Bonus Item!
IBM 1403 Printer (1964) playing music.

IBM 1403 Printer (1964)
Song List
1403 Printer Ambient Noise 1403_ambient.mp3 [659KB]
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
In Excelsius Deo
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Born Free
Blue Danube Waltz


Original recording by Ron Mak.
X2077.2001, Gift of Ron Mak.



The IBM 1403 printer was noisy, but it could also be musical! Clever engineers figured out what line of characters to print to make a noise at a given pitch, and how many times to print that line repeatedly to sustain that pitch for a given duration. In other words, the printer could play musical notes.

All that was needed was a program for the IBM 1401 computer system that read in a deck of punched cards, each card containing a single note of melody, and then played the melody on the printer. The tempo could be adjusted using the sense switches on the computer console.

The songs here are from a performance recorded in about 1970 in the computer room of the Richmond (California) Unified School District,. The computer operators (whose voices can be heard on the original tape recording) made the recording by holding the microphone in front of the printer.




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