Monday, January 7, 2013

Dennis Electronics "Expand/Increase your synthesizer's capabilities..." ads, Synapse 1977/78

Dennis Electronics "Increase your synthesizer's capabilities..." and "Expand your synthesizer's capabilities..." 1/12-page black and white advertisements from page 36 in the November/December 1977 and page 50 of the January/February  1978 issues of Synapse Magazine.

If you recall, my last blog post focused on a small Honolulu-based synth manufacturer called Dennis Electronics. I had been following a trail through old issues of Synapse Magazine to see if I could find out more info about them.

By the end of the post (and up to the time their first ad appeared in the July/August 1977 issue) I had figured out that they had recently redesigned their "system" and were blowing out their old stock. Their new module was a VCO that used an envelope input to continuously modify the timbre from a sine wave to a "big fat" pulse using a technique the company described as "Dynamic Depth FM technique (through 0)".  I also learned that, unlike some of the other smaller manufacturers of the time period,  Dennis Electronics was not offering their modules as kits.

But oddly, even with the publication of that advertisement, we still didn't have a module name or model number. Just "VCO".  This time, all we get is "Control Voltage Processor". More on Dennis in a second, but  first a small history lesson about the magazine Synapse itself.

Let me back up a bit...

When I first got by grubby little paws on the 1977 and 1978 issues of Synapse as a full lot, I was told it was a complete set. But, the September/October 1977 issue was missing. For a magazine squirrel like myself, missing an issue is a rather troubling matter. It gets under my skin like a creature from Alien whenever I'm flipping through old issues, trying to track down some information. What info was I missing? What nugget of gold was in that issue that I don't know about.

It was until a while later that I learned the truth. There simply was no September/October issue. And the answer had been there in the volume numbers at the top of the mags, and on page 2 of the November/December 1977 issue in the notes from the publishers - Doug Lynner and Chris August.
"Don't get nervous. You haven't missed the September/October Synapse. With our move to increased newstand distribution cover dates have become a bit more critical, so this issue became November/December - no one missed an issue. Volume numbers are still the same. Why don't you relax, buy a six-pack with the cash you'll save by subscribing or renewing  before the end of the year..."
Anyways, the point being that Dennis Electronics continued to be included in the ever-expanding "Listings" section under "Synthesizer Manufacturers" in the November/December 1977 and January/February 1978 issues of Synapse. And so telling that little cover-date story will make sure I don't get accused of glossing over a missing September/October issue by some eagle-eyed reader.

And, more importantly, the fact that its an awesome little piece of Synapse history! Much like when Keyboard misprinted the date on their October 1982 issue or dropped the word "Contemporary" from their title.

So, where was I... oh yeah... Dennis continued to appear in the "Listings" section at the back of the magazine. Unfortunately, unlike that Listings section, Dennis ads were NOT expanding. The exact opposite. The next two ads to appear in the magazine were these two 1/12th-page advertisements.

Although they are simple little ads, they are also simple little examples of how a good copy-writer can make all the difference.  In that first advertisement, the copy is a little awkward with a touch of verbal diarrhea. In comparison, that second shorter version just flows like melted butter in a reader's mind.
"Increase your synthesizer's capabilities many fold"
compared to
"Expand your synthesizer's capabilities"
So it will expand my synth's capabilities. Okay.

But how? Even a 1/12-page ad can contain too little information.

And now what? There is no call to action.

Even a simple "Write for more information" or "Write for a free catalog" would have helped this ad out. I'm all for white space, even in smaller ads, but a little bit more information and a call might seduce just a few more readers to slap a stamp on an envelope.

I'm not saying you have to go full-on-used-car-tv-commercial-like on reader's @sses like this CFR Associates/Tau Systems 1230 VCO module advertisement from the same issue as the first Dennis ad I've posted today. It may contain more fonts that a 1991 rave flyer and verge on unreadability, but it is more visually interesting and contains other bits of info like price, call to action and so on.

Luckily, it wouldn't be long before Dennis finally figured it out. But would it be too late?

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