You Can Now Listen to the First Computer-Generated Music Ever - Atlas Obscura
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You Can Now Listen to the First Computer-Generated Music Ever

It was created by Alan Turing.

Alan Turing at age 16. (Photo: Public domain)

Alan Turing is best known for being one of a team of codebreakers who cracked Germany’s Enigma machines during World War II, which shortened the war by as many as four years. He was also the father of modern computing, and, evidently, the earliest electronic musician.

That’s because in 1951 he created the world’s first computer-generated music. It starts, of course with “God Save the Queen,” the British national anthem:

Listening to the recording now is only possible thanks to some New Zealand scientists, who recently restored it, announcing their aural achievement on the website of the British Library on Sept. 13.

“It was a beautiful moment when we first heard the true sound of Turing’s computer,” the scientists wrote then.

Turing created the music on a machine in a lab in Manchester, England, according to Agence France-Presse. It survived in the form of an acetate disc, from which the scientists filtered out noise and changed the disc’s speed, creating music that AFP compares to “electronic bagpipes.” 

Turing’s original response upon hearing the music, according to another computer scientist from his era was stoic.

“Good show,” he remarked. 

Turing died three years later, killing himself with cyanide, after having been prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952, when that was still illegal in Britain. He was officially pardoned in 2013, and has been immortalized in everything from statues to major motion pictures. Next time you’re in Manchester, try having lunch with him