Monday, February 11, 2013

Steiner-Parker Microcon "complete synthesizer" ad, Synapse 1977

Steiner-Parker Microcon "complete synthesizer" black and white 1/2-page advertisement from page 7 in the July/August 1977 issue of Synapse Magazine.

It's been a while since I last blogged about Steiner-Parker. April 22, 2010 to be exact - a half-page advert for S-P's Synthacon and their multi-magazine promotion of a free sequencer with every purchase.

Definitely a good deal.

If there was one thing I remembered about many of S-P's earlier ads, it's that they had balls. Whether it was throwing in a free $500 sequencer with a $1395 synthesizer or going head-to-head with the King of synthesizers. In my mind they were a scrappy bold company ready to take on the world.

But a six-month break from advertising has Steiner-Parker maturing as a company. Out with the bravado. In with the specifications. *A lot* of specs.  This new advertisement for the Microcon is *all* business.

Reading through those specs today, you realize just how ahead of the game they were. The name of the instrument says it all. This was a micro- or smaller sibling of  the big-brother Synthacon synthesizer. And Steiner-Parker managed to package all the basic functions of a synthesizer - VCO, VCF, VCA, LFO, EG - into one compact module. It's a great way for a musician to quickly and easily add to their existing musical set-up while also saving a wack of studio space.

Case-in-point - when first deciding to build my own Eurorack modular to keep my Modular Moog company when I'm away on business, I purposely chose to include a Doepfer A-111-5 Synthesizer module to help save space. A VCO, VCF, VCA, ADSR, and two(!) LFOs in one compact module.  I loved that A-111-5 module so much that when PatchPierre.Net informed me last year that Doepfer was changing the design due to the discontinuation of the CEM3394 chip, I immediately got my dealer to order another one for me. 

But back to the ad - it wasn't just the ad-copy that matured - it was also the design. It's not perfect, but it is a lot more eye-catching than some of their earlier ones. Font sizes are balanced and we get a generous helping of white space. Everything is there - ad-title, ad-copy, large photo, specs. All grown up.

The logo also matured after a brief mid-life crisis. S-P did the adult thing and made the conscious decision to bring back the waveforms image after the name in the logo. They had stopped using those waveforms after the first couple of ads, maybe as a way to save space. But as can be seen in this ad, there is away to fit everything in nicely if you try hard enough. Just feels more like a logo this way.

But the best thing about this ad is the photo. Readers see what appears to be two incarnations of the Microcon -  a stand-alone version in a nice little case as well as a version that looks like it would feel right at home in a modular system.

Reaching in from out of nowhere, the hand looks a little creepy. But having the hand there actually performs two functions. The first is to provide a human element to the Microcon. Now those Microcons aren't sitting all alone and a musician looking at the ad can literally visualize him or herself using the Microcon. The second reason they probably included the hand is to help get across the idea of the Microcon's size. It is about the size of a hand. Itty bitty.

Actually - when I first saw the photo with the hand, I was immediately brought back to the late 1970s. But not in a synthesizer way. In a "Mr. Bill" way.

Mr. Bill was a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live in the late 70s, and as Wikipedia puts it, "each Mr. Bill episode would start innocently enough but would quickly turn dangerous for Mr. Bill. Along with his dog, Spot, he would suffer various indignities inflicted by 'Mr. Hands,' a man seen only as a pair of hands".

 Every time I see this ad, I expect that poor Microcon to suffer various indignities. Giggle.

This particular Microcon advertisement only seemed to have appeared once, but there were more Microcon ads to come. Next time!

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