Vinyl Data

One strategy that major record companies have been employing lately to deter downloading is adding bonus
computer content to new CD releases. I recently discovered that this technique is not unique to CD’s, but had in fact been practiced in the
vinyl era as well. That’s right: there were a handful of records released in the late 70′s and early 80′s that contained computer programs as part of the audio. This is totally insane, and totally great.

Most of these programs were written for the Sinclair Spectrum home computer series. The Sinclair Spectrum was a relatively cheap home computer system that used a television set as a monitor and loaded programs from tapes. It thrived in England in the early 80′s:

     ”If the PC is the great electronic product of the 1990′s, the Sinclair Spectrum was the great electronic product of the 1980′s. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum (nicknamed the Speccy) was invented by Sir Clive Sinclair, a British Inventor.”

In the case of these programs on vinyl, the user would have to play back the proper portion of the record, record the resultant chatter to tape, and load the tape into the spectrum. Some users have mentioned playing certain games so much that they could recognise the loading sounds.

Photo by Iñaki Quenerapú

The Spectrum is emulated, so you can download the data files and an emulator and view the programs / play these games. Failing that, you can play most of these games directly in your browser (provided you have java enabled). All of the data files are available in the archive at worldofspectrum.org, and there are tons of emulators available for both the PC and mac (I used Spectaculator for Windows and Fuse for OS X).

The most ordinary of these vinyl-encoded programs are purely informational. Inner City Unit, a spinoff from Hawkwind, released an album called ‘New Anatomy’ in 1984. The last song on side two – ‘Hectic Electric’ consists of the audio pulses of a program that can be recorded to cassette and loaded into a 48k Sinclair Spectrum. When run, the program reportedly displays “a comprehensive description of the band, their recordings and tour schedules, etc.” I was unable to find this program data online, but the track has been included on the CD reissue.

Nik Turner's Inner City Unit - 'New Anatomy'

Similar, though slightly more involved was a program included on a record called ‘XL-1′ by Pete Shelly, former leader of The Buzzcocks, in 1983. The last song on the record – ‘ZX Spectrum Code’ – contains the audio pulses of a computer program for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Again, the technically savvy listener was expected to copy the audio to tape and “play” it to their home computer. When properly input, the program was to be run while listening to the rest of the album.

Pete Shelley - 'XL-1'

If all of the above was executed properly, the program displayed rudimentary graphics and printed lyrics in time with the music for the duration of the album. Only the U.K. pressings of the album have this track. There’s a silent lockgroove before ‘ZX Spectrum Code’ so you can’t play it by accident (and deafen yourself). I’ve only found mention of one poor soul who has claimed to have successfully accomplished this feat – they mentioned it tangentially in a newgroup posting. If you have any further information, please contact me.

A gigantic step up from encoded text files were actual games included in the grooves of records. In 1984, The Thompson Twins released ‘The Thompson Twins Adventure Game’ in both regular vinyl and flexi disc formats.

Twins

This one has survived the ravages of time and is available for download online. You can play it in your web browser by clicking this link. The game is a bizarre text-based adventure in which you guide the Thompson Twins around a land of beaches and caves. If you didn’t grow up playing these games, in which you have to keep a map on paper and guess which key verbs the programmers used for certain actions, you may find it a bit frustrating. I poked around a little, but I haven’t played it enough to see how it ends. If you go north from the first screen, the Thompson Twins drown en masse. As always, the British say it best:

     ”And, what a surprise, having deafened my family recording it onto tape on our dodgy stereo, when the game finally worked, it was crap. Bloody stupid Eighties floppy haired inumerate Chesterfield talentless ponces.”

Twins
Twins

Another spectrum game included on vinyl was found on the B-side of Chris Sievey’s ‘Camouflage’ 7″ single. The game is called ‘Flying Train’ and was coded by Sievey himself. It’s a pretty horrible game, notable only for the explosions, which throw a stickfigure engineer from the wreckage of the train.

Twins

You can download ‘Flying Train’ here, or play the game in your browser by clicking this link. Note that the instructions will ask you to hit ‘Cyan’ to begin, and no matter what you hit you’ll get an error. I’ve found that hitting the ‘C’ key three or four times at that point gets you by to a screen where you enter your last name, and you can proceed from there.

