Karaoke Spreads to PC: No Escape

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, August 20, 1993

Soft Karaoke
Tune 1000 Corp
Suite 1000A, 295 Forest Avenue
Portland, ME
04101-2000 USA

Price: $49.95

Requires Windows 3.1 and midi-capable sound card

Well, it had to happen.

Karaoke in bars and restaurants. Karaoke studios where you and your friends can rent a private room by the hour.

And now, Karaoke on your home computer.

Soon, expect to see Soft Karaoke software for Windows in all sorts of mass market outlets... big pharmacies, super-stores, and the like. I guess it's a measure of how Windows really is everywhere.

Soft Karaoke is a simple little program. The program itself ships on a single 720k diskette (it's been a long time since I've loaded anything that small), with a second diskette that includes five songs.

Install it, and you've got a Karaoke player. You can select a song (from the ones included, or any standard MIDI file), and like a cassette recorder, PLAY, STOP, PAUSE, REWIND. Adjust the volume... all by clicking on a button. Just like your home stereo.

You can do more than you can on your stereo, however.

Since you want to sing along, you may want to adjust the key. And since you're in control, you can adjust the tempo. And since it's using MIDI, it's a simple matter to change the instrument. You don't like a piano? Try it with trumpets. Or violins. It's all just an icon-click away.

It's simple and effective. Like other MIDI music programs, it doesn't work with your standard PC-speaker. You need a real sound card, which supports MIDI (virtually all do), and which is supported by Windows 3.1 (or Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions... make your life easy and upgrade to Win 3.1 if you haven't already). And to make this a real party, you need some kind of speakers... you'd look pretty silly singing along while listening through headphones!

But what about the music, I hear you ask?

Well, in the box, you get 5 songs... presumably something for everybody: "Do You Want to Know a Secret", "The Way We Were", "New York New York", "Stand By Your Man", and "Dust in the Wind". Kind of Karaoke's greatest hits.

Phone a 1-800 number, and you can order a 'free' microphone, along with another 10 songs. For a $7.50 shipping and handling fee.

But the company really wants you to get hooked on their song catalogue. Currently 28 'albums' of 10 songs each... $19.95 a shot. Fleetwood Mac or Michael Jackson or Led Zeppelin. (I can sort of see Stairway to Heaven, but I can't imagine Whole Lotta Love this way...) Elton John or Frank Sinatra.

Songs of the 50's, 60's or 70's. Don't feel left out... there are 80's and 90's volumes, too. Chrismas Tunes, Kids songs, and three volumes of country classics.

Who said computer-users were introverts who spent their whole lives staring at a screen of scrolling text? Soft Karaoke's out to prove that we can get down and party with the best of them.

... and not even have to leave our computer screens to do it.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1993, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from Karaoke fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)

(And from 2004/2005): PC Karaoke fans may want to take a look at the free GoSing, a modest 300 kb download from http://www.gosing.com  or the free Karafun: http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/win/34662


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan