Music History

The First-Ever Bit of Computer-Generated Music Ever Created Has Been Restored

Back in 1951, computers were room-sized things powered by hot, finicky vacuum tubes that required multiple people to program and operate. British computer scientist Alan Turing was in the middle of it all, creating the foundations of all the devices were have today.

Working at the Computing Manchester Laboratory in Manchester, Turing figured out how to get a computer to play a couple of tunes: “God Save the King,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller. Those computer performances were then transferred to an acetate disc, demonstrated a few times and then filed away.

When the disc was pulled out decades later, it was discovered that the audio was distorted and not anywhere near what Turing had his machine play. The good news is that scientists at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, got hold of the audio, tweaking and filtering it until it was returned to its original condition.

Turing served Britain well, but was persecuted by the government because he was gay. Depressed and suicidal, he killed himself by taking a bite out of an apple that he had laced with cyanide. And now you know what the Apple logo has a chomp taken out of it.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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