Monday, February 14, 2011

ARP Software and Accessory Catalog, 1977

ARP Software and Accessory Catalog from approximately 1977 (?).

Okay - before I even start in on the cool contents of this catalog, does anyone remember a time when software didn't mean... er... software? In this case, ARP's definition of software obviously refers to the manuals, patch books, etc.

But, it has me wondering - how far back does the word "software" go? And, was it common to refer to manuals and such as "software" before all those computer-folks took the term for themselves? Or was it just ARP using it?

Ivars Peterson did a bit of digging back in 2000 and wrote a piece for MathTrek (awesome column name BTW) about the word's origins, and it included this little bit about the Oxford Dictionary's records:
"The current edition of the dictionary dates the word software back to 1960, though researchers have discovered an 1850 occurrence of the term in a very different context--for distinguishing two types of garbage, where "soft-ware" referred to matter that would decompose and "hard-ware" to anything else."
No help there. But he also includes this quote from a 1958 American Mathematical Monthly article by John W. Turkey:
"Today the "software" comprising the carefully planned interpretive routines, compilers, and other aspects of automative programming are at least as important to the modern electronic calculator as its "hardware" of tubes, transistors, wires, tapes and the like."
And in a way, the patch books and manuals are "software", in the sense that they are providing the programming instructions that our brains use to program the hardware synthesizers.

Wow. That was getting a little deep. Gonna stop there and look at this ARP catalog content.

What a great piece of synthesizer history. This six-page fold-out mailing catalog has so much information. And besides just being something fun to look it, it is literally a check-off list for anyone collecting ARP memorabilia.

I mean, just look at "Et Cetera" section... the stuff you could have ordered from ARP!

  • ARP T-Shirt - $5.25
  • ARP Case Sticker - $1.00
  • ARP Window Decal - $1.00
  • And **THE** BEST: ARP Director's Chair - $40.00
Director's chair? That seemed a little out of place. But, one quick Google Images search later and I come across these photos.

The first is a photo from this Web page of a Sequential Circuits director's chair apparently taken at Dave Smith's booth at NAMM. The second is a photo of TWO Oberheim director's chairs from a 2007 MATRIXSYNTH post.

Aside: Obie Taylor wins the award for prediction of the decade with the comment at the bottom of the MATRIXSYNTH post: "Now if only Tom Oberheim would sit in one of those dang chairs to direct the making of a new monster synth. Mmmmmm luscious."

Okay - back to the chairs.

WTF? No seriously. When did this all begin? And how did I miss out on the whole "Hey! Every synth company needs a director's chair" thing? Gah!

I couldn't find any evidence of Moog or Korg director's chairs, but that doesn't mean they didn't exist. I've never been to NAMM, so maybe they are all sitting on these things in their booths. But, even without any Moog or Korg chairs, three companies is enough for me to consider that this was maybe some kind of weird trend during this time period.

Which brings me to the big question. What is the time period for when this catalog became available for mailing? There is no date anywhere that I can see, but the content of the catalog does give us some good clues.

The creepy ARP sequencer advertisement that becomes visible to the reader when he/she would have first unfolded the catalog after excitedly taking it out of the mailbox could be found in Contemporary Keyboard magazine by the end of 1976.

Also, the instruments in the catalog pretty much line up with this 1976 ARP family of products ad that appeared in the spring of 1976. Except for the ARP Omni - which isn't listed in that 1976 ad, but was promoted in CK starting in early 1977. And in my blog posts about those Omni ads, I spend a bit of time on the Omni's manufacturing start date.

So, based on this evidence, I'm guessing the catalog became available sometime in 1977.

Anyone else have any ideas?

1 comment:

synthfiend said...

As a side note, there was a Sequential Circuits director's chair in the Dave Smith Instruments booth at this years' winter NAMM show. I got a great pic of Dave positioned between the chair and the new Tempest poster.

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