Sound playback and recording became mainstream on computers today, the most known introduction was around 1989-1991 with the release of windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions. However, what was the first computer to introduce this functionality?

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    Playback and recording. Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 22:33
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    I have a vague recollection of a very crude sound recording program for the Apple 2 (it may have appeared in Call-A.P.P.L.E. magazine or similar). It was certainly not "built in" functionality, it was highly experimental. But what is your threshold for inclusion? Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 22:41
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    It wasn't build in with a PC, as of 1989, sound wasn't available on most boards, but had to be added using a sound card.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 22:48
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    Also, sound cards (such as Sound Blaster, 1989) with this functionality worked fine in DOS before any Windows "Multimedia Extensions" (1990). Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 22:52
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    @GregHewgill It was quite easy done by using the cassette input. In fact, one of my very first programs on my brand new Apple II was reading from cassette input (playing Queen) and outputting via the internal speaker :)) And yes, it was quite crude - and surprising well at the same time.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 23:17

4 Answers 4


However, what was the first computer to introduce this functionality?

Recording and playback has been always there - at least for micros.

Early S100 systems are a great example for example by using Cromemco's D+7A board of 1977, or Ithaca Audio's 8 chanel ADDA card of 1981 (AFAIR even MITS offered a suitable board in 1977) and sufficient storage.

Heck, there was even software to record and playback sound using an unexpanded Apple II. Ok, maybe not great, but quite functional.

The main issue for sound recording and playback is the availability of large RAM portions for buffering (I'd say anything above 16 KiB) and mass storage fast enough to store or retrive data fast enough. While floppies could deliver the needed transfer speed, their capacity was rather limited. So the critical point for availability can be set in 1980 with the introduction of Seagates ST-506 hard disk.

Now, a complete different issue might be when sound recording and playback became a mainstream commodity. This is way more related to system software able to mange sound streams. Apples Mac series was for example beginning with the very first 128k Mac capable to produce a continuous background sound stream. The hardware integrated Sound DMA it as part of the video timing. And it wasn't long that sound input hardware was as well available by third party (*1) and well supported by OS extensions. So it's safe to set a date around 1984/85 here.

*1 - Apple didn't supply any sound input hardware at all until the LC series, and no high quality until the Quadra 840 AV in 1993. This was due a settlement with the Beatles' Apple Corp, which prevented Apple Inc. of going into 'musik business'.

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    after seeing audio digitized and played back on an Apple //e, I did some experimental code on my C64 at home and was able to get a few playable seconds of That's Pep! by DEVO. - of course the quality sucked, but it was pretty neat at the time.
    – Geo...
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 0:52

Arguably, for some definitions of computer:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIGSALY 1943

This was a speech encryption system that did all the things a modern computer would do when recording and playing back sound, except storing it...:

-Encode analog sound as quantized digital samples (albeit some analog pre-processing happened to conserve bandwith).

-Process the resulting data digitally (not by a programmed CPU though, more of a hardwired - but digital - set of circuits).

-Reconstitute an analog signal on the receiving end from the digital samples eventually.


I remember having seen youtube videos on UNIX belonging to 1960s/1970s where the promotion videos of that time had playback support.

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    Your answer would be improved with a bit more detail. Can you link to some of these videos and describe them a little bit? What machines were these and what kind of video were they playing?
    – cjs
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 3:24

This depends on what quality you want (e.g. music and speech or something more crude) and whether you want this to be intended functionality or some by-product.

For instance, any computer with magnetic tape storage could use the tape recorder's microphone as a kind of input device. For instance, I remember using the recorder's microphone for controlling BK-0010 with hand slaps or loud shouts. Of course, this functionality was never intended, but since analog input was mapped to an input registry, a program could do whatever it wanted with it.

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