Thursday, December 14, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM PC/XT/AT OWNERS!!!" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1987


Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk sequencer software "IBM PC/XT/AT OWNERS!!!" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from the top-right corner of page 13 in the August 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Hey there! This is blog post #2 of my walk down Cakewalk memory lane. If you haven't read the first one... you may want to do that now. Or don't.

If you recall from my previous post, Twelve Tone Systems' first advertisement (right) had run from April through June 1987. If you had picked up that July issue and noticed it missing, you might have thought that was the end of Cakewalk.

But, as you are no doubt aware, it definitely wasn't. And after a brief one month hiatus, this second Cakewalk ad appeared in the August issue and continued to run for four consecutive months through to November 1987.

From that first small advertisement's humble beginnings, Twelve Tone Systems began picking up users a few at a time. But that costs money and a new product can always use a bit of earned media (in other words, free) to help get their legs running in the right direction.

Electronic Musician included a small write-up in its June 1987 What's New section:
"Cakewalk ($150.00), a MIDI recorder/editor for the IBM PC/XT/AT (256K memory and Roland MPU-401 required), features 256 tracks of unlimited length, a pull-down menu interface, a detailed Event View for editing MIDI parameters, and extensive global editing commands. Edit regions can be marked by ear and further refined using Event Filter criteria. A demo disk is available for $10. Twelve Tone Systems. PO Box 226, Watertown, MA, 02272 617/924-7937."
And although Keyboard magazine had yet to publish an ad for Cakewalk, they also gave their readers a taste of Cakewalk within their June 1987 Spec Sheet page:
"Cakewalk MIDI recorder/editor. Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk software features 256 tracks of unlimited length, a context-sensitive, on-line help system, and easy pull-down menu interface, a detailed Event View for editing MIDI parameters, and extensive global editing commands. Edit regions can be marked during playback and refined using Event Filter criteria. Cakewalk runs with an IBM compatible with at least 256K, a Roland MPU-104, and at least one MIDI instrument. $150.00. Twelve Tone Systems, Box 226, Watertown, MA 02272."
It's interesting to see just how similar these two little write-ups are. And I don't think that's a coincidence. I'm guessing someone at Cakewalk trotted out a small news release or product announcement. It's every marketing and PR person's dream that you will send out an announcement and the over-worked writers and editors will use your direct wording. Based on the fact these two write-ups are so identical, I'm guessing it worked for the most part. :)

One thing that I did notice was missing, both from this second ad and from these magazine product write-ups, is Twelve Tone Systems' buzzwords that was so boldly... er... bolded in their first ad:  "Aural Editing". They used it to describe how editing regions could be marked by ear during playback. Well, it looks like they decided to drop the term already (but not the feature).  Such is the life of buzzwords. Boooooo!

As for the second advertisement itself, Twelve Tone Systems decided to enlarge the ad space from 1/6-page to 1/4-page, and this was a good decision on their part. Most particularly because it allowed the fun, laid-back personality of the company to shine through.

Phrases like...
"This hot sequencing software gives you lots of power for not much coin." 
"You are guided through all this power by a nifty user-interface..." 
"Or dip into over 100 pages of the clearest documentation you've ever not had to read."  
"Cakewalk is all yours for just $150. Of course, if paying $500 for Cakewalk will make you feel better, we'll play along."
 That's just good branding. I'm reading it 30 years later and it still sounds like Cakewalk to me.

There is one thing I'm still missing. Although the company has now defined their personality, they are still in desperate need of a logo.  But they do have everyone's attention... and so its time for the next step.

Which I'll get to in the next blog post.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems Cakewalk sequencer "IBM Owners!!!" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1987


Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk sequencer "IBM Owners!!!" 1/6-page black and white advertisement from the top-right corner of page 57 the April 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Before I begin - full disclosure: I've been a Cakewalk user for a *long* time. Not since the beginning (my first sequencer was Master Tracks Pro for the Apple IIe), but my bestie began with Cakewalk for DOS and so I had witnessed it in action in some of its earliest incarnations.

Its hard to believe Cakewalk has been around for 30 years. And even harder to believe that the end may be near as Gibson announced on November 17, 2017 that it was "ceasing active development and production of Cakewalk branded products". 

