Electronic Music Lab from I.W. Turner, Inc. :: Obliq Museum

Recently I was rearranging a bit and pulled down these I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab modules from display in my studio.  I decided it was time to research these further and add some pictures for the Internet.  I have very little information about these modules so far so I’m assuming I.W. Turner, Inc. was a fairly small operation and I suspect these were marketed towards schools as educational modules.  Hopefully I will uncover more information in my search and update this post, and I’ll get a set of 9V batteries I’ll see what kind of sounds I can produce with these unique devices!  Looking into a couple (especially the Sequencer!) they are in a bit of dis-array inside, so I need to do some troubleshooting work as well.  We’ll see what I can come up with.  Contact me if you know ANYTHING at all about this company, these modules, or anyone that might have more information or modules!

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab White Sound Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab White Sound Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Triangle Wave Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Triangle Wave Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Square Wave Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Square Wave Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Sequencer

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Sequencer

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Sawtooth Wave Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Sawtooth Wave Generator

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Filter

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Filter

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Mixer

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Mixer

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Electronic Switch

I.W. Turner, Inc. Electronic Music Lab Electronic Switch

 

UPDATE:  I did some searching and was able to chat with Donald Tillman who worked for I.W. Turner, Inc. and created several circuits for these modules.  Here is our email conversation:

Dave:  What was the target market and do you know roughly how many were available?

Donald:  The target market was specifically music classes in elementary and middle schools.

At the time synthesizers had just become popular (the development of Moog, Buchla, ARP synthesizers, Switched-on Bach, the synth in progressive rock music, Beatles, the Monkees, the hokey Moog albums, etc.) and this was a way to introduce children to some of the basic concepts in electronic music in their school music classes.  An untapped market.

The “modules” were all self contained, battery powered, very simple.  They usually came in a set of 8 (?) with a wooden rack.  They were sold through music education distributors, and maybe some direct.  They were never intended to compete in the regular synth market, and they were never sold in regular music stores.

 Dave:  Do you still stay in contact with I. W. Turner, Inc. or have contact information so I can reach them for more information?

 Donald:  I don’t, unfortunately.  I really should have stayed in touch.

“I. W. Turner” is a fictitious name; there’s nobody that we know of with that name.

The company was founded by William Fish who lives in Port Washington.  He’s a very accomplished music educator in the Port Washington public schools and community bands.  And he’s a bit of an  an inventor and entrepreneur.  The company was mostly him.  And he hired neighborhood school kids and neighbors to do some of the manufacturing and other work.

The first IW Turner product was an electronic metronome.  Again, intended for the school market.

 Dave:  Can you elaborate more specifically on what you did for them while you worked there?  Can you talk to any of the modules that you designed, or any fun stories from that time working there?   I am starting from scratch and know nothing, so any information you could share would be wonderful.

 Donald: I was a very nerdy kid and pretty accomplished in music and electronics at an early age.  Bill was the band director at the high school, I showed him some cool electronic music thing I built, I think it was a ring modulator, and he hired me part time.  This was probably in 1973.

At the time I joined he had the modules in production, but my ring modulator circuit (based on the Motorola MC1496) sounded much better than his original (a transformer and diode circuit).  Not only was my circuit more accurate, it was an aesthetically more musical sound, and it showed off what a ring modulator does much more dramatically (which was the main point of the product).  And it was a lot less expensive to manufacture.  So he switched to using my circuit for the ring modulator module.  Then similarly with the triangle, sawtooth and square generators.

Basically, if the module has an IC in it, it’s my design.  Otherwise it’s one of the original designs that Bill had some consultant do.

The sequencer was completely mine.  It’s a composing sequencer inspired by an article in either Popular Electronics Magazine or Radio Electronics Magazine (I forget which) about the Triadex Muse, which was an MIT project using digital logic chips and pseudo random sequences to compose weird little tunes.

My sequencer does interesting things by adjusting the weights on a 5-bit binary counter (really four bit, but the clock is a square wave so we can pretend it’s a 5 bit count).  All CMOS.  If you set the top knobs to 5 2.5, 1.25, 0.625, 0.3125 you’ll get an up staircase.  And a down staircase for negative numbers.

It’s simple, but nothing else sounds like it.  There’s usually one note that’s lower than all the others, and so it goes something like “deedle-deedle doodle-deedle deedle-deedle BLAT!”.  And I always thought that the BLAT gave it a ton of personality.

UPDATE: 

A blog reader, Tony Bingham, recently contacted me and shared some photos of his Time metronome from I.W. Turner.  These are great pictures and I wanted to share them as well; thanks to Tony for allowing me to post these photos!

IW Turner Time metronome IW Turner Time Metronome

Steiner Parker Synthasystem Modular :: Obliq Museum

What an killer synthesizer. The filter is absolutely piercing, it sounds like it could literally shred your speaker.

This was made in the mid-70’s and only a small handful were produced. I doubt you will see many of these go for sale in the upcoming years (if not decade!) and I would be surprised to see one in better shape. This thing can produce some crazy sounds; great for sci-fi type stuff !!!

I was contacted by David Ingebretsen about this unit over the course of several years as he used to work for Steiner Parker assembling synthesizers. He wanted to find everything he could about building the synth that he always wanted. Well, he teamed up with Nyle Steiner and made Steiners avaiable again!!! Check out his website for more information DIY Synthasystem right now!!!

This exact unit was had a cameo in the 2004 documentary on Haack: The King of Techno; this one came from Stony Brook University in New York and was in some of the archive footage.  Bruce Haack used this modular is his early works!

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem – Back :: Power and Keyboard sockets

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem – Keyboard … I love the design of this modular!

