The IBM 7094 anticipated the future of music—and also sounded like the Auto-Tuned pop stars of today
When I was a senior in High School (1973-74) I took a course called “Probability, Statistics, and Computer Math.” During the class, we actually learned a bit of FORTRAN programming. Anyway, the county’s one computer available for students (a DEC PDP 1120 or something like that) was located in our school, so we got more chances to play with it.
One of the county IT guys had found out that the radio interference that a computer generates could be controlled in such a way that if a radio was placed on top of the computer, the interference could be made to play recognizable musical notes. He explained to us how to encode a song to be played on the computer (hint, it involved lots of 80 column punch cards). The computer could only “play” one note at a time (unlike the IBM playing “Daisy”), but it was still was kind of mind-boggling. I was learning to play the guitar at the time, so I had a bunch of sheet music and songbooks. So I and some other musically-inclined friends encoded several songs for the computer. The teachers ended up playing some of them for the PTA during one of their meetings (no doubt to generate excitement and budget dollars for the computer classes).
Obviously our little musical gimmick paled in comparison to the “Daisy” effort, which was a dozen years earlier. But to a bunch of high school kids it was an eye-opening introduction to what people like us, as opposed to those folks who worked in the climate-controlled, raised-floor, restricted-access world that we thought of as computing, would eventually be able to do.
My guess is Kubrick figured HAL'S voice would have been more natural sounding than the relatively crude sounding synthetic voice of the IBM computer by the time of the setting of the events depicted in "2001."
Additionally, if I'm not mistaken, IBM, at one point in the production, withdrew their participation in Kubrick's film due to reservations about Kubrick's depiction of their products. I believe this resulted in Kubrick having to remove IBM's logos and all direct references to IBM from the finished film.
I'm sorry, although music is a mathematical thing, it has spiritual roots. Computer generated music (and lyrics) will never touch the soul. Just stating my opinion. Argue all you want.
I remember hearing a recording of the computer generated singing back in the early ‘70’s, courtesy of my 7th grace music teacher. He also taught us the second verse to the song.
‘Michael, Michael, here is your answer true.
You’re half crazy if you think that will do.
If you can’t afford a carriage
There won’t be any marriage
For I’ll be switched
If I’ll get hitched
On a bicycle built for two.’
Great story - I started working on and with mainframes in 1974, a bit after the time setting of this story, but those were great days to be in the computer biz. Machines as big as a truck, rooms full of disc drives, and all of that computing power is now exceeded by a phone. Amazing what has happened in just my lifetime.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. And quit pulling out my memory elements - this is getting serious!
I just do Not understand the desperation that some humans seem to feel for creating something that already exists - Humans/Clones/Computer music / Artificial vocals / so-called Ai / etc etc.
Why the utter desperation of creating all this stuff ? So we can go "Gee Mom, look what I did". How about wasting all this time, money & energy on creating a better world, a better life for all, saving our asses from all our mistakes ... the list goes on & on. But no - here we are, wasting massive time & energy on creating stuff that already exists. It is absolutely stupid to what I see & a huge waste of Human resources.
Hal will get his revenge. Soon
I love that you unearthed the fact that author Arthur C. Clarke was so cutting edge that he visited a computer lab to guide his sci-fi writing! Man, if I'd known a musicologist could write about such cool stuff, maybe I would have stuck with it! But, really, I don't regret my several careers in violin retail . . . .
Once again, the original’s always better than the cover!
Amazed by the forward-thinking of the Bell Labs team
Open the pod bay door HAL!
I loved the connection to "2001." I think of music boxes as the first "computerized" music. The pins and no-pins configuration are essentially 1s and zeros, and sounds like the pitch perfect, albeit low-fidelity, music that is dominate among pop music (I am so glad to have grown up in the 60's & 70's and can still find current music of that ethos! Sorry to be that guy.)
Kier Dullea said that, on set, HAL’s lines were read out by the assistant director, who sounded like Michael Caine.
" . . . the closest equivalent might have been the corny megaphone fad of the 1920s, which found Rudy Vallée and others using this crude means of amplification on records and live performance."
Technically speaking, a megaphone is not an amplifier, as it has no power source. Uh, that would negate Newton's 3rd law (as I recall his numbers from memory). A megaphone simply focuses the sound toward the direction you point it. No "gain" is involved. It ain't an amp . . .
On a brighter note, have ya'll noted that "H-A-L" for the 9000 Series Computer is a transposition of "I-B-M" by exactly one letter? Kubrick denied this parallelism, but I suspect he may have possibly foreseen the possibility of litigation from Big Blue . . . as HAL was definitely a bad boy.
My favorite bicycle built for two story involved two friends of mine. One had been blind since childhood. They went bicycling through Europe one summer on a bicycle built for two. Totally brilliant.
(I can't find a reference, but there was at least one science fiction short story from that era where a computer became a man's rival for a woman's attention. Eventually, the computer gave up and left them a wedding gift, so this sort of thing was probably in the air.)
Interesting post considering I'm reading Chuck Wendig's Wayward right now