Monday, August 1, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet "Two and a half years ago" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet "Two and a half years ago" 1-page advertisement from page 13 in Contemporary Keyboard July 1980.

Update: Added to the Sequential Circuits Inc. advertising timeline tool.

I've blogged *a lot* about Sequential Circuits Inc.'s Prophets and the Prophet-5 in particular. My Prophet-5 label is up to 12 or 13 at last count, and most include links to a wack of great Prophet resources around the Web.

But somehow this ad evaded my blog. I would start, and then while surffin, or noodling around in my studio, get caught up on something else. But, I always knew I would get to it some day. If for only one reason. And that reason starts with another Prophet ad.

For a long time I had always thought that this colourful Prophet advertisement was special for two reasons.

1. First Mattos-designed advertisement. Woot!
2. First ad to promote the Rev. 3 Prophet. And I based this claim on the small "addendum" text that appears at the end of the ad-copy during the second ad-run (see that blog post for more details).

But, this "Two and a half years ago..." advertisement was actually the one that introduced the world to the new features of the Rev. 3s in July 1980, which included the switch to recently-blogged-about Curtis Electromusic Specialties CEM chips.

The ad itself is gorgeous. The black and white up-close-and-personal photo of the Prophet's front panel shows off SCI's characteristic control knobs and buttons to great effect, as well as the small read-out screen. But, I have to admit, my curious mind keeps trying to figure out why SCI chose "32" as the number to show on the screen. I was guessing that the "2" was chosen so that the LED on button "2" would be lit within the photo frame - a nice balance with the lit "Keyboard" button on the left side of the photo. But, why "3" to go along with it? Maybe because it is the Rev. 3 Prophet?

Yah, I realize I'm probably thinking to deeply on the matter. It's probably because "32" just looked nice. :)

The other thing that is really nice about this photo is that it bleeds right to the edges of the page. A lot of ads get framed on the page, with a good centimeter of white space around the edges. But this advertisement was expanded to take up the full page, making that up-close photo look even more impressive.

The ad-copy is also fantastic. The way it is lined up on an angle to follow the wood panel in the photo works well, and doesn't impede reading as much as one would think it should. The text really looks like it belongs there.

The content of the ad-copy is exactly what you would expect. It starts with a short well-earned pat on the back explaining how SCI had created the first completely programmable polyphonic synth, and then right into a feast of historical references. Yum.

I don't think I've seen the variable scaling feature described to such an extent in any other Prophet ad.
"JUST INTONATION, Pythagorean, mean tone, and other types of scales are now available. The Prophet enables you to individually tune each note in the scale (C, C#, ...B) and then program that scale into its memory. This allows instant changes from one scale to another (or a given scale can be tuned in different keys, to allow instant modulation in performance). This tuning feature makes the Prophet-5 ideal in educational environments, as well as an excellent tool for experimentation and performance by all musicians. Imagine... a keyboard with thirds that don't beat!"
Even more interestingly, SCI doesn't shy away from the Prophet's technical issues of the past. Instead it meets the issues straight on:
"A new oscillator design, coupled with a unique computer-correction scheme, eliminates tuning problems and periodic internal adjustments. With fewer electronic parts, the new circuitry cuts service problems and dramatically improves the reliability and roadworthiness of the instrument."
Nice touch.

Not even the Spec Sheet promo, which appeared in the same issue as this advertisement, says as much about these new features. But, it does provide a bit of information not found in the ad, including the all important retail price point!
"Revised Prophet-5. The Prophet-5 polyphonic synthesizer has been revised to include the following features: a built-in cassette interface, an A-440 tuning control, voice defeat switches, a new kind of edit mode, and a mode that lets you individually tune each note of the scale to accommodate tunings other than equal temperament. The cassette interface lets the user store program on cassette tapes. The edit mode functions in such a way that turning a knob or hitting a switch will change the sound immediately (previously, you had to hit an edit switch). The voice defeat function is provided for emergency situations where a voice goes out in some way and can't be used. The voice defeat function lets you turn off whatever voice is malfunctioning so you can continue to play the instrument. The tuning feature lets you tune the notes of the scale to different frequencies. the range for each note is about 1/2-semitone from its normal equal-tempered value. These different tunings can be stored in memory (and in cassette tape memory) for later recall. Price is $4,595.00. Sequential Circuits, 3051 N. First St., San Jose, CA 95134."
As mentioned previously, there's not much more to be said about the Prophet-5 that hasn't been said by all the great Prophet resources out there.

Just click on the Prophet-5 label to get started.

Now... back to my long weekend at the parent's. My dad is letting me operate the chainsaw to clear some fallen trees at their farm in Saskatchewan.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! :D

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