Reality Art:

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Hans (1)
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KH (1)
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19960501 Reality KB

Posted on : 01-05-1996 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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9605 reality kbd

Electronic Musician Reviews Reality

Posted on : 15-04-1996 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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Electronic Musician p. 96/5: Steve Oppenheimer review of Reality

1996 April

Posted on : 01-04-1996 | By : admin | In : Seer History, Technology Licensing

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19960401 Vesting Purchase Agts

19960401 Seer Summit #1
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19960415 EM reviews Reality/NAMM Greatest Hits

19960415 Intel pays 2 of 3

19960415 DS/DR/FK Promissory Notes
19960415 Voting Agreement

19960416 Internal Spreadsheet relies on Upgrade income
19960424 TLA Final
19960424 Equity Documents
19960425 Retain Coopers & Lybrand (Roxanne)

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19960408 MICROSOFT SIPC 2D
960408 MICROSOFT SIPC 2A
960408 MICROSOFT SIPC 2B
960408 MICROSOFT SIPC 2C

1996 March

Posted on : 01-03-1996 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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19960306 Merc news on NSP

19960318 Interim Agt. / Jungleib & Smith Promissory Notes
19960322 Seer offers Reality to Creative – wanted the clock to start on their option asap.
19960324 Letter Agreement
19960324 Amended & Restated Articles of Incorporation

Intel, Microsoft reveal new standards:

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9603 INTELSTRDS
960301 Page 1

1995 November

Posted on : 01-11-1995 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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19951101 $4M valuation by National Semiconductor
19951107 Seer demos SeerSynth to Creative, Sorkin

19951112 REALITY v.A
19951112 Marty Cutler

19951127 Intel V.P. Avram Miller hears it

19951103 Netscape
19951129 “Disitributed Music” SJ

Evolution of the Seer ’274 Patent

Posted on : 26-09-1995 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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In recent years, the software synthesizer market has come into full swing and digital audio is something that consumers have come to expect in everything from personal computers to mobile phones and cars. In many cases, the manufacturers of these devices have been licensing technology from Seer Systems, whose intellectual property is protected by US Patent #5,886,274. (For details, see What Exactly Is the 274 Patent?)

By the time Seer was awarded the 274 patent, it had developed software synthesizer products for Intel and Creative Labs for the consumer market, and a suite of music production and playback tools for the professional musical instrument market. (As detailed in “The Best Audio Helper App You Never Heard in Your Life.”)

Seer’s retail products have not been upgraded in nearly 10 years and are still only available for Windows 95 and Windows 98. So, why did Seer shift its attention from producing synthesizer products to protecting their intellectual property? The answer is that a combination of powerful technical and business forces caused Seer to drastically shift strategy were it to survive.

First, supporting Microsoft Windows NT and 2000 was impractical. Seer’s line of professional software synthesizers used 80-bit processing and relied on access to the CPU interrupt, to which they had access until Microsoft released Windows NT. In other words, an upgrade of Reality would require more than an upgrade, it would require a rewrite with no guaranty that it would provide the same sound quality as the 80-bit resolution their customers had enjoyed. Seer considered releasing Reality as an open source product,  but legal issues have complicated that path as well. (See “Seer Considering Releasing Reality Code as Open Source.”)

By 1997, Seer’s finances were in trouble. Creative was not actively selling Seer’s software synthesizer upgrade for the Sound Blaster, so royalty payments were nowhere near their projections. Seer founder, Stanley Jungleib recalls, “I was looking for markets. I felt my job was to build something that was investable, so I didn’t work closely on Reality as a product. My product was the company.”

Jungleib had written extensively on music production systems, and even speculated about systems that could leverage General MIDI to adapt to a composition, but until Jungleib heard Seer’s new Reality engine working, even he had not envisioned the comprehensive potential of a software-based music distribution system. “I wrote it down in October, 1995: A Painful Plan for Painless MIDI. I knew it was the Grail but still too early; at the time I didn’t make a big deal about it within Engineering, because they were having enough issues dealing with Creative Labs and Windows as it was.”

Jungleib recalls how discussions with Opcode’s founders, Dave Oppenheim and Chris Halaby created the synergy to most efficiently realize the system. “They had a great sequencer with a great audio handling system and we had the best software host-based synthesizer and Windows realtime engine. We were going to use their suite of Galaxy Editors as different ‘skins’ over the Reality engine. Melding our technologies could make a tool that would solve all these distribution problems for the professional musician.

“So I wrote this 120-page specification on how that would work. How our synthesizer would interface to their sequencer to deliver a totally predictable experience for the user. I had commands such as ‘preload by bar,’ ‘preload by sound number,’ ‘unload by bar number,’ ‘unload this range of bars’…. Breaking it up so the musician would have total control over the music, over what was allocated, when, and how it was delivered. You could draw resources on-the-fly from anywhere on the net, there was a bandwidth simulator … And very importantly as a response to what was going on with mp3 theft, provision was made for the musician to protect their creation. (What you might now call DRM.)”

Unfortunately, in 1998, Opcode was purchased by Gibson, and the joint venture stopped altogether. Sales of Seer products were still suffering, and between the software piracy, and continuing issues with Creative, Seer’s ability to provide livelihoods for its staff of 25 was in jeopardy.

