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Roll Scanning Archive
 The Technology and Craft of Roll Scanning


Original Terry Smythe Roll Scanning Page, Player Piano Rebirth

Original Terry Smythe Website Home Page

Supplemental essay by Terry Smythe, ca. 2004: Rebirth of the Player Piano

Archive Introduction

Michael Falco, AMICA web manager, March 4, 2024

It is known that books, literature, printed paper of all kinds have a limited lifespan due to material composition, natural environmental factors, plus general handling and use. Punched paper music rolls/books suffer the same impermanence and are especially susceptible to wear-out damage through use. Global efforts are ongoing to preserve these various printed materials.

In the mid-1980’s the MIDI standard was developed, which enabled digital representation of music. With MIDI, it was realized that not only could the music rolls be preserved, they could also be converted to MIDI files and then played electronically supplementing the paper book/roll mechanism on automatic musical instruments.

Then in the 1990’s the internet became available, and among innumerable other benefits that it brought, it enabled a global grassroots effort to create and implement the technology to scan punched paper rolls/books and convert those scans to MIDI files. There are now thousands of MIDI files of scanned music rolls available to automatic music enthusiasts, but how that happened, the technology and craft itself is not well preserved.

This Roll Scanning archive seeks to preserve that technology and craft. Fittingly in so many ways, it is being initiated with Terry Smythe’s old website, Player Piano Rebirth. His website featured and summarized the technology and craft of roll scanning. Though it was a tremendous resource, like many early websites that served some limited non-commercial purpose, after two decades his website was eventually discontinued. Before that happened it was archived.

AMICA, as part of its commitment to preserve historical information about automatic musical instruments, recognizes that digital roll scanning and conversion to MIDI files is an important contribution of this specialty field, and so is curating this new archive featuring the technology and craft of roll scanning. It is introducing this new archive in a BIG way, by reconstituting Terry Smythe’s old website, Player Piano Rebirth, and is  publicly hosting it on the AMICA website, making it accessible to all. His website is a tremendous resource for information on roll scanning. It is a great beginning, and as with any AMICA archive, additional contributions are always welcome!

Commenting on the website, Player Piano Rebirth, it was started by Terry at the turn of the 21st century and as said, was online for about two decades. As reconstituted and hosted on the AMICA website it appears and functions as it originally did with few changes. Those few changes include disabling inactive or unusable links and applying updated privacy and copyright considerations.

Beside the foundational Player Piano Rebirth website, there is also a link to Terry’s original home page entitled, Sounds of Yesteryear. It includes some biographical information, some info on his Irish heritage, and includes other information and links. While not strictly related to automatic musical instruments, for completeness and recognition of Terry's tremendous efforts on behalf of AMICA and the automatic musical instrument field generally, it is fittingly included.


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