Hidden programs in vinyl records

It’s my current obsession at the moment: I’m trying to find and retrieve hidden data from old CDs, vinyl records, cassettes, etc. I’m not looking for conventional data tracks but rather programs for the old computers of the 80s, like the ZX Spectrum, Apple II, BBC Micro, etc. Surprisingly, there are quite a few examples: I have nearly thirty examples at home, and a fairly long list of others to find. This page summarizes the research, with a regularly updated list.

Programs on Vinyl

I’ll start with those found on vinyl records. I’m only presenting records that contain both music and data; I’m avoiding (rare) records that explicitly contained only programs.

Camouflage by Chris Sievey – ZX81

The record (a 7-inch) contains three programs for ZX81 (one for the version 1 KB, two for the version 16 KB). You can find the original explanation page here and the updated version here.
The three ROMs : Camouflage, Flying Train (1 KB), Flying Train (16 KB)

Över Tid Och Rum by Adolphson-Falk – Atari 8 bits

The vinyl contains a program for 1980s Atari 8-bit computers. I’ve detailed everything on this page. A special note, it’s available on Apple Music.
The ROM : Over Tid Och Rum

New Anatomy by Inner City Unit – ZX Spectrum

The vinyl (as well as the CD) contains a program for the ZX Spectrum. The extraction process is explained on this page.
The ROM : New Anatomy

Plastic Raygun – ZX Spectrum

This 1998 vinyl contains a game for the ZX Spectrum. I had some difficulty retrieving it, as explained on the dedicated page.
The ROM : Plastic Raygun

The Other Side Of Heaven by Kissing The Pink – BBC Micro B

This vinyl contains a program for the BBC Micro, to be run alongside the music. Note that the vinyl and the cassette contain the same program but not the same music, which leads to a fairly rapid desynchronization. The dedicated page explains the issue.
The ROM : The Other Side Of Heaven

The Bermuda Triangle by Isao Tomita – Tarbell

Tomita’s vinyl doesn’t contain a program per se, but data encoded in a modem-like manner with the Tarbell protocol, displaying two messages. Decoding required quite a bit of research, as explained (again) on the dedicated page.



2 by Brainfuel – ZX Spectrum

In this record, the program is very short and redirects to a URL that no longer exists. More details here.
The ROM : 2

So Long America… by Yasunori Soryo & Jim Rocks – NEC PC-8001

On this Japanese vinyl, the target is obviously a Japanese computer. The most complicated part was not retrieving the data, but rather getting an emulator to work, as explained here.
The ROM : So Long America

Tu Dammi La Metà by Riccardo Azzurri – Spectravideo 728 (MSX)

This Italian variety vinyl contains a program for the Spectravideo 728, an MSX computer popular in the country. It works normally on most MSX computers, which is kind of the point, as explained here.
The ROM : Tu Dammi La Metà

XL·1 by Pete Shelley – ZX Spectrum

Pete Shelley’s XL·1 record is quite well known, and the data is present on vinyl (some editions) and cassettes. I’m only putting the short version here, but the program displays animations for all the tracks of the album.
The ROM : XL·1

Talk To Me by Mainframe – ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, ZX81, Apple II

This 7-inch vinyl offers four different programs… for four computers. As with the others, I explain how I retrieved the data since the operation differs depending on the computers.
ROMs: Mainframe (BBC Micro), Mainframe (ZX Spectrum), Mainframe (ZX81), Mainframe (Apple II)

Talk To Me by Mainframe – ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, and Dragon 32

There’s a second version of the record, released on flexi disc with a magazine. Two programs are (almost) identical to those on the first record, but there’s a third one for the Dragon 32.
ROMs: Mainframe (ZX Spectrum), Mainframe (BBC Micro B), Mainframe (Dragon 32)

David The Gnome – ZX Spectrum

David the Gnome is a Spanish animated series, and there was a game on the vinyl (and cassette) of the original soundtrack. This game is also found on another similar disc. Please note, ZX Spectrum emulation requires some settings.
ROM: David The Gnome

Newtown Parkway / Astrablast by Soundhog – BBC Micro

This disc is special for several reasons. Firstly, it’s quite recent (2018). Secondly, the data is on a second track, separated from the first. In short, it’s not obvious.
ROM: Newtown Parkway

Let’s Get Digital by What Fun! – BASICODE

On this 1980s vinyl record, the data is recorded in BASICODE. What’s BASICODE? A kind of standardized BASIC to work on different types of computers from that era, as explained on the dedicated page. There’s no ROM as such here, but the code is on the linked page just before.