So who was this guy who wrote computer game B-sides to his pop singles? Chris Sievey led 80′s new wave popsters The Freshies. According to one newsgroup poster, “the most interesting fact (possibly the only interesting fact) about The Freshies is that all their instruments and equipment were painted pink. This is true.”

Twins

This history of the Freshies, from the liner notes of their greatest hits album is an
entertaining read. They had mild success with one single: “I’m In Love With The Girl At The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk” (which later had its name changed to “I’m In Love With The Girl At A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk”).

     ”Sievey and Ryan approached the one record company not to be featured in Sievey’s expanding rejection folder, MCA. A licensing deal was swiftly completed, and ‘I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Check Out Desk’ spent a solid thirteen weeks on the Radio One playlist, remaining stubbornly in position throughout the heavily enladen Christmas chart and selling
over 40,000 copies. With dark and cruel irony however, a postal strike prevented the chart return statistics from the north of England from
reaching the central computing heart of London. Despite this agonisingly frustrating setback (The Freshies really wouldn’t have been The Freshies without being constantly blighted by such surreal slabs of plain bad luck), the band remained on stand-by, literally, with all the equipment stacked in the back of a Transit van for Top Of The Pops on three separate occasions, while the single bobbed and dipped with infuriating uncertainty.”

“I’m In Love With The Girl At The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk” ended up on a soundtrack cassette to a Spectrum game called ‘The Biz’. This game wasn’t included on a vinyl release, but it too was coded by none other than Chris Sievey, and can easily be seen as a sort of venting of his frustrations with the music industry.

The player inputs information such as name, band name, class, and hometown to begin the game. From then on, the ‘band’ is offered a dizzying array of options, all affecting variables used to determine your ‘Overall Star Rating.’ Players must schedule each week’s shows and rehearsals; hire managers; record, press and market singles; film videos; and pay attention to what genres the kids are buying on the weekly charts. I ended up playing it for way too long when I ‘tried it out.’ You can download ‘The Biz’ here, or play the game in your browser by clicking this link.

Twins
Twins

Sievey ended up making a living wearing a paper mache head, playing a character called Frank Sidebottom. Frank Sidebottom was originally conceived by Sievey as the Freshies’ number one fan, but he soon grew to be infamous in his own right (Or so I’m told, I’d never heard of him). He’s apparently released albums under the name, and become something of a celebrity soccer (football) fan.

Twins

Rockabilly revivalist Shakin’ Stevens – one of the best-selling artists in Europe in the late ’80s – also had a Spectrum game included on a vinyl release. ‘The Shaky Game’ is variously reported to have been included as the B-side of the ‘This Ole House’ single, and at the end of side 2 of “The Bop Won’t Stop” album, possibly both.

Twins

The program audio is preceeded by a message from Shakin’ Stevens himself, explaining the concept to less computer literate fans. The goal of ‘The Shaky Game’ is to drive Shakin’ Stevens’ car to the center of a maze while avoiding bats, who bite you.

Twins
Twins

You can download ‘The Shaky Game’ here, or play it in your browser by clicking this link.

Though not released on Vinyl, the cassette version of The Stranglers’ ‘Aural Sculpture’ album included the audio pulses of a game called ‘Aural Quest.’ The game, a text adventure in which you controlled the band’s tour manager, was written by their Keyboard
player, Dave Greenfield.

Twins

From the newsgroups:

     ”Sorry, Mr. Greenfield, if you read this, but it’s true..the game’s so bad I took my copy of Aural Sculpture back to the shop to exchange for the version without the game on the end of the tape (which they had to order specially!)..it just wasn’t worth the aggro of falling to sleep with the tape on and being woken by a Spectrum 48k loading noise!”

Twins

You can download the file here or play it in your browser by clicking this link. There’s a walkthrough here.

There’s a bit of Spectrum audio code in the song ‘Thank You’ on Scottish band Urusei Yatsura‘s ‘Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura’ album, released on their own Oni records. Successfully importing the code produces a program that, when run, displays the following screen:

Twins

Examining the source for the program reveals the following comments:

“Hi Nick, is Robin there?”

