This archive section is a retrospective blog (if there is such a thing) of the project's development. It's not chronologically correct, and has missed plenty out, but gives an overview of some of the key elements in the research and development of the film. Hopefully more will be added as I trawl through folders, sketchbooks and bookmarks related to the project.

Golden spiral grid


The film was selected for screening at the backup.clipward by the backup.festival in Weimar, Germany in October 2007. It also got shown on a German internet TV site called Salve.TV.

Screenshot of Transitions by Daniel EatockScreenshot of Rhythms 21 by Hans Richter

Eatock v Richter.

Daniel Eatock has made a short film called Transitions, using Microsoft Powerpoint transitions, running in sequence, switching from black to white. He compares it nicely on his website with Rhythms 21 by Hans Richter from 1921. Both films have similarities to the moiré and line study sections of 7090. It should be noted that the Richter film can be found on the Ubuweb site that I first encountered Music From Mathematics.

Something's in the air.

During the making of the film I discovered plenty of other people inspired by old mainframe computers. Here's a selection.

Jóhann Jóhannsson's ibm 1401, a user's manual is an album of music in some way inspired by his fathers work at IBM as a maintenance engineer for the 1401 Data Processing System.

Coudal Partners have been making a film inspired by a photograph of a 1960s mainframe computer room from a 1969 Design Magazine. Their project is called 72° and has an extensive weblog dedicated to the research and production of the film. Jim Coudal was kind enough to post a link from the 72° blog to an earlier version of this site.

Jan Brzeczkowski's A Bomb music video for Etienne Charry

Punkt typeface

Punkt typeface.

The letterforms used for the opening titles and to display binary visualisations of the words from A Bycycle Built For Two, come from a simple dot matrix font I designed almost ten years ago called Punkt. You can download a Mac Postscript version of the font.

Golden spiral grid

Golden Spirals.

I adapted an old interactive idea I had used for making letterforms to help me make modular interlocking shapes based around the golden spiral. The spiralformer software wasn't taken any further than this extremely basic version (4KB Flash SWF) - but was enough to encourage me that I couldn't help but make moving graphics that would look great so long as I stuck to this grid.

The spiral grid is used in the 5 Against 7 section of the film.

Moire patternMoire pattern


The Theory of the Moiré Phenomenon by Isaac Amidrorm is a fairly comprehensive study of the moiré patterns. Has some particularly nice high res Postscript files for download.

Rotating 2 blocks of vertical lines at different rates created an type of moiré effect and also synched well with the vocal part of the Bicycle Built For Two section.

Line study grid

Line Studies.

An early experiment making an animated loop of a strip of digital glitch made me explore the possibilities of creating repetitive patterns from simple lines being animated in binary multiples of length and time.

The resulting studies seemed a good starting point for the visualisation of the Pitch Variations track.

Initial glitch experiment (3.4Mb QT)
Some line studies (8Kb Flash SWF)


Max Mathews.

Max Mathews was Director of Acoustic and Behavioural Research at Bell Labs from 1955 to 1987 and the chief architect of Music From Mathematics. He is often considered the father of computer music for his pioneering work in the late 50s and early 60s.

More details about him can be found on his home page, and wikipedia.

Still of HAL in 2001

Daisy Bell.

The first example of computer generated speech, created by Max Mathews and John Larry Kelly, Jr at Bell Labs apparently influenced Stanley Kubrick's climatic scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sentient computer HAL is disconnected slowly loses consciousness and dies while singing A bicycle built for two.

According to Wikipedia's entry for Daisy Bell Arthur C. Clarke coincidentally visited friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility at the time of the speech synthesis demonstration and was so impressed that he used it in the novel and screenplay.

Listen to the clip (380K)


Bell Labs logo

Bell Laboratories.

During World War II, Bell Labs evolved from a communications research firm to a more general think tank. They recruited scientists from many universities to work on radar. To make the offer attractive to all of these innovators, the company gave these recruits freedom to pursue whatever else interested them at the same time. The facility in Murray Hill, New Jersey, was near a nature preserve. Scientists were encouraged to walk in the woods and think. Artists were also recruited, as it was felt that an aesthetic side was necessary to bring meaning to new technologies, and the scientists were encouraged to pursue any creative interests that they had. Researchers engaged in a variety of pursuits often had adjoining offices, and there was a great deal of creative cross pollenization as a result of neighbours poking their heads into other offices to see what was going on. The open-ended nature of Bell continued through the 1960s, as the race to develop space-based technologies provided continuing impetus for innovation. Inart 55

History of Electroacoustic Music Bell Labs
A description of the pioneering work of Max Mathews for Bell Labs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

NASA mercury movie screenshotsNASA mercury movie screenshots NASA mercury movie screenshotsNASA mercury movie screenshots

IBM 7090 footage.

Some great archive footage of the IBM 7090 in use courtesy of - the website of Jack Harper who appears to have an unhealthy (but fortunate) interest in the history of computing and in particular the architecture of the IBM 7090 computer.

Video clip (8.5Mb)
One-minute long video clip showing the IBM 7090 in use at the Goddard Spaceflight Center during the Mercury space program of the 1960s.

Sound recording (590 kb)
Some bizarre sounds recorded in a 7090 computer room.

The 7090/90 page also has a selection of black and white photos and lots of interesting technical specifications!

Photograph of IBM mainframe console

IBM 7090 photos.
Great selection of mid resolution colour images of the 7090 and 7094 system.

Columbiana archive
A beautiful collection of high resolution black and white images of the Columbia University Computer Center in 1965. Most of the photos appear to be in the 7040 or 7090 computer rooms and include images of the huge reel to reel tape machines, key punch, card sorters, a tape library and consoles.

…and the official reference courtesy of IBM.