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MMD > Archives > December 1997 > 1997.12.14 > 13Prev  Next

Player Pianos Aren't Computers
By Peter Coggins

After hearing it said many times, I must register my protest at calling
player pianos early computers.

Even a basic computer performs an arithmetic function or calculation,
which a player does not.  A player is more like a relay (the valve)
controlled by a switch, just 88 times arranged in a tuneful pattern.

The Duo-Art is an excellent example of a digital-to-analog converter
though.  What a coincidence that these are called D-A converters!!
But a D-A converter is still not a computer.  Admittedly the D-A (the
Duo-Art one) does use binary codes but a computer does a mathematical
function with these codes.  Also players don't give you as many
headaches as computers!  :)

Anyway I have had my 5 cents worth -- we don't have 2 cent coins in
Australia anymore!

Peter Coggins

 [ One might argue that the Ampico A performs addition: the hinged
 [ board with the intensity force-pneumatics adds the leveraged forces
 [ of the discrete (binary) commands together with a force created by
 [ the crescendo logic.  It is a "mechanical analog computer", as is
 [ an engineer's slide rule.  (Yes, I still use mine!).  But it's true
 [ -- no one ever called these devices "computers", any more than
 [ office adding machines were called computers!
 [ I'm now working at a NASA research facility, where I read recently
 [ that the ladies who reduced the telemetered aircraft data in the
 [ '40s and '50s were called "Computers".  They worked with graph
 [ paper and slide rules, and often labored all night to present a
 [ report the next day in "Engineering Units".  Nowadays the radio
 [ signals are piped directly into the ubiquitous computer and
 [ displayed instantly.  -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 14 Dec 1997, 11:28:40 GMT, from time zone GMT+1100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Aren't, Computers, Pianos, Player

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