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1401 Movies, Music, Sounds, and Videos

References to orchestral music have been moved to Johann Johannsson ( Jóhann Jóhannsson ) & father Johann Gunnarsson

Dear Friends,
I have no clue how to "organize" this web page -
- suggestions cheerfully/greatfully accepted - Ed Thelen

Table of Contents

Marc Verdiell’s “CuriousMarc” 1401-related videos and Ken Shirriff’s blog postings about the 1401 - November 9, 2022
Here are pointers to 1401-featured movies and blog entries by our very own 1401 restoration team members: Marc Verdiell’s “CuriousMarc” Youtube channel and Ken Shirriff’s blog, both skillfully produced and authored. They push the 1401 out of its business-oriented comfort zone by running the FORTRAN compiler, mining Bitcoins, printing the Mandelbrot fractal, etc. :) Marc’s “CuriousMarc” Youtube channel has hundreds of videos about restoring various computers and test equipment, including the Xerox PARC Alto workstation, an Apollo guidance computer and radio transponder, Model 19 TTY, R2D2, etc.

Here are Ken Shirriff’s blog postings featuring the 1401 and its intriguing technology:

Plus many more fascinating reverse engineering and restoration stories on his blog:


— Robert

live 1401 snippet in KQED's "News Room" April 15, 2022
On April 15, 2022, the closing segment of the public media KQED "News Room” broadcast called "Something Beautiful” featured an entertaining mashup of CHM Revolution exhibits with snippets of our live IBM 1401 in action:
A spinning 729 tape drive, our restoration rock star Frank King flipping 1401 console switches & tending punched cards on the 1402, the 1403 chain printer hammering out powers-of-2, and glimpses of our period 1401 marketing glossies on display in the Demo Lab.

It runs from 25:35 to 27:13 in:
Nicely done KQED! :)

1403 Printer Music - from Ron Mak
"Music" from a 1403 printer under control of a 1401 from Ron Mak - .mp3 files
- (about 0.4 to 2.5 megabytes each) - shortest to longest - Performance rights not worked out with ASCAP :-|
- All below known to work with Windows Media Player, one person reported that Nero Media Player did not work for them. Added June 19, 2021 - The 1401 configuration available to Ron Mak
1969-1970 in the basement computer center of the administration building of the Richmond (CA) Unified School District at 1108 Bissell Avenue, Richmond. The district had a 1401 system with 16K of memory, two tape drives, a disk drive, and a 1407 console inquiry station. Software included Autocoder, FORTRAN IV, COBOL, and RPG. The computer center had various card equipment (reproducers, etc.) and printout equipment (bursters, decollators, etc.) and three keypunch stations. The system handled all of the district’s computing needs – payroll, class scheduling, student test scores, etc.

The system was later replaced by an NCR Century 200 which emulated the 1401.

June 26, 2019 - Some of the above information was on the Computer History Museum web site but apparently removed. Dag Spicer discovered this on the Internet Archive web site. (archived by Internet Archive Feb. 6, 2006)

added Sept 2023 - La Marseillaise (v2)

In the video, it turns out that Frank King is hand advancing the paper to prevent the paper from being "perforated"..

p.s Here’s a photo of all the 1403 chain printer music that Ron Mak had preserved for the past 40 years (now in the 1401 Demo Lab):

Lyrics of La Marseillaise.

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillions!
My quite literal and definitely nonpoetic translation:

Let’s go, children of the nation,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us from the tyranny
The bloody flag is raised.
The bloody flag is raised.
Do you hear in the countryside
Roar those ferocious soldiers?
They come right into your arms
To slit the throats of your sons, your companions!

To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let’s march, let’s march!
That such an impure blood
Water our furrows!
(Ah ... such a pleasant little ditty!)

— Ron

2019 for French TV
from Ron Mak, July 3, 2019
Today we successfully revived the IBM 1403 printer music at the Computer History Museum on the Connecticut IBM 1401 system! After getting past a few card reader checks and one mangled card, we managed to read in a few of my nearly 50-year-old punched card decks and played several songs that I coded way back in high school, including “La Marseillaise” (the French national anthem).

