Piano Roll

Contributed by Nankipu

The piano roll stores information about a piece of music, played on a piano, which enables it to be reproduced with remarkable accuracy. The holes in the centre represent a note being played. Four holes to the left and right represent the loudness of the note in a binary scale from 0 to 15, yet more holes record the use of the pedals. The words to the tune are also printed.
Such rolls are precursors of the MIDI files used today to record key depressions and settings on electronic instruments. Perhaps more importantly they are precursors of the recording of data onto punched cards, which enabled the commercial computing revolution, still unfolding today.
In its simplest form, it allowed families to sit around the piano and sing along with popular tunes, or to listen to contemporary pianists as though they were in the living room. Such mechanical music making was replaced by the gramaphone and its vinyl discs, but the rolls carry the seeds of the entire data processing revolution, which has changed information processing forever.

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