Africa by Lelu/Lu’s – ZX Spectrum

On this vinyl, there are two separate programs for the ZX Spectrum, and the recovery was quite simple.
ROMs: A+, Blip

Radio (Will Bring Me Home) by Mainframe – Apple II

On this vinyl that required a lot of work, there’s a program for the Apple II that promises a gift to people who send a message to the artists.
ROM: Mainframe (note: this is directly the audio).

Rome By Night by Dhuo – ZX Spectrum

On this Italian vinyl from the early ’80s, there’s nothing much to say. It’s nice, it’s well synchronized, and the recovery was simple.
ROM: Rome By Night

Poniżej Krytyki by Papa Dance – ZX Spectrum

A Polish vinyl that contains a quiz about a Polish group, with questions in Polish. The peculiarity of the disc is that the data is separated into two: one part on one side, the other part on the other. And it’s explained on the page that gives details.
ROM: Poniżej Krytyki

Discipline by Endorphins – Commodore 64

A 2004 vinyl that contains a small program for the Commodore 64 and came with a disk containing a program for PC.
ROM: Discipline

1984 by La Mode – ZX Spectrum

Another vinyl that contains a program for the ZX Spectrum. This time it’s 1984, by the Spanish group La Mode. There are details on the disc’s page, but it remains a simple little program.
ROM: 1984

Skidam Te Pogledom by ITD BBB – ZX Spectrum

Once again, a program for the ZX Spectrum, this time on a Yugoslav album. The dedicated page explains it, I used the cassette in addition to the vinyl to recover the data, it was a bit complicated on this album.
ROM: Skidam Te Pogledom

Heartware by Heartware – Commodore 64

This time it’s a program for the Commodore 64, which was only pressed on a second edition of the disc, recognizable by a sticker that you can see on the dedicated page.
ROM: Heartware

The Traffic Tax Scheme by Sudden Sway – Sharp MZ-80

This early ’80s disc contains a program for a rare computer, the Sharp MZ-80. With a little help, I was able to run the program in an emulator, but the copy I have doesn’t come from my disc.
ROM: The Traffic Tax Scheme

220 (Plava Verzija) by Bajaga I Instruktori – ZX Spectrum

It’s a bit obscure: a Serbian vinyl from the 80s that contains a program for the ZX Spectrum. I didn’t have much trouble recovering it (for once), and it’s a long animation that loops.
ROM: Bajaga

The 8-Bit Construction Set – Atari & Commodore 64

Since the disc is complete, I treated it in two parts. Once for the Commodore 64 program, and a second time for the Atari program.
ROMs: Beige (Commodore 64) & 8-Bit (Atari)

Information Retrieved Pt. B by Pinback – TRS-80

On this record released in 2011, there’s some code for a computer I hadn’t seen before: the TRS-80. Retrieval was very complicated on this record, I explain it on the dedicated page.

Digital Soundology #1 Volk Von Bauhaus by Takashi Kokubo – MSX

This 1980s record contains a program for a specific type of MSX computer (a range of Japanese computers), capable of generating music randomly. Be careful if you buy the record: the recent reissue does not include the program, I mentioned it.

The Thompson Twins Adventure – ZX Spectrum

This title isn’t an album, but a flexi disc delivered with a magazine, which contained a game based on a music group (there’s a link). I presented the game and my method to retrieve it, and it was complicated. And the game for ZX Spectrum is very bad.

