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Dead medium: Dead synthesizers: ARP 2600
From: kadrey@well.com (Richard Kadrey)
Source(s): Mark Vail, "Vintage Synthesizers," Miller Freeman, Inc (pp. 78-79)

"ARP's founder, Alan R. Pearlman, recognized the importance of teaching musicians how to use the technology, so he designed a new instrument with a fixed selection of basic synthesizer functions. This instrument, dubbed the Model 2600, was an integrated system with the signal generating and processing functions in one box and the keyboard in another. (...)

"Pearlman believed that schools with small or medium- sized music departments were the main market for this new instrument. To further enhance the 2600's educational value, Pearlman put the graphics on the console's front panel so that the signal paths were easy to follow, and used sliders and slide switches so that the control and switch settings were easy to see.

"The first production run had blue panels, painted sheet-metal cases, and polished wood handles. 'That's not what I wanted,' Pearlman recalls. 'I wanted the instrument to be housed in a rugged case that would travel safely. But those were the days when nobody listened to you if you were over 30, so the young designer had his way.' Musicians and retailers however quickly shot down the 'Blue Marvin' or 'Blue Meanie' design in favor of the vinyl-covered luggage-style case with the dark gray panel that remained in production from 1971 to 1981.

.. "As Roger Powell says, 'The 2600's main assets are the same things that made it hard to sell initially. The 2600 boiled down virtually all analog synthesis capabilities into a single box. You could experiment with it or use it pre-patched. It was a magic matrix == definitely enough stuff to use musically. On top of that, it stayed in tune and was reasonable robust and roadworthy.

"As analog synths went, it was easy to use. You could easily see and recognize panel setting patterns == even in the darkness of the stage. As one well-known 2600 user said many years ago, 'It's the only synth that I can operate when I'm drunk.'"

Richard Kadrey (kadrey@well.com)