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1

Supposedly, Strachey was the first at computer-generated music, on the Ferranti Mark 1, around 1951. The Mark I had a 'hoot' instruction to allow the programmer to alert the operator -- much like a Windows PC 'beep', I suppose -- and this was used as the sound source. You can find an example on this BBC page. (Grumpy-programmer aside: it's unfortunate ...


1

The IBM 1620 could play music by moving varying length numeric strings between locations in core memory. It generally played only a single line, so no harmony, but the overtone stack was great! If you wanted to do some computation at the same time, no problem. Whip out your paper, pencil, and slide rule and have it while the computer played on. Circa ...


0

Huh! No one mentioned musical line printers! When I was a wee kid and dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, I was a Mainframe Operator and we made music by banging rocks together sending specially crafted ASCII art to line printers from mainframes: Clickable YouTube Video link going to the Computer History museum below: I distinctly remember the French ...


1

The Motorola 68000 (first built in 1974) inside the TI-89 graphing calculator is supposed to be able to play music by repurposing the data transfer jack cable, although I never tried it personally. See examples of programs. While I'm not certain it is possible to do something else while this runs, some of the programs listed say "able to play of the sound ...


1

The question mentions "midi". A MIDI file is rather simple, as it is low bandwidth (small files). I see some other answers tackling that. I see another answer mentions "Redbook" CD audio, which is very simple as far as CPU goes (CPU just sends instructions to the drive, and on some systems there was a cord going directly from the CD drive to the sound ...


1

I was doing it from around 1988/89 with an external SCSI CD-ROM drive from a Mac. Sorry cannot remember the exact date but I know I got a CD-ROM almost as soon as they were available. SCSI was extremely efficient so you could run audio and play in the background whilst using most development tools such as C++ compilers and database development environments ...


4

The first time I did this was on an Atari 400. Was a hack. I found out only one track was used for the program data, leaving the other one for audio. Great! I prepared a tape with some music recorded off the radio. While in basic, I could press play on the 410 data recorder, and start it with POKE 54018,52 (which I just had to go look up) to start the ...


3

This question made me think of RealSound: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RealSound RealSound is a patented (US US5054086 A) technology for the PC created by Steve Witzel of Access Software during the late 1980s. RealSound enables 6-bit digitized PCM-audio playback on the PC speaker by means of PWM drive, allowing software control of the loud speaker's ...


2

Around 1997 I had a Pentium 133MHz and 32mb RAM (somewhat middle segment at the time). I remember trying to hear an mp3 on winamp and work on Microsoft Word at the same time. The words would appear a bit delayed after I typed them in, as long as the music was running. I guess that was the moment when it started being possible for the average user. On a ...


2

There actually were two common PC speaker drivers for windows. One of them is the PC speaker driver by Microsoft, already mentioned in the other answers, while the other one, written by John Ridges has not yet been mentioned. The Microsoft driver is typically installed as SPEAKER.DRV, while the driver by John Ridges is installed as SPEAKR.DRV. Currently, ...


4

to load music on an old PC It sounds like your expectation is that you could load up a CD of The Go-Go's into disk files, and play it in the background while you work. That won't work on 70s-80s machines, as they lack either the disk space to store even compressed music, or the computing power to decompress it on the fly. It starts to become possible in ...


4

https://web.archive.org/web/20070227091822/http://download.microsoft.com/download/win98/utility/1/w9x/en-us/speak.exe Designed for Windows 3.1, though also known to work for Windows 95 and 98. When sound was played, sound could get tremendous priority, causing an inability to move the mouse cursor while sound was played. Or, alternatively, moving the ...


0

I think old soundblaster 16 drivers have a pc speaker out, other than that it's in the bios, it would be very low level since it's designed for POST tests. Or power on safe test


2

So was there a way to load music on an old PC (70s-90s) and when was it possible for the first time? Also what would it be like? See & hear it below. 1970 (maybe before). The PDP/8-e was introduced in 1970. This depends on what you accept as a "PC" and what bar you set for "music". A PDP8 was an expensive tool, or toy, in the 1970s, but was as close ...


2

The beep chip could be programmed to different frequencies. Someone with too much caffeine at MS made it into a sound card. I used it for years as my sound card at the time only did MIDI. More background on beeping and hardware https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/larryosterman/2010/01/04/whats-up-with-the-beep-driver-in-windows-7/ Windows used to beep on ...


23

It was a DOS-Windows 3.x and DOS-Windows 9x/ME thing. It was a driver named speaker.drv, written by Microsoft. It turned off interrupts for significant periods of time, which caused I/O problems with other devices but which was inherent in the nature of the hardware. It came in a self-extracting archive named speak.exe, and could be found on the companion ...


4

I wrote a music player on my 1983 Oric Atmos, and some other people already did that before me. The Oric uses a AY-8912 soundchip. You can send orders to play waveforms with or without varying envelopes. The order is just a write into a register. Can be done from within an interrupt and the sound is issued. It doesn't take a lot of CPU. On the other hand, ...


2

Was definitely possible on an Apple IIGS (and I expect Amigas and other 16 bit systems of the same vintage) to play music (think midi synthesized, not sampled at CD quality for any length of time) and write documents


12

The Amiga was the first system where I pulled this off: It was not streaming music, but listening to so called "MOD"s, small data chunks of samples and instructions how to play them. There is still an alive(?) scene for this. These Mods could be played in the background on Amigas Multitasking OS, while you were doing something else. Update: If you just ...


21

On the generic early-nineties x86 systems I'm familiar with at least, redbook CD audio playback on IDE CD-ROM drives is asynchronous and autonomous. The drive would connect to the sound card through a four-pin stereo audio connector to provide CD audio as another audio source to the mixer. You could use a CD music player program to control track selection ...


5

At an 8 kHz sample rate, an Apple II would only hold about 5 or so seconds of raw uncompressed audio (plus the code needed to play them, either via add-on DAC board or 1-bit PWM). Compressed audio would need maybe at least a few orders of magnitude more compute performance than the very roughly 0.2 integer "MIPs" offered by a 6502 to decompress audio in ...


13

The topic mentions PCs but as you mention C64s specifically in the text, I can note that on the C64 it was not uncommon for utility software to have built in music (especially in the tools centered around the needs of the demo scene). Of course, that is not the same as a general purpose music player. Music was generally not really made using MIDI or audio ...


30

In theory that would have been possible from the very start. After all, music doesn't need much bandwidth (*1), especially when using synthesized form like with a sound chip such as the SID. In reality the software structure of (most) machines in the 70s and 80s would not support this. They were single program, single tasking machines and the OS was not ...


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