In the early 80’s, Brooke W. Boering created a digital art programming language called CEEMAC, and to promote it, he distributed a demo disk for the Apple II called Fire Organ. The disk contained 30 or 40 little self-contained algorithmic animations written in CEEMAC, all with a bit of randomness so they were a bit different every time. I was fascinated with Fire Organ when I was a kid, and it’s one of the things that influenced me to get into interactive art later on.
Richard Bramante has a nice page with more information about Fire Organ, including the original “liner notes,” including recommendations for what music goes well with each visual score! Digital VJing almost 30 years ago! Boering apparently performed at the SCAN 87 digital arts conference. SCAN 87, where I met people like Laurie Spiegel and Walter Wright [pdf], was another big influence on my career– though I don’t remember seeing Boering! I attended and helped out at most of the yearly SCAN festivals until they petered out around 2002.
I was inspired a few days ago to look up Fire Organ again, and get it going on a modern computer. I found an Apple 2 emulator that runs in a browser, and an archived image of the original Fire Organ disk. So, here it is for you to try: Fire Organ! (Requires Java.) Once it loads and shows the title screen, click it and then press any letter or number key to choose a score, or use the period and comma keys for random scores.
Thanks to Mark S. Ressl for making the Apple II emulator freely available!