Digital Folklore

Ralf Homann

Homann writes:"When in the early 1960s at Dartmouth College, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz introduced their programming language BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) to their students, nobody could imagine that about 20 years later it turns into FM or AM transmission. In those olden days the use of audio cassettes for inexpensive data storage was common practice, because first personal (micro)computers had no internal mass storage. Before the WWW, in the 1980s, targeting home computer hobbyists and nerds, the increasing fandom of Commodore 64, Apple II, KC 85, Dutch Public Radio NOS, the BBC and the East German Radios DDR1 and DT64 broadcast computer software in their regular program. The mostly young listeners could tape-record the broadcasts on compact cassettes and upload to their home computers via existing cassette port. But that had big drawbacks: For each computer platform you need a reprise and some of the cassette formats didn't support radio transmission. That is why 1982 Dutch NOS invented a new standard for transmitting BASIC via FM and AM, called BASICODE, as a kind of computing Esperanto. A 0-bit was represented by a single period of a 1200 Hz tone and a 1-bit was represented by two periods of a 2400 Hz tone. The whole program was broadcast as one large block with five seconds 2400 Hz leaders and trailers. It was a RS232-like signal that was FSK modulated and had 1200 BPS. BBC did it early Sunday morning, but the DDR Radio used air time in the afternoon prime time. Well, of course, a torture listening to. Hence, I try using old BASICODE transmissions to create a sound which is related to contemporary easy listening radio or ready for dancefloor, but still legible by old school cassette ports. „Digital Folklore“ is an ongoing project."