Me, some late nights, and an IBM XT
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I had one of these. Actually, it was my parents, but they let me borrow it for a while in the late 1980s. It wasn’t brand-new technology by then, having been introduced in 1981, but personal computing was new to me. I knew nothing about programming, but felt like a programmer of sorts when I started to create music using Cakewalk sequencing software, version 1.0, running on DOS. It was a life-changing experience – connecting my parent’s IBM personal computer to a Roland D50 keyboard and other assorted midi instruments and hearing my ideas played back to me as I performed the parts in my head on the keyboard and captured them as editable digital information in the IBM 5160.
I loved comedy and music and sought to blend them in my own way. One required the sound of an airline in flight for ambience. I didn’t have an effects library to work with. And then I heard it – the sound of the fan on the PC. I was just like a humming miniature jet engine, I thought. So I recorded it twice for the stereo effect of two engines and added it to the song. Perfect! This computer was an innovation station for me. I wrote a number of songs that year, published a few through a radio comedy service, and two of them still show up on satellite radio now and then.
Over the years I moved to other platforms and applications, and wrote a lot of music in the same manner for broadcast commercial libraries. Then family and career moves took me in other directions, finally arriving at IBM in the late 1990s, where I served as the editor of different email newsletters, and for the last six years, as host of the developerWorks podcast. I often think about how IBM touched my life long before I became an official IBMer. A lot of music was in my head for a long time, but my brief affair with that off-white, noisey box with a 10 megabite hard drive, 256k of memory, and the 4.77 MHz processor was a personal milestone. It enabled me to work in a way I had never worked before. It allowed me to innovate, in my own small way, as IBM continues to do for the world. I’ll never forget it.