Saturday, June 26, 2010

Updating Dewtron

I'm very busy now to write new posts but will be some news when I finish the research of some rare devices. Recently, I realized that on my past post of Dewtron lost one image from the Dr. Robert P. Fletcher website. Is my intention to not duplicate information on the web and for that reason I don't copy resources in my blog and usually I put links to the sources. The web is dynamic, some webs are deleted frequently, so then we lost some information, even the can't catch all and we lost some pictures, maybe I will change my mind and do the same as Matrixsynth, duplicating to preserve the information.
Well, in any case as I saved the picture from Dr. Fletcher website, I've updated the link in the previous post and also posted here:

I've found this ad in the website;

But the most interesting discovery was on the Discofreq's Effects Database, under Dewtron brand name, is found the Fuzzorama effect. I can't found more info on the web, but all indicates that is the same Dewtron company.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

To take the Live control

Recently I was watching a Plastikman video where he used a MIDI controller designed (or built?) by his father, and I though: why my father never built a MIDI device to me?... surely I really liked if he had, but my father wasn't involved in electronics or technology at all.

Anyway, if you are interested in the controller of the Hawtin family you could see it in action in this YouTube video, I took a picture of it and shown here:

Making some research I was able to found a better picture of this console (some knobs changed) in Derivative website:

Hmmm suspiciously it seems built around the MIDIBOX circuitry, this makes me remind another famous control surface based on the MIDIBOX................... aha! I recall now: the Monolake's Monodeck, visiting Monolake's web there is a lot of information but I can't see it very clearly to compare with Plastikman's CTRL Live controller, but 5 seconds later I found this better pic:

There is not much information about Plastikman's console, but is possibly built with some MIDIBOX boards, at least to me it have 'that MIDIBOX look'. This two consoles seems somewhat expensive, custom-built, today there are too many controllers out there, being the Akai APC40 the most popular or the cheaper one Novation Launchpad, but what is evident that using a 'custom-built' controller could be more productive or give a fast-feedback for live gig.

The soft synths and sequencers are a great advance in music technology but without a doubt, the computers doesn't have the human interface that a musician needs.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Minisonic music missed

Pages ahead, from my previous post, I've found this ad with PE Minisonic kits, parts, pcb's AND the "Symbiosis" cassette by Malcolm Pointon.

The Minisonic series of articles was published in Practical Electronic magazine between november 1974 and march 1975 issues, by a man named G. D. Shaw. I don't have any of these magazines, but I've saw the scans of this synth in the Anders Sponton's Cloned Analog Gear web, but the scan of Anders don't came from the magazines, is from a book published with all the constructive articles of the Minisonic and other things.

Judging by this ad, it seems that in the last article of the Minisonic was offered to the readers a companion tape with the music created with this synth.

I must admit that I never heard about Mr. Malcolm Pointon never in my life, then Wikipedia came to help me and I've learned about the very tragic life of this man. Obviously, I didn't know their music. I think it will be very interesting to hear this cassette, in first place because is related with the main role of this blog (electronic arts-electronic instruments) and then because it could be the only "electronic work" of this man demoing a very particular instrument.

I call all the people out there, mainly to the UK people, to search in the old pile of cassettes looking for this gem... and please share with us!
For more information about the Minisonic (and the PE Synthesiser) you could visit the Julian Bunn webpages about it, here and here. Very nteresting is the Minisonic serial number 001 (at the bottom of this page) maybe this was the used by Malcolm Pointon?
At the end, I want to show an alternative casing for the Minisonic with keyboard in this ad by Phonosonic, in this same magazine (also pay attention to the alternative casing for the PE Synthesiser and the kits for the PE Joanna piano that I've wrote before) .

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dewtron, or how to hide your magic (if you have it)

As I told in my previous post, I was re-reading my old magazines and this ad from 1975 got my attention:

I remembered that I saw this before but can't recall where, all I know about Dewtron (from D.E.W. Ltd.) until now is that this company was selling potted modules to build a synths... so I've started to search a little more...

