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Music Data Storage Software Hardware Science

Researchers Restore the First Recording of Computer-Generated Music (bbc.co.uk) 127

BoxRec writes: Alan Turing was part of a team who created the earliest known recording of music produced by a computer. It starts with a few bars of God Save the Queen, a snippet of Baa Baa Black Sheep and then Glenn Miller's swing hit In The Mood. The recording was captured by the BBC in the Autumn of 1951 on a 12-inch (30.5cm) acetate disc. But when Professor Jack Copeland of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch and composer Jason Long discovered the disc, the audio on the disc had been distorted. In a blog post for the British Library, Copeland and Long said it "gave at best only a rough impression of how the computer sounded." BBC News reports: "By analyzing the recording, Copeland and Long realized it was playing at the wrong speed, possibly as a result of the recorder's turntable running too quickly as the acetate was cut. As they knew the notes the computer was actually capable of playing, the pair were able to calculate exactly by how much the recording needed to be speeded up in order to exactly match the sound made by the Ferranti Mark 1. They also removed extraneous noise from the recording -- though not the engineer's voice. 'It was a beautiful moment when we first heard the true sound of Turing's computer,' Copeland and Long wrote. Now anyone can hear it in all its somewhat ramshackle glory."
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Researchers Restore the First Recording of Computer-Generated Music

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  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @05:13AM (#53009725) Homepage

    She sounds like she's enjoying herself. and has a lovely voice. Who says woman are kept out of computing by men? They were some of the early pioneers.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      Why are the people most likely to complain about "SJW" also the most likely to drag up this sort of topic at every available opportunity? It's almost like you're on the warpath, fighting about some sort of social issue.

      • Why are the people most likely to complain about "SJW" also the most likely to drag up this sort of topic at every available opportunity?>

        --
        I started watching "Tropes Versus Women in Video Games" recently due to the persistent lies about fraud. It's terrific!

        Why are you complaining? With your sig you bring up this sort of topic in every post you make. That's more than slightly hypocritical.

        • Why are you complaining?

          Who says I'm complaining? Personally, I think it's entertaining, and informative because it is excellent at highlighting people who have silly opinions. Feel free to make some equivalent remark to "touche", "right back at ya", or "that's you that is bruv innit".

          With your sig you bring up this sort of topic in every post you make.

          lol, yes that's totally what sigs do. You know you can disable viewing of sigs and many people do because they're always broadly irrelevant to the topic at

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Psychotria ( 953670 )

      She sounds like she's enjoying herself. and has a lovely voice. Who says woman are kept out of computing by men? They were some of the early pioneers.

      They did mention her name... Nemone Metaxas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemone)

    • I have no idea where that notion comes from, I don't know anyone who keeps women out of computing. They are not very numerous, yes, but my guess would be that they're over at the biology, medicine, architecture and pharmatech fields where you have a lot of women and a decreasing number of male students.

      Guess what: People study what they're interested in. Who would have thought.

      • Guess what: People study what they're interested in.

        In other news, Humons are also completely solitary creatures and are not affected by their social environment.

        • Yes, there's a lot of social pressure out there that tells women that they make great doctors and pharma researchers.

          • Are you disputing that humans and their wants and desires are affected by their social environment?

            • Are you saying all women are by definition so insecure that they succumb to any and all peer pressure?

              • Are you saying all women are by definition so insecure that they succumb to any and all peer pressure?

                You are the one claiming people are immune to social influences.

                You being trivially and obviously wrong on that point in no way implies that some super extreme opposite is true. The fact that you think that indicates that you are very, very dim.

                • "Obviously" is usually used when something is anything but obvious but the person using it wants to create the impression that you're a fool if you don't share their opinion, so excuse me if I react in my usual self and claim that your claim is anything but obvious and I'm too stupid to see how it is obvious, so I guess to make the idiot over here understand what's so obvious to everyone, you'd actually have to explain the obvious.

                  • let me get this straight: are you actually arguing that humans are immune to social influences?

                    That's what I claimed was obvious.

                    • I'm not arguing that humans are immune to social influences, I am saying that I do not believe that women are so insecure that they allow those social influences to dictate their life. Because we all are subject to social influence, and it seems your argument is that men are capable of dealing with this while women are not, and this is simply something I do most decidedly NOT consider obvious.

                    • Because we all are subject to social influence,

                      Well done! Gold star!

                      and it seems your argument is that men are capable of dealing with this while women are not

                      No, my argument is that you're an idiot because you keep making stuff up to support your point.

