Monday, May 30, 2011

Roland "Groupies aren't everything" advertisement, International Musician and Recording World 1978

Roland "Groupies aren't everything" advertisement from page 33 in International Musician and Recording World Magazine February 1978.

Well, helloooooo ladies.

February 1978? Seriously? What goes around, definitely comes around. Replace the SH-5 with a new Roland synthesizer such as a Jupiter-80 or GAIA SH-01 and you got yourself an ad that could be slapped into the next issue of Keyboard Magazine. The clothing, the ad title font - everything fits. And that is probably why I'm so hooked on this advertisement.

Okay, maybe update the ad copy as well - replace "Genesis and Meal Ticket" with the names of some bands that all the hip kids listen too now-er-days. I've hyper-linked the text "Meal Ticket" to the Wikipedia page just... in... case... you might not be familiar with this London-based country band. Roland might also have thought readers at the time wouldn't know who Meal Ticket was either, because in August 1978 the ad-copy had abruptly changed to "Genesis and Steve Hackett. Much better, Roland. This was an "international" magazine after all.

The ad continued to run in IMRW throughout '78 and even early '79. Interestingly, in March 1979, IMRW split into separate UK and US editions, and I found the US version of this ad running once in the April 1979 issue. I doubt Meal Ticket would have gone over well with the US and Canadian audience.

Now, before you start emailing, I do realize this ad is technically not a synthesizer advertisement. But that SH-5 just looks so juicy sitting beside those fine young ladies in their purple high-ride long-zippered pants and fancy socks that I just couldn't resist. Who could? Plus, as I dug more deeply into this ad, I realized just how interesting it actually was.

If you look in the bottom right-hand corner of the scan, you will see a cute little logo made up of a crown sitting on a box that has within it three quarter notes and the letters BJ. Growing up in Canada, I can't recall ever coming across this logo - in a Roland ad or any other ad for that matter. But later on in life, as I became more infatuated with synth advertisements, I started noticing it in early European music magazines. And if the BJ logo wasn't visible in an ad somewhere, then the actual name of the company was.

Turns out the BJ stands for Brodr Jorgensen, who were the European distributor for Roland for quite some time. And apparently they were "kind of a big deal", if you believe the "By appointment to the Royal Danish Court" text that can be found underneath the logo. Do you think members of the Royal Danish Court were rockin' out on SH-5s, or some other synthesizer BJ was supplying? :o)

Well, no matter, they would need to find another supplier shortly. In fact, the Royal Danish Court *and* Roland would both be looking for their instruments. Seems that Brodr Jorgensen was having difficulty dealing with the increasing strength of the Yen near the end of the 70s, and declared bankruptcy in 1980.

According to the article "History of Roland Part 2:1979-1985" found in the December 2004 issue of the always excellent Sound On Sound magazine, Roland suddenly found themselves with no supplier for all of Europe - "one third of their worldwide business". To make matters worse, liquidators had taken control of over a million pounds of Roland gear, and another 1.5 million dollars worth of gear was already shipping to Europe. This would have tanked Roland if boss Kakehashi had not finally found a bank that would provide a credit line.

Then, in early 1981, Kakehashi was given the opportunity to buy all of Brodr Jorgensen's liquidated assets, but BJ distributed a lot more than just Roland products -too much for Roland to take. But in the end, Roland was able to get back all of the Roland gear before the world was "flooded by cheap equipment that would have undercut Roland's own sales".

Now, Brodr Jorgensen seems to tell the liquidation story a bit more "softly". According to what I believe is the unfinished Web site of BJ:
"During the period, 1970-1980'ies, the entire musical business environment changed dramatically, when electronic instruments came on the market. Realizing that the basis business of Brødr. Jørgensen would continue to radically change, in 1981 the Management decided to sell off many of the business activities, leaving the company with the production and international sales of pianos."
Anyways - close call on Roland's part. And nice save. The whole article is fascinating - a great read.

Could you imagine if Roland had tanked before all their beloved gear had made it to market? The 808 would have made it, but the 909, 606, 303, Jupiters, Junos, and everything after would never existed.

Gah! This is the kind of scary story keyboard players tell their children in front of a campfire.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sequential Circuits Prophet -5 and Prophet-10 "The Industry's First" ad, Synapse 1978

Sequential Circuits Prophet -5 and Prophet-10 1-page advertisement from Synapse Magazine January/February 1978.