In the Synthmuseum description for Dewtron they list the following instruments:

Mister Bassman
And they are missing the "Project-X" that I just remembered now

In Tim Stinchcombe's website there's a scan of an article appeared november 1972 in Practical Electronics which include an D.E.W. Ltd. ad and a picture of a synth built with Dewtron's modules.

In the Dr Robert P Fletcher webpage he mention the Dewtron modules and give us a picture (linked here):

"My earliest synth was built from DEWTRON modules in the early 1970's. Here's a picture of the inside of a box with modules in place!"
In a post on MusicThing from 2005 some people remarks, about one strange synth on eBay that was possibly built with Dewtron modules (as MusicThing sometimes 'lost' the pictures, I put here again as a 'backup' for this very ugly instrument) and an anonymous writer said::
"Dewtron was the the trademark of the company run solely by Brian Bailey: Design Engineering Wokingham. Brian moved to Ferndown, Dorset, where he started to get messages from aliens which he was very mystified by.

The modules were awful, potted in resin so you could not repair them. The 'Modumatrix' switches were a great idea, but cheaply made. If you got a badly contacting switch in the middle of an assembly, you had to take them all apart to get at the one that was bad.

I think many people bought the modules and like me was disappointed. He claimed to have built a system for Led Zeppelin."

In this SounOnSound forum thread there's the following statement about the basspedals used by Mike Rutherford (Genesis):
"The Dewtron bass pedals Rutherford used were made by a small (now defunct) UK company based (IIRC) in Cornwall (or suchlike) that sold synthesiser kits. You could buy the boards ready made or you could buy them in kit form. The bass pedals were one of the few actual fully assembled 'products' that they made. They were pretty cheap even back then and intended for cheesy home organs that didn't come with bass pedals supplied."
And other comment:
"In terms of Bass Pedals, he used the Dewtrons "Mr Bassman" up to Selling, and moved to the Taurus for "The Lamb"."
Also about Rutherford's bass pedals, in "Hollow Sun" website there's an article about the Moog Taurus and they're assuring the following:
"Famous users include Mike Rutherford of Genesis who replaced his old Dewtron bass pedals with the Taurus"
So, Dewtron were in fact the brand for DEW ltd. custom 'potted modules', and judging by the references nothing magnificent. With this modules seems they built different synth incarnations (Apollo, Project-X, etc.). The fantastic "Modumatrix" was nothing more than a patch-matrix built with pushbuttons. And the Mr. Bassman seems was their "almost" recognised instrument, a factory built bass-pedal used by top rock bands (or at least for a while). That's all the info about the Dewtron I can found at the moment, if you know something more, I invite to share your comments with dewtron-gnorants like me.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Joanna, the "shE-Piano"

Has been a while since the last post, to reward the curious visitor here this time I bring a piano. There are many builders of synthesizers, a bunch of organ builders ... but how many people have built a piano? And I'm talking about e-pianos, of course.

Reviewing my old magazines I found in Practical Electronics a series of articles to build the "Joanna" a very complete electronic piano for its time. The designer was a man named A. J. Boothman, I believe this man had a sort of relationship with the CLEF company, and certainly had a kit available through this company (although there were other companies offering it).
I did not have the opportunity to see the full series of articles, this was published between May and September 1975 and I only possess August and September. Judging by these two parts, it seems to me that was well designed and really well tested because at the end the author makes some recommendations on amps and speakers to obtain a good sound, making references to the equipment he used.

I really like to see the full serie of articles to have a further insight on this instrument, because how many people you know, that had made an e-piano? And if we could get some sound samples that would be really great! The interesting thing here is an e-piano that sound... 'electronic', because if you want more real pianos (and cheap), the samplers are the easy ways. Enjoy the pictures.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What is all this stuff about the Motorola Scalatron?

