Listen to a 1950s computer playing Jingle Bells
A recording of one of the world’s oldest computers playing music has been recreated with a Christmas twist.
The Ferranti Mark I, housed at Alan Turing’s Computing Machine Laboratory in Manchester, took part in a Christmas performance in 1951, when it played music created from the sounds it used to emit.
Though no record was available on the songs played, Turing archive director Jack Copeland and composer Jason Long have recreated that performance with renditions of Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas.
The two reconstructions have been posted online and detailed in a blog post by the British Library.
The pair used notes from old recordings found of other songs the computer played to then reconstruct the Christmas songs.
They did have to be inventive however, as some of the notes required were absent from the selection of recordings they had, so the notes had to be manufactured – done so by calculating the frequency at which the Ferranti could generate the sound.
These new notes were pieced together with those they already had access to in order to build the final versions, which have been posted to Soundcloud.
“Slowly, the computer’s gutsy renditions of the carols reappeared,” Copeland and Long wrote in their blog post.
“Play them and enjoy! But beware of occasional dud notes. Because the computer chugged along at a sedate 4 kilohertz or so, hitting the right frequency was not always possible.
“It’s a charming feature of this early music — even if it does in places make your ears cringe.”