A long time ago before I did much writing, I had scanned this ad and just popped it up as a post. But, as I was creating the Sequential Circuits advertising timeline last weekend, I realized that I've never really said much about this ad. And that is a shame, because this has some great historical significance.

The thing is, as far as I can tell, this was the first ad for the Prophet. And, although Contemporary Keyboard magazine was usually the first place that synth peeps back in the day would come across these synth ads, technically speaking this ad first appeared in Synapse magazine. In other words, this ad first appeared in the February 1978 issue of CK, but it appeared in the January/February 1978 issue of Synapse. :)

That's pretty good timing though. I kind of take it for granted that my different synth sites will pick up on gear news within *minutes* of each other, and all the different mags will pretty much report on a piece of new gear in the same month. But I would guess that back in the pre-Internet days, if gear news happened to get out to different publication sources within a month or two of each other, the Marketing Manager was probably getting a hefty bonus at Christmas.

And this ad, and the whole initial marketing/promo campaign around the Prophet, is probably a good example of some pretty good timing.

For example, the same Jan/Feb issue of Synapse that included this first Prophet ad also included a little blurb in the "What's Happening" section about this introduction of this new instrument:
"Sequential Circuits will unveil, at this month's NAMM Western Market Show, a new polyphonic synthesizer named the Prophet. The Prophet is available in 5 and 10 voice versions with 50 programmable pre-sets (programmed at the factory but re-programmable by the user). The unit is controlled by a micro-computer and features pitch and modulation wheels, programs modifiable in real-time, a memory power back-up unit allowing the instrument to be turned off without erasing the stored patches, and a 5 octave keyboard. the 5 voice version (10 oscillators) is expected to list for under $3000.00. Although no retail price has been committed for the 10 voice version, manufacturer's literature states that the conversion from 5 to 10 voices is literally as simple as adding one printed circuit card."
Meanwhile, although SCI's marketing peeps also got the Prophet ad showing up in the February issue of Contemporary Keyboard, it wasn't until a month later (March 1978) that the specs made it into CK's Spec Sheet section:
"Sequential Circuits Synthesizer. The Prophet is a polyphonic synthesizer with a micro-computer built in to control its operation. This computer automatically tunes all of the unit's oscillators. The Prophet is available with either five or ten voices. Each voice has two oscillators. The unit also has a computer memory to store patches. It comes programmed with forty different patches, each of which can be reprogrammed by the user at any time. Other features include a 5-octave keyboard, pitch and modulation wheels, live editing capabilities, sequencer interface for use with the Sequential Circuits Model 800 digital sequencer, volume and filter pedal input jacks, a final release foot-switch, and a memory power backup with a 10-year life. The unit measures 37" (94 cm) wide, 16" (40.6cm) deep, and 4 1/2" (11.3 cm) high. Sequential Circuits, 1172G Aster Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086."
Still - only a month delay? Not too shabby for the time period.

Looking at these two descriptions, I can't help but compare them.

The Synapse promo contains quite a bit less technical detail, and it also contains a factual error - the number of patches is listed as 50, where the ad in the same magazine says 40. Now this might have been because Synapse received early pre-NAMM specs to help promote the NAMM show introduction, while the ad arrived for printing later on. Meanwhile, CK may have also received pre-NAMM info, but for one reason or another, the Spec Sheet write up didn't make it into CK until after the NAMM show - at which time there may have been more tech details available. All just guesses, but that's the fun part of blogging in hindsight. :)

Yah, I know that it's not really up to the company on when they get promo'd in these sections, but just the fact SCI is organized and connected enough to get pre-NAMM news into a mag is pretty good marketing work in itself.

Side note (more of a question): Would I rather have my new gear info fed to me early on, with an increased chance of errors/changes? Or later, with full, correct specs? Tough one...

Anyways, again - not too bad in terms of timing. Within two months, both the ad and the specs could be found in two highly respected mags.

The ad continued to run in Synapse pretty regularly right into the January/February 1979 issue. While in CK, the ad ran only until July 1978, after which SCI decided to take break from any advertising in that magazine. Then, in November 1978, SCI ran this "You'll look at it's features" Prophet ad just once in CK (and never appeared in Synapse as far as I can tell - see my blog post and my guess that this was just an interim ad), and then this longer running "No excuse" ad in February 1979. This ad didn't start running in Synapse until mid-1979.

So, a little bit of a campaign transition issue when you look at the two mags, but again, three months ain't too shabby for the time period.

Could you imagine if there was this type of timing issue online?

