Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oberheim Synthesizer Expander Module (SEM) Evolution, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Oberheim Synthesizer Expander Module (SEM) Evolution advertisement from page 31 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine July 1977.

I was flipping through CK looking for something different and boy, did I find it. Another great advertisement from Oberheim. And rare - looks like it only appeared once in CK and I have never come across this advertisement online.

So, Oberheim had been doing quite well with the look and feel of their late '76 ads like the Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer and SEM, so why mess with a good thing?

Here's my theory - Moog had just started some gorilla chest-pounding in the May 1977 issue of CK with their 'blunt and totally biased viewpoint' ad and I would bet this ad was the sound of Oberheim howling back through the jungle foliage.

Check it out - one of the main themes flowing through the Moog advertisement from two months earlier is 'First'. How they started it all with their voltage control. 'First came the multiple waveform voltage controlled oscillators...' and then 'the first four-part ADSR envelope generator'. Finally, near the end, they talk about their 'first polyphonic synthesizer'.

The same word - 'First' - appears in every instrument box of this Oberheim advertisement as the time line runs through the evolution of their system. And after this ad ran once, Oberheim went right back to gear ads. It's like that little sixteenth note in the Oberheim logo took a swing back at Moog and then kept walking on its merry way. I love that logo.

And while I'm on the subject, I wouldn't be surprised if this Oberheim advertisement inspired Oberheim's 10-Year Anniversary advertisement three years later. The same theme - 'First' - runs through the ad-copy there as well.

Okay, maybe it is just coincidence. There were a lot of 'firsts' coming out of the synthesizer scene at the time. But it is fun to wonder.

As far as the ad itself goes - for the most part I really dig it. I love reading through the evolutionary time line they provided. Even better, it also lets us in on the next piece of gear to come out while leaving two future boxes blank to help build anticipation that there is more coming on the horizon. Anyone guess what those two future items were?

The only thing I don't like about this ad is that it feels a bit too crowded, mostly because the text in the middle is hard to read. I bet most people didn't.

But you should. One nugget of text I did like in the ad-copy was the fact they admit that it was 'quite by accident' that the SEM's modular design 'lent itself perfectly to the evolution of the most versatile live performance synthesizers'.

Gotta love honestly in advertising.

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