I made two videos. The first video has the printer carriage in neutral, so the paper did not advance. The second video has the paper advancing, so you can see that the notes are “played” by the printer printing lines of text. Each line is gibberish, but the characters were tuned to the right frequency.

There were two versions of “La Marseillaise” in the boxes. We played the first version which, as you can hear, has a few coding errors. I must have corrected the errors with the version labeled #2. If so, I don’t know why I kept the bad version.

Anyway, the museum’s 1401 staff has my two boxes of printer music card decks which they will reproduce and (I assume) make available to anyone else. There are several decks of Christmas music, since printer music was a good demo during December.

Hard to believe that anything I did in high school is still entertaining today ...

- Ron

Ronald Mak
Department of Computer Engineering
Department of Computer Science
Program in Data Analytics
San José State University
One Washington Square
San José, CA USA 95192
"On two occasions I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage,
if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right
answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the
kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a
question." -- Charles Babbage, 1791-1871
World's first computer scientist

2019 from Robert Garner
1401ers, et al,

For the first time we (adventurous souls :) played 1403 chain music today! :-))
Ron Mak dug out his two boxes of 1960s chain music decks, photo below, from which we duplicated and ran Clair de Lune, La Marseillaise (French National Anthem), and When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

The CT 1403 (w/ Don Manning’s newly manufactured chain) hammered out the songs to the delight of Frank King, Ron Mak, Carl Claunch, Pat Buder, Glenn Lea, Luca Severini, Dale Jelsema, Robert Garner, and Chris Eley, a documentarian visiting from Paris who is authoring a web series on technology for the TV channel ARTE.*


Photo of Ron Mak’s 1403 music decks, 3/4’ths of them he transcribed himself in high school in Richmond (in the East Bay north of Berkeley) in the 1960s!. The 1401 computer system he used was in the basement of the administration building of the Richmond School District. (He’s also kept all the 1401 programs he wrote back then! :)

Thanks everyone for allowing this to happen!

- Robert

* Chris documentary will focus on "ways in which operators working on old mainframes found ways to play with their machines and use them towards surprising ends.” :) He recorded AM Radio music on Monday, the 1403 demo programs, the 729 tape exercise program, the 083 sorter, and the keypunches.

I asked Frank to take on oath on a 1401 manual that we were OK running the 1403 music decks (something he has been willing to risk since we received Don Manning’s new chain (knowing we could always make another if this one broke :)

A Flury 1403 Printer Music e-mails of June 2019
From: Ronald Mak/SJSU < ron . mak @ sjsu . edu >
Subject: Re: IBM 1403 Music
Date: June 27, 2019 at 10:01:30 AM PDT
To: Robert Garner
CC: ...

1403 printer music fans,

Here’s what I found in my garage: one and a half boxes of card decks for 1403 printer music! See the attached photo.

I created these decks back during my high school years (a little while ago!) in Richmond, CA, and I had meticulously labeled them in my handwriting. There are many songs, most coded by me. (OK, I know now that it’s spelled “Bolero”, by Ravel.) We played them on the 1401 system in the basement of the administration building of the Richmond School District.

Several decks are labeled “Music (general program) Autocoder” which appear to be absolute decks of the player program itself. I don’t remember what the decks labeled “Frequencies (general notes deck)” are. They appear to be absolute decks of some other program.

I was quite the proto-computer-nerd back then and wrote many programs in FORTRAN, COBOL, and Autocoder, plus coding music decks. I am now an ancient computer nerd spreading my geekiness to unsuspecting students. Yes, I still have most of the card decks of those old programs, too, including programs I wrote in college. Punched cards were still very much in use after I graduated and started working in Silicon Valley.

I recall that it’s easy to code new song data decks. If you can read sheet music, you punch one note per data card indicating the key, the note (A, B, C, D, E, F, or G) and its duration (quarter, half, or full). We can figure it out again by looking at the old song data decks.

Yes, I can bring these cards to the museum on Monday for reproduction and playing on the printer. They appear to be in good condition.

