Push 3 – what’s a computer?

I received my Push 3 from Ableton (standalone edition) about two weeks ago and I have had some time to explore it and think about the workflow changes, hardware features and how physical hardware can act as a Trojan horse for software, blurring the already blurry line between computer and … gear? machine?

The first Push arrived about 10 years before this newest Push was announced. Then as now, the potential for shrinking Ableton Live into dedicated hardware was clearly visible, but less clear was the need for standalone hardware. After all, a standalone Push would be very expensive, and not be able to replicate the multitude of utility a laptop could provide.

But maybe it is time to think about what we have lost to convergence. Just as we reflect on the dominance of platforms across our laptop, phone, TV, and even wristwatches we are starting to see that the charm and excitement of discovery, ownership, and identity can be lost when platforms and functions are unified. Ableton Live running on a Mac or PC is not as distraction-free as using something like an OP-1 field or a modular synth. My first impression of the Push 3 was clear as soon as I realized after 20 minutes of beat making that I had forgotten to open up Live on my computer but somehow my work had been saved (with a cool “band name generator” filename to boot).

“If you are serious about software, make your own hardware” goes the Alan Kay adage, and Ableton seems to be very serious about both in the Push 3.

I’d like to use the device longer term to really develop final thoughts on it, because it’s an ambitious step forward on an already ambitious product. It is deserving of careful thought and criticism.

More on Push 3 soon…

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.

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