Matt Nish-Lapidus

Delay Line Memory (Data Date)


Eight channel algorithmic audio, dimensions variable.

A delay line memory was one of the early incarnations of computer memory, often used in portable briefcase sized adding machines. It used subtle vibrations along a wound coil to store and recall numbers in sequence. These machines were the first of their kind, with a short memory for numeric data that could be recalled when needed.

Kraftwerk’s song “Computer Love”, released in 1981, reached number one on the UK Singles Chart. The song tells a simple story of a lonely man looking for love. He attempts to find love via a computer dating service—a “data date.”

Both the technological advancement of memory and Kraftwerk’s song imbue computers with human attributes—the ability to remember and to love. They also enculturated computation. Memory moved computers into homes and offices and “Computer Love” helped them enter the pop culture zeitgeist.

In “Delay Line Memory” a computer program engages in an endless cycle of recalling and scrambling the wistful melody of “Computer Love.” Through a computational logic of shuffling, sorting, delaying, and matching it iterates through hundreds of thousands of melodic variations—its own way of sorting through a faint memory of romance, “data dates,” and nostalgia. Only occasionally is there a moment of clarity, where the original melody solidifies and then dissolves again, lost in endless computation. Each cycle can range from as short as thirty seconds to as long as thirty minutes. As it iterates it counts aloud from zero to seven, tabulating its cycles and mimicking the counting vocalizations in the original song, although similarly out of place and mixed up as the melody.

An ongoing process of remembering, forgetting, and remembering again. Trying to recall the song, from many years ago, that made it feel special, important, loved. So close, but gone after a moment, stuck in a cycle of recall and reconstruction.

In studio photos: