Radiohead’s Greatest Hits for the ZX Spectrum

We’ll admit that only a few of us here at Hackaday are Radiohead fans. However, we all couldn’t help but appreciate their new remastered release of OK Computer. The new release contains some bonus material. At the end of the bonus material is a strange noise that turns out to be a ZX Spectrum Basic program.[OooSLAJEREKooO] managed to find it, play it, and record it for all of us (see video below).

The two minutes of tones might sound unfamiliar to a modern computer user, but back in the day, audio tones were used to communicate over phone lines and to load and save programs via cassette tape recorders. You might be asking yourself: why the ZX Spectrum? Radiohead is from the UK, but that’s not the complete picture. Of all home computers, the ZX Spectrum had a higher effective bit rate when storing data on tape. Basically, it takes less time (and less tape) to put it on a Speccy than a C64 or Apple.

Radiohead didn’t invent this gimmick. There’s a long history of record albums sneaking in software as audio tones, including a single from [Frank Sidebottom] when he was still going by [Chris Sievey] that had an animated “music video” on a Sinclair ZX back in 1983 (see the second video, below).

You might think this was the first time Radiohead has appeared on Hackaday. After all, we aren’t really a music site. But you’d be wrong. If you don’t have a ZX Spectrum lying around, you can always go the FPGA route.

9 thoughts on “Radiohead’s Greatest Hits for the ZX Spectrum

  1. “The two minutes of tones might sound unfamiliar to a modern computer user, but back in the day, audio tones were used to communicate over phone lines and to load and save programs via cassette tape recorders.”

    So the 38 year old and older will get this. My how time flys.

    1. Oh, So I guess I’d never get this…. I’m way too young at 26 Years old.
      I’ve never heard of the dial-blipblop-beeeeeeep-kaHisssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhh sound of a 56K US-Robotics modem (Or did skrillex arrive in the 90’s?).
      I’ve never been amazed at a 20KB (Yes, Byte) average download speed as an improvement over a 4KB download speed.
      I’ve missed the era of AOL and freeserve.
      I’ve missed out on typing “Simple transistor circuits” or “Art” into the early google.com search-engine and receiving at least 3 pages of nuudes+prn before finally finding the first circuit example (Though I didn’t mind anyway, at least there was eye candy to ease the slow dial-up (:D)->-<)….

      So nope… honestly I aint experienced it and, “I ent a liar!”

  2. I was curious about the tape transfer rates, since I knew that the Apple II was reasonably fast (and C64 darn slow).
    ZX Spectrum: 1535 bits/sec on average (1’s take 2x more time than 0’s)
    Apple II: 1500 bits/sec on average (ditto)
    C64: 400 bits/sec on average
    TRS-80: 250 bits/sec for L1 Basic, or 500 bits/sec for L2 Basic

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