Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Player Piano

I have enjoyed reading about your memories of Key Punch machines and Key Punching in the comments. It is interesting how many people used such machines. I find it fascinating to study the development of the computer. It is hard to really identify anyone who "invented" it, and in fact it it hard to really identify the first "computer". As we saw yesterday, the "tabulating machine" should probably not be considered a computer, but it certainly broke the ground for computer technology.

Another bit of early technology that I find fascinating is the Player Piano. I think that player pianos were in many ways paving the way for computers as well. The songs were encoded on rolls of paper, and the machine read the holes punched in the paper and played music. The one pictured above from 1915 not only played the piano, it also played the violin. To me these were in many ways like an early version of the computer . . . they would execute a sequence of steps by reading holes punched in a role of paper. If you look at the earliest examples of computing machines they had more in common with player pianos than the do with modern computers. Here is a modern video of a player like the one pictured still working today.


  1. this video was fantastic. thank you. I learn something everyday here.

  2. Indeed, really nice. Thou I heard of player pianos before, I had no idea such thing as a player violin existed. Thank you!

  3. I couldn't figure out how they were "bowing" the strings, until the video zoomed into the rollers. brilliant!

  4. While I certainly agree defining the first computer is difficult, if not an exercise in futility - Alan Turning and Max Newman have to be considered when talking about who invented the first working computer.

    I would also point out that vacuum tubes were indeed fickle, but as the British proved - very reliable when left on! They did not take to any off/on cycles. Left in the powered on state, they became very reliable indeed!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.