Monday, May 17, 2010

Sequential Circuits Inc. Model 700 Programmer and Model 800 Sequencer 'Treat Yourself' ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Model 700 Programmer and Model 800 Sequencer 'Treat Yourself' advertisement from page 11 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine May 1980.

Every now and then I'm flipping through a magazine, and an advertisement so out of the ordinary appears that you just tilt your head and go 'Huh?'.

When I came across this advertisement, that is *exactly* what happened. Put it's surreal dessert-based spread and gastronomically-bent ad-copy together with the fact that the advertisement is exactly 20 years old this month and I think you have blog post. :o)

This was one of the last (if not *the* last) 700/800 advertisement to appear in CK or Synapse. The first 700/800 advertisement push appeared in the June 1977 issue of CK and the May/June 1977 issue of Synapse. The next push came in the form of a single Rick Wakeman-endorsed ad that appeared in the December 1977 issue of CK.

But, looking back, I'm finding the best historical reference information on these two pieces of equipment comes from the news/press sections of the these magazines ( 'Spec Sheet' and 'What's Happening').

As far as I can tell, the Model 800 sequencer only appeared once in the Spec Sheet section of CK, way back in the January/February 1976 issue, almost a year and a half before any 700/800 ads appeared:
"Digital Sequencer: The Model 800 digital sequencer has the capacity to store up to 256 notes in sixteen different storage banks, each memorizing up to sixteen notes. The unit is keyboard programmed (any synthesizer keyboard with voltage and trigger outputs will do), and if extra voltage memories are added, homophonic textures can be produced. Playback speed is variable, ranging from twenty times slower to twenty times faster than the tempo of the original. All sequences are played back with the same rhythmic structure as the program signal. A display counter shows the current note number, and individual lamps indicate to the performer which memory bank is in use. Suggested list price is $795.00 from the Sequential Circuits Company, 7150 Rainbow Dr. #7, San Jose CA 15129."
Luckily for us, the Model 800 was also included in a small one-page review of four digital sequencers (Oberheim DS2a, SCI Model 800, EMS Synthi Sequencer 256, and THINC MMC-1) in the July/August 1977 issue of Synapse, and this provides a bit more reference info:
"The Model 800 sequencer from Sequential Circuits was designed with live performance at least partly in mind. The Model 821 foot pedal initiates start/record, stop/record, and clock on/off functions. On the instrument itself the clock speed can be externally driven for precise synchronization with, say, a click track. Especially useful are the 16 sub-sequencers of 16 steps apiece; the sub-sequences can be instantly selected or strung together by means of the ttoggle switches. Two editing functions are designed into the Model 800. An individual step can be reprogrammed without affecting the entire sequence, and the rhythm can be reprogrammed without affect the pitch values."
The Model 700 fared much better at getting into the news/press sections of these magazines due to the updates that occurred during the lifetime of the machine.

A small write up first appeared in Synapse during the May/June '77 advertising push:
"Sequential Circuits Co. will premier their Model 700 Programmer at the Los Angeles AES convention. The programmer is designed to pre-program small performance synthesizers, resulting in increased variety during a live performance."
Two years later, news of updates to the Model 700 appeared in both the 'Spec Sheet' section of the June 1979 issue of CK and the 'Items' section of the May/June 1979 issue of Synapse.

"The Sequential Circuits Model 700 Programmer has been updated to include separate trimmers for fine-tuning control voltages to compensate for out-of-tune oscillators. The unit also incorporates a simple cable jack that lets the user connect the Programmer to another synthesizer with only one jack instead of the five or more that were needed previously. This single connector jack can be installed on most synthesizers by a qualified technician. The Programmer lets you store up to 64 patches in memory to be recalled at the push of a button Three quantized control voltages and two five-stage envelope generators are supplied for external control of synthesizers. These are the controls whose setting are stored in memory... Price of the Programmer is $995.00."
"The Sequential Circuits Model 7000 [sic] synthesizer programmer now includes a single plug interface allowing one cable installation with many synthesizers. The plug is already available on the 360 Systems Spectre guitar synthesizer, and installment on ARP synthesizers is offered by the ARP's custom engineering group. The plug can also be user installed. The Model 700 programmer lists for $995...
Surprisingly, there was no advertising campaign around these updates and it wasn't until a year later that this last 'Treat Yourself' advertisement came out.

So, I say it again. Huh? What was up with this ad?

As far as I know, this advertisement only appeared once in Contemporary Keyboard (CK), so my first thought was that this was an anniversary ad of some sort. Maybe the start of the company? But with eight candles, that would mean Sequential Circuits Inc. (SCI) would have started up in 1972. Depending on which Wikipedia article you believe, this may or may not have been the case. The Sequential Circuits page gives us a start date of 'early 1970s'. The Dave Smith page has SCI starting in the 'mid-70s'. Plus, I think they would have mentioned the anniversary in the ad-copy.

Another theory is that the theme might have been chosen for the May issue of CK because of the annual U.S. holiday known as Memorial Day. According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day was enacted to commemorate 'the U.S. men and women who died while in military service'. But (as is probably the case with many holidays around the world) the date was later changed to allow for a three-day weekend (in this case to the last Monday of May) and the day eventually also became 'a time for picnics, barbecues, family gatherings, and sporting events'. Nothing says 'long weekend' like a icing on a $1000 piece of gear.

My last, and simplest theory, is that there were eight candles because it was the Model '8'00. And as everyone knows from watching Law and Order and Scooby-Doo, the simplest solution is often the correct one. So, I'm putting my betting dollar on this last one.

No matter the reason, the advertisement works. The over-the-top craziness of slapping icing onto a Model 800 sequencer definitely would have made others (including me) stop flipping through the magazine so they could take a closer look.

End note: I'm really hoping someone recreates this advertisement - much like John Van Eaton's response to an earlier EML advertisement blog post that appeared on MATRIXSYNTH.

On second thought... put the icing down!!!

1 comment:

zenbecca said...

Ruh-ro! I wonder if all that icing voids the warranty...?

I don't know if I should laugh, cry or blow out the candles.

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