How to turn a computer into a radio, and other ways to extract music from computing systems

    The PC system bus can be turned into a radio signal transmitter. This is how System Bus Radio works, which broadcasts music to an AM receiver next to a computer. We’ll tell you more and provide other unusual ways of “extracting” music from a computer.

    Photo of Adam Foster / CC

    System Bus Radio application

    System Bus Radio a few years ago introduced the engineer and information security specialist William Entriken (William Entriken). The program broadcasts on the nearby receiver a song Mary Had a Little Lamb. Radiation is generated using SSE processor instructions , the result of which is recorded at a specific address in RAM.

    The idea of ​​the application came to William's mind when he brought the included AM receiver to a room with a laptop and noticed noise in the sound.

    The program uses rectangular modulation , and the transmission quality depends on the selected frequency and on the equipment used.

    The creator of the program had a Macbook Air 2015 and a Sony STR-K670P receiver. For this set of equipment, the frequency of 1580 kHz AM worked best. Entriken managed to achieve a stable signal transmission over a distance of up to two meters (or one meter, if the path is blocked by a plasterboard wall).

    Photo by Arul Irudayam / CC

    William's experiment interested people from different countries. Now they send the author the test results of the program on other devices and in other conditions.

    A brief history of "computer radio"

    In 1959, the IBM 1401 computer went on sale . The memory of this “machine” was programmed in such a way that it began to emit electromagnetic waves. This signal could be “recognized” with the help of a radio receiver.

    The father of the Icelandic composer Johann Johannson (Jóhann Jóhannsson) using this feature IBM 1401 recorded several tunes. Later these records were discovered by Johan himself, and they formed the basis of his 2006 album entitled “IBM 1401, A User’s Manual”. Under his music even put dance.

    A method of extracting sound from a computer through hardware components is described in the book “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution” by Steven Levi.

    In 1976, one of the members of the Homebrew Computer Club computer lovers club Steve Dompier created the program for Altair 8800, which allowed him to write music and broadcast it to the radio.

    At one of the club's meetings, he played the song “Beatles Fool on the Hill ”. According to the recollections of the participants of the Homebrew Computer Club, the successful experiment with the Altair 8800 seemed to them the first sign that they could change the history of computers.

    Steve described this experience in his article for the magazine Dr. Dobb's Journal , which inspired other people to create music: after publication, he received over four hundred calls from enthusiastic enthusiasts.

    A year later, in 1977, Dompierre created the game Targetfor computer Sol-20 . The essence was simple: a gun was placed at the bottom of the screen, from which it was necessary to shoot at the monsters flying past. In this project, Dompierre used his previous experiments with music. Users could put an AM receiver near the computer, tune it to the desired frequency and hear the sound effects of the game.

    In the Altair 8800 and Sol-20 emitter acted bus S-100. She was in other computers at that time. Therefore, many people could experiment with “computer sound”. For those who wanted to study this issue more seriously, a number of companies offered special equipment. For example, Newtech released boards that amplified the signal and made it possible to connect a computer to an external audio system.

    Other "computer" ways to create music

    To play music using electromagnetic radiation, you can use not only the internal components of the computer. In 2001, Eric Thiele (Erik Thiele) created a program Tempest for Eliza for Linux, which is to play music with the help of electromagnetic radiation monitor.

    Special images were used for this, when displayed, the current of the electron beam of the kinescope took the form close to the low-frequency (unit-tens MHz) AM signal. Initially, this method of signal interception was designed for CRT monitors, but the program also works with LCD screens.

    The instrument can be turned both retrooborudovanie such as a dot matrix printer. They write covers of famous songs.and soundtracks . For them, writing original works.

    A source of inspiration musicians and composers also found in the sound of floppy drives. With the help of these devices , even the movie composer Bear McCreary (Bear McCreary) created the music : he used the "flop" to write the soundtrack for the movie "Uprising".

    On the net, you can find guidelines for creating an Arduino-based system that will play music on 3.5 "floppy disk drives. A program for managing the resulting tool can be found on GitHub .

    Such decisions show that the music surrounds us literally, and it only needs to be heard.

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