Music Pioneer

For a long time, it was believed that computer music was pioneered by Max Matthews in 1957, at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the United States.

However in mid-2004 composer and sonologist Paul Doornbusch proved that the first computer to play music was CSIRAC, in its earlier guise as the CSIR Mk1. While the exact date was not recorded, this occurred sometime during 1950. The computer’s first public performances, of the popular tune Colonel Bogey, took place on 7-9 August 1951, at the inaugural Conference of Automatic Computing Machines in Sydney.

The person responsible for programming the CSIR Mk1 to play popular musical melodies was Geoff Hill. The first 'programmer' or software engineer to work with the machine, Geoff was a mathematician who had assisted with the development of the logical design of the computer. He also came from a musical family.

Once the CSIR Mk1 (now renamed CSIRAC) was moved to Melbourne, mathematics professor Thomas Cherry also programmed it to perform music. He developed a programming system that allowed anyone with an understanding of musical notation to create musical programs for CSIRAC.

Music performed by the CSIR Mk1 was simple and crude even for the time, but its true significance lies in its demonstration of how flexible the modern computer could be, even in its infancy.

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