“Judas Priest Satanic Message #3″

“What is sadder: a.) finding this b.) writing it”

Twins

You can download the file here.

The last song on side two of ‘Peace and Love Inc’ by 80′s synth popsters Information Society is an approximately three minute long modem transmission.

Information Society - 'Peace and Love, INC'

The title of the song – ’300bps N, 8, 1 (Terminal Mode or ASCII Download)’ – gives all necessary information for importing the message. The message revealed upon playing the transmission into a properly configured computer is:

     ”SO WE’RE SUPPOSED TO PLAY IN CURITIBA IN 18 HOURS, BUT OUR BUS IS BEING HELD HOSTAGE BY THE LOCAL PROMOTERS. THEY’VE FORMED SOME UNHOLY ALLIANCE WITH THE BRAZILIAN COUNTERPART OF ASCAP; THE PRS. APPARANTLY THE PRS HAS THE LEGAL POWER TO ARREST PEOPLE, AND THEY WANT A PIECE OF THE NATIONAL TOUR PROMOTER’S MONEY. THE LOCAL SECURITY FORCE, “GANG MEXICANA”, HAS BEEN BOUGHT OUT FOR 1800 CRUZADOS AND A CARTON OF MARLBOROS EACH. THE ONLY FACTION STILL OPERATING IN OUR DEFENSE IN “BIG JOHN”, OUR PERSONAL SECURITY MAN, AND HE’S HIDING IN HIS ROOM BECAUSE A LOCAL GANG IS OUT FOR HIS BLOOD BECAUSE OF A 1982 KNIFING INCIDENT IN WHICH HE WAS INVOLVED. OUR 345-POUND ROAD MANAGER, RICK ONLY HAD THIS TO SAY: “YOU WANTED THE LIFE OF A ROCK STAR!”. PAUL, JIM AND I REALIZED THAT THIS WAS ONE SITUATION WE WERE GOING TO HAVE TO GET OUT OF OURSELVES.

WE CONVENED A HASTY CONFERENCE IN THE NOVOTEL LOBBY. PAUL SUGGESTED CONTACTING OUR NATIONAL TOUR PROMOTER IN SAO PAULO, BUT WE REMEMBERED THAT HE WAS IN RECIFE WITH FAITH NO MORE, WHO HAD JUST ARRIVED FOR THEIR BRAZILIAN TOUR. WE THOUGHT ABOUT CONTACTING OUR BRAZILIAN RECORD COMPANY IN RIO, BUT THEY WEREN’T HOME. OUR EVER-DILIGENT AMERICAN MANAGER WAS ARRANGING HELP OF NUMEROUS FORMS, BUT HE WAS IN NEW YORK, AND JUST TOO FAR AWAY TO GET ANYTHING MOVING IN TIME.

AND THERE WERE 6000 KIDS IN CURITIBA WHO JUST WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND.

WE KNEW IT WAS TIME FOR ACTION. PAUL WENT UP TO THE PRS GUYS AND INVITED THEM INTO THE BAR TO DISCUSS IT LIKE CIVILIZED MEN OVER A FEW BRAZILIAN DRINKS, OFFERING EACH OF THEM A CIGAR ON HIS WAY. THE AMUSED PRS HEAVIES SEEMED
TO LIKE THE IDEA OF A FEW FREE DRINKS, EVEN IF THEY KNEW THEY WOULD NEVER GIVE US OUR BUS BACK. WHEN PAUL WINKED AT JIM AND I ON HIS WAY IN, WE WENT INTO ACTION.

I STOLE OFF TO MY ROOM TO PREPARE WHILE JIM WENT INTO ACTION. CREEPING CAREFULLY THROUGH A SERVICE DUCT, HE MANAGED TO GAIN A VANTAGE POINT SOME THREE METERS ABOVE THE BUS, AND DROPPED CAREFULLY ONTO THE ROOF. AFTER USING HIS ALL-PURPOSE SWISS ARMY KNIFE (AFFECTIONATELY KNOWN AS THE “SKIT KNIFE”) TO JIMMY OPEN THE ROOF HATCH, HE WENT THROUGH THE DARKENED INSIDE OF THE BUS AND REMOVED THE INSIDE ENGINE SERVICE PANEL. USING SOME SPARE ELECTRONIC PARTS HE FOUND WHILE ON AN ISLAND IN THE AMAZON, HE WIRED THE ENTIRE BUS FOR REMOTE CONTROL, NOT UNLIKE A REMOTE CONTROL TOY CAR.

