Boot Fair Find: Yamaha SHS-10R MIDI Keytar

In November 2010 I wrote about my love for my old Yamaha SHS-10 MIDI Keytar.  A couple of days ago, I dragged the missus kicking and screaming from our warm bed into the cold West London air to a bus which took us to the first boot fair of the year.  Within a couple of minutes I was pretty glad I did.  I saw the familiar box standing end-on next to a wallpaper table covered in the usual boot fair tat (Wade Whimsies, VHS videos of ‘Friends’, fake Russell Athletic grey joggers … you know the sort of stuff).  The first thing I noticed about the SHS-10 box was that it was the red model, generally sold by Dixons back in 1987.  This was confirmed upon closer inspection by the ‘centenary sticker’ that adorned the box (Yamaha was founded in 1887, if you hadn’t already guessed).  Box was a little tatty and at first I wasn’t sure there was anything inside.  The stall holder was hovering over the box, devouring a bacon roll which I silently prayed wasn’t dripping everywhere.  It wasn’t.  I picked the box up and peered inside the slightly tatty box flap.  There it was, red and shiny.  No polys sadly, and no batteries or power adaptor rolling around.  No manual either.  I found the strap already outside the box which was a nice addition.  First thing I did, as I do with all battery-powered items is a) to check whether the battery door was in place and b) whether there was any battery corrosion inside.  Happy to report the door was present and correct, and there wasn’t even a speck of dust inside the battery compartment.  On closer inspection, the SHS-10R looked like it had hardly been used.  There were no scratches to the red part of the upper plastic body, the LED display wasn’t scratched, all slider caps were intact, as were all the rubber buttons, mod wheel and the two guitar strap lugs.

“Worked last time I tried it”, the owner told me.  “When was that?” I asked, “1988?”  (Curse my stupid mouth sometimes.  I do say inappropriate things).  He said it had been working reasonably recently, and went on to explain how his kid had outgrown it, and had lived in a box most of its life.  The manual and charger had been lost in the mists of time, and batteries had never been stored in it.  He had no batteries to hand to test it, but promised me it was working.  I wanted it.  Price, I wondered.  What the hell was this gonna cost me?  Another stall had a boxed Casio keyboard which the woman wanted £20 for.  I guessed the Yamaha would be a similar price.  “Five pounds” the man and his wife chorused when asked.  I deftly paid the woman in twenty pence pieces (we always take loads of change to boot fairs – stall holders love it).  The man thoughtfully offered a free black bin bag for transport and for rain protection.

 

Click the images for a bigger version

If you’ve not read my original review of the SHS-10, or have no intention of doing so, you can stop reading here because I’m going to bore you with some of the main details of it.  Most of the UK models were grey.  If you lived in Japan you’d probably get a black one.  The red one, as I explained earlier, were retailed by Dixons and a few other select outlets.

The SHS-10 has 32 mini keys and a pitch bend wheel at the end of the grip.  It was six-note poly with 25 built-in sounds.  A built-in speaker allowed you to annoy the family with the arse-clenching demo of Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’.  The biggest boon of the Yamaha was the inclusion of a MIDI Out port.  It meant you could connect another MIDI device to the SHS-10 and control it with the keytar.  There was a 1/4″ output too.

Drums could be transmitted on separate MIDI channels, which was quite a powerful feature.  An external drum machine, for example, could then play a backing.  MIDI Start and Stop, plus Tempo Sync could also be transmitted and picked up by an external sequencer.  Other features included: intro, fill-in and ending buttons for the rhythms and auto-chords, vibrato, portamento and sustain buttons, tempo, tuning and transpose buttons, chord sequencer with battery-back-up, but no editing.

Sounds ranged from ‘synthesizer’ through to ‘music box’ with offerings such as ‘piano’, ‘steel drum’ and ‘saxophone’ thrown in for good measure.  There were 25 preset rhythms too, from ‘Rhythm & Blues’ to ‘Fusion’, ‘Samba’ and ‘Fanfare’.  A large red 2-digit LED showed preset and program numbers, as well as tempo for rhythms.  The sounds were quite impressive for this FM device.

The SHS-10 (and its bigger and rarer brother, the SHS-200) was a circuit-benders’ dream.  More complex sounds could be produced by hard-wiring an 8-pole DIP switch to the YM2420 chip.

I’ve loved playing with the SHS-10 again.  Manuals for it can be found aplenty online in PDF format, or can be bought for about a tenner on eBay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works Volume II Triple Vinyl Reissue

PURCHASE HERE

Note – the MP3 download version has 24 tracks to the vinyl’s 23 – presumably it includes ‘Stone in Focus’.

