Programmers make beautiful code with a piano

Some developers have turned to MIDI devices, for fun or relief, to write software

Picture of a MIDI piano keyboardImage credit: flickr/Gerald Moore (license)
Your next programming keyboard?

Software developers, not surprisingly, spend a lot of time at their computer keyboards. Also not surprisingly, they often have strong feelings about what kind of keyboard they prefer to use. Some opt for something modern like an Apple wireless keyboard, while others prefer a classic keyboard like IBM’s Model M, while yet others go with something more ergonomic (and possibly even non-QWERTY). One kind of keyboard I haven’t heard any programmers advocate for, though, is a piano keyboard - until now.

Yuriy Guts, an engineer at ELEKS, wrote this week about a Visual Studio extension that he created called Midichlorian, which enables you to program using MIDI instruments, like a keyboard. The extension, which Guts also open-sourced on GitHub, takes the incoming MIDI input and translates the chords and notes into commands, which the user configures right in VS. Voila!

Using the extension, Guts’ colleague wrote a song called Hello World in the key of C# minor, which also generates the code for Hello World in, yep, C#. Here's a video of her playing the song and the writing the program, all at once!

They’ve also made the sheet music available here.

Turns out that using a piano keyboard (or other MIDI devices) for computer input is a problem that others have tried to address before, as discussed in this Reddit thread. Some have to tried to turn to a piano keyboard, for example, as a way to relieve repetitive strain injuries. There’s any number of ways to do it, ranging from other software solutions to hardware-based approaches, like, for example, using Arduino.

Anyway, this was all new to me and I thought the Hello World song was fun and worth sharing. If anybody else has written a good song that’s also a software program - or made use of a MIDI device for writing code - please share! 

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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