There's a lot of rumor and speculation surrounding this announcement, but I'm not gonna get into that here. What I wanted to do was take a little walk down memory lane and revisit some of Cakewalk's early days through a few blog posts. So, yup - this won't be the last you'll hear about Cakewalk.

Anyways, back to this ad in particular - because it doesn't get much earlier than this - what is probably one of the earliest, if not THE EARLIEST, advertisement for Cakewalk.

According to Wikipedia, the first version of Cakewalk appeared in 1987. To track down early ads I first looked through latter half of 1986 and the first half of 1987 issues of Keyboard Magazine. But couldn't find a thing. I then set my sights on roughly the same time period of Electronic Musician and sure enough found what I believe to be Cakewalk's very first advertisement in the April 1987 issue. The ad looks to have ran for three three consecutive months until June 1987.

Most new companies don't have a lot of advertising dollars to spend, so it kinda makes sense that if a start-up like Twelve Tone Systems had to choose between Keyboard and Electronic Musician, they would go with the magazine more focused on software.

The ad itself isn't much to look at - its only 1/6th of a page in size. But it says enough to peak the interest of any musician reading the mag that happened to have a Microsoft DOS machine around at the time. 256 tracks with global and event view editing was impressive software at the time. And almost as importantly, they included context-sensitive help for the many musicians that were just starting down that computer sequencer journey.

One other interesting piece of info from the ad that jumped out at me was: "Unique Aural Editing(TM) lets your ears get involved". After some brief research, I learned that what that was referring to was how edit regions could be marked by ear (I guess while the sequencer is running?) and then further refined using event filtering. I enjoy companies that come up with interesting buzzwords for things.

And of course, most importantly - we got the price! $150.00! That's about $325 in today's dollars. Not too shabby.

Some really good early history of Cakewalk is available in a 2007 CDM interview with Cakewalk founder Greg Hendershott by Peter Kirn. The interview marked the 20th anniversary for Cakewalk, and Peter Kirn was obviously a fan.  The interview gives us plenty of history on Cakewalk, parts of which I believe reference this advertisement in particular.

According to the article, Greg had written the initial program and made the decision to place a small ad to see if he could sell a few copies to other people.
"So I kind of procrastinated, and thought maybe I could try taking out a small ad and selling a few copies. And I did, and amazingly four or five people saw the ad and called up and ordered. And that was enough to pay for the ad and do another one."
In regards to the name Cakewalk, Greg ended up choosing a word that was simple to spell and suggested ease of use.
"Right before I placed the ad, literally two days before the deadline, I had picked another name for the program, and I found out it had been used by other software. I think it was something like Opus. So I had this little dictionary of music terms, and I saw Cakewalk." 
So dig finding advertising references like that. Great stuff.

The interview is filled with tons of great Cakewalk history - how he came about the name Twelve Tone Systems, why the company name was changed to Cakewalk, thoughts on early DOS sequencer competitors like Voyetra, and Greg's philosophy on making his software affordable and free of  copy-protection.

If you are a Cakewalk junkie and electronic music history buff... go read it. Now!

Happy reading!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Moog Song Producer, Keyboard 1985


Moog Song Producer 1/6-page black and white advertisement from page 108 in the November 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

"Pivot" - you hear that word a lot now'er days.

For example, Your FarmVille-app wanna-be isn't panning out? Pivot to become an online Organic Farm location service.

In the case of Moog Music, it looks like one such pivot started around 1983 when the company was sold to management. But in order to see it more clearly, we need to back up a bit.

What looks to be prior to the sale, Moog had shown up at 1983's Summer NAMM with Keith Emerson's Modular System, a few MIDI-equipped Memorymoogs and, according to the September 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine...
SL-8 photo from Keyboard Magazine
September 1983
"Hidden away up in a hotel suite was a prototype of the SL-8, an eight-voice synthesizer that generates its colors digitally. The keyboard can be split and layered. Projected list price was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2,495.00. No final plans have been made as to when it will come out."
Without getting too far off my original point, I kinda went down a rabbit hole looking for info on the SL-8 and came upon a great little story.

