What I learned: 16-bit applications don’t run on Windows 7 64-bit

The transition to a 64-bit operating system is the gift that just keeps on giving.

This past week, I decided to reconstruct a track I recorded in 1991. Back then, my studio setup consisted of a Kawai K4 synthesizer and a Kawai Q-80 sequencer. Both were stolen in a burglary in 1998, but I went on eBay and bought a used K4 many, many years back.

Compared to today’s hardware synths, the K4 is clunky, but I have it around because some of my demos used presets that are indelibly tied to that music. It would sound weird to me to substitute those sounds.

So I switched it on to discover that the internal battery has once again drained. I changed that battery a few months back, so I resigned myself to spending an evening digging into the K4’s internals to switch it out.

Of course, that kind of change means all the presets were lost, which wasn’t a problem since I have MIDI system exclusive files containing the patch information. All I have to do is transmit that back-up file to the synth through my MIDI interface, and I’d be done.

I use a program called K4Win to edit those system exclusive files and to send them to the synth. I tried to fire it up only to be informed that “The version of this file is not compatible with the version of Windows you’re running.”


Being new to the world of 64-bit, I was unaware that 64-bit Windows does not support 16-bit applications. Luckily, I have Windows 7 Professional with XP Mode, so all I had to do was spin up a virtual instance of XP and launch the K4Win with no problem.

But that doesn’t strike me as a viable long-term solution.

In fact, I ended up launching XP Mode a number of times in the same evening because I would discover a settings change that wasn’t reflected in the backup, but I wouldn’t know it till I started working on a track.

I bought a license for Visual Studio 2010 a few months back, but I haven’t done anything with it. I’ve been wanting to build a desktop application, but I wanted to build something useful that someone hasn’t already done better.

After scouring the Internet for a K4Win replacement, I reached the conclusion that the synth is so old, all the software built to support it pretty much froze at Windows 3.1. So I guess I have to build it myself.

This will be an adventure, surely.