1980s Vinyl Multimedia
March 19, 2004 11:20 AM   Subscribe

1980s Vinyl Multimedia In the 1980s UK, artists were busy embedding multimedia-enabling compiled computer code into the locked grooves of their vinyl releases (and some cassette tapes). Who knew?
posted by meehawl (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
[This is really good]
posted by anathema at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2004

holy krappe.
posted by glenwood at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2004

this is staggeringly cool. thanks, meehawl!
posted by mcsweetie at 11:28 AM on March 19, 2004

Ah, now we divide the men from the boys! Those of us who were there know this well, and I've still got my Pete Shelley single in a safe place, waiting for the day it's worth a fortune!
posted by benzo8 at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2004

new wallpaper
posted by mcsweetie at 11:42 AM on March 19, 2004

Link o' the week!
posted by Quartermass at 11:42 AM on March 19, 2004

No way. This has GOT to be a hoax.
posted by drinkcoffee at 11:42 AM on March 19, 2004

God, I wasted ages trying to get that damn Thomson Twins flexidisc to work. I forget what magazine it came with, I'm guessing at Computer and Video Games.

Another memory.. Long before BitTorrent, the BBC had found a way to distribute data to potentially millions of people without bandwidth problems - they transmitted code over the radio. I remember waiting patiently for the Spectrum version to be broadcast, recording to tape, and then loading it up to be greeted with a nifty Tempest-style game.

If memory serves, ITV did a similar thing but they played it over the TV while they were showing teletext samples during the day.
posted by SiW at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2004

that's crazy!! i had no idea they ever put games on vinyl. thanks for the link.
posted by jcruelty at 11:46 AM on March 19, 2004

This has GOT to be a hoax.

Why should it be a hoax? You're saying people in the 1980s were not imaginative or creative? If you are from the US then you may not believe the impact that the Specrum had on the UK computer scene - it was a staggeringly cheap, affordable computer. Together with the C64 it wiped out the video game market, and earlier than the similar crash in the US. I think the main result was you had a generation of teens in the UK who grew up with machines they could program as well as play on - one reason the UK now has so many fine video game studios and developers relative to its population.

If it is a hoax then some people went to a great deal of trouble - even going so far as to write some bizarre, vintage Spectrum games, compile them, convert them into samples, and upload them to emulation sites.

So even if it is a hoax, I salute them!

ITV did a similar thing but they played it over the TV while they were showing teletext samples during the day.

I remember the TV code broadcasts - pretty cool idea. You could see text about the game and download procedures on the screen in teletext while dumping the audio into your tape recorder.
posted by meehawl at 11:51 AM on March 19, 2004

more wallpaper
posted by mcsweetie at 11:52 AM on March 19, 2004

And of course, the apex of multimedia vinyl technology was probably RCA's videodisc system. This vinyl-based analog video system competed against early Laserdisc.
posted by meehawl at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2004

Wow, this is very cool. My first computer was the Sinclair ZX80, which apparently was a predecessor to the ZX Spectrum. Unfortunately my earlier model was pretty dinky in terms of memory and video capabilities, so it wouldn't have run the games mentioned in the link. I "upgraded" to a CP/M system shortly thereafter.

You kids don't know how good you have it today. Why, I'll tell you, when I was YOUR age RAM was measured in bytes. Damn young whippersnapers...
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2004

I'd just like to say that the amazed comments in this thread are making me feel REALLY OLD.

When I had my Amiga, I did quite a bit of experimentation with dumping audio representations of data to tape and then loading them back in with a sampler. I dismissed it, but then someone came out with a backup device based on videotape, so maybe I could have made some money, eh?

No, probably not.

Also, I want to echo meehawl's statement on the impact of the Spectrum in the UK. It was massive, it really was. While still pretty nerdy, after a year or so it was a pretty common fixture in people's homes just to use as a games machine. I think the Spectrum and the Amiga are the two systems that really held off the invasion of gaming consoles for a long time, just because people in the UK were already used to having a gaming device in the house.
posted by SiW at 12:12 PM on March 19, 2004

Also in /.
posted by meehawl at 12:44 PM on March 19, 2004

I wrote the article, it's definately not a hoax.
posted by adamkempa at 12:47 PM on March 19, 2004

also, boing-boing
posted by milovoo at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2004

My housemate and I tried that Information Society modem trick in college. We managed to get a few characters to appear but not the paragraphs shown here. I always wondered what it said...
posted by 40 Watt at 2:46 PM on March 19, 2004

I am feeling retroactively jealous as HELL! Somewhere deep inside me, there is a ragingly envious 15 year old cursing his misplacement in time.

Sigh. And now... I just feel kind of old. Like Siw said. I suspect I'm going to have to take a mental time trip later this evening, uncrate my C64 and fondle it while listening to Peter Gabriel's Plays Live and burning some... candles. Or somesuch.
posted by John Smallberries at 3:13 PM on March 19, 2004

I used to joke about LP-ROM... and now we find something close to that actually existed.

Now how cool would a rewriteable vinyl drive be? Burn your own 12-inch dance tracks!
posted by kurumi at 4:33 PM on March 19, 2004

Oh...so good. brilliant find!
posted by dejah420 at 8:53 PM on March 19, 2004

It's amzing that so many people are finding this hard to accept, and this is definitely a symtpon of the "You Don't Know You're Born" disease...

Back in the day (and remember, the ZX Spectrum was released in 1982 - 22 years ago!), the only way of loading software into a home computer was via modulated beeps (running at 1500baud!) recorded onto a cassette tape. Oh, the fun we had trying to find the optimum volume level on a clunk-keyed portable cassette recorder to play the latest game, and this was before certain manufacturers wrote their own loading modules, working at faster (2000baud!) speeds which were ever more finicky.

And yes, certain artists who wanted to tap a (as then) huge market did have this audible data cut onto vinyl. And yes, such audio data was broadcast in the dead-of-night by the BBC (amongst others).

It was an exciting, pioneering time to be involved in computing, and frustrating as it was at the time, people who experienced it probably make better technicians today. After all, could anyone who graduated from University in the last five years write a chess program in 1KB? Who these days thinks about optimising code to squeeze three more bytes out of the system?

Let's face it - you youngsters don't know you're born!
posted by benzo8 at 12:47 AM on March 20, 2004

posted by Down10 at 1:03 AM on March 20, 2004

mcsweetie, you're a legend.

/me gets his 101 Damnations CD down.
posted by ed\26h at 5:33 AM on March 20, 2004

Who these days thinks about optimising code to squeeze three more bytes out of the system?

More people than you'd initially expect.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:46 PM on March 20, 2004

Well I hope so! I'd imagine people developing for embedded controllers and the like might still code to the capability of the technology, rather than let M$ compile them a bohemoth which requires a memory upgrade to run!
posted by benzo8 at 11:36 PM on March 20, 2004

adamkempa - 'this is not a hoax'.

Where's your evidence? This is Metafilter, you must back up your assertions with pertinent links.

'Tis but a whimsical jest, I have indeed visited your member page. Firin', big up your massive.
posted by asok at 9:39 AM on March 21, 2004

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