Altair Musical Interference

Erik Klein

1975 was very near the dawn of the personal computer era and a time when owning a computer of one’s own was virtually unheard of.  The few pioneers who had machines tended to congregate into tight-knit groups to share their knowledge and passion.

One such group was Silicon Valley’s own Home Brew Computer Club and, in 1975, Steve Dompier brought his hand-built Altair to a club meeting.  While programming the machine and listening to the radio Steve had discovered that the internal workings would interfere with his radio reception. After some experimentation, he learned that he could control this interference.


 
 
Image courtesy of Jaime Austin

Image courtesy of Jaime Austin

Image courtesy of Jaime Austin

Image courtesy of Jaime Austin


He quickly wrote a program to take advantage of his new, musical “output device.”

Altair Musical Interference (1975/ 2010) recreates the demonstration that entertained some of Silicon Valley’s earliest computer users and industry pioneers.