Monday, 10 October 2016

tron/troff or pitch-perfect

Recently an archivist made a fascinating discovery in the form of the first programme, score of digital music from 1948. Cryptologist and polymath Alan Turing wrote the instructions to have his building-sized computer at a laboratory in Manchester perform God Save the King followed by a few other melodies.
While we do have some insight into the pragmatic drive for Turing to modify the mainframe to produce sound—wanting to untether himself from monitoring gauges and screens to check the status of a running programme, a B- of an F-note indicating whether the programme had concluded or ran into a logical glitch (the beep, bop, boop of vintage super-computers), so he could check for bugs elsewhere or attend to the engineering requirements of the hardware, we are sadly not privy to what Turing thought about electronic music or its potential, since for years Mister Turing was blacklisted and his contributions to computer science went unacknowledged.