Monday, May 7, 2012

Kinetic Sound Corporation Prism 4-page brochure, 1981

Kinetic Sound Corporation Prism digital synthesizer 4-page brochure from 1981.

 Top or bottom?

Errr.... let me rephrase that.  Should joysticks be located above or below modulation wheels?

When I first took a closer look at this brochure I thought this was one of the same questions facing Kinetic Sound Corp when they were designing the Prism synthesizer.  The two photos of the Prism on the front and back pages of the brochure have the joystick logically located above the wheels. But the inside photo has the joystick located awkwardly below the wheels. I say "awkwardly" because I would think that if that big-@ss joystick was located at the bottom of the controls, it could possibly get in the way when trying to control the wheel during your screechy modulation-heavy solo dedicated to all the young ladies in the audience.

Most synthesizers dodged the joystick/wheel issue (and added expense) by only including one or the other on the left-side control panel - DON'T get me started on which is "better". And in those cases where a synth did include both, usually it was because the joystick was also playing a programming role - such as with synths sporting vector synthesis, like the Kawai K1 and the Korg Wavestation. In both cases one or both controls were moved out of the left-side panel for easier accessibility.

But with the Prism both the joystick and wheels are on the left-side. And that big fat silver joystick controller would definitely be in the way. 

Then I thought - since only two (and 2/3rds) Prisms were made, maybe the company figured this problem out after the first one was built and changed the configuration for the final production model.  Although, then I would have expected them to spend the small amount of extra cash on new photos to keep everything consistent in the brochure. Otherwise the inconsistency could just get confusing for readers of the brochure.

And usually I would be pounding my fist demanding consistency. But then I figured out that maybe this was the point of using different configurations in the photos. According to kineticjim's most excellent official unofficial Prism Web site (scroll down to the "Device Area"),  there were a number of real-time controller devices available for the Prism, and an owner could customize the order on the left panel control:
"Pedals, footswitches, sliders, joysticks, an thumbwheels comprise the PRISM's basic manual devices.  Each of these devices can be physically located to complement your style of playing."
So, the physical location of each controller (thumbwheels, joysticks, sliders) would have been up to the user, and the photos could have been showcasing this "feature". Huh.

Apart from the potential inconsistency and confusion that could result from the photos, this brochure is awesome, with more than a couple of other features that are worth pointing out.

For example - the rainbow/spectrum theme found in the original advertisement's title (the word "PRISM" in a number of colours) was obviously carried over to this brochure through a colourful ribbon design that runs through all the pages - front, inside and back. A reader may casually notice the rainbow graphics on each separate page when looking at the actual physical brochure, but its not until you see all four pages at the same time (such as is laid out in this blog post) that the connection it helps build between the pages really leap out of the subconscious.

Also - I just gotta mention that huge image of the cassette and the tag-line "the proof is in the playing".  That same tagline was also included in the original intro advertisement in Keyboard and referred to the workshops that were being promoted. But in this brochure there is another option. If you really just wanted to hear the $30,000+ beast, an interested reader could spend a measly two bucks and order a demo cassette!

While doing research I came across an MP3 file of an excerpt from a Prism demo in a 2006 post on MATRIXSYNTH (click on the title link to hear the MP3). The file's original owner - Elhardt - has a rather colourful past with what MATRIXSYNTH described in 2005 as "the biggest hoax in synth history", and so you can see from both MATRIXSYNTH's and a commentor's initial reaction, there was originally some skepticism to the MP3 files authenticity. But even Elhardt responds in the comment section to vouch for it's authenticity. Definitely follow the links if you want to read more about the synth hoax.

It scares me a little bit that image rendering technology has improved so much since then.  :)

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