InterWebz - you rock. :D

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sequential Circuits advertising time line created

Long weekend! And I just couldn't get myself in the blogging mood.

Flipped through some magz to try and get my brain into gear.


Looked through the many Blogger drafts that I've created with small bits of ideas.


So, rather than try to fight the obvious, I decided to instead focus on something more administrative in nature. So, I cleaned up a few things and then create another advertising timeline - this time for Sequential Circuits. You can see the "advertising timeline tool" link near the top of the blog - and the SCI timeline joins the ARP, Korg, and Moog timelines that were created when I launched the tool back in April.

The tool works like this:

You can navigate along the timeline in two ways. Move your mouse along the scrolling line at the bottom of the each timeline, or even more convenient, just click on the side images to bring them into focus. You can actually click quite rapidly on them to quickly fly through the ads.

Then, to view the blog post/high res ad created for each one, just click on the image that is in focus.

Easy as that!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have guessed that I generally separate SCI's advertising into three fairly distinct periods - Pre-Mattos, Mattos, and Post-Mattos. And it's easy to see the evolution of these periods in the ads that have been added in the timeline.

The Pre-Mattos period (up until mid-1979 or so) is generally characterized as consisting of... well... very general-looking ads. Top title, sub-title (if available), photo, ad-copy. Nothing ugly. No gratuitous sex in the form of females in bikinis laying over keyboards or anything. Just some good ol' mid-70s ads.

But then something happened. Magic, as I like to call it. SCI met John Mattos, an illustrator that had done a bit of previous artwork for A&M before moving (back) to California. Working through an ad agency, Mattos started illustrating for SCI - posters, ads, etc, and it was during this Mattos period from about 1980-1982 that some of the best synth marketing design artwork was ever produced. You can read more on John Mattos in this blog post.

With the synth advertising industry in general starting to become more trendy, along with the advances in printing technology, the Post-Mattos period of 1982-onward is characterized mostly by a more "slick" advertising look. Nice colour photography with darker backgrounds that new print technologies could handle, allowed SCI to shine with the best of them.

And Sequential Circuits was definitely one of the best.

More timelines to come!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Moog Modular Professional Systems and modules price list, March 1976

Moog Modular Professional Systems and modules two-sided/three-panel price list from March 1976.

Update: Added to Moog's advertising timeline tool.

Here's one outta the ol' tickle trunk.

This doc just drips with historical info. Sorry it's not in the best of shape - my rather excellent excuse is that it was trashed a long time before it ever got into my hands.

It is definitely not the first Moog doc I've posted with pricing information, but it is probably one of the oldest. And one that comes with a bit more sentimental value, since it came with my modular, along with some other great historical Moog pieces.

Plus, since it came with my modular, it also provides me with a indication of when approximately the system most likely came into the hands of the original owner. Nice.

But to me, one of the coolest thing about this price list has to be that it is Canadian. At the bottom of the middle panel of the first page is a "Distributed by Norlin..." tag, with only a "Scarborough, Ont." location.

I did a quick Google search to try and confirm that the prices were Canadian, and found's 1974 price list info. Even though that list is from 1974 - two years before this price list was printed - the prices are quite a bit lower, suggesting that the 1976 prices are indeed in Canadian funds.

Even cooler, the price list intro text from Synthfool's 1974 list is very similar to the intro text from this 1976 list. And, the list of modules is almost identical - with the addition of the Bode Frequency Shifter in my 1976 list. This suggests that content for price lists, and probably other Moog materials, were shared between US and Canadian counterparts in some way or another.

A few other interesting historical facts that I hadn't realized until I took a closer look:
  • The System 55 apparently came with "up to 43" patch cords
  • The System 15 and 35 had an alternate version without a Fixed Filter Bank (and was labeled with an "A" after the name; System 15A and System 35A
  • The System 55 had an alternate version without the "Sequencer Complement" and was labeled with an "A" after the name: System 55A
  • Apparently Moog liked the photos of the System 15 and 55 used in this 1976 price list so much that it looks like they used the exact same photos in the 1982 product catalog (last page)!
Great stuff. Time to get back to work.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 Composers/Producers ad, Contemporary Keyboard, 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 Composers/Producers 1-page advertisement from page 83 in Contemporary Keyboard November 1980.

