Mainframe Music

The IBM 1401 Data Processing System has been called the „Model T” of the computer industry – the first affordable, mass produced digital business computer. Jóhann Gunnarsson, chief maintenance engineer for an 1401 in Iceland, learned of an obscure method of making music on this computer. The method was simple: The computer’s memory emitted strong electromagnetic waves and by programming the memory in a certain way and by placing a radio receiver next to it, melodies could be coaxed out. Jóhann Jóhannsson, an Icelandic musician, composer and producer, took the 30 year old recordings of the sound of the machine in operation, combined it with an audio instruction guide to the IBM 1403 Printer and made a record out of it. Sounds interesting? Check out „IBM 1401, a UserŽs Manual” by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

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