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June 18, 2008 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The first known recording of a digital computer playing music, recorded by the BBC in 1951. The music played on a Ferantti Mark 1, one of the first commercial general-use computers, and was entered via punchtape and played on a speaker usually used for making clicks and tones to indicate program progress.
posted by Artw (14 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
How far we've come…

The Trons rehearse.
posted by JBennett at 11:34 AM on June 18, 2008


I like the little comments when it hits a snag – “the machine resented it”, “the machines not enjoying this, it’s gone on strike a bit”, “the machines obviously not in the mood”. Human/computer relationships haven’t really changed that much since back then.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2008


let the sampling and remixing begin.

Any piece of audio that includes a woman with an english accent giggling and providing colorful comment gets a thumbs up from me.

Does anyone have an idea what might have been causing the interruptions? Stuck punchtape or something?

Good show, good show.
posted by slickvaguely at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2008


Neat. It reminds me of a family story my dad likes to tell.

My grandfather was a museum preparator for Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the 60's, and at some point he brought home a reel of film of what must have been some of the first 3d computer animation. Apparently the techs would program the Scripps computer to display a cube, take a still shot of the screen, then program the computer to display the cube slightly rotated, take a still, and so on, so that when the film was played the cube appeared to rotate.
posted by lekvar at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2008


It's a little pitchy. Couldn't they at least program the thing to stay in tune?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2008


According to the article, the tone-producing capabilities of the computer were an afterthought, something to indicate that a program was progressing. What you're hearing is the similar to the easter eggs in some scanners and older disk drives that allow them to play music by modulating the speed of the motors; a neat trick, but certainly not a feature.
posted by lekvar at 12:16 PM on June 18, 2008


Yup, it’s sort of like getting your floppy drive or dot matrix printer to play a tune*.

* If you don’t know what either of these things are then ask your dad.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2008


Here's my plug for Treewave and dot matrix printers that make music.

Thanks for the link, Artw.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2008


What you're hearing is the similar to the easter eggs in some scanners and older disk drives that allow them to play music by modulating the speed of the motors; a neat trick, but certainly not a feature.

So this is not digital waveform data being fed to a DAC?

Anyone know when that was first done?
posted by weston at 2:14 PM on June 18, 2008


Wow. I only made it back to the 60's with digital/analogue music. But House and Techno both started after Disco--not that anyone cares. And those robots were cool as hell, by the way!
posted by Flex1970 at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2008


That woman's silvery laugh is worth all the electronic music recorded ever since. Analogue forever!
posted by Faze at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2008


For no particularly good reason, i'm posting Popcorn.
posted by empath at 4:18 PM on June 18, 2008


Came across this story this morning via BBC (nice picture of the contraption there), and thought, hmm, I bet this is on MeFi by now. Sure enough, the blue didn't let me down!

It's a little pitchy...

A little? Hell, if it went any sharper it'd cut our ears off just as sure as van Gogh's knife! But it's cute as hell. Listening to that aborted version of "In the Mood" brought a smile to my face.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:23 PM on June 18, 2008


Speaking of "In the Mood" and cuteness, I once played percussion on a recording session for a young female vocalist here in Japan, covering that song. Her pronunciation went: "een za moooo, een za moooo!" It was very charming.

And empath, as far as I'm concerned, there's every reason to post Popcorn in just about any thread, anytime.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:29 PM on June 18, 2008


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