A September 2015 Reddit post of a photo of the SL-8 submitted by "theofferings" (who looks to be David Harrison, the Technical Director of the Audities Foundation most likely) included some info about the synth's appearance at that NAMM 1983 show mentioned in Keyboard Magazine:
"The story goes, Moog brought this to NAMM 83 as an 8 voice polyphonic synth, a follow up to the Memory Moog (which btw has the fattest Osc's I might have ever heard). They brought the cards for the SL8 to NAMM in a "cardboard box" and this was placed below the SL8 for performance during NAMM. After NAMM the cardboard box containing the cards was lost or misplaced and all the remains is the body."
Another reader followed up with some information from "a friend" about this SL-8 prototype appearing later on at a London trade show in 1984, including how the synth got it's name and why it may not have made it into production.
"I'm very familiar with the SL-8, I was the person who got it working in London at the Music trade show in 1984. The boards were in a card cage underneath the prototype behind a curtain with big ribbon cables running up inside to the control panels. When it arrived in London from Buffalo it was DOA. I took the ferry over from our service center in Rotterdam to the UK and fixed it on the opening morning of the show. We took over 700 orders for it that weekend ($1995 Retail). When I got back to the plant, Marge Beltz (Our accounting genius) killed it. Ray Dennison and I are old friends and he ended up leaving Moog over that decision after spending a year of his life designing it. It was the first polyphonic Moog with a 16 bit Micro. The name comes from Split/Layered 8 Voice synth (SL-8). It had really gritty digitally controlled analog oscillators with a harmonic multiplier knob. " 
Great stuff!

But anyways, back to the point... what was the point again...?

Oh yeah! The "pivot".

It looks to be around the time of the buyout - and a name change from Moog Music to Moog Electronics - that the company began its pivot. For example, according to the Moog Archives web site, Moog had begun to put a new emphasis on contract manufacturing, such as in the production of the SSK Concertmate synthesizer for Tandy Corp (Radio Shack). And the company also began producing non-music related products, like the Telesys 3, later know as the Operator (view the advertisement on the Moog Archives site), and the Phone Controller (photos from the awesome MATRIXSYNTH). Hence why they couldn't keep on using the word "Music" in their company name, I'd guess.

But that doesn't mean they weren't gonna keep a few eggs in their own Moog products basket. The company continued to sell the Memorymoog  for a while, with advertisements running until the summer of 1984, and as we just read on Reddit, they were still showing off the SL-8 prototype into 1984.

And there was one other musical product that seemed to survive the pivot - The Moog Song Producer hardware and software set-up for the Commodore 64.

Now, I'm a big fan of the C-64 and hang out in the Facebook groups devoted to the computer. So, I can tell you that when someone posts *this* photo (see right) of the Moog Song Producer, a lot of discussion ensues. 5 (thank you again, MATRIXSYNTH).

Most MIDI cartridges for the C-64 look and act very similar. They all have MIDI in and and out or two, and a few will get a little bit more exciting with a clock and/or tape sync in/out. A few like the Sequential Circuits Model 64 and C-Lab Supertrack-ROM will even have the sequencing software on the cartridge to save you from having to load a program on from a floppy drive.

BUT, the Moog Song Producer was a different beast altogether. It was a large rectangular box almost as wide as a C-64 itself. And, as this ad will tell you, it included *a lot* more than just a MIDI in and one or two MIDI outs.
Hardware:
- 4 MIDI OUTS channelize OMNI synths and speed throughput.
- 8 gate outputs drive non-MIDI drums.
- Footswitch inputs free your hands.
- Clock IN/OUT and clock Disable IN/OUT provided for non-MIDI clock(s) control.
Wowza. 

The software wasn't just a simple sequencer either:
Software:
- MIDI COMMAND splits/layers/transposes and controls MIDI PROGREAM Numbers for 4 instruments independently.
- SONGSTEPPER composition program displays realtime  entry and stepmode. Keyboard skills not required. Compose drums and music using one system.
- SYNC COMMAND has 9 synchronous clocks with Master Tempo to get your gear together.
- Dr. T's Music software now available for the Song Producer interface.
Best of all, we also get some retail prices!

$395 U.S. for the software and hardware. And $15 for the 250 page manual owners manual that includes 12 color photos of the software screens. Now, I'm not a big fan of paying for an owners manual, but this one was 250 pages, and it was written by Tom Rhea. So, I'll let that go. 

The ad itself isn't much to look at - but after doing some digging I found there's a lot more to say about Moog's Song Producer.

But I've rambled on enough.

So I'm gonna save that for the next Song Producer advert blog post.