Aphex Twin’s 1994 masterpiece Selected Ambient Works Volume II includes barely anything resembling a beat or any sign of typical song structure, yet the album continues to garner adulation generally reserved for holy music.

People have been testifying on its behalf for nearly two decades, as if it were capable of curing ills or healing the soul. Its synthetic construction belies the intuitive, human, melancholic and uplifting nature of the music. Some have speculated the album was intended by Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James as a farce, as if its über-minimalism was a joke played on an electronic community that relied so heavily on the beat; an expectation-defying statement from ambient-house’s young hero. The album induces varied responses and often from the same person.

A listener may go from being incredulous to drenched in tears within the span of a single track. Music critic Frank Owen described the music as “veering between an eerie beauty and an almost nightmarish desolation.” James himself described it as “like standing in a power station on acid.” The album’s raw emotional power is built upon the influences of Brian Eno, Erik Satie, Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Each of its tracks has an elegiac and desolate feel far removed from the tooth-rattling, drill-‘n’-bass or abstract electronica for which James was originally known. The soft, nimble flow leaves one in a tranquilized state. Throughout the album, James resists the temptation to layer the sound with beats or samples.

Instead, he relies on swathes of sound and harmonics and almost-implied pulses. When the music does incorporate subtle industrial sounds, rhythmic drums or muted samples, it is only to affect a menacing feel in the textures. Remarkably, for an album that is often perceived as difficult, Selected Ambient Works Volume II is quite accessible. Featured in films, commercials and video games, the music continues to offer an entry point for listeners new to the ambient genre while remaining a classic touted by connoisseurs.”

The BackOffice does TechBeach (oo-er)

Andrew Armstrong started making occasional videos for YouTube, and its popularity grew and grew which resulted in a new video EVERY DAY on tech, games and blowing stuff up.

I implore you to check out The Doc’s YouTube Channel RIGHT HERE.  The latest video features a bad soldering job I did on a project which Andrew kindly repaired, explaining the procedure in his own inimitable style.  So if you want to know how to make speakers from Pringles tubes, repair vintage calculators or make microwave egg on toast, better get clicking that link above.

Happy Birthday iPhone – 10 Today!

c1thhdtwqaaqep-jpg_large

MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO—January 9, 2007—Apple® today introduced iPhone, combining three products—a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod® with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, searching and maps—into one small and lightweight handheld device. iPhone introduces an entirely new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and pioneering new software, letting users control iPhone with just their fingers. iPhone also ushers in an era of software power and sophistication never before seen in a mobile device, which completely redefines what users can do on their mobile phones.

“iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We are all born with the ultimate pointing device—our fingers—and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse.”

iPhone is a Revolutionary Mobile Phone
iPhone is a revolutionary new mobile phone that allows users to make calls by simply pointing at a name or number. iPhone syncs all of your contacts from your PC, Mac® or Internet service such as Yahoo!, so that you always have your full list of up-to-date contacts with you. In addition, you can easily construct a favorites list for your most frequently made calls, and easily merge calls together to create conference calls.

iPhone’s pioneering Visual Voicemail, an industry first, lets users look at a listing of their voicemails, decide which messages to listen to, then go directly to those messages without listening to the prior messages. Just like email, iPhone’s Visual Voicemail enables users to immediately randomly access those messages that interest them most.

iPhone includes an SMS application with a full QWERTY soft keyboard to easily send and receive SMS messages in multiple sessions. When users need to type, iPhone presents them with an elegant touch keyboard which is predictive to prevent and correct mistakes, making it much easier and more efficient to use than the small plastic keyboards on many smartphones. iPhone also includes a calendar application that allows calendars to be automatically synced with your PC or Mac.

iPhone features a 2 megapixel camera and a photo management application that is far beyond anything on a phone today. Users can browse their photo library, which can be easily synced from their PC or Mac, with just a flick of a finger and easily choose a photo for their wallpaper or to include in an email.

iPhone is a quad-band GSM phone which also features EDGE and Wi-Fi wireless technologies for data networking. Apple has chosen Cingular, the best and most popular carrier in the US with over 58 million subscribers, to be Apple’s exclusive carrier partner for iPhone in the US.

iPhone is a Widescreen iPod
iPhone is a widescreen iPod with touch controls that lets music lovers “touch” their music by easily scrolling through entire lists of songs, artists, albums and playlists with just a flick of a finger. Album artwork is stunningly presented on iPhone’s large and vibrant display.

iPhone also features Cover Flow, Apple’s amazing way to browse your music library by album cover artwork, for the first time on an iPod. When navigating your music library on iPhone, you are automatically switched into Cover Flow by simply rotating iPhone into its landscape position.