AT THIS POINT, HE ASKED HIMSELF “NOW HOW SHALL I GET OUT OF HERE?!?”

PAUL WAS HAVING DIFFICULTIES OF HIS OWN.

“COULDN’T YOU SEE YOUR WAY CLEAR TO LETTING US FULFILL OUR CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS IN CURITIBA? THINK OF THE KIDS!”

THROUGH OUR TRANSLATOR, FABIO, THE PRS MAN, ALDO, SAID:

“NO. YOU AMERICANS THINK YOU OWN THE WORLD. HAH! WE’LL BURN DOWN OUR RAIN FOREST IF WE DAMN WELL PLEASE. WE NEED ROOM FOR COWS!! WE WANT A MACDONALD’S ON EVERY… OH, SORRY, YES ANYWAY, NO. WE NEED 40% OF YOUR CONCERT
RECEIPTS TO GIVE TO DAVID BOWIE.” HE SAID, WINKING TO THE LOCAL PROMOTER, PHILLIPE.

AS PAUL CONTINUED THIS ELABORATE DISTRACTION, JIM EFFECTED AN ESCAPE FROM THE HEAVILY GUARDED BUS BY CRAWLING DOWN INTO THE CARGO BAY, CUTTING A HOLE IN THE FLOOR WITH THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE’S ARC-WELDER, SLIPPING INTO THE MANHOLE COVER SITUATED UNDER THE BUS, AND WALKING UP INTO THE HOTEL’S BASEMENT FROM THERE. JIM CALLED UP TO ME IN MY ROOM AND GAVE THE SIGNAL. WE WERE NOW TO MEET AT THE BACK ENTRANCE, WITH OUR TECH GUYS. BUT FIRST, PAUL WOULD NEED SOME HELP GETTING AWAY FROM HIS UNWELCOME GUESTS, AS THINGS WERE GETTING UGLY.

“HE SAYS HE HAS LOST HIS PATIENCE, AND THAT HE CAN THINK OF OTHER WAYS OF EXACTING PAYMENT FROM YOU KURT AND JIM PHYSICALLY.” OUR TREMBLING INTERPRETER SAID.

THE MOMENT HAD COME. JIM BEGAN OPERATING THE BUS FROM HIS BACK ENTRANCE VANTAGE POINT. AS THE REMOTE-CONTROLLED BUS LURCHED TOWARDS THE PARKING LOT EXIT, THE SUPERSTITIOUS SECURITY YOUTHS FLED IN TERROR. PAUL WAS PULLING ANXIOUSLY ON HIS COLLAR AS THE PRS MAN BEGAN DESCRIBING HIS COLLECTION OF WORLD WAR II NAZI CERIMONIAL KNIVES WHEN A SUDDEN CRASH SPLIT THE TABLEAU.

JIM HAD PURCHASED ME THE GIFT OF A COMPLETE BLACK NINJA STEALTH ASSASSIN OUTFIT IN ARACAJU. I HAD BEEN GEARING UP AND CRAWLING THROUGH THE AIR CONDITIONING DUCTS ALL THIS TIME. AS I CRASHED THROUGH THE CHEAP IMITAION-STYROFOAM HUNG CEILING TILES, SKATES FIRST, I FLASHED NINJA STARS ALL ABOUT ME. IN THE ENSUING PANIC, PAUL ESCAPED TO THE PRE-ARRANGED BUS PICK-UP POINT. UNFORTUNATLEY, MY SKATES WERE A POOR CHOICE OF FOOT GEAR FOR ESCAPING OVER THE BROKEN GLASS. OF THE TABLE I HAD LANDED ON. WERE IT NOT FOR THE CONFUSION AND THE NINJA-STAR-INFLICTED WOUNDS DELIVERED TO THE BAD GUYS, I WOULD HAVE BEEN SET UPON WHILE FOUNDERING ON THE GLASS-STREWN CARPET. AS IT HAPPENED, HOWEVER, I LEAPT THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR OF THE CAREENING BUS AS IT DEPARTED THE CITY OF MARINGA FOREVER.