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem – Extra controls for the Keyboard

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem Keys

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem

Steiner-Parker Synthasystem – Front Panel closeup

The following text is taken from The A-Z of Analogue Synthesizers, by Peter Forrest, published by Susurreal Publishing, Devon, England, copyright 1994 Peter Forrest

Modules:
Name: VCO 1
Size (unitwidths): 4

This module is a Voltage Controlled Oscillator, with knobs for frequency (large knob), fine tune (small knob) and pulse width. There is also 4 knobs to attenuate/mix the output levels of each of the four waveforms (triangle, sine, sawtooth, and pulse. Each waveform has two output jacks each. To control the frequency, there are 3 voltage control inputs and one other variable voltage control input. The variable input has a small screw for adjusting the volts per octave. There are also control inputs for phase reset and for pulse width.

Name: VCO2
Size (unitwidths): 2

This Voltage Controlled Oscillator is a simpler in design with knobs for frequency, fine tune, output level of sine waveform and output level of the sawtooth waveform. Sine and sawtooth are the only waveforms available with this module. 3 voltage control inputs control the frequency, one of them being variable with a small screw adjusting the volts per octave. There is an additional control input for phase reset.

Name: VCO3
Size (unitwidths): 1

Simple Voltage Controlled Oscillator with knobs for frequency and level only. There are 2 fixed control inputs and one variable, as well as a phase reset input. This oscillator was probably designed to be used as a control voltage (LFO).

Name: VCF
Size (unitwidths): 2

This is a multimode Voltage Controlled Filter which can be switched via a knob to low-pass, high-pass, or band-pass. There are also knobs for Frequency and for Resonance (Q). There are three signal inputs and two signal outputs. For control voltages, there are two inputs, one of them variable.

Name: Noise
Size (unitwidths): 1

This is a simple Noise Generator with a knob for level, a switch which chooses either white or pink noise, and two signal outputs.

Name: Balanced Modulator
Size (unit widths): 1

This is also known as a Ring modulator with an input for the signal, an input for the carier, and an output for the resulting waveform. There is a knob to adjust the amounts of the signal and the carrier and an adjustment screw (CAR. NULL) for finding the null point. There is also a switch between MULT. and SQUARE.

Name: Input Amp
Size (unit widths): 1

This is an Input Amplifier with three inputs, including one 1/4-inch jack. There is a knob for level 2 switches for selecting low/high gain, and flat/RIAA equalization.

Name: V.C. Trigger Generator
Size (unit widths): 2

This is a Voltage Control Trigger Generator module with a knob for both duration and rate. There are buttons for Gate and Manual, as well as a RUN switch. There are voltage control inputs for rate, duration, and triger gate. There are 4 trigger outputs.

Name: Sample and Hold
Size (unit widths): 1

This module seems to be two Sample & Hold modules in one. It has two knobs for level, two signal inputs, two trigger inputs as well as two signal outs. There is also switch labeled COM.

Name: Triple Envelope Generator
Size (unit widths): 4

“Steiner Parker Envelopes are quite unique. Envelopes 1 & 2 are ADS/ADSR. ADS or ADSR determined by the DAMP switch. Envelope 3 is more complex. It can be either ASD/ASDR or ATD/ATDR (T=Time). Time or Sustain is determined by the EXT switch. Also note that time/sustain segment is before decay.

Details
“The “TRIPLE ENVELOPE GEN.” module has 3 trigger inputs, and 3 CV outputs labelled:
TRIGGER INPUTS Com. 1 2 3
ENVELOPE OUTPUTS Com. 1 2 3
ENVELOPE 1:
(Knobs) ATTACK DURATION LEVEL DECAY OUTPUT LEVEL
(switches) QTN DAMP

ENVELOPE 2:
(Knobs) ATTACK DURATION LEVEL DECAY OUTPUT LEVEL
(switches) CON. QTN DAMP

ENVELOPE 3:
(Knobs) ATTACK DURATION LEVEL DECAY OUTPUT LEVEL
(switches) CON. EXT DAMP

“DURATION = Sustain (I will use S=Sustain and D=Decay in notes below)

“The DAMP feature on Env 1 & 2 dampens the release time. With Damp off, the decay time is also the release time. With Damp on the release time is supposed to be turned off. This is similar to the minimoog’s release on/off (in reverse), but the damp doesn’t work perfectly, so with full decay (about 8 seconds) you get about 1/3 second release time.

“The QTN feature on Env 1 & 2 effects how the envelope responds to a short gate time. With QTN on the Env switches from the attack segment to the decay segment upon release of a note, the decay segment runs from that level. With QTN off the attack segment always completes its full cycle time before the decay then runs its full cycle.

“The EXT feature of ENV 3 determines whether the Duration Time is a fixed duration set by the knob (up to about 3 seconds on mine) or if the Duration Time matches the incoming gate signal.

“The COM. feature on the right side of Env 2 & 3 determines whether the envelope trigger input comes from the respective trigger inputs 2 & 3 or from the Com. 1 trigger input.

“The COM. feature on the left side of Env 2 & 3 determines whether the envelope output goes to the respective output 2 & 3 or to the Com. 1 output. This allows you to layer envelopes to the same destination without an external CV mixer.”
[by Mike Kent]

Name: Tuner Monitor
Size (unitwidths): 2

This module has an input, an output and a mono headphone out 1/4-inch jack. There is a 4 position knob selecting between OUT, MON., TUNE, and T. OUT and a small screw marked REF. TUNE.

Name: VCA/mixer
Size (unitwidths): 2

This Voltage Controlled Amplifier module has three inputs, each with its own Gain knob. There are two voltage control inputs, a knob for overall gain, and one signal out.

Name: ?.
Size (unitwidths): 2

This module has no name. It contains 4 sets of 4 points multiples, two labled for keyboard voltage. The on/off switch is here, as well as connection for power (+12V, -12V, Ground)