The music of CSIRAC

Many people have helped with the recreation and publication of this work and have provided encouragement to me throughout this project. It has been a pleasure to be involved with some of the original pioneers of computing in Australia. I hope that I have made clear the roles played by the people who worked with CSIRAC. I would like to thank all of them and the interviewees for their generous time and assistance. The interviewees are; Reginald Ryan, Terry Holden, Kay Thorne, Peter Thorne, Ron Bowles, Eileen Hill, Douglas McCann and Dick McGee. I am particularly grateful to; Ron Bowles, Jurij Semkiw, and especially John Spencer, for their gracious patience with my naive questions, their generosity and their skills, without which this project could never have progressed beyond the imagination stage — many thanks.

The University of Melbourne, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering has been extremely helpful and supportive, providing access to people and facilities. Thanks are due especially to Peter Thorne and Leon Sterling for this.

Thanks to Museum Victoria, especially Catherine Lovelock, Fiona Kinsey and David Demant who allowed me unfettered access to CSIRAC, now a prized museum object, to achieve the most faithful recreation possible of the music.

I am very grateful to the many other people who have helped 'behind the scenes', providing their time, encouragement, expertise and sometimes equipment. These people are: John Crawford, Doug McCann, Judith Hughes, Warren Burt, Steven Pass and the Technical Services staff including John Horvath and Andrew Peel.

Thanks to The Pearcey Foundation for assistance in the early stages of this project.

Chris Burton very kindly provided unique information about early British computers through private correspondence and connection with the Computer Conservation Society.

Thanks to Gus Gollings who was tireless and instrumental in the publication of the work, and to Sarah Kenderdine whose inspired ideas helped tremendously to bring this work to its published fruition.

Australia Council for the Arts logo

Special thanks to Paul Berg for many years of inspirational mentor-ship and for reviewing this project.

This project was very generously assisted and funded by the Australian Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Paul Doornbusch.


Much of the anecdotal and oral material was gathered over long periods of casual and personal contact with the people involved. For example, there were several pieces of the puzzle that came out during the CSIRAC 50th birthday celebrations in November 1999 and there were regular meetings on a Tuesday with John Spencer, Jurij Semkiw, Ron Bowles, Peter Thorne, Doug McCann and others.

Interview with Trevor Pearcey, recorded on 1st October 1996, interview conducted by Steven Pass, Doug McCann and Peter Thorne.

Interview with Reginald Ryan, conducted by the author, 25th January 2000.

Interview with Terry Holden, recorded 7th June 1997 by Steven Pass.

Interview with Kay Thorne, conducted by the author, 21st February 2000.

Interview with Peter Thorne, conducted by the author, 16th February 2000.

Interview with Ron Bowles, conducted by the author, 25th February 2000.

Interview with Eileen Hill, conducted by the author, 2nd March 2000.

Interview with Douglas McCann, conducted by the author, 15th May 2000.

Interview with Dick McGee, conducted by the author, 20th May 2000.

Private correspondence with Chris P. Burton, Computer Conservation Society.

Bird, J. 1999. “Percy Grainger” Sydney, Australia: Currency Press.

Cage, J. 1967. “Silence” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press

Chadabe, J. 1997. “Electric Sound the Past and Promise of Electronic Music” New Jersey, USA: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

CSIRAC Archive, The University of Melbourne Computer Science Department.

Dean, J. 1997. “CSIRAC Australia’s First Computer” Killara, New South Wales, Australia: Australian Computer Museum Society.

Hiller, L. A. and Isaacson, L. M. 1959. “Experimental Music" New York, USA: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.

Manning, P. 1993. “Electronic and Computer Music” Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

McCann, D. and Thorne, P. 2000. “The Last of the First: CSIRAC: Australia’s First Computer” Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Computer Science.

Pierce, J. 1995. “Recollections by John Pierce” Part of “The Historical CD of Digital Sound Synthesis. Computer Music Currents 13” Mainz, Germany: Schott Wergo Music Media GmbH.

Roads, C. 1980. “Interview with Max Matthews “Computer Music Journal 4(4). Reprinted in C. Roads, ed. 1989. “The Music Machine” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press

Roads, C. 1996. “The Computer Music Tutorial” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press

Williams, M. R. 1997. “A History of Computing Technology" California, USA: IEEE Computer Society Press.


There are many internet resources for computer music, electronic music, CSIRAC and historical computing, here are a few: