Monday, June 16, 2014

Yamaha CX5M music computer "You've always had an ear for music..." ad, Keyboard 1985

Yamaha CX5M computer "You've always had an ear for music..." three page colour advertisement from pages 63, 64 and 65 in the February 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

This advertisement first ran in the February 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine as a three-pager. The teaser page - "You've always had an ear for music." - appears on the previous page and although there is absolutely no Yamaha logo to be found anywhere on that page, that large recognizable font has been around long enough in the company's ads that the whole page already oozes "Yamaha".

The bottom photo found on that teaser page is a great one too - a dark room, an empty chair and an instrument known to require a fabulous ear (as well as extreme talent) to play. The best part of the photo is the lighting, and in particular that the darkness of the room is broken by two light sources. The first light source is a lamp that subtly directs the readers attention towards the right. And the second is the natural light seeping in from the right side of the page again drawing the readers' eyes in the direction of the next page. You have no choice but to flip the page.

The two-page ad that follows is, at first glance, a mouthful. There are *a lot* of words on that page to take in. But, if you are like me at all, that first image catches your attention. A computer? A colour monitor with music on it? Yamaha? Yeah - that makes sense... (thinking it over more) yeah... kinda... hmmm... curious...

I'm sure that hook got a lot of people to start reading. I know I read it all. Every word. :)

The ad tells us a little bit about the CX5M itself
  •  FM digital tone generator
  •  built-in polyphonic synthesizer program with 46 preset voices and 6 rhythm patterns including drums, bass and synchronized chords
  • 2000-note sequencer
  • Optional FM Voicing Program to extensively edit the presets and create new ones
  • Cartridge and cassette tape ports
  • Printer port
  • and most importantly MIDI!
The ad also touches on some of the music software that is available for the CX5M, including
  • FM Music Composer - eight part musical compositions
  • FM Music Macro Program - for some type of programming access with MSX basic
  • DX7 Voicing Program
And that last piece of software is interesting because the ad doesn't actually say anything more about it, but actually uses it as a teaser by saying "More on this in another ad".  

The photo on this page is excellent too. It spans the bottom of both pages, and you can see how that natural light coming in from the right side of the page draws the eyes towards the small, well organized studio space and that nicely-coiffed gentleman. He kinda sits like I do at work all day. I wonder if he also has back problems?!?

Anyways, after this February advertisement ran as a three-pager, it was merged down to two pages. But, in order to do so, the designer had to somehow squeeze that first part of the ad-title (the teaser text) above second part found on the second page -  the "Now you have a mind for it". And the only way that was going to happen was by shrinking the text down a few point sizes. And that's exactly what the designer. This two page version ran in March and September 1985, as well as February and March 1986.
This CX5M ad came out before the QX1 ad I blogged about previously started running, but there was some overlap between them near the end of 1985. And you can see the overlap it their designs too. The QX1 definitelly got its keyboard look from the CX5M.

Both units resemble computers - eeeeer... actually, the CX5M *is* a computer.

The ad states that it is an "MSX computer". Looking at the fine print and you will see that MSX was a Microsoft computer platform.

I'd never heard of this operating system, but according to the MSX Wikipedia page, the American-based Microsoft first announced MSX in June 1983 as part of an attempt to standardize hardware between manufactures, but surprisingly MSX-based machines didn't really get popular in it's home country. Apparently due to a Commodore-led price war going on there. But, elsewhere the MSX hardware was the bees knees. Places like Japan, the Middle East, Brazil, the Soviet Union and Netherlands. Even more surprisingly, it was a popular choice as a video game platform. Check out this fact - the Metal Gear series was first written for MSX hardware. Bam!

If you live in North America, it might have been hard to look back at this ad and think of Yamaha as a home computer manufacturer - but in fact they made a few different MSX models. Some were marketed as personal computers like the YIS503II that could be found in Soviet schools, while others like the CX5M were marketed as machines strictly for making music (although even in this Yamaha CX5M ad they do mention near the end that you can also do your finances, write letters, and "rack up a score on a different type of video game". Get it... "score"... like music score... hee hee.

Looking at that Wiki page, some of those MSX computers look really damn retro-cool.

Yoiks - I'm getting that "collector" feeling in my loins.



Unknown said...

Actually, at present, there is an active homebrew market around the MSX platform (, with a large number of active users and dedicated webs. Outside of Japan, where a special MSX cult was cultivated during the 80s of the 20th century, it was quite accepted in European countries such as Holland, France, Italy or Spain; in America it was marketed with some success in several countries as well, such as in Brazil.

The hardware of the MSX platform was designed in a modular way, somewhat similar to the IBM PC, which allowed to expand the hardware and software (firmware) easily with any type of device. Thus, for example, Yamaha created several musical MSX computers in which it added some of the best professional synthesizers of the 80s, maintaining the rest of MSX standard specifications.

Synthoma said...

I always wonder about a particular detail in this ad. There is a large collection of vinyl records in the back cabinet, and only a few of them are placed towards the camera. The only recognizable one is "Departure from the Northern Wasteland" (1978) by Michael Hoenig. It would have been randomly selected, or someone deliberately placed it there? That record is an essential masterpiece of the Krautrock genre. I've been wondering it for 37 years.

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