                    • Ok, I bite. What did I make up?

                    • Ok, I bite. What did I make up?

                      You know that bit where I quoted you and then you accused you ofmaking stuff up?

                      I wonder if that could be it. Nah too obvious.

                    • Would you please stop making vague suggestions and allegations? I'm tired of guessing what you might want to say, that game gets really old really fast. Yes, I understand, it's an easy way of "arguing" by making your opponent argue for both sides, but aside of lazy it's also dishonest.

                    • You said this:

                      and it seems your argument is that men are capable of dealing with this while women are not

                      That's called "making shit up", because I very specifically didn't make any argument about men versus women.

                      I'm tired of guessing what you might want to say,

                      Yeah I know right? I just use regular conversational English with good quoting and it's just *so* confusing.

                      it's also dishonest.

                      Says the man who made up a bunch of lies about Sarkeesian. I don't think I'll be taking your opinion on what constitutes "

                    • I said that because you fail to provide any direct, resilient argument. All I get from you is hints, allegations and weasel words. So ffs, could you please make your argument?

                    • All I get from you is hints, allegations and weasel words

                      I don't think it's possible to state it any more clearly than I already did, but whatever, I'll bite and state it again.

                      You said this:

                      and it seems your argument is that men are capable of dealing with this while women are not

                      That is 100% an invention of yours. I claimed no such thing as is very clear from my writing. You are simply inventing stuff and claiming I said it.

                      This is ver dishonest behaviour. It is of course exactly what I'd expect from some

                    • This is what I deduced from the vague hints you dropped that doubles as arguments for you. I will not make this mistake again. From now on, I'll simply wait for you to say something worth while.

                      I guess this alone will pretty much end any kind of conversation between us. Farewell.

                    • This is what I deduced from the vague hints you dropped that doubles as arguments for you. ... because explicitly giving the quote where I was accusing you of making things up is a hint now, is it?

                      Anyway, I notice that you haven't actually denied that you simple invented an argument and ascribed it to me. Since you're (a) no longer asserting it and (b) never actually concede even when persented with overwhelming evidence, I shall take that to be a tacit admission of guilt on your part.

                    • Whatever. I now know how to deal with you. What I "admit" is that I fell for your trick. Well played. But you know, fool me once and all that shit. Enjoy your "victory".

                      Personally, I'll just let whoever happens to read this be the judge.

                    • What I "admit" is that I fell for your trick.

                      No trick. You flat-out invented arguments I made. You then played very dumb (something I would like to note you seem phenomenally good at) when I challenged you on it.

                      You haven't actually denied simply inventing that argument.

                      I take that to be an admission that you did.

                      There are three likely outcomes here.

                      1. You play dumb

                      2. You re-assert your claim, and will weasel out of any direct challenge I make for you to provide evidence.

                      3. You'll simply deny doing it even

                    • You do realize that several times in this string you have been asked what your argument is. You didn't actually come out and say anything, you just claim vaguely that somehow women succumb to social pressures to not go into the job fields they want to, you were then asked to prove it. You are asserting that women are too weak to go into the fields they want to, and need help for some reason. Feel free to back up your statement with some kind of facts, instead of using someone's attempt to figure out what

                  • Oh I also claim that it really it's obvious that saying one thing is false does not imply that a super extreme version of its polar opposite is true. And yes I further claim that if you don't find that obvious then yes you are actually too stupid to have anything remotely resembling a productive conversation with.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        It's a very obvious trend.
        When I studied engineering as an undergraduate in the 1980s one of the highlights of the computer science subjects (apart from very easy credits) was that we got to meet girls. Even with quite a few of the 90+% male demographic of engineering students sneaking in the CS subjects most of them still had very close to 50% females enrolled. They were most definitely interested in I.T.
        These days I see more women working in mines, chemical plants, power stations, oil refineries and fou
        • Ok, I'm apparently very dense and stupid, because I fail to see something as "obvious". It must be obviously obvious, if you have to mention it being obvious so many times.

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            With respect, it's so fucking obvious that anyone who has been in I.T. who has not noticed it is not paying much attention to the world around them. In one introductory IPv6 thing I went to there were over fifty guys and the only woman in the room was from a vendor and not a participant. That's how fucking obvious it is.
            • So what's obvious is that a lot more men are in IT than women. Yes, this is true. What is debatable is the reason. Your claim, if I got you right, is that there is some sort of boys club with a no-girls-allowed sign on the front door is going on. My claim is that women prefer to go into other fields because you can see the exact opposite in areas like biology, medicine and pharmacy.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                What is incredibly obvious is that it has gone from a field where there were once around the same number of women to men to an almost absolute sausage fest while most other professions have gone the other way. It's pretty damned close to a " boys club with a no-girls-allowed sign on the front door" in a lot of places which is very strange.