What the heck is this? And is that Hall or Oats? :D

What an odd ad. It is just so "not-SCI" that it's almost not funny. Especially when you realize this ad was sandwiched in the middle of one of the most awesome series of Prophet-5 ads. Those featuring John Mattos' fine artwork.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, below are the two ads that ran before this one:

Note: extra marks to SCI for including the imagery of the two ads on the walls of the studio in the ad photo)

And this ad ran right after it:

So, why slap this rather dull looking Composers/Producers ad in the middle of such a innovative series of ads for the Prophet-5?

Turns out this issue of Contemporary Keyboard featured a "CK special" on American composer Aaron Copland. So, it kinda makes sense that SCI would take advantage of an opportunity to speak directly to those composer fans that would tune-in to this issue for that special.

End result: this ad.

But, unfortunately, it doesn't look like SCI had a lot of time to prep for the advertisement - it looks a little like a rushed job. The ad-copy in particular looks like one really long run-on sentence. I know at least two editors that could cut that copy to atleast 1/2 of its current size - which would have really helped this ad breathe a little. Long run-on sentences are fine for blog posts *grin*, but in an ad like this, it could lead to premature page-flip. Plus, the ad-copy refers to the Prophet-5 sans hyphen. Not a big deal you say? Grrrrr. I think it is. :)

The one thing SCI definitely did right with this ad was to keep all the techno-mumbo-jumbo out of it. I could imagine that there might have been some SCI engineer/marketing types that wanted to plaster this ad with technical info since the Prophet-5 had just recently hit Rev. 3. But, I think you will agree, most composers reading an article on Aaron Copland that would then come across this ad wouldn't have gotten much out of any technical info anyways.

But if there is one thing I am not - its a composer :) And since I'd never really taken the time to look into the evolution of the Prophet-5 too much, I pulled up Google for a quick search.

The always informative Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 Tribute Web site has some great info on all the Prophet-5 revisions. And the site's author had this to say about the introduction of the Rev. 3:

"In 1980, the Prophet 5 was the synth keyboard players 'had' to own. About 1.300 Prophet 5's where built until then. Sequential's name and reputation were unassailable. But the Prophet 5 was still not a stable instrument, and hard to obtain. This instability was explained by the deficiencies of the SSM oscillators used. And the reason for its rarity was, to a very great extent, explained by the inherent deficiencies of the manufacturer of those SSM oscillators.

Therefore Sequential decided to stop producing Prophet's with the SSM chips, and replace them by Curtis (CEM) chips. This entailed another, much more thorough redesign (than that of the Rev 1 to the Rev 2) that included the power supply, envelopes, DAC's and VCA's..."

According to the site's author, the sound of the Prophet-5 Rev. 3 was, for the most part, surprisingly unchanged by these large-scale revisions, although "some of the bite had gone, leaving an instrument that remained impressive and pleasant to play, but was slightly different in comparison to earlier models".

Along with the internal redesign, it looks like Prophet-5's added a number of other features for users (as listed in the "addendum" of this previous colourful Rev. 3 ad):

  • Cassette Interface
  • Variable Scaling (Programmable)
  • Simplified Editing Facilities
  • Voice Defeat System

The cassette interface and variable scaling were self-explanatory to me, but the two others needed a bit more investigation. Back to Google and I quickly had more information on both the simplified editing and the voice defeat system.

Simplified editing: Often referred to as "live editing", this was simply an easier means of entering the sound edit mode of the operating system. In earlier versions, the user had to hit an edit button to start editing a sound (I hate that), but with Rev. 3, you could simply just turn a knob, and the operating system automatically entered edit mode.

Voice defeat system: This is really cool. According to the Prophet-5 owners manual (Rev 3.3) that I pulled from, the voice defeat system allowed you to play the synth normally even if one of the voices konked out on you. From section 1, page 4 and 5 of the manual:

"For the occasion when a voice may become unplayable due to component failure, a Voice Defeat allows you to delete the failed voice from the assignment system. The Prophet can then be played normally, with the remaining voices.

To defeat a voice, hold the key it is currently assigned to with one hand while holding PROGRAM SELECT 1 and pressing PROGRAM SELECT 8. The voice will be defeated and will remain defeated until the Prophet's power is switched off. (When power is switched back on, the voice will not be defeated.)"

Nice! I had never heard of this feature on any synthesizer before! Are there other synthesizers that include this? How about the new Prophet?

Man, I have a couple of keyboards sitting in my basement that are currently unusable because one of the voices has tanked.

I wonder...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Korg Trident, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

Korg Trident polyphonic synthesizer from back inside cover of Contemporary Keyboard 1981 July 1981.

