Forensic criminology, the ZX Spectrum way

Kevin Reilly on comp.sys.sinclair uncovered some unintentional humour in season 1, episode 13 of CSI: Miami which UK-based geeks of a certain age will appreciate. Listen carefully to the following clip (MP3, 481K):

Download csi_miami.mp3

Notice anything? Yes, their expensive new XRF machine appears to be a Sinclair Spectrum making tape loading noises. But as if that’s not geeky enough…

The combined forces of comp.sys.sinclair have identified the data in question as the loading screen to Sabre Wulf by Ultimate. Check for yourself – it’s a perfect fit. (MP3, 5K)

How did we discover this? Because it’s been previously documented that Aphex Twin used exactly the same sample on the track Corn Mouth, that’s why. Right down to the tell-tale beep at the end that appears to indicate that the game was copied with Keysoft’s The Key duplication utility – naughty naughty. (MP3, 215K)

Download aphex_twin_-_corn_mouth.mp3

So, we have a mystery on our hands. How did this recording end up in both places? Did it find its way onto a sound effect compilation as ‘generic computer sound number 23′, where it was rediscovered by (known Spectrum fan) Aphex who was amused enough to use it in one of his compositions? Or is Aphex Twin moonlighting as a sound technician on CSI: Miami? I think we should be told.

Update (2008-02-08): Eagle-eared (hmm, what is the appropriate metaphor for someone with really good hearing? Bat-eared? Dog-eared?) viewer Kevin Reilly once again noticed the very same sound clip, this time on CSI:NY where it was playing the part of a time machine. No, really.

14 Responses to “Forensic criminology, the ZX Spectrum way”

  1. Ant says:

    The thing is… Spectrum code sounds almost exactly identical to standard SMPTE timecode, which predates Sinclair personal computers by many years. I agree, that clip sounds similar to the Sabre Wulf loading screen you reference, but then again most loading screens sounded similar anyway. SMPTE has been around for many years, and was routinely used to sync samplers to audio tape, hence little snatches of Spectrum-esque code turning up on Hip Hop records of the mid 90s. The engineer would accidentally monitor the SMPTE timecode, and the artist would decide it sounded “cool” and slap some into the song.

  2. It could be of course that the sound supervisor (or whatever) in CSI is an Aphex Twin fan, and used that sample. Aphex Twin’s music has popped up as sampled in all sorts of promos.

  3. matthew says:

    Yep, I suppose that is a possibility, although I can’t help but think that extracting one specific sample from that Aphex Twin track is rather like un-beating an egg…

  4. BigJacko says:

    SMPTE timecode??? ROFL… not a chance, Ant.

    Audio sample on this page here, check it out – http://www.philrees.co.uk/articles/timecode.htm#wave

    SMPTE is a constant sequence – it carries no data, just sync-points. It’s a TIMEcode… not a datastream.

    The sound heard on CSI:Miami & in Aphex Twin’s track is clearly a combination of a carrier tone and sporadic, different, bursts of data mixed-in. Sounds JUST like my old Speccy used to (I am a UK geek of a certain age! ;) ).

    However, I’m not so geeky as to be able to confirm that is really is SabreWulf… but I probably still have that tape in the attic if anyone is desperate for a sample. LOL.

    Blame NTK… I should get out more, but I don’t! :)

  5. bazman says:

    Of course Keysoft’s The Key duplication utility was intended for making backup copies only, and said ‘Keysoft advise users not to infringe the copyright act’ on it. I should know, I wrote the thing :)

  6. Robert Carnegie rja.carnegie@excite.com says:

    Is the sound clean enough actually to try loading it… right enough, it’s been a while but I seem to remember it was hard enough to load genuine tapes. Regular Spectrum files were easier than copy protection and acceleration systems, and a Key copy was usually more reliable than the original.

    This is X-ray fluorescence, right… in America it would have been Timex Sinclair something, but yes, why is it controlling forensic equipment, and making that noise?

    Just aired in the UK is the [Star Trek Enterprise] episode where the evil Enterprise crew from another dimension find a 23rd century abandoned starship, which faithfully makes all the familiar noises from the original series, as reproduced in [Futurama]…

  7. Tanner says:

    wow. i’m not even a CSI fan and this fascinates me. The Sinclair was before my time, but i still get misty eyed thinking about the old Amiga days. Commodore could have ruled the world, but they lost the throne to Microsoft and Apple. But somewhere the Guru still rules…

  8. [...] Listen to a ZX spectrum load up a game in the background to some pretty poor dialogue courtesy of CSI:Miami. [...]

  9. stefano says:

    bazman.. you wrote “the key” ?
    Can I ask if the spanish and italian translated versions were authorized releases ? Is so, why have you thought to sell nationalized versions ?

  10. zarathustra says:

    That’s deffo a speccy loading sound! Love the dialogue: “This thing’s gotta be two hundred & fifty grand.” LMFAO =]

  11. I think it’s a given that Aphex would be more likely to come across this any anyone else :P However it could be on a Spectrum Sample CD or even an Emulation of the game…..

    Electronic Music Forum | Electronic Music Blog

  12. I love the fact that the ZX Spectrum unintentionally introduced a whole generation of us to the glory of this new ‘music’… just think what would have happened if Clive Sinclair had got his way in other walks of life… One point that barely get mentioned about all these sounds is that in most cases you DIDN’T actually have to listen to it to load the game (you could just turn the sound off), but it seems like the majority of us chose to anyway. I for one vividly remember sitting in front of the TV for ages waiting for the games to load, or increasingly NOT as the tapes began to get older…

  13. matt says:

    Ah, I take it you were a Spectrum 128 kid then? :-) On the 48K the tape input was hard-wired to the built-in speaker, so there was no way to turn it off, besides trying to muffle it with a cushion…

  14. Zoe Blade says:

    In case anyone’s interested, http://repertoire.bmi.com/writer.asp?fromrow=26&torow=50&keyname=JAMES%20RICHARD%20DAVID&querytype=WriterID&keyid=533933&page=2&blnWriter=True&blnPublisher=True&blnArtist=True&affiliation=PRS&cae=176937227 credits “JAMES RICHARD DAVID” (Richard D. James, alias Aphex Twin) with composing “CSI MIAMI-BG CUES”. That’ll be him, then.

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