Chip Music Piracy – Since the 1960s

Thanks to Hally and iLKke I learned that one of the earliest hackers around (you know, one of the train geeks at MIT) released an LP with his chipmusic in the 1960s. Although less known than Max Mathews, Peter Samson made computer music in the 1950’s and developed his own music software (see timeline). Already in 1960 he made a graphical interface for his music software for the TX-0 machine, and the user controlled with a light pen. He’s probably most famous for his music/software on the PDP-1, and he’s involved in the recent restoration of PDP-1 music.

And now it turns out that gus PDP-1 music was released on a vinyl sometime in the 1960’s as Music on the PDP-1X. Most likely it was released after Music for Mathematics (1961/62), Rekengeluiden van PASCAL (1962), and Bell Laboratory’s Computer Speech 7″ (1963) but it is obviously one of the earliest released computer music. Perhaps the first stereo computer music on vinyl? Or the first one with only classical music? I’m sure this release was first with something?

Given the amount of time I put into researching early computer music a few years ago, I was surprised that I had missed this one. Well, the LP is the only release from PPDX Records and it’s very hard to find any information about it on ze web. So I went to the source and asked Peter Samson himself. Here’s his complete response: Sorry, I don’t know anything about that recording. It was made without my knowledge or permission.

Aha! So this was actually the first chip music appropriation! Someone decided to put this out on vinyl without asking Peter about it. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Who had access to the computers and the know-how to play the music? Did they bring a PDP-1 into a recording studio? Who paid for it, and who cashed in? And if they didn’t do it for the money, then why wouldn’t they ask Peter about it? Hm!

Ironically, the Youtube-uploader says that there are digital recordings of the vinyl. But you have to pay for it.

Now that’s oldschool piracy for you!

6 Responses to “Chip Music Piracy – Since the 1960s”

  1. Akira Says:

    Some questions posed by this very interesting release.
    Since the music is classical, it’s in the public domain, so there’s no “piracy” there as far as author rights.
    Now the actual “performer” of the tune is the PDP! If someone grabbed the program, ran it and recorded it, dunno. But was the program public domain too? If not, whoever recorded it must have been close to Samson’s work. This is the most interesting part.

    I suppose the only thing from Samson here is the arrangement, but I’m totally not sure about how this works.

    Having the files being sold nowadays is cheeky as fuck though. The real pirates are the major labels, as always! :D

    • goto80 Says:

      I don’t know the details here, but I’m pretty sure whoever arranges a song and records it, also holds copyright to that recording. Regardless if s/he composed it or not. Like how GRG tried to take Timbaland to court because Timbaland sampled GRG’s cover version of Acidjazzed Evening, and not the original by Tempest. Copyright makes a difference between sheet music and recording, although that makes less sense in computer world.

      I tried to call Swedish radio and claim “live music royalties” when my C64-music was played there, since they used SID Player, therefore playing “live music” rather than a “recording”. I didn’t really get a proper reply. Lamers…

  2. utz Says:

    Haha, what a story! I’ve had this release in my 1bit timeline ( for some time, but never thought about the backstory, assuming it would all be fine and dandy. Btw the PDP player was written by Peter Samson, but the music might actually have been transcribed by Bill Ackerman, Dan Smith, et al. Perhaps ask these guys if they know something about this.

  3. Early computer music and piracy, the other way round :-) Says:

    […] Replied to a post on : […]

  4. trough Says:

    Here is another guess:

    Maybe the PPDX record label and this LP pressing never existed, but are recent inventions of the video’s uploader. This may not be the first example of chipmusic piracy.

  5. trough Says:

    Here’s an another guess:

    Maybe the PPDX label and this LP pressing never existed, but are recent inventions of the video’s uploader. This seems a much easier explaination: to download a modern recording, apply a vinyl-degredation effect, create an image of a fake LP sticker and upload a video. Then, the video generates enough interest on its own to cause a Discogs page to be created.

    This might not be the first example of chipmusic piracy.

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