Remaking Radiohead, With Dot Matrix Printers

From giant cell phones to old motherboards, outdated technology holds great value for collectors like Jason Savitt.

"The older it is, the harder it is to get it to work," Savitt says. In many cases, hobbyists aim only to preserve a look at how the technology once functioned. Savitt, who blogs about his finds on Vintage Technology Collector, says his Altair 8800, from 1975, is his prized possession. One of the first personal computers, it used switches instead of a keyboard. If that seems hopelessly antiquated, consider the keyboardless wonder of the iPod.

Video artist James Houston used hard drives and dot matrix printers to play a song by Radiohead. Houston, of Glasgow, Scotland, found that old personal computers could provide a wonderful range of bleeps. He added the sliding whirs of image scanners to the mix of clicks and tones. The less musical the old technology sounded, the more sympathetic the effect — as though the machines were straining for a beauty beyond their humble states.

Houston says the sounds were there for the harvesting. He just had to keep tinkering with the machinery. "It was a matter of prodding and poking to try to get good music out of it," he says.

The members of Radiohead liked Houston's work so much that they posted the video on the band's official Web site.

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