                As a profession we must have really fucked something up very badly to drive all those women away.
                • Maybe unlike men, women noticed that there's way more money to be made in medicine, pharmacy and biotech?

                  Since it must have been before I studied IT, when was it around the same number of women and men that studied information technology?

                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                    My post that mentioned the 1980s is above.
                    That's back when there were almost no female engineering students at the university I attended (nine out of more than three hundred first year students) and slightly more than 50% female students in the first year computer science subjects. Data entry and even typists were still a big thing back then but those women I mentioned were going on to a degree course with C programming, operating system design and the works.
                    It's really funny that some of the young men tod
                    • Permanent crunch is not really an issue in most of Europe (mostly due to labour laws not allowing it), at least in IT, it IS though a reality for doctors. And not just in the first few years. So if anything, this is the exact opposite over here and yet the same effect can be observed, so I doubt it's a matter of work time.

                    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                      I suppose that's one thing out of the many changes that can't be blamed so easily then.
                      The boys club where the members may as well be clones is something I have seen most in some places that spectacularly imploded around 2000 due to a "tight focus" - as in they had big ideas but not enough spread of skills to actually get shit done. Some of those places were like locker rooms full of whiny teenage virgins who felt entitled to a supermodel. I made sure my girlfriend of the time never went near those guys (
        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          It's a very obvious trend.
          When I studied engineering as an undergraduate in the 1980s one of the highlights of the computer science subjects (apart from very easy credits) was that we got to meet girls. Even with quite a few of the 90+% male demographic of engineering students sneaking in the CS subjects most of them still had very close to 50% females enrolled. They were most definitely interested in I.T.
          These days I see more women working in mines, chemical plants, power stations, oil refineries and found

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @08:40AM (#53010523) Journal

        I don't know anyone who keeps women out of computing

        I do. One of my colleagues ran a masterclass for 16-year-old children to study some computer science. The first year he ran it, he got over 90% boys. He asked the schools why this was and heard, from multiple teachers 'girls can't code'. The second year he said that the schools could send up to two students, but they had to send at least one girl if they sent anyone. Almost all of the schools still managed to send two students and there was no drop in quality.

        Another of my students, on receiving her offer to study computer science here, was told by one of her teachers 'oh, you probably weren't one of the best applicants, just one of the best girls' (as the person who reviewed her application, I can confirm that this was not the case).

        Do you honestly think that this kind of stated opinion from authority figures has no impact on teenage boys and girls?

        • And how are we going to change this by forcing women into STEM fields?

          • Oh hi Mr. Move the goalposts.

            Up thread, you said this:

            I have no idea where that notion comes from, I don't know anyone who keeps women out of computing.

            Now, of course instead of saying "oh thanks, now I do know", smoothly move the goalposts to "oh this won't help". Of course, by the next thread, you'll be back to your original claim.

            Thing is I know you're impervious to evidence because, you still haven't said anything like "looks like I was wrong" after claiming Sarkeesian fraudlently underdelivered when i

            • Oh hi, it's my biggest fan again, I was already worried for a moment that you didn't write for a week, how're you doing?

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      Your point only makes sense if you assume nothing has changed in the last ~50 years. Instead of asking questions which have already been answered, why don't you read the many reports describing precisely why some people believe women are being put off working in this sector? Your post has all the hallmarks of a sincere post, but the very fact you are posting it destroys the veneer of your objectivity. Plus you are talking about a single recording engineer. Just one. Amazing.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Most of the early computer programmers were women. Women got out of the computing world when it became more time consuming, abstracted and complex.

    • by gsslay ( 807818 )
      "She" is a member of the BBC staff who was there to do the recording for the "Children's Hour" radio programme. Mostly likely a professional broadcaster with a trained voice and an easy familiarity with the process.

      You're falling into the trap of assuming that broadcasting of the time was like modern day. 1951 did not put microphones under the noses of common people, who then responded naturally to such an alien object. The microphone was the property of the broadcaster, and she did the talking. You d

  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @05:13AM (#53009729) Journal
    I was expecting a simple sine wave or harsh square wave sound, but the sound is surprisingly pleasant. It sounds like someone practising the cello.
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @05:44AM (#53009825)

      Computers at the time used many analog parts. The Cello sound is because of the burst of power to create the note causing an attack sound. Similarly how the string is pulled a bit further by the bow until its tension outstrips the friction from the bow and starts to vibrate. combined with the sawtooth wave which is similar to a string instrument or a brass horn.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Also, computers back then were all vacuum tube. This gives the bits a warmer sound.

