[ Tech Songs ] Baked at Atari

June 20th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards Tech Songs Album Cover

Some of you may recall that from 2002-2005, I ran a band/website called Request-A-Song.com. Well, since March of this year, I've been publishing music online again as part of a musical project I call Tech Songs.

Tech Songs, for me, is essentially a writing prompt for music — a concept that inspires me to write songs about a certain topic. In this case, the topic is the past, present, and future of technology. In some ways, I think of Tech Songs as an open-ended album about tech.

Today I am officially announcing the release of "Baked At Atari," a lighthearted, ficticious song (but inspired by true events) about engineers at Atari in the mid-1970s. Atari fans amongst you will likely pick out several familiar names and references in the lyrics.

You can listen to the song on my SoundCloud page, or click on the embedded song below.

When you're done listening, I'd love to hear some suggestions for new tech history song topics — just leave a comment, and I'll see what I can cook up.

I plan to post future VC&G-related Tech Songs on this site, but you can also follow Benj's Tech Songs on Twitter: @techsongs

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Thoughware JingleDisk

December 7th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Thoughtware JingleDisk Jingle Disk Animated musical computer christmas card animation artwork Xmas - 1985Jingle disk, jingle disk, jingle all the way

Throughout the ages, fans of Christmas have found new and varied ways to express their love for the holiday. In the 1980s, personal computer users joined in the fun, using their machines to host a new breed of animated Christmas greetings that were distributed through magazines, BBSes, or even sold on disk like Thoughtware's JingleDisk, seen here.

Upon inserting JingleDisk into your Commodore 64 or Apple II computer (It's a double-sided disk with data for the different platforms on each side) and booting it up, the user is presented with a Christmas-themed animation set to various holiday musical standards. It's fun to watch.

There is something about the warmth of the glow from a cathode ray tube screen that lends itself well to computerized Christmas celebrations — perhaps it echoes some primal link to prehistoric man sitting around the fire telling stories.

By the way, this JingleDisk came to me by way of a family friend who just turned 40 years old today. Happy Birthday, Chris!

[ From Thoughtware JingleDisk product packaging, 1985, front/back ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever programmed a Christmas-themed demo or sent a computerized Christmas card? Tell us about it.

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Experimental Music Site Request-A-Song.com Turns 10

October 1st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Request-A-Song.com Clef Attack Picture

Ten years ago today, I opened an experimental music website called Request-A-Song.com. On the site, my brother Jeremy and I solicited song titles (just titles, not lyrics), which site visitors would submit via a web form. We'd pick the ones we found most inspiring and write songs based on them, then publish them on the site in MP3 format. The project lasted until December 2005.

As you might expect, a lot of very interesting and unusual songs came out of the process. You can tell just by reading the titles of our most popular songs — names like "Butter Ghost," "Violent House Panda," "Poke 'Em In The Neck," and "I Flipped My Biscuit" — that we preferred ideas on the bizarre end of the spectrum.

Jeremy and Benj Edwards Request-A-Song.com Publicity Shot from 2004In honor of our 10th anniversary, I've uploaded all 134 of our songs to The Internet Archive with the hope that it will preserve our effort for posterity.

You can still download those songs from the original Request-A-Song.com website (which also provides information on who requested what and when, lyrics, and dates of release), but it's actually easier to explore our catalog with the IA's handy online streaming MP3 app.

(If you want to know which songs to listen to first, here is a list of our 25 most popular songs.)

Over the next month, I plan on uploading more RAS information to the Internet Archive, including news archives, press clippings, song metadata, images, and more.

[ Continue reading Experimental Music Site Request-A-Song.com Turns 10 » ]

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Apple II Mountain Music

May 21st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Mountain Computer MusicSystem Music System Apple II Ad - Mountain Music - 1982The Mountain Computer MusicSystem. Not a scene from Hee Haw.

In an age when the vast majority of commercial music is recorded or produced using computers, it's interesting to look back to a time with computer-based music tools were in their infancy. In this case we're turning back the clock 30 years to examine an ad for the Mountain Computer MusicSystem, a musical synthesizer and sequencer add-on for the Apple II (horse not included).

Admittedly, I know nothing about this system beyond what you read in the ad above (and some Googled info found here and here). But I wouldn't be surprised if the original creators of the MusicSystem are lurking somewhere out there on the Internet — just waiting for this subject to come up so they can post a comment about it on a blog like this one. If that's the case, please do!

[ From Popular Computing, January 1982, p.1 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When was the first time you used a computer as a tool in music production?

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Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher

May 31st, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Ellen Feiss - Mac Switcher

I don't know if anybody out there knows this, but some years ago, I created a music site called Request-A-Song.com (RAS). My brother Jeremy and I wrote original songs based on visitor suggestions, recorded them, and put them up on the site in MP3 format. We usually treated serious requests humorously, and humorous requests seriously, which thoroughly confused everybody (Hence RAS's amazing success, and why you've no doubt heard of it many times). Sadly, our heyday was before the Digg, YouTube, MySpace, and ubiquitous blog explosion, which would have undoubtedly helped us promote our music and unique concept.

I'm only mentioning this now because it deals with something at least slightly on-topic for VC&G — computer history. Mike (aka Dr. Macenstein), over at the Macenstein blog, recently put together a video for my tongue-in-cheek song, "Ellen Feiss Makes Me Hot," which I released back in 2003 (yes, almost five years ago). It's about the famous Mac switcher who appeared in an Apple advertisement around the time. Essentially, people thought the commercial was funny because Ms. Feiss looked like she was stoned while filming.

[ Continue reading Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher » ]

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