Music Instruction Software Graphic
History of the Music Instruction Software Page

The Music Instruction Software (MIS) Page is one of the oldest music pages on the world-wide web. It came about after a search for "piano" on an early WWW search engine yielded 6 people who were "forced to take piano lessons in childhood by an evil stepmother" and 29 programmers planning to "create software to duplicate the sound of a concert ground piano using the awesome sonic resources of the PC's built-in speaker" but aside from that, nothing really useful.

The Golden Days of the Internet (Winter 1993-94)

A few quick facts about the internet in those golden days of yore when the Music Instruction Software Page was but a young wisp of a thing:

How We Worked and Lived Before Modern Conveniences (Spring 1994)

When I wrote the MIS page, I had personally never seen even Mosaic running (Mosaic was basically the first graphical WWW browser, and a direct precursor to Netscape). I accessed the WWW by

Viewing a WWW page with this setup was a fine ergonomic experience. A 1200 baud modem will display text at approximately the same rate you can read it. So a WWW page might take 5 or 10 seconds to load; of course you can read the first few sentences while waiting for the rest to finish loading. Few people in those days bothered with graphics, as few people could view them. (How far we've come! Recently my computer at school--a slower computer, but with a direct LAN internet connection--ground around at a web page for over 60 seconds before it could announce in brightly colored graphics, "Click Here To Enter!")

To me, browsing the WWW with Lynx was a slight improvement over using Gopher (a similar system that allowed users to burrow around to different "gopher" sites worldwide). The main advantage of the WWW was that Lynx would vist WWW site and Gopher sites, whereas Gopher wouldn't view WWW sites.

(BTW, there are still plenty of gopher sites around the internet, if you know where to look for them. Visiting a Gopher server is like entering a murky time-warp, as most of them go all the way back to the early 90's.)

First Blood (Summer 1994)

Already instruction manuals for writing HTML were being written and placed online, though I didn't know about them. But I noticed that if you pointed Lynx at the Lynx bookmark file, it viewed the bookmark file just as it would any other WWW page. Opening the bookmark file with a text editor revealed that the bookmark file was nothing but a text file with some simple "tags" in it to indicate formatting. This "discovery" led to the creation of my first home page, a slightly edited version of my Lynx bookmark file:

Brent Hugh's Home Page

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  • However, if you look at the source code you will notice that it is mal-formed and incomplete--it turns out the bookmark file wasn't a very good model WWW page after all. In fact, one of the first responses I got to the page was a very irate fellow informing me that my WWW page had just crashed his computer. For the first time, I had felt the real power of the internet--the power to inadvertantly wreak havoc with some other poor sap's life half-way around the world.

    (It turns out that this fellow was using "emacs" with a more-or-less custom emacs script made for WWW browsing. I'm sure the setup was "neat" (any emacs users out there--if there are any left--are welcome to email me effusive letters of agreement) but the script made the fatal error of assuming that every WWW page in the whole wide world would consist of perfectly well-formed and error-free HTML.)

    Eventually I fixed the page and in the end it looked something like this (August 1995).

    What We Live For

    Aside from having my very own neat and nifty WWW home page, viewed by literally tens of rabid internet fans each month, I used the WWW myself from time to time, and of course I thought it was "cool". Something is so appealing about browsing around and seeing different pages from London, Tokyo, Winnipeg, Muncie, and so on--all for free. It doesn't really matter what is actually on the pages, which is a lucky thing, because usually there isn't much.

    So was happily wasting enormous amounts of time, but somewhere in the furthest recesses of my reptilian brain, there was that niggling question: what it is this all good for. Then I discovered that software could be downloaded over the WWW. Now there is something useful--it saves you a trip to the computer store. Plus, no one is going to go to the trouble of downloading a program all the way from Finland and then pay for it, too. So pretty much all the software on the WWW was free. Now that is starting to sound like something really useful.

    I wrote a message to a few usenet groups asking about music instruction software and received a few responses. From these, again copying the format of my original Lynx Bookmark file, I made the original Music Instruction Software Page:

    Brent Hugh's Music Instruction Software Page

    This page contains pointers to programs of interest to music teachers, particularly piano teachers. The main focus is programs that will help students master the basics of music.

    The pointers for most of the programs are to ftp sites (although I keep a few of the smaller files locally). At busy times of day, you may have a difficult time connecting. If you have trouble connecting, just try again at a different time (all sites are in the U.S., so you can figure out which times might be busy and which not).

    Programs for IBM (DOS or Windows)

    NoteTest is a set of computerized flashcards for the beginning pianist. The computer displays the note, the student must respond by playing it on a MIDI keyboard. Requires MIDI card and keyboard. (DOS freeware.)

    EarTest is an ear training program. It is loosely based on the method described in the David L. Burge Perfect Pitch ear training course that you may have seen advertised in music magazines. EarTest plays a note, you must respond by playing the same note on a MIDI keyboard.

    . . .

    Click here to view the complete page (July 1994)

    After a while, I got modern and decided to add a graphic to the page. You can see that version here (it dates from 1995).

    The Huddled Masses Yearn to Visit My Page

    A couple of decades ago, some television company did a huge trial of the "TV of the Future"--interactive TV. What they discovered was that it was a great idea, except for the fact that no one wanted to interact. What people really want is to sit on their butts and be entertained. Pushing a button to vote for dancing bunnies vs. sumo wrestlers next on the variety show is far too much to ask of the average TV viewer.

    Despite this great scientific discovery, hundreds of people from all over the world have interacted with me as a result of the MIS page. Here is my favorite response:
    From: ahriman455@gnn.com (vito acosta)
    Subject: you stink

    your page don't work

    Here's another gem:
    Subject: hi

    I am a 31 year old kid and an engeneer Ms in society

    Why dont you put a photo of yourself /dont get angry please about ths question/ are that ugly?

    You can read a few of the other email responses, ranging from the helpful to the a-literate, here. Other internet readers have sent me helpful suggestions, asked for advice on topics ranging from recorder music to recording music mp3s, and let me know when things are broken (although I'm always amazed when someone writes to say some important/useful link is severely broken, to discover that it has been that way for 6 1/2 months, each day unsuccessfully tried by a few hundred users, none of whom bothered to report the problem . . . ).

    One helpful netizen, out of a kindly concern for my eternal soul, signed me up for the "Baptist Information Service". Sort of like the Hotel California, the Baptist Information Service has the motto "You can sign off, but you can never leave." Nice folks, and I'm always glad to find out what Pastor Stowe is worried about (the world is going to H-E-double-toothpicks in a handbasket, at last report) and "What Liberals Believe" (not much of anything, it turns out . . . )

    What I Learned

    Actually learning something is far too much to expect of the Internet Generation. So let me just list a few fascinating facts:

    Aftermath

    Visit Brent Hugh's Music Instruction Software Page (up-to-date version with some working links) here.

    Visit some of his other pages here.

    Browse through a lot of out-of-date (read historical) versions of the Music Instruction Software Page here. It really is a trip down memory lane, especially if you have a very short memory and don't mind tripping . . .

    Attestation

    I swear and vow that everything I have written above is true, very true, or at least mostly true, or at least that it would be pretty hard to prove to the contrary, which is basically the same as being true . . . isn't it?


    The keeper of this page is Brent Hugh bhugh @ brenthugh.com). Feel free to email him with some good fodder for future pages.