Monday, August 13, 2012

Roland MC-8 MicroComposer introductory ad, Contempoary Keyboard 1977

Roland MC-8 MicroComposer introductory 1/2-page advertisement from page 38 in the December 1977 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

I figured since I have recently been on a bit of a Roland sequencer kick, I probably should go back through the company's history a bit to scope out some of their earlier sequencer beginnings. And this is one of the first you will come across - well, in Contemporary Keyboard anyways. Roland got a lot of mileage out of this ad, also running it the following January, February and June 1978 in CK, and also running it in the January/February 1978 and May/June 1978 issues of Synapse Magazine.

The MC-8 Wikipedia page tells me that it was actually introduced into the market early in 1977, so there could very well be older ads from other magazines. That page also tells me how "revolutionary" the MC-8 was at the time with its note keypad and 16kb/5200 notes, "a huge step forward from the 8-16 step sequencers at the time". And it also mentions the price: $4,795. Gulp. No wonder only 200-300 units were ever sold.

While doing a bit of surfing to catch up on this wonderful beast, I came across an interesting blog dedicated to the MC-8. Most of the posts seem to be from January and February 2010, but it still has a lot of good juicy info, including links to videos by notable users like Chris and Cosey, links to interviews by artists such as Cosey Fanni Tutti (London, 2010), and articles on the MC-8 by notable engineers and artists like Chris Carter. Yeah. Um. I'm a bit of a fan. :) But seriously, lots of artists, engineers and others are there. Check it out.

That last link above is to the March 1997 Sound on Sound retro article on the MC-8 to mark it's 20th birthday. It's an amazing read, going through the early history and the people involved, including fellow Canadian Ralph Dyck (and no, it's a big country, I didn't know him :) But yeah, read that article. I'll wait...

... still waiting...

Okay. Back. Good.

The actual ad is really crazy awesome too. It looks like it could have been produced yesterday. The title font especially. And I really like the direction the ad took. Remember, this thing was revolutionary at the time. The most familiar sequencers at the time usually had 8-16 steps. So Roland needed to explain how this beast worked. And they needed to do it well.  And as far as I'm concerned, they did. From the ad:
"You've heard of word processing...and data processing. But have you heard of "music processing"?

With the Roland MC-8 MicroComposer you can store... add to... delete from... re-structure, and play back through a synthesizer as many as eight voice lines of your own musical composition. And you can do it instantly, as easily as pushing buttons on a ten-key adding machine. We call in music processing."
By comparing the MC-8 to other more well known - and probably just as revolutionary - machines at the time, something that was so complicated that users "have sweated blood over and cursed this machine through the years" (Chris Carter's words, not mine), would become much more familiar. Instant recognition.

I wasn't sure just how "well known" word processing was back in the 70s, but a quick Google search and I had my answer. According to the Wikipedia page for Word processing:
"The term word processing was invented by IBM in the late 1960s. By 1971 it was recognized by the New York Times as a "buzz word".[5] A 1974 Times article referred to "the brave new world of Word Processing or W/P. That's International Business Machines talk... I.B.M. introduced W/P about five years ago for its Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter and other electronic razzle-dazzle."
LOL! Who can argue with "razzle-dazzle"? The world was a-buzz with "word processing", and Roland was definitely smart to use it to explain the MC-8.

Another tidbit in the ad that got my attention was the little tag line underneath the Roland logo.
"The largest, most diversified line of electronic musical equipment in the world."
Although this is good in theory, and probably for Roland's bottom line, it does prove difficult in the advertising and marketing departments. With so many instruments to advertise in Contemporary Keyboard alone, it must have been hard for Roland to keep a long sustained advertising campaign going. For example, during the MC-8's tenure in the mag, there would be months without an MC-8 ad because Roland also needed to promote their GR-500 guitar synth, VK-9 organ, their effects line (re-301, re-201 and re-101), and a wack of others.

Its no wonder that at some points it's just a lot cheaper to put out ONE BIG FAMILY PHOTO.

No comments:

Post a Comment