Retrocomputing and Media

I was just sitting here in my favorite coffee shop, and Van Halen’s Right Now came over the speakers. I was of course immediately reminded of Windows '95. That got me to thinking about media that is closely tied to retrocomputing. Most of the associations I have are either to simple advertising jingles (like the Intel four-note ditty), or to media that I just happen to associate with retrocomputing. For example, in the early 90s, I spent a lot of time playing with WAV audio in DOS, Windows, and Linux using a recording of The James Gang’s Funk #49 from internal CD-ROM drive.

There is, of course, the collection of Amiga MODs that I used to play in various DOS-based trackers, but I’m not sure those are quite what I’m thinking of, here.

What popular media is indelibly linked to computing for the rest of you? Does anyone share my Van Halen / Windows 95 link from the advertising blitz leading up to its release?


I thought it was The Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up? Or was it both? Or a regional difference?

I don’t have a really strong association with the adverts myself. Because my first PC was also my first CD player, I do have a strong fixation on The Cranberries’ Everyone Is Doing It. I only had two CDs for quite a long time.

The Windows 95 startup tune was composed by Brian Eno on a Mac - and now I know that, I think of it every time I hear it. (If you listen to a massively slowed down version, it’s ambient music.)

“The thing from the agency said, ‘We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,’ this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said ‘and it must be 3.25 seconds long.’

There is also a computing connection to the THX sound Deep Note - 20k lines of C code - but I’m not sure if it’s retrocomputing. But it was 1983. “Moorer got to work on a massive computer mainframe that Lucasfilm had just built: the ASP, or Audio Signal Processor”

“I like to say that the THX sound is the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world,” says Andy Moorer. “This may or may not be true, but it sounds cool!”

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(Oh, but games! So, Black & White Rag for me is linked very strongly to Repton (play in-browser). And of course Lemmings and the Can Can. Mildly.)

You know what, you’re absolutely right. I wonder why I associate Right Now with Windows, then? I just did a Google search, and didn’t find any obvious link. Perhaps something from the shop I was working in? I know I associate the soundtrack for The Saint with Quake I for that reason; Quake would play any CD you put in the drive, and one of our employees used to stick that CD in when we’d play after-hours deathmatches.

How odd!

For the second time today I’ve come across the big spat between Apple, the computer company we knew and loved, and Apple Corps, the now little-known giant of music publishing, being the tax-efficient vehicle set up by The Beatles. It’s hard, for me, to put myself in the place back then, when The Beatles were so big and so wealthy, and Apple were just a punky startup. Anyhow, The Beatles got there first with their punny “Apple Corps”, and the agreement they made with Apple Computer Co was that music was strictly off limits. And, in due course, along came the Mac and the IIGS and music was suddenly on the menu. (Sorry.) And so we get the Sosumi sound on the Mac, as a cheeky act of rebellion by a techie.

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For me Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” is linked with Windows 95 (the video was included on the Install CD) while on the other hand Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” is linked to Apple’s NeXT-derived Mac OS X Server (the video was used during the demo at MacWorld 1999).

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War Games. That came our right when I was discovering the local BBS scene. It felt so subversive.

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I had forgotten about that! We used to demo that video a lot.

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Hawkwind’s “Choose Your Masques” from their Live Chronicles album. I liked to listen to it while downloading posts from the comp.sys.a2 newsgroup. I couldn’t stay online to read it so I did a hurried download so I could read it without ruining my phone bill. It had the fast beat that made me feel like I was a “cyberpunk.”

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