ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, April – August 2009
"Fun With Software", Arnolfini, Bristol, UK, 25 Sep – 21 Nov 2010
"An das Gerät!", Halle 14, Leipzig, 1 May – 26 September 2010, and ACC Gallery, Weimar, 17 Oktober 2010 – 2 January 2011
Alexander Ochs Galleries, Berlin, 2 June 2012 – 8 September 2012
dOCUMENTA(13), Kassel, 9 June 2012 – 16 September 2012
to access the loveletter ARCHIVE.
(Click images to enlarge.)
From August 1953 to May 1954 strange love-letters appeared on the notice board of Manchester University’s Computer Department:
YOU ARE MY AVID FELLOW FEELING. MY AFFECTION CURIOUSLY CLINGS TO YOUR PASSIONATE WISH. MY LIKING YEARNS FOR YOUR HEART. YOU ARE MY WISTFUL SYMPATHY: MY TENDER LIKING.
M. U. C.
The acronym M.U.C. stood for “Manchester University Computer”, the earliest electronic, programmable and universal calculating machine worldwide; the fully functional prototype was completed in June 1948 and was based on Williams tubes as means of volatile storage. One of the very first software developers, Christopher Strachey (1916–1975), had used the built-in random generator of the Ferranti Mark I, the first industrially produced computer of this kind, to generate texts that are intended to express and arouse emotions.
“LoveLetters_1.0” consists of two parts. In the installation, the visitor interacts with a functional replica of the Ferranti Mark 1, which conveys an impression of the different components and the functionality of the first computer. By executing the original code of Strachey’s software, it continuously generates loveletters. These are projected on a large screen at another location, in public space, where everybody can read it. A monitor in the installation allows to observe the remote projection.
If the visitor manages to compose his or her name on the switches of the console using the five-bit code the machine was originally programmed in (Baudot), the loveletter will carry this signature. “LoveLetters_1.0” allows people to publicly adress algorithmically generated loveletters to each other.
Once a day, at a randomly selected moment, the machine autonomously reads out loud a loveletter on the megaphones mounted on the outside wall of the exhibition venue and prints it on the reconstructed Creed 7 teleprinter from 1931. (This machine helped organising the British response to Hitler’s threats.) When somebody successfully enters his name, the Mark 1 plays “God Save the Queen” on the “hooter” (loudspeaker). The loveletters generated can be downloaded from the project’s website or be copied onto a usb stick on site.
On the electronic tabloid display, the visitor can investigate the historical background of the first computer by studying authentic documents and photos of the time. The lab notebook of one of its main constructors, Geoff Tootill, is presented alongside the maintenance engineers’ logbook from July 1951, all the manuals for the machine (Turing 1952, Prinz 1952) and several sets of photos.
Produced by Kunststiftung NRW, ZKM, Karlsruhe.