Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anybody remember DOS?

Does anybody remember DOS?

The computer I first interacted with looked like an electric typewriter. It was wired into a mainframe elsewhere. You typed in the commands (I was learning to program in BASIC), waited, and the results typed out magically in front of you. For me, it was pretty addictive stuff.

I remember writing a simple program to calculate how long it would take to cut the grass in my back yard. The program's result was correct within 30 seconds. Exciting stuff! It also made cutting my grass that time a lot more interesting.

Even though DOS was slower and more work, there was a joy of understanding in having the power to control that little machine in front of you.

Eventually, along came Macs, Windows, bulletin boards, html, Netscape, Firefox, Chrome, Facebook, Netflix, iPhones, android, iPads...
I wonder what names I'll need to add to that list in ten years.

Would anybody seriously suggest going back to DOS? (or punched cards before that?)

That brings me to my point (I usually have one): trombones have to deal with tenor and alto clef. I'm not ready to dump tenor, but alto? Have you ever played Prokofiev with some of the crazy changes between bass and alto clef...usually right in the middle of an exposed passage? Why doesn't somebody just re-write the parts to make them easier to read?

How about the offstage parts in Pine of Rome? Bass clef transposed?

Jumping over to French Horn and Trumpet: why do they continue to learn all those transpositions? They're not using tuning crooks anymore.

Or to really annoy everyone: Why are the musical instructions in a foreign language (just playing Devil's Advocate here)?

My point is this: in technology, even though we may feel proud about mastering the intricacies of an earlier system (such as DOS) we don't cling to it. Yet in music, we do. We don't move on, upgrade or innovate in the world of music notation. 50 years from now, trombonists will still be slogging through studies in alto clef. Hmm, why not learn mezzo soprano clef or baritone clef?

I can almost hear someone saying, "If I had to learn transposition, you're going to have to learn it as well. It builds character!!"

Is that person still entering commands
at the DOS prompt?

Post blog comments:
1. Actually, I think tenor clef is the most natural clef for tenor trombone. What if we just started beginners in tenor clef?

2. If music were a more profitable business, innovations would have appeared long ago. I suspect music publishers can't afford to rework all those transposed parts.