Monday, June 10, 2013

Poly Keyboard Interface Freedom 1 pre-MIDI remote keyboard controller introductory ad, Keyboard 1981

Poly Keyboard Interface Freedom 1 pre-MIDI remote keyboard controller introductory full page black & white advertisement from the February 1981 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

Here's a rare quirky beast. Quirky enough that it made it into the "Mutants and Missing Links" section of Mark Vail's Vintage Synthesizers book alongside such notables as the Paia Oz, PMS Syntar and Gleeman Pentaphonic.

At first glance, this advertisement could almost be mistaken for an early Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet 10 advertisement (see right) - also running in CK around this time period. And although it definitely ISN'T a Prophet-10, it could probably control one. See, the Freedom 1 was a pre-MIDI remote keyboard controller, allowing a musician to remote control a number of synthesizers through one keyboard. With MIDI coming up in less than two years, this thing unknowingly had a limited life span.

The advertisement only seems to have appeared once in CK (?) as a heads-up to interested readers that they could find out more information about the Freedom 1 at the 1981Winter NAMM running in February at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I realize this was pre-Internet, but I almost feel that PKI tried to cram too much information into the advertisement. or maybe its just too wordy. Or maybe it just looks disorganized because of the company names scattered randomly across the top so close to the ad-title. Bah. It's still too early on a Sunday morning to think about.

If it's also too early to read through the ad-copy in your part of the world, luckily a small Spec Sheet accompanied the ad in the same issue, summing up the advertisement quite nicely.
"Poly Keyboard Interface. The Freedom 1 is a remote controller that will drive a number of keyboard instruments simultaneously. It is also light enough to wear around your neck. The unit is radio-controlled, so no patch cords are needed to interface it with other keyboards. Electronic and electromechanical keyboards can both be interfaced. It has a 5-octave keyboard, a 6-channel sequencer, an 8-channel mixer, and pitch and mod wheels. It weights 15 lbs (6.8 kg). Poly Keyboard Interface, 710 S. 13th St. Grover City, CA 93433."
6-channel sequencer? 8-channel mixer? Okay, maybe it is time to get some coffee in me so I can take another look at that ad copy.

Eventually caffeine successfully hit my cerebral cortex and brain stem and I could concentrate enough to read through the ad. And I'm quite surprised. Not at what was included in the ad copy, but what wasn't. According to the Spec Sheet, this beast had a six-channel sequencer, but its not directly mentioned in the advertisement at all. There is mention of "tracks", and the ability to have a program selection "sequenced into memory". But no mention of things like the number of notes available in memory - the number one question of any sequencer.

Another cool thing about the Freedom 1, but yet not directly mentioned in the ad is that it's light enough to wear around your neck. KEYTAR!!!! The ad does mention that weights only 15 pounds and runs on a 9 volt. But why not actually say it. 25 words of ad-copy and they don't actually say its wearable. Lost opportunity.

The ad does get into some specifics. For example, I'm really digging the Freedom 1's wireless abilities. Cordless is where I want my keyboards to be at some point in the future.  I purchased a used M-Audio's MidAir25 wireless MIDI controller and although I haven't hooked it up yet, I think it will be cool to be able to move a small battery-operated two-octave keyboard around the studio without having to worry about cables getting in the way of everything.

I really dig a company that will add a little bit of humour into their ads, and PKI does just that.  Things like "Look, mom!-No Cords" or apologizing to roadies since it comes with an antennae hookup for remoting the keyboards from the sound truck.

Speaking of which - I'm a little confused. If a band is going to lug around quite a few cool looking analog synthesizers around the country, why wouldn't you want them on stage with you? Isn't that what being a keyboardist in the 70s and 80s was all about? Unfortunately, whenever I picture a musician surrounded by keyboards, I think of Rick Moranis in that one SCTV skit about Tex and Edna Boil Organ Emporium, where Tex leaves Edna Boil and she has try-outs to replace him.

And so I leave you with this... in particular the gear pr0n from 1m41s to 2m36s - brilliant stuff  :)

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