Update: I've added this Trident ad to Korg's interactive advertisement timeline tool.

Update 2: Looks like Blogger is back up. But this post was unfortunately one of the .16% of Web pages affected - and this post disappeared. Normally, I write my posts right into Blogger, so if a post disappears, I would think I would have to start from scratch. But, thanks to Google's cache, I managed to pull this post out of the sky and get it back up. Time to come up with a better back-up plan.


I love my Trident.

But when I moved my studio into a smaller space, I had to make a few decisions. Not all the gear was going to fit, and so I had to come up with a plan.

It was a relatively simple one:

1. Find rack versions of as many of my synthesizers as possible.
2. Build an over-flow room.

Some rack versions were easier to track down than others. Replacement gear like an MKS-50, Wavestation AD, and TX802, almost fell into my lap as soon as I started looking. And surprisingly, when selling their keyboard counterparts, I found that most people were willing to pay extra for a good helping of black and white keys! :D

Others have been more difficult. For example, It took a couple of years to come across a Yamaha TG-77 to replace it's tank-like brother. And the TG's backlight display was even worse than the SY's. But that's a small price to pay to free up that much space.

Problem is, you rarely have the rack option with older gear. And that is exactly the case with the Korg Trident. That thing is large. And heavy. And large. And did I mention heavy? I figured it wasn't going to fit so nice on my slatwall arms.

And so it sits.


Well, it does have a bit of company - two dead keyboards, waiting to be used for parts if ever the need arises.

So, when I saw this rather rare Trident ad (it only seems to have shown up in CK twice in 1981), I decided to bring it upstairs and plug it in. It sounded as beautiful as I remember. I really really missed this keyboard. And it looks like comments on the Trident page at back me up on this statement.

While looking around the Web, I found this good demo of the Trident by Calvin Cardioid (through Synthtopia ). Listen for yourself...

This is the Korg Trident Mark 1 from Calvin Cardioid on Vimeo.

The ad itself is not so shabby either. The synthesizer does have a lot to offer, so a lot of ad-copy is expected, especially since this is the introduction of a whole new instrument. One that is going up against some heavy competition.

But, I think Korg had a bit of bad luck in terms of their choice of imagery and timing.

I say this because in the recent past, Korg had really been on a string-ensemble-like kick with the Korg Lambda and Delta. But, to me, it seemed like the string-ensemble era was slowly coming to an end, being replaced by some of the heavy synth hitters coming to market. Many with marketing campaigns aimed more at synthesists rather than keyboard players - the Jupiter 8, Prophet-10, PPG Wave 2, Oberheim OB-Xa, etc.

But Korg's big image in this ad is all about strings, brass, harps, etc. Yes, these sounds were a big part of the instrument, but I can't help but feel Korg missed an opportunity to really play up the Trident's synthesis abilities in the imagery. But that's just me. Or maybe they did it on purpose to stand apart from the rest. Hard to say.

Before I end, if you recall, there was a second part to my studio re-design plan - build an overflow room.

Well... that's taking a little longer than expected (go figure). And so the Trident continues to sit.


Boo me. :(

Monday, May 9, 2011

E-mu 4060 Microprocessor Keyboard and 4070 Floppy Disc System - Part 2, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

This is part 2 in my fixation with the E-mu 4060 Microprocessor Keyboard and 4070 Floppy Disc System. I recommend reading part 1 to catch up on a little of the early history on the 4060.

Read it?

How 'bout now?


Good. Let's get going then, because once the 4060 Keyboard was developed in 1977, that was hardly the end of the story.

The 4060 continued to be updated by E-mu - and we are talking software updates to provide new functionality to the hardware! And that's just plain cool. Digital technology was probably so new to many musicians that the whole concept of software updates to expand the functionality of a piece of gear, at a fraction of the cost, must have made some of them just drop their pants.

These keyboard software updates showed up in the September 1979 Spec Sheet section of Contemporary Keyboard. The write-up is fantastic, and provides today's readers with an understand of just how primitive early digital sequencers actually were - and how much potential there was.

Spec Sheets, as you may know, are often one... big... long... paragraph. I've separated out this write up into the six software packages.
"E-mu software. Six new software programs for the 4060 microprocessor keyboard are available from E-mu.

The UP1.1 is a revised version of the basic software for the 4060 and is available free to owners of the earlier version.

Memtest is a field service aid for testing the 4060 and any attached 4065 sequencer memory boards.

