Today, Python is probably the most popular computer programming language taught in elementary and secondary schools. (There’s even a terrific podcast, Teaching Python, on this subject.) But back in the 1980s, BASIC was the language of choice for many introductory computer classrooms. Specifically, versions of Microsoft BASIC came with many popular 8-bit microcomputers, including the Apple II and Commodore 64, which were also commonly used in schools at the time.
The episode I’m covering today taped on January 18, 1984, which was four days before Super Bowl XVIII. That game would go down in computing history for the famous Apple “1984” commercial that announced the launch of the original Macintosh (later known as the Macintosh 128K). As this Chronicles episode aired the week after the Super Bowl, Stewart Cheifet devoted a good portion of the post-show “Random Access” segment to the new machine and what it might mean for Apple for the rest of 1984.
We begin this episode of The Computer Chronicles from February 1984 with Stewart Cheifet plunking on an unspecified model of Casiotone keyboard. Cheifet remarked to Gary Kildall, “This is an example of computer music,” which was this week’s subject. Cheifet added that the Casiotone could play special ROM chips that contain “popular songs” in electronic form. Cheifet asked Kildall to explain how a computer makes music. Kildall replied that while the Casiotone was not a “general purpose computer,” contemporary personal computers like those manufactured by IBM and Commodore have “tone generation capability.