Monday, September 13, 2010

Sequential Circuits Inc. Poly-Sequencer ad w/ Prophet-5, 1981/1982

Sequential Circuits Inc. Poly-Sequencer advertisement (including the Prophet-5) from Keyboard Magazine. The ad on the left is from page 89 of the November 1981 issue, and the one on the right is from page 7 of the July 1982 issue.

Versions of this advertisement ran in Keyboard Magazine for about a year and a half. The first version started showing up in late 1981, and was replaced by the second version in mid-1982 when the sequencer was upgraded with more memory. That ad continued to run well into 1983.

SCI had a bit of a dilemma on their hands when designing this ad. Yes, it was primarily a Poly-Sequencer ad, but because a user had to have a Prophet-5 in order to use the sequencer, the company had to make sure to get Prophet-5 users' attention. Thus, SCI chose to punch Prophet-5 users in the nose with a big fat 'Prophet-5' logo at the top of the ad, and then use the unique imagery of the hand/arm to draw their attention down to the Poly-Sequencer. The reader's eye doesn't come across the word 'Poly-Sequencer' text until they finally either find it on the photo of the machine itself or in the ad-copy.

But, stick with the ad long enough, with it's lovely blue-sky-and-clouds Ear-Force-themed background, and SCI eventually gets their point across.

And, for the record... it's a lot less creepy than a similar themed ARP ad from 1976. :o)

I find it very fascinating that this ad was still being run in Keyboard Magazine well into the middle of 1983, months after their first ad for the new MIDI-equipped Prophet-600 started to appear at the beginning of 1983. A stark contrast - the end of an era, and a new beginning.

You have one SCI ad marketing a piece of gear so closed-ended that it only works with their own Prophet-5/10 synths, and another SCI ad marketing a piece of gear designed to work with ANY other manufacturer's piece of gear (eventually...). In the same issue!

But just like all the other companies that were starting to think about how/if/when to transition to this new universal standard called MIDI, SCI still had to worry about the present. Hence, stick with the old while promoting the new.

Sorry, I think milked that point way too long... :o)

When this sequencer was first released, it already had some competition, but by 1983, there was a wide range of analog and digital sequencers on the market. Keyboard magazine did a great little 4-page sequencer round-up article in April 1983 called 'Analog and digital sequencers. A survey of current models'. Included in the article was info on a number of both stand-alone and integrated sequencers from Aries, Buchla, E-mu, Korg, Moog, PAIA, Polyfusion, Roland, Serge, Gleeman, J.L Cooper, Oberheim, Multivox, SMS, Digital Keyboards, NED, and, of course, a small paragraph on the Poly-Sequencer.
"The Sequential Circuits 1005 is a five-voice sequencer designed to drive a Prophet-5 or Prophet-10 (it is offered built into the 10). In its original version it stored 2,600 notes, but a recent upgrade has expanded this to 10,000 notes, which can be apportioned in any way over six separate sequences. Sequences may be recorded either in real-time or in single-step mode from the keyboard. The 1005 remembers program changes, and it has a built-in cassette deck so that sequences (and also the Prophet's programs) may be stored on tape. Editing functions allow for insertion, deletion, or timing changes."
The conclusion to this article on sequencers is very reflective of the time, and although MIDI isn't mentioned at all, the author touches on one of the themes of my posts lately - how the introduction of MIDI was about to completely change the synthesizer/sequencer/computer landscape.
"As we've seen, every manufacturer takes a slightly different approach to the design of digital sequencers. The field is developing rapidly, and there is still little uniformity. because the design is mostly a matter of writing computer software that will function within the limits imposed by the microprocessors inside the machine, the present generation of sequencers reflects the preconceptions and musical concerns of the people who are programming them, as well as the abilities and limitations of currently available chips. Within a couple of years, we'll be seeing a shakedown period, in which the more aggressive manufacturers borrow ideas from one another, evolving (probably) a more uniform sequencer design with more capabilities at a lower price."
Good online reference information on the Poly-Sequencer is still rather hard to find at the usual synthesizer sites.

You can find some good photos from a relatively recent eBay auction on MATRIXSYNTH. Check out the built-in digital cassette deck for storage! There is also a photo of a Poly-Sequencer, with a manual and some cassettes, along with a Prophet-5 on

Some pretty good reference info is available in an SCI accessories and merchandise ad from December 1982 that I blogged about a while back. It provides a description of the Poly-Sequencer/Prophet-5 digital interface jack, lists the basic features of the sequencer and, surprisingly (considering this is an advertisement, not a tutorial) some instructions on recording and overdubbing, including:
"This sequencer is very easy to use. To record a sequence, simply press the Record Switch then the desired Sequence Switch. The recording will automatically begin when you play your first note. When you've finished playing, hit the Stop/Continue Switch (or the Stop Footswitch) to end the recording and the sequence will start playing back. That's all there is to it!"
Well, that seems easy enough. And it is. Check out these two YouTube videos by AnalogSweden:

Easy as pie!

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