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keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
#2683107 10/18/17 10:22 AM
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This article is actually about computer gaming keyboard latency. But since latency is a perennial favorite topic here and this article goes into great detail, I thought people here might find it interesting.

http://danluu.com/keyboard-latency/

Last edited by David Farley; 10/18/17 10:22 AM.
Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683685 10/20/17 06:09 PM
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Interesting study! If you think about the super precision and high resolution of today's games, and the highly tuned, highly priced rigs that serious gamers have. And then recall the computer games of the 1980s. Pac-Man, wasn't it?

Then read this:

I had this feeling that some old computers feel much more responsive than modern machines. For example, an iMac G4 running macOS 9 or an Apple 2 both feel quicker than my 4.2 GHz Kaby Lake system. I never trust feelings like this because there’s decades of research showing that users often have feelings that are the literal opposite of reality, so got a high-speed camera and started measuring actual keypress-to-screen-update latency as well as mouse-move-to-screen-update latency. It turns out the machines that feel quick are actually quick, much quicker than my modern computer – computers from the 70s and 80s commonly have keypress-to-screen-update latencies in the 30ms to 50ms range out of the box, whereas modern computers are often in the 100ms to 200ms range

....and this:

at the time I did these measurements, my 4.2 GHz kaby lake had the fastest single-threaded performance of any machine you could buy but had worse latency than a quick machine from the 70s (roughly 6x worse than an Apple 2), which seems a bit curious.


Curious is the word. Bonkers might be even better. LOL!!!


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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683694 10/20/17 06:41 PM
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Bottom line, software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster....


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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683706 10/20/17 07:46 PM
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Yup.

When Apple moved from OS 9 to OS X, they were shipping machines that could boot into either OS. They were much faster when booted into 9 ("classic"). Years earlier, there was a big change from System 6 to System 7, and again, there were machines that could boot into either, and they were much faster when booting into 6. And even among recent machines, people often find that their systems are quicker if they don't update them too far away from the version of the OS they shipped with,

Some reasons for at least the earlier big shifts: Programmers moved away from low level tight efficient code (like assembly) to high level languages that are increasingly inefficient but allow the programming to be done more quickly. The trade-off means that the programs run more slowly. Also, everything used to run out of RAM, and hey moved toward constant swapping in and out of storage (luckily much faster with SSD than it was with hard drives). Programs were now not limited by RAM, but they ran more slowly. And the operating systems used to do one thing at a time, now they're always multi-tasking, often doing things in the background that you'd like to shut off, but can't!

Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683776 10/21/17 07:43 AM
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Anyway, it does help to put in perspective the problem of latency for musicians working with computers. Our saving grace being the invention of ASIO and the well designed proprietary drivers of that class. Without them, we'd be in the unenviable place of the gamers and their terrible systems with hundreds of millisecond keyboard latency.


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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683797 10/21/17 09:51 AM
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The Apple 2 was the computer from the 1970s referred to above. This home computer ran with a processor running at ONE mega hertz. The present day comparison is an 8 core processor running at 4.2 GHz.

That's like having 8 processors running at over 4 thousand times faster than the old Apple 2. And yet this new super computer reacts six times more slowly than the prehistoric Apple 2. What ever the excuses for this state of affairs, they'd better be good. Seems like a sense of proportion (or indeed sanity) has got lost somewhere on the way.


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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683811 10/21/17 11:03 AM
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I'm not sure I trust the claims that the Apple 2 was so much faster.
Also ...
1. Keep in mind that any device interfacing to the Apple 2 (or any small computer of that era) did so through a dedicated proprietary interface.
2. And one interface served only one device. No port sharing.
3. And at the software level the drivers were trivially simple back then, partly because of 1 and 2, above.
All of this conspires to make response fairly quick.

Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683823 10/21/17 11:39 AM
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I did remember when the audio card embedded a 4 Osc. FM generator. Since the sound generation were decoupled from the CPU, notes could sent as soon as they where received with low latency. The FM generator can’t produce drop outs by design.

Now, we get rid of dedicated sound generators (FM, square waves...). Instead, the sound is produced by the CPU with a complex CPU - Soundcard interface, 1 interrupt per streamed buffer (we have to use big enough buffers to reduce to flow of interrupts), and a complex software architecture : interrupts generate Deferred Procedure Calls, which when called awake the DAW or the virtual piano...

We can make it more straitforward and produce the sound in the kernel (with privileged right and more risk of blue screen). This has been made by the Yamaha XYG50 virtual instrument if I recall.

Nowadays, when Yamaha want to make a low latency hardware synthesizer, they make a dedicated DSP(the SWP70), whose the clock is alligned (with a multiplicated factor) to the sample rate. Like the old audiocard, but with a more powerful chip dedicated to produce the sound.

Last edited by Frédéric L; 10/21/17 11:43 AM.

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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
MacMacMac #2683832 10/21/17 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
I'm not sure I trust the claims that the Apple 2 was so much faster.
Also ...
1. Keep in mind that any device interfacing to the Apple 2 (or any small computer of that era) did so through a dedicated proprietary interface.
2. And one interface served only one device. No port sharing.
3. And at the software level the drivers were trivially simple back then, partly because of 1 and 2, above.
All of this conspires to make response fairly quick.


