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AT&T lawyer stopped Plan 9 release CD with songs by Lou Reed, Debbie Harry
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AT&T lawyer stopped Plan 9 release CD with songs by Lou Reed, Debbie Harry 

The Plan 9 CD-ROM needed about 100MB for the full distribution, if that. We
hatched a plan to fill up the rest with encoded music and include the
software to decode it. (We wanted to get the encoder out too, but lawyers
stood in the way. Keep reading.) Using connections I had with folks in the
area, and some very helpful friends in the music business, I got permission
to distribute several hours of existing recorded stuff from groups like the
Residents and Wire. Lou Reed gave a couple of pieces too – he was very
interested in Ken and Sean’s work (which, it should be noted, was built on
groundbreaking work done in the acoustics center at Bell Labs) and visited
us to check it out. Debby Harry even recorded an original song for us in
the studio.

We had permission for all this of course, and releases from everyone
involved. It was very exciting.

So naturally, just before release, an asshole (I am being kind) lawyer at
AT&T headquarters in Manhattan stopped the project cold. In a phone call
that treated me as shabbily as I have ever been, he said he didn’t know who
these “assholes” (again, but this time his term) were and therefore the
releases were meaningless because anyone could have written them.

And that, my friends, is why MP-3 took off instead of the far better
follow-on system we were on the cusp of getting out the door.

-rob

P.S. No, I don’t have the music any more. Too sad to keep.

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 12:19 PM Andrew Hume wrote:

the early versions of the audio compression stuff were
not quite is good as
the later versions (which became apples stuff) but compressed to
substantially
smaller size. ken compressed 2-3 hrs or so of music for my wedding and that
was rather less than a CD.

On Jun 21, 2022, at 7:14 PM, Jon Steinhart
wrote:

George Michaelson writes:

There was this persisting story that Ken got
permission from somebody
like CBS or Sony to have a very large amount of classical music on a
400MB drive, for research purposes. No, really: he was doing some
psycho-acoustic thing comparing compressed to uncompressed for
somebody, or improving on the fraunhoffer algorithms which became MP3.
The point was, the rest of us had to listen to CDs and Ken had the
complete works of Bach (or something) on a hard drive, which we were
told he kept in the office, and played at home over a landline of some
horrendously high bandwidth, un-imaginable speeds like a megabit,
imagine, a MILLION of those suckers. How dare he. Thats more than the
whole of queensland. I imagine the truth is much less interesting, and
there was no major IPR fraud going on at the labs coding stuff as MP3
like we imagined, under the table.

I imagine this would also have been a Datakit T-1. But surely that was
a 1.44mbit carrier? T1 was smaller than E1 because europeans and
asians learned to count to 32 not 24.

-G

This reminds me of a Ken story from the late ’90s. I was at a conference
that I won’t name where Ken gave a talk about his compression work; if I
remember correctly his goal was to fit all of the Billboard Top 100 songs
of all time onto a single CD. He showed us the big stack of disks that

he

made to give to us, but then said that to his
surprise the the lawyers
refused to give permission. At that point he became very focused on

messing

with his slides while everyone got up, got in
line, and took a disc.

After

the pile was gone Ken looked up and nonchalantly
continued his talk.

That might also have been the conference at which Ken showed us videos of
him in a MIG.

Jon

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