– Ron

Ronald Mak
Department of Computer Engineering
Department of Computer Science
Program in Data Analytics
San José State University
One Washington Square
San José, CA USA
    “On two occasions I have been asked, ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage,
if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right
answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the
kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a
-- Charles Babbage, 1791-1871
    World’s first computer scientist

Later Ron Mak wrote:

"I should have figured it out just by looking at the card decks. To play a song, you need a card deck consisting of the music program, the frequency cards (which contain the line of characters that the printer must print to play each of the different notes in the song), and the card deck of notes for the song.

"Some of the song decks are larger because they include the program cards and the required frequency cards. The smaller decks might include only the song notes, in which case you use the “general notes deck” which has all the frequencies the printer can produce.

"I don’t think the music program is very complicated. I haven’t disassembled it, but I would guess that for each song, it builds a table of the frequencies and a table of the notes. Then it simply iterates through the notes and does table lookups of the frequencies to print the lines. The duration of each note determines how many times to print each frequency line. The real genius of the program was to figure out what characters to print in a line in order to generate a particular note.


Hello, Ron --

A few questions for you or the others on distribution:

  1. Do you know who the "genius" was who figured out the frequency print patterns? Was there some algorithm used or was it just trial and error?
  2. I'm guessing that for consistent notes, the print line must start printing from the chain "home" position each time -- can you confirm that and explain how that was done programmatically?
  3. I assume the frequency patterns are specific to a particular chain configuration (probably a standard AN or HN chain) -- can you confirm which?
  4. Do you have or do you know of a similar program/frequency deck that works with the later 1403-N1 printer, whose print train moves more than twice as fast and prints 1100 lines/min (vs. the 600 lines/min printers on the CHM's 1401s)?
  5. Could we possibly get a softcopy or hardcopy listing of your general program and frequency deck(s)? We may have a computer science intern attempt to adapt them to our 1403-N1 unless we can find that it has already been done. (Note: currently our 1403-N1 printer at TechWorks! is not connected to a mainframe -- it uses a homemade controller to print only from an input data file -- so our environment is somewhat different.)

Bob Lusch
TechWorks! volunteer

AM Radio (RFI) music
(The "RFI" is an abreviation for "Radio Frequency Interference")

1401 RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) "music" "our" 1401 - probably *NOT* RIAA free ;-))

Also see Demo Programs.html #1401RFI-Music
Jóhann Gunnarsson, ( of Icelandic "IBM 1401: A User's Manual" music fame, has identified the tune as "Wheels". He e-mails " It can be found in various versions on Youtube, for instance performed by Chet Atkins:
Begin forwarded message:

From: Jóhann Gunnarsson
Subject: Re: Reverse assembling the 1401 AM radio music program (was Re:Radio music deck playing on our 1401, and "IBM 1401:
A User's Manual" (wasRe: Quiz
Date: January 11, 2010 at 4:45:32 PM PST
To: Van Snyder

I do not know if the Music program actually works, but my understanding is that it was used at the CHM when they made the video
The tune heard there, "Wheels", actually matches my interpretation of the first deck of data cards. I do not understand some of the code, but I think, after your comments made me correct one mistake, that the general music routine could work. I have not had access to a 1401 machine since early 1971, but I wish I had one to test the outcome of my manual reverse engineering.
That would be a lot easier than running the program in my head with some help of Ecxel.

Each note is represented by two constants, the first one, and the deepest, in 251-255 and 257-259 respectively; the last one and the highest pitch in 621-625 and 627-629. The three digit number determines the length of the string to be moved into itself to represent the pitch of the note (This happens in 1132). You'll see that the lowest it goes is 803 so the longest string to be moved is 803-999. The five digit number is used in determining the number of times the move should be performed to get the note at correct length.

In the data cards (starting from line 142 in the program listing) four digits represent each note. Considering the first note, 37 represents the note whose data strings are in 371-375 and 377-379. Digits 3 and 4, "08" represent the length of the note.
The next number, "0004" is, I suppose, used to represent a dot to the preceeding note ( in the musical score I have of Wheels the first note is a dotted quarter note), but I suspect that the implementation is somehow not right. If you listen to the recording you'll hear that the first measure, as well as any other time that phrase occurs, is out of time.

