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.
History of the Music Instruction Software Page
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:
- When I first started browsing the WWW, there were a few hundred WWW servers active.
By the time I posted the first version of the MIS page, there were
about 1500 WWW servers. Nowadays there are millions or probably trillions of WWW servers
and everyone in the entire world is logged onto one or more of them at all times.
Now that's progress.
- The original MIS page was written somewhere after the first version of Mosaic was released
and before the first version of Netscape. If you even know what I'm talking about here, please
retire to the front porch to have a Geritol and a nice nap before continuing with the
tumultuous excitement of the rest of this page.
- When the MIS page first hit the electrons,
Internet Explorer wasn't even a gleam in Bill Gates's eye, as he was busily trying
to monopolize some other part of the world. (I told you we were talking ancient history here . . . )
- The page first appeared in July 1994, which in Internet Time makes it exactly 437.89
years old. But don't worry--web pages are the sea turtles of Internet Time, and the page could
easily live to be 525 before its final link fades into oblivion.
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!")
- dialing into the university with "Kermit" and my 1200 baud modem.
- logging into a unix shell
- browsing with "Lynx", a text-only WWW browser
(Lynx is still available, by the way,
and still a good program)
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
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:
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
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.)
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
. . .
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: firstname.lastname@example.org (vito acosta)|
Subject: you stink
your page don't work
Here's another gem:
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,
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:
- Trying to maintain a whole page of internet links that actually work right is a full-time job.
Nobody has the time for that (especially those with full-time internet jobs), and that is why half of the links
on the internet don't work.
- Working on an internet project is a lot more fun than doing real work, but no one knows why.
- If traffic at the Music Instruction Software Page had kept growing exponentially (as it did
for the first couple of years) I would now be the Yahoo of music software. By cosmic coincidence,
I'm a yahoo anyway (just ask my wife) so everything turned out all right in the end.
- The MIS page happened early enough in the history of the internet that it is literally hardwired
into its fabric. But here we discover a tragedy of internetian proportions, because
for every person who visits the page today, there must three or four who follow a dead link
to one of the MIS page's former homes. There are literally thousands of these hardwired bad
links to the MIS page. If only I had all that lost advertising revenue, I could announce
my IPO and retire! And that would be so much easier than fixing all the dead links on my page.
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 . . .
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.