Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Synthony Music's "Have a synthsational holiday! (Santa will)" ad, Keyboard 1983

Synthony Music's "Have a synthsational holiday! (Santa will)" quarter page black and white advertisement from page 20 in the December 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Taking a break from the rum and eggnog to bring you this piece of lovely history.

You know how much I love hand drawn artwork in my retro synthesizer advertisements! And this one pretty much sums up this holiday season! And I really am hoping that this is what Santa is doing on December 26 (look for the calendar date in the ad) - rocking out on Keyboards now that he's played (and wrecked) his toy train set while his rain deer peer through the window in obvious wonder and delight. :)

 Its a great piece of artwork and goes well with some of the artwork I've posted in the past. You can just check out the label "artwork" on the blog. Like many of those others, this one belongs on a t-shirt. Or if anyone can knit me a Christmas sweater with this image I would be very grateful.  :)

A quick Google search brought up the Synthony Music Web site, or what has now become "Synthony Music's Synth & MIDI Museum". On that home page was link to a letter from the founder of the company - Bill Cone (or as he called himself... the Zoo Keeper).

The company originally started 1982 with the goal to "provide the best products available, technical assistance, guidance, and a forum for those brave enough to embrace the then new technology in music." Unfortunately, they closed their doors in early 2004 after nearly 22 years in the business. The online museum does provide some good info, but was last updated back in 2010 according to the museum's home page. Still a great resource.

Time to get back to the rum and eggnog.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Army Brat biofeedback headband MIDI interface ad, Keyboard 1985

Army Brat Biofeedback Headband MIDI interface 1/6-page black and white advertisement from page 116 in the July 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

There isn't much that could have pulled me out of my blogging semi-sabbatical, especially during this cold, cold December. But this little gem managed to get me out of the studio and into the office where the lonely scanner sits.

One word... or three, depending on how you look at it.


From the beginning of the ad:
Only an Army Brat with access to certain sensitive files, would be crazy enough to do this."
And lets not stop there... the ad continues...
"In 1969 a Special Army Intelligence Group in collaboration with the C.I.A spent 15 years and millions of dollars developing a project based on para-kinetic theories. Even though they did succeed in the design of a device capable of linking a man, with electrodes taped to his temples, to an instrument instantly sampling his impulse and converting waveforms to voltage, some Senate sub-committee labeled the whole project "Questionable", and it ended up on a defense scrap heap."
Even with all the questionable use of capitalization and commas, I tend to believe this young army brat. :)

Remember - this was 1985. MIDI had only been around for a short period, but the technology was moving fast. The smaller ads at the back of Keyboard that were historically promoting perfect-pitch, piano-tuning and vocal-eliminator boxes were slowly being overrun by a new wave of start-ups pushing MIDI software, patches and RAM cartridges for synths like the DX-7.

But this biofeedback system must be a one-of-a-kind for the time period - in Keyboard Magazine anyways.

Just look at the drawing of the dude with the headband and headphones (not included according to the ad), as well as the "black box" with what looks to be an antenna sticking out of it.

 (Note to self - make that my Facebook profile pic.)

I did some really quick Web research and found a reference to another MIDI-biofeedback system from the late 80s called BioMuse in an online article titled "A Brief History of Biosignal-Driven Art" by Miguel Ortiz:
"Towards the end of the 1980s, the advent of digital signal processing systems and the wide availability of powerful personal computer systems made it possible for researchers to further develop the existing techniques for biosignal analysis in real-time applications. In 1988, California-based scientists Benjamin Knapp and Hugh Lusted introduced the BioMuse system (Knapp and Lusted 1988), which consisted of a signal-capturing unit that sampled eight channels of biosignals, which were then amplified, conditioned and translated to midi messages. The sensors were implemented as simple limb-worn velcro bands that were able to capture EMG, EEG, EOG, ECG and GSR signals. The BioMuse system, facilitated not only the analysis of the signals, but also the ability to use the results of the analysis to control other electronics in a precise and reproducible manner that had not been previously possible (Knapp and Lusted 1990)."
So, I'm guessing the only logical conclusion I can come up with is that Knapp and Lusted were obviously avid readers of the back half of Keyboard and must have come across this advertisement by Army Brat. How else could they have created their BioMuse system without the help from the CIA and Army Intelligence?

And its even more surprising considering that Army Brat was trying to keep the whole thing on the down-low.

From the end of the ad:
"We're trying to keep as low a profile as possible, but don't know how long we'll go undetected. GET IT NOW!!!"
Talk about high-pressure sales tactics.   :)