Intervals is a program that allows the user to redefine the tuning of the 4060 keyboard. Two modes are available with this software modification. In the Define Interval mode, one can specify the interval between keys. In the Define Key mode, one can specify the value of each individual key, thus allowing the user to define any arbitrarily tuned scale. In both cases, control voltage can be defined to an accuracy of .015 semitone over a ten-octave range.

Program Mode is intended for the individual who wishes to write his or her own programs for the 4060. In allows you to enter programs and data using the 4060's keyboard and to display addresses and data on the 16 gate lamps. A list of useful entry points and their functions is supplied with the programs.

Sequencer Edit is a version of the standard 4060 software modified for special real-time and sequencer editing of functions. Punch Out mode allows the repair of one or more notes in the middle of a complex sequence, while a modified Store Sequence function allows continuous playing as you're building up multiple layered sequences.

Pat's UP1.3 is another enhanced version of the standard software. It was original developed for CK columnist Patrick Gleesen. This program allows both up and down sequence transposition, the storage of up to 81 individual sequences, the ability to inhibit the recall of selected sequencer channels, and the uninterrupted building of sequences in real-time.

All programs are supplied on cassette tape and are loaded using standard "from tape" procedure. programs range in price from $25 to $200. The 4060 polyphonic keyboard is $3000.00. E-mu systems, 417 Broadway, Santa Cruz, CA 95060."
But E-mu didn't stop there. They knew they had to keep up with the fast-paced evolution of hardware technology too. In particular, a certain storage technology that was increasingly replacing cassette tape storage.


In 1979, E-mu released the 4070 Floppy Disk System, allowing users to hold six sequencer memories along with faster load times.

And so, with all the different software and hardware now available for the 4060, E-mu finally decided in 1980 that this advertisement was required to bundle it all up in to a nice little ball of concentrated digital goodness for readers.

But, the September 1980 issue of Keyboard didn't just include this ad from E-mu. The Spec Sheet section in the same issue also announced the "Floppy Disk Memory Unit" which provided even more juicy information about the 4070.
"Designed for use with the Emu 4060 microprocessor-based 16-channel polyphonic keyboard/sequencer with at least one 4065 sequencer memory, the 4070 floppy disk memory unit is designed for quick storage and recall of polyphonic sequences and special function software. The unit consists of an 8" floppy disk drive with cabinet, power supply, and interface circuitry for the 4060 keyboard. A CRT terminal interface is also included for use with forthcoming software. Each floppy disk will store six full sequencer memories for a total capacity of 36,000 notes. Disk drive, interface, cables, a replacement ROM with UP1.3 DISK, and ten floppy disks are included. Price is $3000.00. Emu Systems, Inc. 437 Broadway, Santa Cruz, CA 95060."
The ad also mentions the inclusion of a CRT terminal interface mentioned in this Spec Sheet write up, apparently for use with "forthcoming software". Unfortunately, as mentioned in the 30 Years of E-mu Sound on Sound article, further development wasn't meant to be:
"Emu continued to develop the product with new versions of the sequencer software, and an external eight-inch floppy diskette for sequence storage. They released this as the 4070 in 1979, and a VDU and ASCII keyboard were planned for 1980, but they never happened."
I would have loved to have seen what they had come up with in the E-mu labs!

Also interesting is that this ad mentions the "new" Audity polyphonic synthesizer. You can read more out the Audity at and the 30-year anniversary article on E-mu, but I point it out in reference to this ad because whenever I see pictures of the Audity, it looks like a 4060 Keyboard is always hanging out as well. And, in fact, the 4060 gets special mention in the Audity's Spec Sheet review in the December 1980 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.
"The Audity can be controlled by virtually any 1-volt/octave controller, but it was designed especially for use with the E-mu's 4060 polyphonic keyboard. With the 4060's built-in 16-channel memory sequencer, the composer or arranger can create multitrack compositions nd then experiment with orchestrations in real time - creating and modifying timbres while his or her piece is actually playing."
Great cross-promoting! :D

But, the writing was on the wall for E-mu, and that anniversary article by Sound on Sound put it best when Rob Keeble writes:
"During the '70s, Emu successfully grew from being based in an apartment in Santa Clara, to being based in a house in Santa Cruz. They had pioneered many new ideas, but their own products were either out of fashion or too expensive. In mid-1980 they faced extinction, and a new business plan was urgently needed.

