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How Far Has Computerised Music Come

Jun 21, 2008
Research suggests that an average of 800 tracks are illegally making up every mp3 owners music download total. The claim is that it is the younger generation who are responsible as the study that revealed these findings was carried out on 14 to 24 year olds. Up to half of those surveyed admitted to sharing all the music on their hard drive allowing friends to copy up to 10,000 songs at a time.

These figures are gleaned from the fact that the average digital music player holds 1,770 songs and almost half of these are copied - illegal music downloads. For those aged 14 - 17, the incidence rose to 61 per cent and then at least one in seven of their CD's also being copies.

A different, and perhaps the largest study of music download trends put the incidents of illegal copying of one form or another at 96 per cent. In an attempt to overcome this type of theft, record companies are attempting to encourage internet service providers to introduce new subscription based music services.

Maybe if the younger generation had nothing but the earliest form of computerised music to listen to they may hold back from stealing this type of music download.

The oldest known recordings of computer generated music have been unveiled in the form of a recording of Baa Baa Black Sheep and a version of In The Mood from the BBC that were recorded in the autumn of 1951 during a visit to the University of Manchester. Paul Doornbusch, a computer music composer and historian at the New Zealand School of Music believes it's the earliest recording in the world of a computer playing music.

The previous oldest recordings were from Bell Labs in the US in 1957 on an IBM mainframe computer and this was when and where computer music really took off but neither of the above were truly the first to have computer music. This accolade goes to a machine called CSIRAC, Australia's first digital computer, which treated its audience to a rendition of Colonel Bogey. It is thought this computerised music was heard months in advance of the Manchester recording but it can't be found and therefore can't be proved.

So, the earliest genuine record stays with the BBC whose outside broadcasting team had been at the University to record an edition of Children's Hour.
Manchester was then home to the Ferranti Mark 1 which was the first commercially available general purpose computer. Word spread that this new fangled piece of technology could play music and a program was written, some say for playing chess that would be rounded off with a rendition of God Save The King but others insist the program was purely for playing music.

The recording of the Baa Baa Black Sheep is on acetate disc and makes for an interesting slice of history as the other conversations going on in the room at the same time can be heard also.

Manchester is happy to boast the fact that they are the centre of the computer generation. Baby was the label given to the forerunner of the Ferranti Mark 1 and was the first computer with the ability to hold memory and store programs. This memory was constructed from a Cathode Ray Tube and enabled scientists to program 1024 bits - which shows how far we have come with the billions of bits in today's computers.
About the Author
Music expert Catherine Harvey looks at the way music downloads have progressed since the early computers.
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