The beginnings of a photo album
This photo was taken in the old Winham Lab in 1981. We used to carry digital tapes here from the IBM mainframe across the street. This room was basically used just to listen to the results of computations. The fiendish grin on my face is probably due to the fact that I had to be crazy to do the things we used to do to make computer music.
Directly in back of me is the Hewlett Packard 2116 computer we used for D-A conversion. It had 64k memory, and no operating system (at least as we used it). The D-A program was loaded by paper tape. I believe the computer cost about $20,000 when it was bought in 1973 or so. It was the first computer HP made, I think. On top of the computer you can make out a fan. This was used to cool it down. In the mid 1970s the new tv show, NOVA, filmed part of an episode about bird song in the lab, involving an interview with a researcher who was synthesizing bird songs on the computer. The room got terrifically hot because of all the lights the crew brought in and the computer never recovered from the overload. (We frequently had to resort to opening thefront of the computer -- it was built like a refrigerator!) To the
right of the computer is an 800BPI vacuum column tape drive. These huge tapes stored about 8 minutes of signal, (probably the equivalent of about 4 minutes at 44k used today). (Out of the camera's view is a 1600 BPI drive. This stored twice as much sound!) To the left of the 2116 is a slightly newer HP computer. Mark Zuckerman and Godfrey Winham wrote a program called MOM (Music on Mini) which ran on this machine. To the left again, is a Scully 2 track tape machine, and in front of me are the smoothing filters, a variable pulse generator to set the sampling rate, a frequency counter, and a Heathkit amplifier Rick Cann built one summer. The lab closed down about two years later when we switched to using a PDP11/34 for conversion. We sold the HP machines to a scrap dealer. It's hard to imagine but everything in this room now fits into a portable CD player the size of your hand.
The room was deafeningly loud when all the equipment was turned on. Lights flashed and tape drives whirred and the music went round and round. When I was working on the Campion pieces I sometimes brought my son Jonah here after I picked him up at nursery school. He hid under the desk as his transmogrified mother's voice came out over the loudspeakers. I often wondered whether he suffered any kind of psychological distortions as a result of the experience.