iPhone’s stunning 3.5-inch widescreen display offers the ultimate way to watch TV shows and movies on a pocketable device, with touch controls for play-pause, chapter forward-backward and volume. iPhone plays the same videos purchased from the online iTunes® Store that users enjoy watching on their computers and iPods, and will soon enjoy watching on their widescreen televisions using the new Apple TV™. The iTunes Store now offers over 350 television shows, over 250 feature films and over 5,000 music videos.

iPhone lets users enjoy all their iPod content, including music, audiobooks, audio podcasts, video podcasts, music videos, television shows and movies. iPhone syncs content from a user’s iTunes library on their PC or Mac, and can play any music or video content they have purchased from the online iTunes store.

iPhone is a Breakthrough Internet Communications Device
iPhone features a rich HTML email client which fetches your email in the background from most POP3 or IMAP mail services and displays photos and graphics right along with the text. iPhone is fully multi-tasking, so you can be reading a web page while downloading your email in the background.

Yahoo! Mail, the world’s largest email service with over 250 million users, is offering a new free “push” IMAP email service to all iPhone users that automatically pushes new email to a user’s iPhone, and can be set up by simply entering your Yahoo! name and password. iPhone will also work with most industry standard IMAP and POP based email services, such as Microsoft Exchange, Apple .Mac Mail, AOL Mail, Google Gmail and most ISP mail services.

iPhone also features the most advanced and fun-to-use web browser on a portable device with a version of its award-winning Safari™ web browser for iPhone. Users can see any web page the way it was designed to be seen, and then easily zoom in to expand any section by simply tapping on iPhone’s multi-touch display with their finger. Users can surf the web from just about anywhere over Wi-Fi or EDGE, and can automatically sync their bookmarks from their PC or Mac. iPhone’s Safari web browser also includes built-in Google Search and Yahoo! Search so users can instantly search for information on their iPhone just like they do on their computer.

iPhone also includes Google Maps, featuring Google’s groundbreaking maps service and iPhone’s amazing maps application, offering the best maps experience by far on any pocket device. Users can view maps, satellite images, traffic information and get directions, all from iPhone’s remarkable and easy-to-use touch interface.

iPhone’s Advanced Sensors
iPhone employs advanced built-in sensors—an accelerometer, a proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor—that automatically enhance the user experience and extend battery life. iPhone’s built-in accelerometer detects when the user has rotated the device from portrait to landscape, then automatically changes the contents of the display accordingly, with users immediately seeing the entire width of a web page, or a photo in its proper landscape aspect ratio.

iPhone’s built-in proximity sensor detects when you lift iPhone to your ear and immediately turns off the display to save power and prevent inadvertent touches until iPhone is moved away. iPhone’s built-in ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the display’s brightness to the appropriate level for the current ambient light, thereby enhancing the user experience and saving power at the same time.

Pricing & Availability
iPhone will be available in the US in June 2007, Europe in late 2007, and Asia in 2008, in a 4GB model for $499 (US) and an 8GB model for $599 (US), and will work with either a PC or Mac. iPhone will be sold in the US through Apple’s retail and online stores, and through Cingular’s retail and online stores. Several iPhone accessories will also be available in June, including Apple’s new remarkably compact Bluetooth headset.

iPhone includes support for quad-band GSM, EDGE, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR wireless technologies.

iPhone requires a Mac with a USB 2.0 port, Mac OS® X v10.4.8 or later and iTunes 7; or a Windows PC with a USB 2.0 port and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 4), Windows XP Home or Professional (Service Pack 2). Internet access is required and a broadband connection is recommended. Apple and Cingular will announce service plans for iPhone before it begins shipping in June.

Learn More About iPhone
To learn more about iPhone, please visit Apple.com or watch the video of the iPhone introduction at www.apple.com/iphone/keynote.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning desktop and notebook computers, OS X operating system, and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital music revolution with its iPod portable music players and iTunes online store.

Apple iPhone 5S Space Grey, 16GB Unboxing

As usual, click on the pictures for the bigger … er … picture!

Having made a complete horlicks of my girlfriend’s iPhone 5C repair yesterday, the only sensible thing to do was go out and get a replacement.  So after a fair amount of fannying about at the local EE shop, we (eventually) got this as the next ‘best’ thing.

Pretty sure I had one of these in my dark, distant iPhone-owning past.  Not a bad phone at all really, and the only one EE would give us for nothing.  Still seems tiny compared with the gargantuan 7 Plus.  Just hope to god she’s backed the 5C up ….