“Only after the company was in really dire financial trouble did I decide to ask my lawyers ‘Can I patent this?’ That was in 1997. The patent was finally awarded in 1999 after several rounds of rejections.”

Ten years on, Jungleib continues to protect Seer’s intellectual property, though some companies underestimate the extent of Seer’s investment in the technology and the validity of the patent.

“There’s a difference between imagining something (like a time machine), and actually committing resources to specifying and building it,” says Jungleib. “At the time, everyone else was committed to their own little hardware platforms. Many still are. But, with Intel as my hardware department, and a synthesizer and effects engine that could redefine itself every 10 milliseconds, I was liberated from all those arbitrary limitations.”

#5,977,469 Real-time Waveform Substituting Sound Engine

Posted on : 02-12-1994 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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Date of Conception 19941202.
Application 08/784,372

A sound engine in a processor-based system utilizing real-time synthesis optimizes synthesis time, maximizes the number of fully-synthesized sound requests and preserves currently excessive sound requests. During synthesis, the sound engine attempts to full-synthesize all requests. If the sound engine determines that remaining sound requests are excessive and cannot be fully-synthesized, it preserves each excessive request by synthesizing a substitute waveform segment. If the sound engine determines that limiting the number of preserved requests is required, it synthesizes a concluding waveform segment for and then discards selected requests during selected synthesis intervals. Both substitute-synthesis and discarding of sound requests are achieved with minimized detrimental impact on ongoing sound performances.

Issued 19991102.
This was basically a vanity patent of questionable value that I allowed, and allowed to expired.

Early Days of Software Synths: Glenn Spencer, Avram Miller, and Stanley Jungleib

Posted on : 10-11-1991 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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Seer Systems is recognized as the creator of the first professional software synthesizer, Reality.  In fact, Reality was not the first software synthesizer that Seer produced. By 1995, Seer had already produced software synthesizers for Intel and Creative Labs, though these programs were not the full-featured synthesizers that today’s electronic musicians take for granted. Stanley Jungleib established Seer Systems to develop the first software synthesizer for Intel, and his experience in leading their development helped move Seer Systems towards designing Reality and the SeerMusic system.

So what motivated Jungleib to take the leap from the world of hardware synthesizers and MIDI into the world of software synthesizers? According to Jungleib, two people played pivotal roles in that leap: Glenn Spencer and Avram Miller.

Glenn Spencer was a scientist, who in the late 60’s abandoned his career to become a piano teacher in Stanford, CA. Over the years he became a center of the mid-peninsula music community, organizing concerts and establishing the Music Special Interest Group (MuSIG), and the Stanford MIDI Users Group.

Through the MIDI User’s Group, Spencer met Stanley Jungleib, who was teaching MIDI and electronic music at Cogswell College. The two became friends and remained in contact until Spencer’s passing in 1998. Jungleib recalls, “Particularly at Glenn’s service where many spoke, I learned how enthusiastic a believer he was in every one of his students and friends.“

“Aware of his work leading the Stanford spinoff Music Special Interest Group (MUSIG), I looked up Glenn when moving from Los Altos to Palo Alto. MIDI and the new multimedia explorations I was reporting interested him so much Glenn quickly became the charter President of the local Stanley Jungleib Fan Club. He volunteered to become my secretary — which I could not accept.”

Jungleib was overwhelmed to be on the receiving end of Spencer’s support for musicians and composers. “Of Glenn’s many musical qualifications were that he spent years discussing music and aesthetics with Stanford roommate, twelve-tone composer Roger Sessions. So, when Glenn tells one that Earth Sighs is ‘the most beautiful piece he had ever heard’ and goes ‘way beyond Mahler’ it resonates nicely—and actually, they did say they found my CD in his player.”

Glenn Spencer and Stanley Jungleib at Seer Systems, 1997

Spencer’s support for Jungleib’s work in electronic music went even farther in 1991, however, when he suggested to one of his senior jazz piano students that he contact Jungleib for help with a project that had crossed his desk. The student’s name was Avram Miller. And he was vice-president of development at Intel.

Miller intended “To make the PC the music platform of the 90s.” Intel’s interest in sound and music emerged first by supplementing the 486 with a DSP board called the Mikado. The Mikado was intended to enable fully Multimedia PCs, which in 1991 corresponded to x386-based PCs with built-in audio features and FAX support.

The Mikado employed an industry-standard DSP chip, with its own OS that was completely foreign to the pro audio community. When Jungleib could not get other music software companies to bid on the project, he assembled his own group of developers and got to work. By mid 1992, however, it was determined that the Mikado board would not have sufficient horsepower to support faxing, to say nothing of the desired audio functions. Enter Ralph Smith.

Smith held Intel badge #14 and was Jungleib’s main engineering contact at Intel Architecture Development Labs in Oregon. When the Mikado’s shortcomings became evident, Smith asked if Jungleib could get the code to run on a host processor instead of the DSP board. What incorporated as Seer Systems in December of 1992 got to work, and in March, 1993, delivered Satie, the first x86 host-resident real-time software synthesizer.

Jungleib credits Glenn Spencer and Avram Miller for being the two people without whose efforts he would never have established Seer Systems. He maintains photos and press clippings in the Seer Systems archives to recognize their contributions to their friends and communities. “Our relationship with Intel was long and complex, but everyone I worked with there modeled the highest standards of professionalism. Their cultured demanded being open to reason,” he concludes.