Music from vintage computers

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Chips on the tracks

Music from vintage computers at The National Museum of Computing

Modern music will soon be heard from some of the earliest and rarest computers in the world at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.

The project entitled Obsolete? is the brainchild of internationally renowned chip tune musician Matthew C Applegate (Pixelh8) and is being funded by the Performing Rights Society Foundation. It will culminate in a series of concerts at Bletchley Park on 20 and 21 March 2009.

Tickets now available -- booking is highly advisable because of the limited capacity of the venue, the Bletchley Park Mansion. See the video trailer! (large file). See and hear Pixelh8 on the TV and radio this month.

Matthew Applegate of Pixelh8 said: “The music of Obsolete? will be made from machines such as Colossus Mark 2, the rebuild of the world's first programmable electronic computer used for code breaking in World War II, the Elliot 803 from the 1960s, a giant machine with only 4k of memory, and of course some vintage favourites like the BBC Micro. This will be chip tune music unlike any ever produced before. It’s a fantastic privilege to work with such unique and rare computers. For me it is the chance of a lifetime.”

The machines that Matthew will be working with have been restored to full working order by volunteers and researchers at TNMOC.

Kevin Murrell, a director and trustee of TNMOC, explained: “Unlike synthesised computer music, the chip tune musical genre exploits the sounds directly made by computers. Even the earliest 1940’s computers could produce sounds -- usually a tone to indicate what they were doing. Very quickly astute operators started to alter tones and make tunes and manufacturers discovered that this was a way of making their machines less foreboding to customers. Computers began to be delivered with music programs as standard and when computer games became popular sounds and music from computers became de rigeur.

“Matthew’s project brings a new dimension to TNMOC – and we expect it to attract a new audience to the museum to learn about how technology has advanced so rapidly over recent decades to pervade our everyday lives. We are delighted with his initiative and the support from the PRS Foundation.”

Tony Sale, leader of the Colossus Mark 2 rebuild team and trustee of The National Museum of Computing, said: “Visitors to the Museum are mesmerised by the clunking and whirring of Colossus, but I never imagined that someone could make music from our rebuild of the world’s first electronic programmable computer. I think it’s brilliant and I’d like to know what the original codebreakers would have made of the idea. I suspect it would have appealed to their inventiveness and ingenuity, and their curiosity about that mysterious link between mathematics and music.”

Matthew Applegate hopes that this will be the first of many computer music related projects he will bring to the museum. In true Bletchley Park tradition, he cannot give more detail about Obsolete? just yet as it is classified information.

Notes to Editors

About The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, an independent charity, houses the largest collection of functional historic computers in Europe, including a rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer.

The Museum complements the Bletchley Park Trust’s story of codebreaking up to the Colossus and allows visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s. New working exhibits are regularly unveiled and the public can already view a rebuilt and fully operational Colossus, a working ICL 2900, one of the workhorse mainframes computers of the 1980s, and many of the earliest desktops of the 1980s and 1990s.

For more information, see www.tnmoc.org

Matthew C Applegate / Pixelh8

Internationally renowned chip tune musician Pixelh8 (pronounced Pixelhate) makes his music from reprogramming vintage computer systems such as the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Game Boy. His unique blend of Electronica has taken him across the globe, performing at Microdisco in Berlin, Apple iTunes in California, BBC Maida Vale Studios for Radio 1 in London, Assembly 2008 in Helsinki Finland and the Game In The City Festival in Holland.

In 2006 he won a MySpace competition to open for Grammy nominee Imogen Heap on her UK tour and in March 2008 he won Playback Album of the Month from Sound On Sound Magazine with his second album “The Boy With The Digital Heart”.

Pixelh8 has also created software like the Pixelh8 Music Tech Game Boy Synth and Pro Performer for other musicians including Imogen Heap and Damon Albarn.

Matthew C. Applegate also lectures and runs music and computer related workshops across the United Kingdom and is a mentor at the British Academy of New Music, London. Patron of the Access To Music Centre, Norwich, and is currently studying for his Masters at The Centre for Design Innovation, University Campus Suffolk. He is a STEMNET Science and Engineering Ambassador.

For more information on Pixelh8 visit www.pixelh8.co.uk and join the mailing. For more information on The National Museum of Computing visit www.tnmoc.org For more information on PRS Foundation visit www.prsfoundation.co.uk

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