A couple of days back, the obscure Motorola Scalatron came to my messed mind. I wanted a more deep knowledge than the usual "Motorola Scalatron Synthesizer" misterious words I often see in the usual sites I visit. So, let's do a little bit Googling...

Well... the first to came was the post on Matrixsynth about one Motorola Scalatron monitor on eBay, I already read this one. Microtonal in the comments said: "The Motorola Scalatron was a dual rank keyboard based upon organ divide down technology, built into home organ type packaging, and invented by George Secor in the early 1970s. It had a cassette interface. I am not aware of a video interface, but it is possible it was added later. This auction is just for the monitor, not the keyboard, which would be a real find as less than 20 Scalatrons were ever made. Some versions of the keyboard used a hexagonal array rather than the standard piano style keyboard."; but also points to the patents, is very hard to read this pictures, but seems something here is wrong, the pedal patent related seems nothing to do with the Scalatron. But patents... is a good starting point to look.

Second link visited, an article by Douglas Keislar "History and Principles of Microtonal Keyboards", a picture shows "Fig. 11. The Motorola Scalatron with a generalized keyboard (1975)", I saw a "chiclet" keyboard as Microtonal said on Matrixsynth.
Then came a link to a pdf  "Sound Forms for Piano" by Charles Hamm, I read: "The piano used for the Ben Johnston composition was tuned microtonally using the Scalatron Tuner and Pitch Monitor. This equipment can establish any pitch progression both aurally and visually with extreme accuracy. We wish to extend our thanks to Richard J. Harasek and Motorola Scalatron, Inc. for their help and equipment for the microtonal tuning." Hmmm, Scalatron was a company, was an instrument... and was Tuner? this in part is in concordance with the KenL comment in Matrixsynth, he states: "The TV monitor was part of a piano tuning device, which was different from the synthesizer keyboard. It worked like a Conn strobotuner. It had a split screen, with fixed bars on the left side, representing true pitch, and vertically moving bars on the right side corresponding to the pitch of the instrument being tuned. You would tune the piano until the bars were stationary. There must have been another box connected to the TV monitor."

As Charles Hamm was thanking to Richard Harasek and Motorola Scalatron Inc. I realized what would happen if I google this boths names... nothing good... but if I follow the same way that Microtonal with the patents? Aha! the USPTO gives me the patent 3.939.751 "Tunable Electrical Musical Instrument". Going further I seek the references cited, then: 3.821.460 "Electronic Musical Instrument", 4.085.645 "Instantly Retunable Tone Generator for an Electronic Musical Instrument" and 4.256.008 "Musical Instrument Tuner with Incremental Scale Shift" uffff too much to read in one day... but I am on the right track.

More Googling (time after): I guess this time is an excellent source because are two papers by George Secor this one, and this other one. He write the following: "Earlier that year (ed.1974) I had attended a demonstration of the Scalatron (digitally retunable electronic organ) prototype, and recognizing that conventional keyboards were not the best way to perform music with more than 12 tones in the octave, I unwittingly proceeded to re-invent the Bosanquet generalized keyboard and subsequently approached the Motorola Scalatron company with the proposal of employing it on their instrument."... "Around that time several members of the xenharmonic movement had gotten in touch with Scalatron president Richard Harasek and sent him copies of the first two issues of Xenharmonik├┤n, which he passed on to me and which I promptly read. The second issue included Erv Wilson’s diagrams of a modification of Bosanquet’s keyboard, with hexagonal keys, at which point it became clear that my keyboard proposal was not new."... "For the remainder of the year I was heavily involved in the generalized (Bosanquet) keyboard Scalatron project and, after that, in using it to explore new tunings. In effect, the keyboard that I had discovered was destined to be overshadowed by the one that I had rediscovered."
All Secor had written seems clarify very well the the thing about Scalatron, and adding this Motorola Anual Report from 1975 is enough clear, at least to me.

