Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roland Rhythm Machines TR-808, TR-606, TB-303, CR-8000, and CR-5000 brochure, 1982

Roland Rhythm Machines brochure featuring the TR-808, TR-606, TB-303, CR-8000 and CR-5000, as well as a few special guests including the Jupiter-8, Jun0-60, Juno-6 and SH-101.


This is one of my favorite brochures of all time! I've wanted to share it for a while - but was waiting for a larger scanner. And this piece of art deserved the wait.

But, while this brochure is definitely awesome in all its awesome geariness (I just made up that word), it is also kinda awkward. It's like watching a re-run of Meerkat Manor, knowing that the cute little happy, cuddly, family is about to be taken down by a big predator.

And by that, I mean MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface).

All the information provided in this brochure pre-dates the launch of MIDI technology by less than a year. According to Wikipedia's MIDI page, by the time this brochure came out, talks between the manufacturers were well underway, and the protocol must have been pretty much hammered down. Additionally, Wikipedia's MIDI 1.0 specs page tells us that when the specs launched in August 1983, they included MIDI clock as part of the protocol.

And MIDI clock = the future of sync

But it's like Roland didn't want to let the clueless 303, 606 and 808 know that they were about to be drop-kicked into closets for the next half-decade or so, so the brochure cheerfully and colourfully pushes Roland's own soon-to-be-outdated DIN-sync technology for syncing not only the 606 with the 303, but also with Roland's older cv/gate sequencers such as the MC-4 Microcomposer (launched around 1978) and CSQ-600 Digital Sequencer (launched around 1980).

And it's in Roland's best interest to keep up this promotion - they already had a lot of DIN-sync technology out in the wild, and had to keep pushing it right to the bitter end.

Of course, the change-over to MIDI didn't happen *that* quickly. And, as we all know, in the end the 303, 606, 808, and a multitude of other pre-MIDI gear got the last laugh. Most are now prized by musicians, DJs, and producers around the world, commanding ever-increasing prices, and spawning imitations by many other companies, including Roland.

So, it ain't all bad for this little family.

This brochure was just one of many in Roland's "We Design the Future" set of brochures that ran during the first half of the 80's. Luckily for us, Roland dated all their brochures during this time period and so we know *exactly* when these came off the printing press to see the light of day. You just need to check out the back page - bottom right corner - to know that this one was printed in Japan in November 1982.

The brochure, in a word, is simply gorgeous (okay, two words), and includes everything I've always wished for in a brochure:
  • Full-colour
  • Great photography highlighting the front panels
  • Line drawings of the back panels showing all the in's and out's of each machine
  • Technical/reference information for each piece of featured equipment
  • Funky ad-copy
As mentioned above, the TB-303 kinda took on a life of it's own later in life (see it's Wikipedia page if you live under a rock), but it's great to be able to look back and see just how Roland was trying to originally position the 303 in the marketplace:
"Roland introduces the world's first computerized bass machine, the great new Bass Line TB-303. This remarkable little unit covers three full octaves. Instead of strings, you use keys to program bass patterns. Up to 64 patterns can be created for use anytime. And, like a bass synthesizer, you have full control over resonance, envelope modulation and other important factors influencing sound quality. When used with Roland's TR-606, you can play bass and drum patterns at the same time. Completely portable, the TB-303 runs on either battery or AC line voltage and comes completely equipped with its own carrying case. A headphones jack is also provided as standard."
"Instead of strings"!!! I love that!

It really gives you a good idea of where the industry, and Japan especially, was trying to go at the time. Smaller. More portable.

Interestingly, Roland's advertisements in Keyboard magazine didn't really match up with their "We Design the Future" brochures from around this time period. Roland was just winding down their "Understanding Technology" campaign that had been running in Keyboard for quite a while - like this two-page Jupiter-8 advertisement. They were also running this "Special Product Report" advertisement. And during the first six months of 1983, Roland switched over to an ad featuring their Juno-60.

Anyways, I'll touch a bit more on Roland's transition to MIDI in future blog posts. I doubt anyone is still reading anyways - not with such a yummy brochure to drool over...

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