The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
WOLFMAN JACK 3000: When I was a college DJ, one of my colleagues lived in an apartment filled with obscure albums, reel-to-reel tape loops, sound-effects records, videotapes of UFO cranks, and cassettes of old programs he could re-edit and broadcast anew. Sometimes he'd conclude his late-night radio show with minutes of silence, interrupted occasionally by a recorded voice declaring, "There is no sound here at all."

Once he brought a personal computer into the studio, hooked it to the console, and programmed it to replay a sound effect, over and over again. Then he started a record or two -- he never liked to play only one thing at a time -- and wandered out of the room.

A visitor entered and saw a Macintosh where a disc jockey would ordinarily be.

"What's that computer for?" he asked me.

"It's the DJ," I explained. "This is some new software we're trying out. The computer's been responsible for all the programming in the last hour. It's been doing a good job, don't you think?"

The stranger blinked a couple of times. "Yes," he finally said. "It certainly has."

"We're thinking about replacing a lot of the DJs with machines," I said. "This is sort of an experiment."

"It's amazing," said the stranger, "what they can do with computers these days."

"It is," I amiably agreed. "And this isn't even the best program. We're hoping to make enough money this pledge drive to get one of the newer models."

The DJ reentered the studio and got back to work.

"All right," I admitted. "I made all that stuff up."

Our guest looked embarrassed, and a little disappointed. "Uh...yeah, I thought so," he lied.

The computers had the last laugh, of course. These days they're doing DJ shifts all over the country, and when they aren't playing the music they're still picking it. Rarely, alas, do they broadcast such creative chaos.

posted by Jesse 1:40 PM
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