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.


  1. Dearest sir,

    I find your historically-themed website estimable in nearly all important respects, driving as it does the rotavator of truth in advertising through the overgrown shrubbery of doubt and confusion. Nevertheless, I feel impelled to point out your dereliction in neglecting one of the NoI's greatest triumphs.

    I speak, of course, of the brave – nay, heroic – and heady – nay, exhilarating – enterprise which occupied – nay, pre-occupied to the point of obsession – a month in early 1947 when the NoI worked with the staff of the beleagured – nay, beseiged – nay, bombarded, bombarded with the shot of inappropriate circulars, the shell of crippling restrictions on the proper use of printing ink, and the very shrapnel of a perhaps unmatched ignorance of the very principles of public relations at the very very heart of government - Gorse Marketing Board.

    Under the guidance of Pug 'Pug' Pugg, and Mack 'Mac' McMaque, the GMB's valiant attempt to extemporise a policy amidst the crushing burdens of the coal shortage and a series of unfortunately-liquid lunches with Sidney Stanley in the fabled – nay, fabled – works canteen of Pugg and Mack in Nether Soho, gripped the attention of Public Relations Persons on all sides of the Atlantic.

    Who can forget – who would want to forget, indeed – the awe with which the slogan "Gorse, of course!" was received throughout the Commonwealth? Who cannot recall – who would not strive, increasingly desperately, to recall, indeed, should the task ever become necessary – the trepidation with which the members of NoI's far-flung missions – from St Kitts and Nevis to King Edward VII Land; from Sikkim to Pitcairn – gathered round cable machines in darkened Consulates, gin slings clenched in hand, to be the first to read the slogan's brilliant sequel: "Of course it's coarse, it's gorse!"? Britain needed a triumph in those dark dark darkity dark days and that, by gad, was it.

    And who did not shed a manly tear when it was revealed, all too poignantly, that the creation of the GMB itself had been a ghastly error, the product of a misinterpreted cable from Ascension Island ("Severe shortage of gorse in dollar area stop imperative send gorse stop") mischieviously sent by Brian O' Bryan, who had been chafing there, largely prevented from communicating with the outside world by Miss Frampton, ever since an unfortunate series of facetious newsletters had abruptly ended his career as the representative of the Ministry For Food in Washington DC? Who indeed.

    I well remember a remarkably humorous story about this episode which my father told me, prior his incarceration.

    Sir, I remain.

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