As for the card read routine in 1004 to 1035, my interpretation is as follows: The instruction at 1005 moves the contents of the first data card up into 1400-1479, and the instruction at 1016 increases the B-address of 1005 for next data card by 80.
Thus, the card data forms a long string in high memory.
In 1046 - 1064 the data string is then chopped into bits of 4 characters for playing.

Of course, my assumptions might be wrong, but I have asked Robert to make a test with some data I sent him, as well as to play some of the other tunes contained in the deck.

Jóhann Gunnarsson

----- Original Message ----- From: "Van Snyder"
To: "Jóhann Gunnarsson"
Cc: ...
Sent: Monday, January 11, 2010 10:09 PM
Subject: Re: Reverse assembling the 1401 AM radio music program (was Re:Radio music deck playing on our 1401, and "IBM 1401: A User's Manual" (wasRe: Quiz

Does the RadioMusic program actually run? Is the deck the same as the attached listing?

I've keyed in the listing, disassembled it, proofread it, and replaced numerical addresses with labels. (RadioMusic.s).

I don't see how it can possibly work. I tried to run it in SimH and reached the same conclusion.

The first execution of the MCW at 1005 copies column 80 to all of the input area.

The n'th execution copies the read area to 79+n*80 using MCW.

The problem is that 251-630 are occupied by data -- with word marks. So for example when the fourth card is copied, it tries to copy the read area to 240-319, but there's a word mark in 317, so only three characters are copied.
---JG: This is not correct.

The first song is 17 cards. This will try to copy data to 1360, which is in the middle of the code space, which starts at 1000.

Assuming the data at 251-630 weren't there, and the code space began at, say, 3000, the program still wouldn't work. It picks up data to define the song starting at location 3 (MCW at 1046 in the code). When it gets around to doing this, the read area contains the last card of the song, not the first one.

If you've run the RadioMusic program, I'm pretty sure it's not the same program as in the scan of the listing entitled 1401RadioMusic.pdf that Robert sent. Can you copy it to a PC and send the file?


Stan's videos and sounds - from Stan Paddock
added July 14, 2011,
  • Bob Erickson demonstrating how to reproduce IBM punched cards using an IBM 513 reproducing punch. The video was shot, edited and published by Stan Paddock. The video was shot in the 1401 restoration room in the Computer History Museum.
  • Stan Paddock doing his adlib presentation of "Data processing in the 1960's". The video was shot by Ron Williams. It was edited and published by Stan Paddock. The video was shot in the 1401 restoration room in the Computer History Museum.
  • The 1401 restoration group at the Computer History Museum received word there was a company in Conroe Texas that was still using an IBM 402 for their everyday business. We contacted the company, Sparkler Filters, and were invited down to visit. Ron Crane, Ed Thelen, Frank King and Stan Paddock went to Conroe Texas in June of 2010. This video is of that trip.
    The video was shot, edited and published by Stan Paddock, shot on location at Sparkler Filters, Conroe Texas. an undated happy day -

- collection by Stan Paddock June 2010

IBM 1403, 1402, 729, 026 movies

Michael Mahon writes

Many early (handbuilt) computers, like SEAC, SWAC and others built in the late 1940's [delivered in 1950] were built with an audio amplifier and speaker connected to some logic level in the machine--a popular spot was the low bit of the accumulator. If the machine was not designed with a speaker, engineers or students often added them later.

The purpose was to provide audio feedback to the operator or programmer of the behavior of the running program.

I personally found that one quickly became familiar with the audio "rendition" of a program, and could easily recognize the characteristics of different parts of a program, and detect when any abnormality developed--for example, loops were obvious. ;-)

Later it was noticed that most machines in the low megahertz clock range radiated significant RF noise that an AM radio could pick up and render as audio if placed near the console or other high speed circuits.

Many programmers (including myself!) then proceeded to write a program with loops of varying repetition rates to allow the playing of reedy single-voice music over the radio.

By coincidence, I've spent a fair amount of time developing techniques for playing sounds and music on early micros, and the Apple II in particular.

I really enjoy your website!

-Michael Mahon
Computer History Museum member

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Updated through July 4th 2019