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The story of Iceland´s first computer and its music and how it reflected the emotional attachment of the engineers and programmers to this computer was tremendously interesting to me. The IBM computer was humanized by giving it a very human quality, the ability to "sing". The anthropomorphism was complete when the machine reached obsolescence. Instead of simply discarding it, the engineers gave it a funeral of sorts. They held a ceremony to commemorate its "life", work and songs. Burying the dead is one of the things that distinguish humans from animals. Funeral rites are only granted to something which was once alive. I got a strong impression that the engineers came to regard this computer as a living being (if only unconsciously) because they gave it certain very human qualities.

For several reasons, Kubrick´s film "2001, a Space Odyssey" came quickly to mind, particularly the scene where the sentient computer HAL is disconnected, slowly loses consciousness and "dies" while singing "A bicycle built for two". HAL´s name was chosen by Kubrick because the letters H.A.L. immediately precede the letters I.B.M. in the alphabet. Kubrick started work on "2001" around the same time as the IBM 1401 Data Processing System arrived in Iceland. One of the first records I remember from my youth was "Music from Mathematics", a Decca LP from 1962 which my father owned, featuring music played on the IBM 7090 Computer. One of the tracks is a recording of the computer singing "A bicycle built for two". My father took me to see "2001 a Space Odyssey" in the cinema when  I must have been no more than 5 or 6. Although the memory of it is hazy, I remember being quite fascinated and asking a lot of questions which he patiently tried to answer, although I can´t imagine how he explained the "tunnel of light" sequence to a six year old.

Listening for the first time to my fathers old tape, I was pleased to notice that after the "funeral" recording finished, an antediluvian voice emerged through the tape hiss and flutter, like something out of a BBC documentary from the 50´s, reading what sounded like obsolete technical jargon, punctuated intermittently by a bell. My father had evidently recorded the computer´s music and sounds over an audio instruction guide to the IBM 1403 Printer, which was the output module of the System. This material, which was clearly considered entirely dispensable at the time, sounded strange and exotic to my ears. After listening for a while to this litany of long forgotten technical terms and maintenance tips, they began to make sense to me in a strange way. The unknown instructor´s emotionless monotone began to resemble the voice of an oracle, a source of some ancient wisdom. The hypnotic droning of this voice and the ritualistic sounding of the bell (in actuality, probably used to signal a change of slide) began taking on the quality of some age-old prophet giving wise counsel. The utterances started to sound like no less than a guide for good living, for communication not only with machines but also with other people. In old Iceland, wise poetic sayings attributed to Odin were collected under the name of Hávamál. They were to be used as a practical guide to life and survival in the Viking Age. It occurred to me that the user´s manuals that accompany all our machines and tools are in a way the Hávamál of the Information Age, guides to good relations between man and the machines with which we will share our future on this planet.

I was also reminded of one of my favourite books, Georges Perec's "Life, A User's Manual". Suddenly there before me was an idea for a new piece, as well as a title.

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