Monday, May 10, 2010

BCD Technology Inc's Nebula Guitar Synthesizer, Synapse 1979

BCD Technology Inc's Nebula guitar synthesizer advertisement from page 44 of Synapse Magazine May/June (Summer) 1979.

This was a surprising find.

After my recent blog posts about the 360 Systems/OB-1 and 360 Systems/SEM advertisements from 1978, I started flipping through future issues of Synapse magazine to see just how far the guitar-synthesizer trend continued. Sure enough, not only were the big guns of the guitar-synth world like ARP and 260 Systems continuing to show up in Synapse both in articles and advertisements, new companies like BCD were also jumping onto the bandwagon.

I had never heard of the Nebula guitar synthesizer, so when I first saw this advertisement, I did a quick search to try and dig up some dirt.

I didn't find much.

I first tried looking for information on Wikipedia's guitar synthesizer page, but because the Nebula didn't use a HEX pickup or pitch-to-voltage converter (PVC) , I'm not sure that the Nebula may have actually fit in with this crowd. I'm still doing some deeper research into all the different tech behind guitar-synthesizers in general, so I can't really comment too much on this yet. But will hopefully be knowledgeable enough in this area in the near future.

There is the chance the Nebula was vaporware (although the ad does ask the reader to see their local dealer or write the factory, suggesting to me that the factory was actually creating something). But, my Google Images search (albeit an admittedly quick one) should have turned up at least one photo, no?

The top search results on Google's Web search linked me to a 1979 newsletter called 'Device'. The 'Info' section on page 11 of issue 2:79 provided a short description of BCD Industry and the Nebula:
"A new company has entered the guitar synthesizer/processor market, BCD Technology, Inc. (285 K Sobrante Way, SunnyVale, CA, 94608 - tel (408) 739 2880). Their product, the NEBULA, makes extensive use of the SSM chips designed by Dave Rossum and Ron Dow. The guitar signal is processed directly (no hex pickup, no PVC) and is modified by way of: an input processor (consists of compressor, fuzz, and octave divider/multiplier), a VCF, a VCA, envelop generators, and a parametric equalizer. List price is $795 + options"
Reading this, I completely forgot about the Nebula and became more curious about 'Device'. When did it start? Who was behind it? Why had I not heard of this newsletter?

According to the 'What's Happening' section of the 1979 Summer issue of Synapse, 'Device' was a relatively new start-up newsletter devoted to the electronic guitarist:
"...Craig Anderton and Roger Clay have begun a monthly publication of Device, a newsletter for the Electronic Guitarist/Musician. Included in the format are construction articles, equipment reviews, features on circuit design, and interviews.
What, you don't know who Craig Anderton is? Um.... where have you been? :o)

And want to know something *really* cool? You can find all the issues of 'Device' online. Seriously. Someone at has scanned all of them. They aren't readily linked from the home page, but if you go to and go to pages 10, 11 and 12, you can find all issues.

The ampage site describes the newsletter as:
"This was a newsletter for "electronic" guitarists that was published by Craig Anderton and Roger Clay in 1979, and lasted for 12 skinny but deep issues. Lots of useful info and nostalgia inside."
You have to check it out. I know it will keep me busy for quite a while. It's helping me with my guitar-synth tech research *a lot*.

Hint: Issue 12 includes an 'Index' of all the content - great for the reference fanatic like me! :o)

1 comment:

univac said...

Wow! Timely posting!
I have one of these Nebulas, so at least some of them got out there in the wild. I used it quite a bit as a drum machine and guitar filter in the early 90's but haven't used it in years.
I just dug it out of a closet and I have also been looking for any info on it. Web seems a little quiet about it. Surprisingly not much info out there!
Contact me for some pix. I'm also going to start using it again. I hope it still works!
univac (
(put those together with an @ to get my address)

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