WTF is a Data Cassette

Micro Arts data cassettes
Micro Arts data cassettes, case design Geoff Davis
Micro Arts data cassettes
Micro Arts data cassettes – MA1 master

This came up at the Leicester 8bit exhibition. I was chatting to a musician (there was an audio installation from Virtual State), and he wondered if data cassettes were CD quality.

A data cassette is a stream of information, encoded as beeps, which are bits in on/off mode, this is then much speeded up to fit on a tape. So the audio is just zeroes and ones. This is read by an audio decoder in the micro, to convert the audio beeps back into bits.

This was also how micro programmers worked, saving to tape. This was not a pro game shop, I just started up Micro Arts at home in Clapham.

Data cassette deck - now museum piece
Data cassette deck – now museum piece

Older readers will recall the noisy screech of modems. Even older readers will remember these tapes and the tape decks.

However, the cassettes last a long time, when I opened the cardboard box in which stored Micro Arts materials, around 2019, all the tapes loaded perfectly into a PC Spectrum emulator. Apparently, as I moved about a lot (I’ve lived in many places), the oxide doesn’t get settled, so they are more reliable. That’s weird. Pretty long term when you think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

8-bit exhibition Leicester 9 June 2021

8-bit exhibition

Classic computer art from the 1980s

The Micro Arts exhibition opens on Wednesday 9 June, from 6pm. There will be short talks by Sean Clark the curator and me.

Location: LCB Depot – Lightbox Gallery

31 Rutland Street

LE1 1RE

Poster
Posters
Geoff Davis during the set up (photo Sean Clark)
Geoff Davis during the set up (photo Sean Clark)
Micro Arts 8-Bit Exhibition Leicester June 2021
Getting ready for Micro Arts 8-Bit Exhibition Leicester June 2021 (empty boxes will have data cassettes, magazine, etc in them)

Talk

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.

Many outputs:

  • algorithmic art and animations, MA1 by Geoff Davis and MA3 by Martin Rootes)
  • conceptual (long form 2 years, math/code art, Dada word generator etc.), MA2 by Geoff Davis
  • graphic feminist/political animations, Money Work System from SCUM Manifesto, MA2
  • text generation from a story about the 1980s epidemic of prion mad cow disease BSE, MA4 by Geoff Davis (exhibited at LFMC show, and later distributed on Prestel teletext).

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).

Personal history

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.

1980s

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?

Archive, historical.

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.

 

 

Video of computer generated art MA1:1 Abstract Originals 1984

Another video this time of MA1 ‘Abstract Originals’:1

The first generated art on MA1 Geoff Davis ‘Abstract Originals’.

No sound.