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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Tuneful National Museum of Computing MP3 (by Pixelh8)

Chiptune musician Matthew Applegate (aka Pixelh8) doesn’t make all his music out of 8-bit technology — he goes even further back, as the punchcards on the cover of his recent Obsolete? album show. He also weighs heavily on the question mark in the album’s title, employing various ancient computers to purposes (1) for which they weren’t intended and (2) that might, just might, rescue them from obscurity. Fortunately for Applegate, and for us, he didn’t have to rummage through the dustbins of history to gain access to these archaic tools. He got a gracious invitation from the the UK National Museum of Computing to make use of its substantial holdings. According to coverage of an event Applegate performed at the museum, he drew from the following equipment:

    Elliot 803, Colossus MK2 Rebuild, Dragon 32, BBC Micro, SORD M5, MSX-HX10, Atari 800XL, Amstrad CPC464, IBM 029 Key Punch, Brunsviga Adding Machine, Bulmers Adding Machine, Block & Anderson Adding Machine, Crete Teleprinter, ICL Line Printer, PDP 11, PDP 8, 380Z Research Machine, RM Nimbus Power, MAC 5500/275, DecTalk

With a name as suggestive as “Applegate,” it almost seems like the Pixelh8 moniker is unnecessary, though the addition of the “h” definitely signals some interesting ambivalence on the musician’s part. The sample track on his website offers what appears to be a series of excerpts of Obsolete?, all gleefully mechanistic and deliciously lo-tech (MP3).

[audio:|titles=”Obsolete? Excerpts”|artists=Pixelh8]

More on the event at the museum’s website,, and courtesy of an interview at, in which he explains:

    “I’ve gone right back to the beginning of what computers can do in terms of sound. It’s not just about sound chips, but the electromechanical sounds they make: the fans, the tape readers, the teleprinters — crunchy sounds.”

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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