IF ONLY WE HAD MANAGED TO GET OUR EQUIPMENT IN THE BUS, TOO . . .

EVERY WORD OF THIS STORY IS TRUE.

- KURT HARLAND

Japanese composer and synthesizer expert Isao Tomita released an LP called ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ on RCA records in 1979. A paragraph on the sleeve says “Each side of this Lp contains coded data in the form of sound effects. The message can be recovered if the electrical signal from the Lp is interfaced with the input of a micro computer programmed to the Tarbel system.” I found the decoded messages on Tomita’s site:

Side A: “THIS IS THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, OVER. SLOW DOWN. TARGET 50 MILES OFF SOUTH FLORIDA, A GIANT PYRAMID AT OCEAN BOTTOM.”

Isao Tomita - 'The Bermuda Triangle'

Side B: “THIS IS THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, OVER. LOOK OUT! THE CYLINDRICAL OBJECT JUST LIKE THE ONE EXPLODED OVER SIBERIA AND CRASHED INTO TUNGUSKA IN 1908, HAS JUST COME INTO THE SOLAR SYSTEM.”

Amazing. Tomita appends the following comments to his notes on the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ album:

     ”Ocean explorers have found scientific evidence that a collosal pyramind – more immense than any other known – sits beneath the sea in the Devil’s Triangle. Sonar tracing reveals massive and symmetrical structure. Says author Charles Berlitz: “I believe we have found a pyramid where Atlantis may have existed!”. Pyramid as shown in artist’s sketch is in 1,200 feet of water and reaches incredible height of 780 feet. Undersea researcher found it 50 miles off South Florida.”

A few others that I haven’t found many details on:

  • A Space Invaders clone on the B-side of the ‘Google’ single by Atomic Robo Kid. ‘
  • Polish group Papa Dance released a 12″ called ‘Ponizej krytyki’ in 1987. It contained a program in two parts. The program was info about the group and some kind of quiz.
  • “Carter USM put a program at the start of a song on thier “101 Damnations” album. ‘A Perfect Day to Drop the Bomb’. It starts with about 15 seconds worth of loading screeches. It’s just code, though (the blue and yellow bit), with no header, so you can’t load it in, unless you know what you’re doing.”

Other Articles in this ‘Series:’

52 Comments

  1. Great info -

    The 8-Bit Constuction Set did something similar with their record.

    some info is here:

    http://beigerecords.com/artists/8bitcs.html

    (scroll down to the bottom for the data part)

    and here

    http://www.petitemort.org/issue01/02.shtml

    (I think he gets into it on the second page)

  2. Alan Trewartha

    March 18, 2004 at 5:23 am

    check google groups “carter usm spectrum” and you’ll find all sorts of inconclusive stuff about what that code might be on 101 Damnations. “Geoff Capes Strongman” comes out as a strong contender!

  3. AFAIK that burst of code on the Carter USM album is just standard SMPTE Timecode (which, admittedly, sounds remarkably like Spectrum data). SMPTE is used to synchronise hardware devices to a multitrack tape machine. One track of the multitrack reel is “striped” (i.e. incremental code is recorded onto that track) and compatible devices (sequencers etc.) can read that code to determine where in the song the tape is, what tempo the song is at, etc.

  4. Sorry forgot to add – this is why there’s no header. SMPTE just goes straight to data.

  5. A FLock Of Seagulls had a BBC B Microcomputer “video” on a B-side, I remember it being demoed on Saturday Superstore.

  6. Nice, but Commodore 64 will always be better / cooler than the Spectrum.

  7. “Nice, but Commodore 64 will always be better / cooler than the Spectrum.”

    The above comment distills, I think, the very essence of the geek nature. I find that essential techie inability to see the forest for the trees to be so very endearing. <3

  8. Cool! I saw your page described on Boing Boing and thought “I bet they haven’t got the Inner City Unit New Anatomy spectrum program (“load it don’t hold it”). And… well, I was right, but at least you know it exists.

    I’ve had that record nearly 20 years and still haven’t seen what the program does.