O Cubano by Flucht Nach Vorn – Commodore 64

This old German vinyl from the 80s contains a (very) short program for the Commodore 64 and the page explaining how I retrieved the data shows that for once it was simple.

Cassette Programs

For cassettes, I follow the same idea as for vinyl records: an album on cassette that contains data in addition to music is good. A cassette that serves only as storage media for data is not. The idea is to present hidden programs.

Aural Sculpture by The Stranglers – ZX Spectrum

Some variants of The Stranglers’ album cassette contain a text adventure game for the ZX Spectrum. On the dedicated page, I explain how I completed the game (in video).
ROM: Aural Quest

The Bop Won’t Stop by Shakin’ Stevens – ZX Spectrum

Some sources indicate that the game – The Shaky Game – is available on vinyl records, but no: it is only on the cassette of this album. And it’s a very bad game.
ROM: The Shaky Game

OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017 by Radiohead – ZX Spectrum

This program is found on a cassette provided with a collector’s edition of a record, and given the excessively high price, I didn’t buy it. But a reader sent me a recording of the cassette, and it wasn’t easy to recover.

The Last Supper – ZX Spectrum

This is a digital catalog on an audio cassette from the 80s. Being a cassette, the recovery was quite simple once I got the right cassette.
ROM: The Last Supper

Refrescos Musicales – Commodore 64

This is an Argentine compilation, available on cassette – here – and on vinyl, which contains two programs for Commodore 64. The recovery was complicated, as often with the Commodore 64, but it worked.
ROMs: Jackpot & Lollipop

CD Programs

There are a few examples on CDs. Here too, I limit myself: the idea is to only look for (and show) things hidden in tracks. Obviously, I automatically exclude regular data tracks here. In short, you’ll find either hidden messages in audio, or directly programs for old computers.

Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura by Urusei Yatsura – ZX Spectrum

In this CD, one of the tracks contains audio data usable on a ZX Spectrum, with an expected hidden message on CDs. And no need to read it backwards.
ROM: Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura

Peace and love, inc. by Information Society – Hidden Text

This CD contains a track that is only an audio carrier with data encoded at 300 bauds, readable with a modem (for example) or a suitable program. I won’t put the text here, it’s a bit long.

The Glamour by Schmoof – ZX Spectrum

On this fairly recent record (2007), there is a program for the ZX Spectrum, also available on Apple Music. The recovery is obviously quite simple: the question of audio quality obviously doesn’t arise. I’ll put the short version here, there’s a long (more complete) one on the dedicated page.
ROM: Glamour Screen$

Zero Day by MC Frontalot – Commodore 64

On this fairly recent album, there is a hidden track that is actually a program for the Commodore 64. It’s the only one for which I won’t put the ROM, since it’s a sort of game, if you feel like playing it, the CD is easily found.

Don’t Be Afraid by Information Society – Hidden Text

In this other Information Society album, there is a track that contains modulated text that leads (normally) to an internet-wide scavenger hunt. But in 1997. The clues no longer exist but the dedicated page will explain that the result can still be found and that it’s a real hidden track.
Hidden track: White Roses

Cabana EP by Tree Wave – Commodore 64

On this record released in the mid-2000s (and available on the iTunes Store), there is a program for the Commodore 64. It’s a kind of software synthesizer for those who like the sounds of 8-bit, it’s explained on the page.
ROM: Cabana EP

2 Remixes By AFX by Aphex Twin – SSTV

On this Aphex Twin record, available on CD or vinyl, there is SSTV. It’s not a program, but a TV image encoded in audio, which is displayed with a dedicated player.

Prisonner 709 by Caparezza – SSTV

It’s the same as the previous one: this fairly recent Italian CD contains a track with Slow Scan Television, that is, a low-definition image encoded in audio.


Magical Computer Music by Magical Power Mako – MSX

This Japanese CD is presumably the first example of a CD with data. It contains three programs for MSX computers (popular in Japan). Two of the programs are digital representations of music, for a synthesizer of that time.