Yes sure, these are all good reasons why early micro computers were fit to be efficient. Even so, the speed difference of processing is now over two orders of magnitude greater than it was then......like the difference between a model T Ford and a brand new BMW series 7, ( except 100s of times bigger if measured by horsepower). The computer refined for gaming is supposed to be the racehorse of computers. The gamer perfects his responses much like a sports person or musician. The fact the keyboard latency is still in the same ball park (let alone arguably 6 times slower) as machines from the 1970s is baffling to me.

Just another of the modern madnesses.


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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683834 10/21/17 12:11 PM
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With seemingly near infinite resources, there's no great value placed on efficiency these days. Similarly, when the Mac came out in 1984, the entire operating system plus a word processing program and a painting program fit on a 400k floppy disk. (Okay, there were also 64k worth of OS code built into the computer's ROM.) The Lisa had a 5 megabyte hard drive, which seemed huge. (It also cost $2k.)

Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2683836 10/21/17 12:19 PM
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True, there's no value placed on efficiency because of almost endless, powerful resources. And for the most part, it's reasonable (though maybe regrettable) that those resources are squandered. However, sometimes it does lead to absurdities and big practical problems. This looks like just such a case.


Roland HP 302 / Samson Graphite 49 / Akai EWI

Reaper / Native Instruments K9 ult / ESQL MOR2 Symph Orchestra & Choirs / Lucato & Parravicini , trumpets & saxes / Garritan CFX lite / Production Voices C7 & Steinway D compact

Focusrite Saffire 24 / W7, i7 4770, 16GB / MXL V67g / Yamaha HS7s / HD598
Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2686328 11/01/17 05:58 AM
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Slight thread necro here but I'm unconvinced on the 100-200ms figure. That would make many things irritating for at least some people. Particularly for mouse operations or games. There was an old game that used to handle almost everything server side (i.e. if you moved the mouse, that went to the server which then sent the resulting player view movement back). That lag was noticeable on a local network (ping time sub 20ms), it was close to unplayable over a good 56k modem connection (170-200ms), a 200ms mouse>screen latency would be noticeably harder to control.

At least part of that time might have been down to using something like office Word (which these days defaults to animating everything - fortunately for people like me this can be turned off!). Also LCDs can be quite variable. there were two reasons gamers took time to shift to LCDs, first was that good CRTs could run at 100Hz, or more, while early LCDs were stuck at 60, the second was that many were quite slow at getting the received information onto the screen, some still are. Up to 3/4 frames or so.

Last edited by Bambers; 11/01/17 05:59 AM.
Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2686336 11/01/17 08:18 AM
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One thing that really bugs me about Mac OS X is that it does not process inputs as FIFO (first-in-first-out). Under earlier Mac OS, I could click a window with one hand, then press command-W (keyboard shortcut for close) with the other, and the window would close. Now, it could very well process the keyboard input before the mouse click, and so the wrong window closes.

Another example is that the type-ahead buffer can get delayed. If I'm typing and there is some kind of brief interrupt (i.e. beachball), once the machine comes back to life, the characters I typed will spit out, but may not appear in the order I typed them. I could instead get something I typed at the end (which it probably did in real time), followed by the string of what I had typed before (when it finally spits out what was being buffered).

Putting this in context of the OP, latency becomes both higher and more difficult to measure because the multi-threading OS is always doing different things in the background, and your keyboard input is being "managed" as one among many tasks.

Another variable is that the Apple II had a fixed character set in ROM for instantaneous display. Anyone who switched from an Apple II to a Mac would clearly see how much more slowly characters would be displayed, because with the advent of the GUI, all the text now had to be shaped, and "drawn" on to the screen (and later, scaled as well, as the OS even moved away from fixed bitmaps). Same kind of thing happened when people moved from DOS to WIndows, IIRC. You used to be able to hold down a key with auto-repeat (or hold down the delete/backspace to erase) and things would just whiz by, then suddenly, it was relative molasses as basically--as I understand it--entire screen re-draws were needed for each character change. So this is something else that contributes to how slowly modern systems handle key input, relatively speaking.



Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
JohnSprung #2686342 11/01/17 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Bottom line, software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster....



Is that why blue bottles are so hard to kill?


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Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
anotherscott #2686399 11/01/17 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by anotherscott
Same kind of thing happened when people moved from DOS to WIndows, IIRC. You used to be able to hold down a key with auto-repeat (or hold down the delete/backspace to erase) and things would just whiz by, then suddenly, it was relative molasses as basically--as I understand it--entire screen re-draws were needed for each character change. So this is something else that contributes to how slowly modern systems handle key input, relatively speaking.


I think in part that was a UX change. In much the same way everything is ridiculously huge and a gallon of whitespace now and everything animates and transitions slowly, default repeat rates have been reduced as the less technologically capable don't get on with everything being hyper fast. It's something that's adjustable on windows, though I'd like the max to be higher.

Re: keyboard latency (not the piano kind)
David Farley #2686415 11/01/17 02:56 PM
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Yes, but the latest mac can cut & paste enough text in a document to cause an Apple II to run out of memory. I had an Apple II with a 20M disk drive. I just a minute or so ago sent an email with a 22M power point attachment. And I have not had to type a GOTO statement in 20 years!

Last edited by Kbeaumont; 11/01/17 02:57 PM.

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