  9. There’s more on the Pete Shelley XL-1 program here – http://www.headen.com/XL1.htm – written by the programmer. He also has versions of the original and an improved version of the program in emulator format – just email him ;-)

  10. I have one by “Kissing the Pink”

    It’s a 12″ record and the program on the B side is for the BBC Micro. It produces visuals to go along with the music.

    It’s in storage atm. and I’m off out for breakfast.
    I might dig it out later for the details.

  11. I have a 12″ with ZX code on one side and music on the other – it’s by a band called la lu lu’s – does anyone know anything about this?

  12. This is amazing. Almost unbelievable. Please keep a running discography of all known Sprectrum-enhanced recordings. Wow.

  13. This is incredible. I’ve actually had an import copy of XL-1 for years and had no idea that was hidden on there.

  14. Jason Rainbows

    March 19, 2004 at 4:37 pm

    What about Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music”?

    The whole 2 record set sounded like machine code (as I recall)!

  15. The Stranglers keyboardist is Dave Greenfield, not Mark as you have stated above. Fascinating article, thanks.

  16. Radiohead’s Let Down (off OK Computer) has ZX Spectrum beeps in it. I think it’s just programmed music from the thing though, not an encoded program or anything.

  17. It’s all very nice but the Commodore 64 is way cooler

  18. Also check out Jega’s album “Spectrum”, has a song called Manic Minor !!

    Hacked Speedlock when I was a kid. Great fun.

  19. Wonderful. And here I was thinking that bonus PC material was developed with the advent of the CD-ROM; how wrong I was!

  20. In a strange inversion… some games tapes used to come with music on the other side. It was terrible.

    See http://www.stairwaytohell.com/music/bonustracks.html

  21. Hey I bought the magazine with the Thompson Twins adventure game on it at age 11 … and it never bloody worked!

    Thanks for the link. Can’t believe I spent so long rerecording that foul noise again and again (to no avail) for such a bunch of arse!

  22. Another of the “Saturday Superstore”-demo’d tracks, I seem to remember, was from Art Of Noise. I don’t remember the name of the track (it was very mechanical/electronic, Dummm—Dummmm, DaDumDumDumDum Dummm—-. Dummm— Dummm— Dummm. La La Laaaah) but they definitely had a BBC Micro in the background, animating to the music.

  23. Quote: “I seem to remember, was from Art Of Noise. I don’t remember the name of the track (it was very mechanical/electronic, Dummm—Dummmm, DaDumDumDumDum Dummm—-. Dummm— Dummm— Dummm. La La Laaaah).”

    Sounds like “Close (To the Edit)” from 1984.

  24. I have actually got the Thompson Twins record !!
    Seeing it here reminded me !!
    Cor bet its worth loads of money ! (NOT!)
    Spectrums were proper Bo ! C64s had better sound but the currah microspeech sorted it !
    Oh I feel all old now !! 34 is not old but…
    Wkd site!

  25. Ha! Great read. My friend just passed me this link. I released a dance record in the mid nineties with spectrum data on it. And up until now I was unaware that anyone else had included promotional Spectrum data on vinyl (I even promoted it as ‘the first’ at the time). The record was BrainFuel 2 on PH1 Records, I used to program the Speccy when I was very young, then a number of years later I released the BrainFuel series. ‘multimedia’ was the buzz word of the time so I decided to dust off my old spectrum manual and make a “vinyl multimedia” release.
    My spectrum programing was pretty crap, and all it was (as far as i remember) was a promotion for the next BrainFuel release.
    A surprising amount of people took the effort of loading it into their old Spectrums though, I felt a bit embarrassed as I kinda never thought anyone would bother, and so never put much effort into it as I could.
    I thought about doing a sequel with modem data, but i’m not sure it’s technically possible due to the information handshaking that goes on, anyone?

  26. Great site!

    One correction on the Information Society track – another line after where you have it end reads “NO CARRIER” (quotes mine.)

    Al least, it would have if some clueless record engineer hadn’t performed a standard musical “fade out” on the track. Thanks to that, the finished product usually ends with “NO CAR”.