        • it was a rather lovely sound. Did enjoy the pun of "warmer". The laughter and when she said "machine" were the parts that made the discovery of the audio feel like I was there ( I can recall making audio with a TRS-80 at radio shack in 1981 or 82 with friends and that was considered amazing )

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        combined with the sawtooth wave which is similar to a string instrument or a brass horn.

        POKE 54276, 33

        • by TheSync ( 5291 )

          For the Commodore PET:

          POKE 59467,16 (turn on port for sound output use 0 to turn it off*)
          POKE 59466,octave (octave number, see below)
          POKE 59464,frequency (0 for no sound)

          • Holy Cow, I never thought I would see that code in my life again 1979 ish i think is when I saw my first PET, but I was Radio Shack tandy user until my c-64 that I still swear I paid 895.00 with all the options ( i still see 595.00 as the price quoted in wiki but 895 is what I can recall )

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's because it was recorded on an acetate disc. If it were an mp3, it would sound as harsh as you expected.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @06:23AM (#53009929) Journal

      I was expecting a simple sine wave or harsh square wave sound, but the sound is surprisingly pleasant

      Indeed it is! I did a stream rip and looked at the waveforms. Nothing especially obvious springs to mind. There's probably a deep analoge hack using valves now long lost to the midsts of time to make a digitally controlled oscillator with 1 pentode, 3 condensors and a bit of string.

  • thanks BoxRec, thanks slashdot
    how else would I get those news ?
    Inspiring, wonderful, thank you again
  • ... they didn't hide it as deeply as the bloggers did with the link in the article.
    • Even more lucky, they didn't bother to burden it with DRM that we'd first of all have to hack to hear it because there is no player in existence anymore, only to be arrested right afterwards.

  • It has that sort of sound quality you hear from people trying to recreate the Imperial March using floppy disk drives or printer carriages. Does anyone know what they were using for an actual sound output device? Was it a speaker or something else? Maybe like the floppy drive players it was something mechanical the computer could control that was being repurposed?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It was a speaker. From the last link in the summary:

      "The Manchester computer had a special instruction that caused the loudspeaker—Turing called it the 'hooter'—to emit a short pulse of sound, lasting a tiny fraction of a second. Turing said this sounded like 'something between a tap, a click, and a thump'. Executing the instruction over and over again resulted in this 'click' being produced repeatedly, on every fourth tick of the computer's internal clock: tick tick tick click, tick tick tick c

  • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @07:50AM (#53010269) Homepage

    Interesting how out of tune many of the notes sound. I wonder if that's due to not having fine enough control over the oscillator [wikipedia.org] or because the programmer didn't understand tempering?

    • Even Nintendo's NES has out of tune notes due to tehcnical limitations. Game developers had a choice of using a few wrong tones here and there, or designing music around the missing notes. Surprising, but it was that way.

    • Actually, based on my experience as an amateur piano tuner, it sounds like whatever they were using as a resonator to generate the sound initially started at one frequency, then changed frequencies slightly as the sound decayed. I frequently run across piano strings which do the same thing on the crappier/older pianos. They're a PITA because they sound bad no matter how you tune them. If you tune the initial (attack) frequency right, the decay frequency is wrong. If you tune the decay frequency right, t
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Flash is required for this. Oh, the irony.

  • It's saying I need Flash to play this. Really does seem like 1951.
  • The song would have been God save the King at the time, interesting to think that's how long ago it was made.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Unless it was addressed to Turing.

  • It occurs to me that in order to restore this recording they needed to read the notes of several people. How much of today's content is "on the web" that will be lost? Blog posts on a platform that is being retired and shutdown.

    Makes me think those printers that "print the web," the ones we scoffed at, might actually make sense.

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      Considering that it was _much_ better sounding than any general purpose (ie, not an audio produce like a keyboard synthesizer) computer music I heard before about 1987, yes.

      That said, they didn't do much justice to "In the Mood". It really was a great tune and needs a proper brass band to do it right.

  • Another golden oldie that inspired Kubrick when he filmed the HAL9000 "lobotomy" scene in 2001.

Slowly and surely the unix crept up on the Nintendo user ...

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