Conclusions (in order, for an easy understanding):
  • Motorola Scalatron was a brand and a division of Motorola Inc.
  • From the name and the patents is easy to see that the main objectives was related with automatic tunable instruments and devices for tuning instruments.
  • The Motorola Scalatron was a 'Tuner and Pitch Monitor' used to compare two tones acoustically and visually in a split TV screen; for a perfect pitch one must match the reference fixed bars on left half of the monitor with the moving bars on the right half representing the input of the signal for the instrument to be tuned; and this makes me think that possibly the monitor that was in eBay was complete because in the back it have two inputs maked as MIC and REF. As the reference is injected externally, any imaginable scale tunning is possible.
  • The Motorola Scalatron was (also) an electronic musical instrument with automatic tunning capability. In the texts referenced here nobody said nothing about synthetic sounds, it seems it was a plain electronic organ and also seems that the sounding engine was not so important as the 'digitally retunable' property was.
  • As by George Secor itself recognize, the Motorola Scalatron (musical instrument) existed before he entered the game, is more possible the invention falls on R. Harasek, D. Ryon and F. Maynard (the guys in the patents). Secor did in fact, a "rediscovering" of the Bosanquet keyboard and helped to people in Motorola to develop a second version of the Motorola Scalatron digitally retunable electronic organ with a generalized keyboard. Possibly this was the starting point that help to develop the "Miracle Temperament" and "Decimal" Secor's own keyboards.
  • The Motorola Scalatron division seems had a short life (about 1970 to 1975) as R&D; and the products left behind was more demos or prototypes than commercial products. From 1975 merged with other Motorola units to persue the emerging data communications market.
Usually, I don't do searches by 'theme' but suddenly I used the 'images' option and found this image of a normal Motorola Scalatron Microtonal Organ at the Warren Burt website, he also say that Herman Pedtke is one of the inventors, he knows him and if he say that I believe it, but I still cannot found any documented reference.

I think with all this stuff, I have now a wide vision about the Motorola Scalatron thing, I can go to bed serenely... at least for today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I like the old Blacet kits. Introducing: the SYN-BOW.

I like the way Blacet put his ads in Synapse and Polyphony magazines the fabulous kits they was selling. Of course I like the kits more than the ads, but is almost impossible to get today one of this little wonders.

Here is the Syn-Bow, this is a very rare instrument, you could find until 20 Hammond Novachords out there but tell me how much Syn-Bows you'll able to locate?

Recently one Syn-Bow was on the VEMIA auctions and the price reached as high like 1.000 USD! Not so time back, John Blacet was asking to people in the forums if anybody have one Syn-Bow or at least the manual because he have lost the information he had. I don't think this instrument will be considered so expensive like a Stradivarius and paying this amount makes me think the possibility that was the same John Blacet that was trying to take back home one of his babies.

The picture on VEMIA is not very clear, but seems is in good shape, and this came with an original promotional brochure. The brochure reveals more information that the included in the magazine ads. But one day I found several pictures of a very nice Syn-Bow on Flickr. This one, seems to be a "second generation" or at least a repaired one because the chip adapter, the Syn-Bow is from about 1978/79 and the adapter appeared about 1995 when the wide-body SN chip was everytime more difficult to obtain. I remember the adaptor was mainly offered as a replacement for the Dark-Star Chaos, it's a pity the Wayback Machine doesn't go back than 1998 for Blacet but I'm fairly sure of that.

Looking the good pictures on Flickr, the controls on the Syn-Bow and the schematic of the Percussive Noise Voice that Blacet published in Polyphony it seems that the Dark-Star Chaos and the Syn-Bow are very very similar machines (Note: the Percussive Noise Voice could be considered as a first version of the Dark-Star Chaos). Of course, there is a pressure pad! Because that, and the handle the Syn-Bow is a instrument, not a module.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Erase, rewind... and pushing record again

This blog has left his previous life (in spanish) with most of my personal activities.
Now will be stuffed with the many things passing by my head; not the more twisted (if you came here looking for these things, sorry) but the many things related electronic arts.
As I have the others blogs, I will try any interference between blogs.