    Information Society also did this on the next album, “Don’t Be Afraid.” The album’s final track, “White Roses 1.0 300 8-N-1,” was a modem-tone transmission of a text file as above, which provided hints that fans connected to the early Internet (in 1997) could download a wav file of the track. These fans were encouraged to share the track freely, making Information Society possibly the first band to do that.

    The track is as follows:

    —Begin Transmission—-

    For reasons that will become obvious when you hear it, the song “White Roses” is not found on this disc. This is just an audio recording of a modem spitting out this text. “White Roses” is, however, an actual InSoc song, and you CAN obtain it. It will not be easy. You must use your web browser to access the following document:

    http://InSoc.org/rose.htm

    When it asks you for a user ID and password, enter the following:

    userid – roses

    password – barbara

    This will bring you to the next step. When and if you ever succeed in obtaining this 10th InSoc song, it will be YOUR responsibility to make copies of the song and distribute it to other people. Feel free to charge money for it, if you can. Spread the song around as much as you can.

    Good luck.
    2±^U&

  27. Bill, the Art of Noise were using the Fairlight CMI, one of the first commercially available samplers which famously cost about 20 grand at the time.

    I remember seeing six of them playing a Fairlight EACH on top of the pops – show offs or what?! They had a black and green monitor with a light pen and would usually be seen with a 3D spectrum analysis bobbing about on screen.

    Kate Bush was another early adopter.

    More info: http://www.obsolete.com/120_years/machines/fairlight/

  28. Then there is of course the more recent case of Aphex Twin including a picture of himself on thew Windowlicker EP, as detailed in Wired here:
    http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,52426,00.html

    matt

  29. I found this little intro to a link to this site, interesting:

    Few people know that “modem” stands for “modulate/demodulate” — and only true geeks actually know what that means. It’s a description of how modems work: They take digital data and turn all the 1s and 0s into sound, so that it can be transmitted over an audio device like a phone. Back in the early days of computers, when nobody had hard drives, the only way to save a program was to actually shove it out your computer’s modem and store it on a cassette tape as sound. Back when I was a kid, I used to occasionally “listen” to the programs I had stored on a tape, to see if I could actually hear any patterns in the data.

  30. Actually no, the sounds recorded on data cassettes were not modem tones, nor did they come from a modem. Close though.

  31. does anybody know if kraftwerk did this? any of their songs are ideal for this kind of trick

  32. Some machines did use modem tones to save to tape, the Tandy Model 100 notably. You had to buy an extra cable to connect it to a phone line but the hardware was all there.

    Once in a while I debate grabbing one to use as a portable terminal. But then I realize now my phone has a computer built into it rather than building a phone into a computer.

  33. Anyone but me remember Radio One (I think..) actually broadcasting Spectrum software? I remember at least twice trying to patch the radio into the computer and it almost worked. Probably we were expected to tape the thing and load it later but I was too impatient…..

  34. Great stuff! I’m extremely nostalgic for the Spectrum. It still seems amazing to me that the entire computer can be compressed into one Java applet which runs within a webpage!

  35. Super! I’m extremely nostalgic for the Spectrum also.

  36. Hi there, I played in Inner City Unit for the NewAnatomy album (their/our worst) and am the person responsible for the data track, the main things I remember about it are: it was 48k to the byte long, there was a competition to win the acetates of the album on it but no-one entered (I still have the acetates), we mastered the data track straight onto the record lathe from the spectrum itself, there was no tape between the computer and the record. I’ve managed to get it running on Spectrum emulators on the PC in the pat, but don’t have a copy any more, I’ll have another go at it and if I get it working I’ll send you a copy. It was really just glorified sleeve notes, lyrics, a guide to the best on the road food places, a lightshow, band history etc..
    Oh, and if people looked at the source it had a postal address for more goodies.. but alas, no-one found that either :) (useless now, I’ve moved..) oh, and the track was submitted to the PRS as “Electronic music, avant garde” so I could collect publishing on it! Thanks for including us, -Steve

  37. I believe that Information Society’s “HACK” album also contained an encoded track in the same format… but I don’t really remember.

    Their original CD had CD+G graphics, which were really cute, unfortunately the reissues don’t include this, which really sucks.