Streaming Programs

You have to keep up with the times: physical media is dead. And so there are a few examples of programs that are not on vinyl records, CDs, or tapes, but only on platforms. So yes, there are programs on Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, or Amazon (to name the biggest ones).

Lightfire by Programmist – ZX Spectrum

In this EP released only on streaming, there is a small software for the ZX Spectrum. I explain on the dedicated page the best way to recover it.
ROM: Lightfire

Döner Kebab by Cobra Laser – ZX Spectrum

An EP that was supposed to be released on vinyl but apparently released only on streaming, on regular platforms. You’ll see how I got the game on the dedicated page.
ROM: Döner Kebab

ZX Spectrum by Cobra Laser – ZX Spectrum

The EP’s name is quite explicit: it contains a program for the ZX Spectrum. The program is basic, as the associated page explains.
ROM: ZX Spectrum

Parallax by Z80 – ZX Spectrum

In this digital EP, you’ll find a fairly basic program that draws an old computer (it’s pretty easy to guess which one, to see it, click here).
ROM: Parallax

The others

A few things that fit into my idea of programs for dinosaur computers, but are not on vinyl, CD, or cassette.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch – ZX Spectrum

In the Netflix series, there is ZX Spectrum code in one of the endings of the interactive episode of Black Mirror. It refers to another program for ZX Spectrum, which is available online (like the explanation page).
The ROM: Bandersnatch

Bál Az Operában by KFT – ZX Spectrum

In this Hungarian record, the program is on the vinyl in a somewhat literal way: the code is printed on the cover. It’s a bit tedious to type, as explained, but it works.
The ROM: Bál Az Operában

Ultra by The Inchtabokatables – Fax

This one is peculiar, it’s not a program but a fax. Yes, like the stuff that used to arrive on paper. There is an audio recording of the fax, and with the right program, it’s possible to view the message. The image is on the dedicated page.

101 Damnations by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – Yamaha RX15

This CD is a bit special: it contains data, but not for a computer. These are information for a percussion generator, the Yamaha RX15. So you need to connect the CD to the device, which will then be able to generate the data used in creating the disc.

Style EP – Phone number

In the Style EP from Plastic Raygun, there’s not a program but a phone number directly encoded in the audio. In theory, you can place a phone in front of a speaker and hope it dials. But the line doesn’t exist anymore, as explained on the dedicated page.

We Are Stardust by Lukhash – Commodore 64

I wasn’t sure where to put this. It’s a Commodore 64 game recently released on CD, vinyl, cassette and even MiniDisc. But the MiniDisc compresses the data too much for it to be usable, so I got the version from the CD. I’m not distributing the ROM.

Big Ideas: Don’t get any by James Houston – ZX Spectrum

This program isn’t on a vinyl, cassette, or any other weird thing, but on YouTube and Vimeo. It’s a remix of a Radiohead track preceded by the code for a ZX Spectrum program. So I explain how to get it.
The ROM: Houston

Nostalgia Nerd – ZX Spectrum

The little program isn’t found on a vinyl record, but in a YouTube video discussing programs on vinyl. I explain how to retrieve the program on this page.

I Adore Commodore by K.Bytes – Commodore 64

Similar to a previous record, this is a vinyl record program, but quite literally: the code is written on the sleeve. So, it’s quite straightforward to retrieve it using an iPhone.

Information Retrieved Pt. A by Pinback – TRS-80

On the first installment of Information Retrieved (Part A), there is indeed a program for the TRS-80, just like in Part B. However, it is not recorded on the disc but written on the sleeve.

If … Then … by Björn Skifs – PETSCII

On the album cover, there is text written in PETSCII. It’s not actually computer code, as it just needs to be transcribed, but I explain on a dedicated page how to read it.

Emitape Computer Cassette – Commodore VIC-20 & ZX81

This isn’t a program on a vinyl, nor a program recorded on a cassette. No, these are two programs listed on the sleeve of Emitape blank cassettes, intended for 1980s computers.