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September 13, 2010 7:21 AM   Subscribe

You know which song the very first singing computer sang, right? Yup, just like you saw in the movies, only this one didn't slow down when he offered up his electronic rendition of the tune that was toppermost of the poppermost on both sides of the Atlantic back in 1892.
posted by flapjax at midnite (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Singing Daisy: Another task at which computers beat human.
posted by DU at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2010


GLaDOS is better. This IBM chick is lame.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:33 AM on September 13, 2010


That title screen is unbearably slow.
posted by kbanas at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2010


That title screen is unbearably slow.

I think that's kind of... the point. Sort of a "welcome to 1961" thing, you know?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:43 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only one who flashed to Bender singing this during the "Love and Rocket" episode? I feel that a group of writers nerdy enough to actual create a mathematical theorem for an episode are nerdy enough to know this bit of history.

God I love those nerds....
posted by Macphisto at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2010


Huh. I remember picking up a computer music LP in a Goodwill ages ago and being absolutely enthralled with this scratchy, dusty track. So odd to have all that decrepit analog on top of digital.
posted by maudlin at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, I'd like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2010


Maybe it's because I was relatively young when the sequel came out, but I always thought that the scene where Dr. Chandra reawakens HAL was both creepy and great at the same time. That ghostly, distorted speech always remained in the back of my mind.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2010


When I was very young I was taken to an IBM exhibit that had that song, and one of the computers that rendered it, along with an interactive tic-tac-toe game, where the UI was doorbell buttons and 100 watt light bulbs. There was also a bicycle you could pedal to light up a lamp, with the power generated being displayed on a meter with a big needle.

That day was definitely a major fork in the road of my life.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2010


Nice work with the Beatles reference there, Flapjax.
posted by Herodios at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2010


Oddly enough, my first real job in high school in 1983 was working for Max Mathews at Bell Labs. Later, I worked in the same group as Carol Lochbaum (her name is spelled wrong in the credits) at Bell Communications Research a few years later. I still keep my job with Max on my resume. Working with Max is like that.
posted by plinth at 10:45 AM on September 13, 2010


Back in 2003 the 365 days project posted the contents of a 7" record called Computer Speech which was released in 1963 by Bell Tellephone Labs. In addition to other samples of synthesized speech, it includes this famous bit of computer singing. You can listen to the entire record at the link.
posted by RichardP at 12:01 PM on September 13, 2010


I think that voice sounds pretty clear for 1961. The link in DU's link, however, includes sounds that will haunt my dreams forever. It sounds like daisy sung by zombies.
posted by umbú at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2010


I can't be the only one who flashed to Bender singing this during the "Love and Rocket" episode? I feel that a group of writers nerdy enough to actual create a mathematical theorem for an episode are nerdy enough to know this bit of history.

Maybe they did, maybe they didn't—knowledge of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey alone, without knowledge that it's a reference to the actual first singing computer, would be sufficient for the Futurama scene. (I didn't know until just now that it was a reference to the first real singing computer. Thanks, flapjax!)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:07 PM on September 13, 2010


The the IBM 7094 wasn't actually the first computer to sing (though it may be the first recording). Betty Holberton programmed the BINAC (an early computer build by Eckert-Mauchly that never worked after it was delivered) to sing for it's dedictation.

It was actually an interpretive routine. It only had eight notes and it played "For he's a jolly good fellow," or something like that. But it was supposed to have been a surprise and it wasn't.

This would have been in 1949.

There's a bit of discussion about this in the Charles Babbage Institute's UNIVAC Conference (pdf) starting on page 72. It mentions other early attempts to get computers to sing.

Of course, the BINAC clearly couldn't sing words. Adding voice synthesis and imitating instruments was advance a significant advance on the early attempts.
posted by nangar at 4:06 PM on September 13, 2010


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