  38. Bah. My Atari 800 > your C-64. That is all.

  39. Very intresting,however one small gripe.
    The Stranglers keyboard player, is Dave
    Greenfield. & not Mark.I do seem to remember
    one of The Stranglers albums, (The Raven ?)
    which contained a load of beeps/tones sounds,
    which fans had to decipher into something.
    I never found out if anybdy ever managed it.
    And i am wondering know if it was some sort of
    early programme for a computer.However as the
    album was released in 1979, it would have had
    to be a very early programme

  40. Anyone remember Mazogs on the ZX81, good thing about the ZX81 was that it made the Spectrum look good.

  41. I think the record companies should know this: NOBODY BUYS MUSIC CD’S TO GET COMPUTER PROGRAMS!!

    If anybody knows the person who came up with idea, please direct them to this post.

  42. The album “Över tid och rum” by “Adolphson & Falk” contains a program for Atari machines.
    See http://www.efd.lth.se/~e96an/vintage/af/af.html
    (only in swedish, sorry, but there’s a picture of the album, the program code and the running program)

  43. I have a 12″ with ZX code on one side and music on the other – it’s by a band called la lu lu’s -does anyone know anything about this?

  44. Ah, the Sinclair Spectrum. Good memories. Unfortunately I was one of those that could recognize loading by the sounds.

  45. Hey… just read your spectrum games on records piece… a
    few years ago I bought a 12″ ep of electronica on a uk
    label called plastic phantom (maybe) imaginately titled
    “the spectrum ep” with a funky yellow plastic sleeve and a
    paper label pic of a spectrum on the top. the last track is
    called “brand new games” and it sounds like more of the
    same allthough I always assumed they’d done the reverse
    of what you’d mentioned and put audio data from an
    existing games tape onto vinyl. I used to buy c64
    cassettes just to listen to those noises sometimes… crazy
    sounds.

  46. Computer programs on records apparently originally came out in July 1977 (according to old-computers.com). Here’s the link to the article which is quite humorous:

    http://www.old-computers.com/history/detail.asp?n=30&t=2

    I also sent him a link to your site on the records with the Sinclair programs on them.

  47. OMG I just found my old Thompson Twins Adventure flexidisc in a cleanout. Wish I hadn’t thrown out my record player now. LOL

  48. Yep – good site.

    I’ve got the Pete Shelley album and the Thompson Twins advanture. Completed it too – its actually not that bad, although some of the actions are obscure to say the least – use the walkthruogh.

    Do any of you remember a game called “The Extricator”? It was a mid 80′s adventure with a dance track on side B of the tape made up from spectrum loading noise. Not sure what to make of it, but I do remember bits of it even now.

  49. Andrew Owen – Didn’t you enter the Plastic Raygun game in the CSS Crap Game Competition one year? I’m sure that’s how I managed to play it. I have the vinyl, as I later released a 12″ on Plastic Raygun, and found out about it. I found my copy in a second hand shop a few months after that! I think this is the 12″ that is mentioned above as “Google”, which should be “Googlex” http://www.discogs.com/release/193830 However, I do not know if there is any code on this one. Atomic Robo Kid had a track on the Spectrum EP, and I think the 2 releases have been confused by somebody. http://www.discogs.com/release/264791

    Also, I definitely remember one band showing off their BBC Micro video on TVS’s ‘Number 73′

  50. Great article, thanks.

    Regarding channel 4 broadcasting games, I wonder whether that was signal interference from someone loading their Spectrum next door?

  51. Yes, I remember the ZX Spectrum broadcast on Channel 4 very well. The day I did it, it was stuff from Melbourne House. It had a demo for Mugsy’s Revenge (pool hall scene) and a loading screen for a game called Black Belt (never heard of it again) and a Horace game that never was (never heard of that again either, a real mystery that one) – then there was a demo for Sir Lancelot.
    From there it went we had Channel 4 ident and then Microsphere software and a demo for a game called “A day in the life” featuring Sir Clive Sinclair. Lastly there was a single level of a game called Jasper. Think that’s all…it has been 20 years. I really must dig out the ageing tape and make it available.

  52. I have a 45 of “talk to me” by the band Mainframe. The B-side contains 1 program for about 3 different UK-based computer formats(BBC Micro, etc).