In response, the folksy style of the '70s was replaced by a professional approach to product and business development. In 1979 Emu Systems incorporated to become a public business, which attracted some external investment and business management. In 1980, they hired Marco Alpert as the Marketing Manager, and he came up with many new product ideas as well as some of the company's best adverts."
And we all know what came out of that... :D

Friday, May 6, 2011

Moog Music's new Web site features Retro Synth Ads' retro synth ads!

Would ya look at that!

Moog Music has relaunched their Web site with a new face lift. And, even more exciting, is that it features ad scans from Retro Synth Ads. In other words, they are using Retro Synth Ads' retro synth ads. :D

I'm proud of the growing collection, and was really excited when Moog's marketing department contacted me back in early April and asked to use the ads on their new site.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I first saw the email from Moog. I've been waiting for one of these companies to send some kind of take-down notice ever since I started this blog. :o) But, it was exactly the opposite, and I was super honored when they asked if they could use the ads.

I had been popping over to the site every so often waiting for the new site to go live, but it wasn't until the MATRIXSYNTH post showed up in my rss feed yesterday that I knew it had finally launched.

So, take a look at the new Moog Music Web site, and in particular the new Legacy section. It has tons of information on Bob Moog's life, interviews, company history, and best of all... Moog ads!

And don't forget, you can also shuffle quickly through my Moog ads and go directly to blog posts using the Advertising Timeline Tool.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

E-mu 4060 Microporcessor Keyboard and 4070 Floppy Disc System - Part 1, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

E-mu Systems Inc. 4060 Keyboard 1/2-page advertisement from page 23 in Contemporary Keyboard September 1980.

Look at this! I believe this is E-mu's first ad ever to appear in Contemporary Keyboard magazine. And it is packed full with great historical reference information. It doesn't just mention historical info about the 4060 (along with a healthy dose of name-dropping), but also mentions the "new" 4070 Floppy Disc System, the E-mu Modular, and "the incredible new AUDITY 16 channel digitally controlled polyphonic synthesizer system". Excellent!

As mentioned in the ad, the 4060 Keyboard has been around since 1977, and using my supa Internetz snoopin' abilities, I've pieced together a lot of the history that led up to this advertisement - and beyond.

A September 2002 anniversary article called "30 years of E-mu", written by Rob Keeble for Sound On Sound magazine includes a brief mention on the initial development of the 4060 Keyboard. Prior to it's development, E-mu had been "pioneering the use of digital electronics in synthesizer design", but it wasn't until the introduction of the Zilog Z80 processor that E-mu started making greater strides in gear development:
"This all changed with the release of the Zilog Z80 processor in July 1976. This chip was suitable for use in a synthesizer, and Scott was able to persuade Zilog to give him a development system, which meant Emu could at last join the microprocessor revolution. It wasn't long before Scott and Dave were expert software programmers, and the Z80 became the basis for Emu products for the next 10 years.

Emu first applied the new technology to keyboard and sequencer design with the 4060 Polyphonic Keyboard and Sequencer of March 1977, which cost US$3000. The new keyboard had 16 channels of polyphonic voice control, and the standard Emu keyboard controls plus a 16-button keypad. It also offered a real-time digital sequencer with 48kB of volatile memory, which held 6000 notes — groundbreaking at the time."
The earliest introductory mention of the new 4060 keyboard that I found in my collection of old mags was from the March/April 1977 issue of Synapse magazine in the 'What's Happening" section (mistakenly referred to as the 460) .
"E-mu announces the release of the 460 Microprocessor Keyboard. A five octave keyboard programs the sixteen voice polyphonic system. Programmable parameters include pitch, duration and keyboard glide. The entire system is controlled by a calculator type keyboard..."
Once launched, the 4060 continued to be promoted as part of E-mu's modular system that had already been around for years, turning up along side the modular in the 1977 Modular brochure (PDF from the Emulator Archive Web site) auctions, and other online and offline photos.

The keyboard got a much more in-depth review in Synapse in the January/February 1978 issue when it was featured in an "Equipment" review. The introduction of the review provides some great historical pricing info:
"The advantage of this E-mu keyboard/sequencer is in having the capability of 16 independent voices, provided of course that one also has the 16 VCO's, VCA's, and envelopes. The fully developed system ($4110) with all the necessary extra memory modules (CMOS516K) ram boards with battery back-up. The keyboard above is $2500 and stores 60 key depressions) is capable of storing 6,000 key depressions."
The review gives readers a great introductory tutorial on how to record, store, and recall sequences, and ends with some information on its compatibility with other manufacturers gear.
"The E-my keyboard is available separately to be interfaced with other brands of synthesizers, though the manufacturer points out that casing for an E-mu power supply and output panel are necessary. They also express an order of preference for interface, that being: Oberheim (to whom they license some of their keyboard technology), Moog modular 921 VCO's, ARP 2600, and Minimoog... They point out, however, that the keyboard is compatible with any quality 1 volt/octave synthesizer."
But this was just the beginning for the 4060 Keyboard, and in my next blog post I promise to finish up delving into it's continued development - leading up to this ad. :D

