We’ve started from the most general article and ended up going through our childhood memories related to techno music and audio equipment. After reading Dave’s article response I’ve had another memory flash.
While living in Serbia as a refugee I was in close touch with the most diverse technology. I lived in my uncle’s workshop – and my uncle, well, he was a 50 year old mechanics/electronics nerd. The place was full of goodies and unused parts so I took a liberty to experiment with whatever was on hand.
One of the highlights would probably be a self-made electronic keyboard combined with a sound distortion module. Now, how could kid make something like this? The answer is simple – I didn’t. The thing was just an old toy rejected by my little cousin Milos. It used to be a compact version of a very primitive electric piano and it didn’t work anymore.
I cannot remember in detail what I did to the thing, but one is for sure, it wasn’t mean to be running on 12V. Couple of fixes here and there and I made it play again, then I ripped off the front panel revealing the primitive switches – copper coil touching the circuit board. The thing was manufactured in Bulgaria so you can imagine the technology.
Probably one or two square oscilators linked to a set of triggers. The beauty of this device was in the fact that it was completely analogue, so for example, if you pressed the trigger harder it would cover the larger switch surface, making the contact stronger. This would reflect on the intensity of the sound, pitch, distortion amount and god knows what else. Sometimes you would get some weird interruptions in the sound for no apparent reason – so I’ll just call it a “filter”.
I remember it clearly, like it was yesterday. I bravely entered the room full of frowned people. Everyone stared at the TV watching the news to see when the freaking war is going to end. I plugged the AC/DC adapter in the wall, grabbed my distortion module, like you would hold a guitar, and said: “Uncle Uros, look what I’ve made!”
I started playing “Ciciban”, the well known Yugoslav kids tune. “That’s nice, now go back to the garage and be quiet, we’re watching the news.” they said. I was angry because no one gave me any credit for creativity, so I though I’d abort the “Ciciban” plan and continue in a bit of a free style.
The module sounded somewhat like a distorted electric guitar so I went off rolling through the notes and pitches. It felt fantastic. There was some real artistic potential in what I was doing there – in front of everyone. I swear, at the time I thought I was as good as Jimi Hendrix himself.
Everyone else thought I was retarded and aunty said I probably have an ADD. So my gig was rudely interrupted and all the equipment ended up flying across the backyard. All that happened in ’91 when and I was only 11 and I still laugh when I remember it – the expression on my cousin’s faces – precious…