2020 November: In National Archive
Micro Arts is in the new Computer Arts Archive (British Computer Society)
Visit Computer Art Archive here.
2020 October: Exhibitions
There are 2+1 exhibitions next year , two for Micro Arts (London and Leicester with Sean Clark) and a show of new AI based work (London UAL, tbc). There is a paper by Sean Clark on Micro Arts in the EVA London conference in summer 2021.
Audio cassette tape inventor Lou Ottens dies aged 94.
Micro Arts distributed computer art via data cassettes, which were ordinary audio tapes with data bits recorded on them as sound (familiar amongst older readers as the screechy sound made by old modems). These were professionally copied on short (5 minute) tapes, then printed inserts added, with information about the contents.
The cassette was developed by Lou Ottens at Philips and released in 1963. It was a huge popular success compared to high-end reel tape, although at a lower quality, a bit like MP3 encoding of audio files. Huge increase in portability and much lower costs.
Led to proliferation of cassette decks of all qualities from small portables (Walkman etc.) to hifi separates with excellent sound. Music fans often bought a vinyl LP, recorded to cassette, then stored the LP and used the tape for play. Could also be used in the car.
100 billion cassettes made since the 1960s. Not very sustainable!
They are having a revival in the indie music scene (eg Bandcamp, SoundCloud) as a physical format to go with a download, as much cheaper than a vinyl LP, and easier to make in small, even hand made, runs.
There was a big cassette bootleg culture, as well as friends copying LPs, and mix tapes, which led to the music industry’s promotion of the Home Taping is Killing Music campaign – of course the opposite was true.
The 1980s timeline is on the top menu, I will add some images soon. Or just click here for the timeline start page. This also has a lot of music technology events.
This will also be included in the 2nd edition of the Micro Arts History book, due out soon on Leopard Print Publishing London.
I also simplified the menus, any confusion please let me know.
More news soon about the Computer Arts Archive.
Also we are doing fine art prints of the computer art here, in various sizes, these will be out soon. All prints will be numbered and have a Certificate. Also some memorabilia in the shape of the four data cassettes. If you are interested please request details using the Contact form.
If you are interested in AI and text generation, I’ve put a blog on my personal site about my recent AI text research – click here (new page).
There is an exhibition in November 2020 to launch the Computer Arts Archive, which features Micro Arts. POSTPONED to summer 2021.
Geoff Davis talking about Micro Arts, his 1980s computer art group
Computer Arts Society, 9/6/2020
Video to be posted here soon.
geoffdavis5 gmail com
or use Contact on the this site.
Micro Arts – produced a range of computer art for popular micros, and a paper magazine. Programmed, curated by Geoff, with contributions from friends, male, female, UK, US, France.
Aim was to start a new computer arts group, educate and perhaps sell a few art data cassettes. Later it all went onto Prestel national teletext.
Modelled on art groups London Video Arts and London Film-Makers Co-op; and indie record labels. This was my social background at the time.
Was intended to be a community, inclusive, diverse, populist, grass roots political. No ‘authority’. Not academic, I left University in 1980 and wasn’t thinking of it. No CAS at the time.
Was well reviewed by mainstream computer press, see Reviews.
No internet so hard to market.
I had a few stories published, this is one of my competing activities. See my section in People.
The print Magazine was free. Full of informative articles, not reviews. (Magazine is on this site.)
Prestel was on invitation from EMAP but that took some of the momentum out of it, then I started working commercially again. See Prestel page.
Also got involved in so-called ‘pirate TV’ NetWork 21. (No pirates, but lots of art, fashion.)
For more from the various contributors see People page.
CAS was not around at this point. Only contact I had was Harold Cohen (art machines) by letter in US, who was famously uninterested in ‘computer art’ as a scene. He told me all art was about marketing. He was in academia, which operates as a huge marketing funnel (as well as providing work for artists).
Before Micro Arts I was working in commercial COBOL programming (using pencils) on a Univac 1100 mainframe, and also Vax minis.
After Micro Arts, networking (at Prudential, first use of networked ‘personal computers’ IBM PC ATs in dealing room, no-one there had experience of micros, it was large IBM mainframe site).
Later, worked in new computer graphics lab at Sheffield Hallam University, Psalter Lane art college (12 x Unix Apollo workstations, 2D and 3D modelling and animation, CGAL (Peter Comninos) etc.).
Later still, London Institute teaching, then web industry, apps.
Now computers and text researcher at UAL CCI, Camberwell art college. Still in early stages.
Huge change in tech from 1980 (mainframes, coding with pencils) to 1990 (workstations). Micros appeared and improved over decade.
Warhol used Amiga, etc. – computers becoming unavoidable in art, design, music, film, smaller businesses.
Early artists moved into commercial work.
What is use now?
Educational examples – what can be done with relatively simple computers – hands on – Raspberry Pi
Artworks and merchandise on sale here soon – archival prints, reprint of Magazine, MA1, MA2, MA3, MA4 Data Cassettes, Magazine 2, previously unpublished.
I’m now a researcher at University of the Arts London, Creative Computing Institute at Camberwell Art College. I’ll let you know more as this develops. Topic is AI and text generation, with various outputs. This follows my 1985 text generation program Cow Boils Head, and the work in my Middlesex Uni MA on zooming and multi-layered texts, Calm As A Dead Clam.
I also have a new site for my general writing and art under the name Geoff Davis Org
I’ve been published on and off (mainly off) since the 1980s, everything was in print but new editions will be published in ebook format by Story Software this year and next.
More to follow…
Martin Rootes, of MA3 release fame, has got them off the original cassettes and made videos of BBC Micro generated graphics. See this video of Texture and Pattern:
This is from datacassette MA2: Piano Bar (red) by Geoff Davis 1984.
For more details see the MA2 Various Unusual Events page.
Pete Shelley, the Buzzcocks founder and writer, went solo and produced records such as Homosapien (banned by the BBC). It makes you wonder what the BBC is banning nowadays, for our own good, supposedly.
It seemed a good idea to make a ZX Spectrum lyrics/graphics piece for the LP (coded by friend Joey Headen). The computer program code was recorded on the 1983 Genetic/Island vinyl LP. This created lyrics and visuals. It was coded for an Sinclair ZX Spectrum (48k, issue 3).
This video has the album with the computer graphics and lyrics.