Hardware sequencers were a fantastic idea: you had a box that did nothing but sequence other gear. Then along came the computer, then the idea of trying to make the computer do absolutely everything all the time, and the standalone MIDI sequencer disappeared. In a bizarre twist of fate, it’s back — on Nintendo DS.

Jed (beatsnbleeps.com) writes to let us know about his DS sequencer, DStep. It’s partly an “homage to the KP3” from Korg, though unless your fingertip is the size of a DS stylus point, it should be a bit more accurate touch-wise. It’s a very elegant little step sequencer, shown here controlling a Nord Micro Modular. (The modular patch you see on the computer screen is the Nord editing software.) Hardware MIDI support gets hacked into the DS via Collin Meyer’s DS MIDI cable hardware/code solution.

It’s funny, because to me this brings the way you integrate a computer into a studio back full circle. It’s not that you dump the computer — on the contrary, you simply use it as a component in a set of gear.

As for mobile gadgets to work with, this also illustrates some advantages of the DS over the iPhone — well, aside from the obvious facts that it’s far cheaper, you’re not saving up battery life to make calls, and you can play Mario Kart. The old-fashioned game hardware buttons actually come in handy, and they’re ergonomically placed, you get the added precision of a stylus, and the DS hardware is more hackable. Multi-touch would be nice on those faders, though.

If you’re ready to give this a go, here’s what you need:

DS MIDI hack

Tob’s DS MIDI Website

DStep details and ROM download

It’s still in development, so we’ll be watching.

Previously: GrooveStep step sequencer / pattern maker for DS