Friday, 8 March 2013

“If you’re playing without a licence, you could be fined,” 1976

“Sound synthesis” was discovered one freezing summer afternoon in 1941 at the GPO Research station in Twelveford by Dilwyn Elis Llwy and Herbie Fussiter, two electrical engineers working on the typedryer (a predecessor of the hairdrying typewriters of the 1960s).

No military use was found for the synthesizer, despite enforced deployment of the device at mess dances (one furious Colonel described “entreaties to boogaloo to the sound of a robot with gut-rot”), and eventually the technology was quietly put into the civilian realm (as happened with Teletext, Bigtrak and Toast Toppers).

The synthesizer licence was introduced in 1969 when a quick-thinking junior Treasury minister heard that The Beatles were using one on “Here Comes The Sun”. Rushed legislation was passed in Parliament before the band reached take two.

Editor’s note: Among the materials for this design found in the NOI’s archive was the original synthesizer licence featured in the poster. Though it has aged with no little grace, it is notable for its famous owner: Brian Eno, the flamboyant glam-rocker behind the chart-topping Windows operating system.