Monday, May 2, 2011

E-mu Emulator "Imagine" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

E-mu Systems Inc. 1-page Emulator sampler advertisement from page 21 in Contemporary Keyboard February 1981.

The ad that started it all for the Emulator!

One hardcore Emulator fan in particular pointed out this rather glaring hole in my Emulator ad posts. And I really don't have an excuse... I just found other Emulator ads a lot more fun :p

This introductory ad only showed up in Keyboard magazine for a few months in the first quarter of 1981. And intentional or not, I can't help but think this ad's theme of "Imagine..." is sampling a little bit from John Lennon's 1971 song "Imagine". Coincidentally, John Lennon was murdered only a few months before this ad made its first appearance in CK, and Marco Alpert, E-mu marketing manager during this time period, confirmed that there is no connection. Advertising submission lead times required by magazines back then were quite a bit longer than they are today, and it was quite likely the ad was created well before John Lennon's death.

The ad-copy is really well written and provides readers with a simple summary of how to sample, edit, and play back sampled sounds. And E-mu is given extra points for relating the ad-copy directly to the photo of sample disks. References to sampling a trumpet, grand piano and barking dog - these are written on the disk labels as well.

But the most interesting thing about this ad-copy is the fact that it mentions the NAMM show. And its not like most gear ads where the "come to our NAMM booth" is slapped into the bottom or corner of the ad as an afterthought. No, this ad's main purpose is to make sure readers know that they can come see this beast at NAMM on February 6, 1981. All previous ad-copy is a lead up to let readers know they "won't have to imagine" any more.

The design of the ad is also top-notch in my opinion. Nicely laid out, large photo, and clean with lots of white space. And, I'm going to assume it was intentional that they didn't include a photo of the Emulator itself, to help peak readers' curiosity and head over to the NAMM show.

If you didn't make it to the NAMM show, you would have to wait until June 1981 to read more specs about the Emulator in the Spec Sheet section of Contemporary Keyboard.
"E-MU EMULATOR. The Emulator is a computer-based instrument that allows you to digitally record any sound, either with a mike or from a line-level source, and then play that sound at any pitch over the range of its 4-octave keyboard. The unit lets you play up to eight notes polyphonically. It has a split keyboard which allows the simultaneous control of two independent sounds. Vibrato can be added to any sound using a standard modulation wheel. A second wheel is used for real-time pitch-bending. Using a loop function, any sound can be sustained indefinitely, regardless of its original length. The system also includes a built-in disk drive which lets the user store sounds on diskettes (mini-floppy disks) for recall at a later time. The instrument comes with a library of prerecorded sounds, and a continuing series of additional sounds and special function software (including a real-time multitrack sequencer) will be made available in the future. According to the manufacturer, the unit is designed to be simple to use, requiring no special programming skill or knowledge of computers. E-mu Systems, 417 Broadway, Santa Cruz CA 95060."
What is not mentioned is pricing, which you can find online in this early 1981 Emulator price list (PDF) from For example, the eight voice Emulator went for $9,995.00, and the real-time sequencer would cost users an additional $995.00.

Also historically mind-blowing is the fact that the terms "sampling" and "sampler" are not mentioned at all. It seems odd to read early articles for samplers and not seeing the word anywhere. The term just hadn't started showing up in every-day conversations yet. But, it wouldn't be long, because according to Mark Vail's Vintage Synthesizers book, the "Sampler" was E-mu's internal name for the Emulator:
"The in-house product name for the Emulator I was the "Sampler". For us, that was kind of a pun between Nyquist's sampling theorem - which is an obscure piece of mathematics that underlies the whole genre - and the Whiteman Sampler, a box with a whole bunch of different flavors of chocolates in it, because this was an instrument that could have a whole bunch of different sounds".
Crazy stuff.

End note: I recall that while growing up, music store employees were quite fond of referencing the sampling of barking dogs whenever they were trying to sell me any sampler. I wonder if this E-mu ad had anything to do with starting this trend? :D