What if Kraftwerk’s classic “Computer World” were made today? And, erm, what if Kraftwerk were actually Swedish? For all of you who dare to dream, our friend Audio Objekt has created a re-created version. (Warning: video contains occasional scandalous nude images as social critique, so it could be very briefly not safe for work.)

Sing along:


Wow. I suddenly feel really depressed. I think. Actually, maybe I’d better watch that again with my Swedish-English dictionary handy this time.

The YouTube community in general seems to be all about Kraftwerk. Where else would you find people sharing video evidence that Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” employed a bleepy portable music toy called the Bee Gees Rhythm Mach– wait a second. Forget about Kraftwerk for a second. There’s a Bee Gees Rhythm Machine? Now that’s a beautiful thing. Have a look:

From the author:

Further adventures in extreme music geekdom. This is me playing Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” on a Mattel Bee Gees Rhythm Machine keyboard, followed by Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hutter playing the song live on their Mattel Bee Gees Rhythm Machine. Except theirs has all the Bee Gees decals removed so that the audience won’t mistake them for the Bee Gees. You can also see this keyboard on the “Computer World” LP jacket. The other hand-held noisemakers are a Stylophone, TI Language Translator (same sound chip as the Speak & Spell), and a home-made electronic percussion trigger.

For you trainspotters out there, this was not the first time Kraftwerk used a Mattel-derived instrument. The choir and string sounds on their mid-late 70s albums were played on a Vako Orchestron, which was an offshoot of the Mattel Optigan, which those sounds were originally created for. More info at my website, www.optigan.com

Optigan.com is a fantastic website, incidentally, with lots of resources for lovers of Mattel’s obscure, celluloid disc-playing “sampling” musical machine. There’s further commentary on YouTube about the Casio VL-Tone, Stylophone, and even a DIY instrument also being incorporated into the song. (maybe just the album version, I gather?)

Now, I dare someone to make a new version of Pocket Calculator:

  • Featuring the TI-81. (Or whatever you kids are using now; I haven’t done my maths in a while. I expect real pocket calculators are now capable of hosting VSTs.)
  • In Finnish.