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Museum : Electronic Music Laboratories Room

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. EML Instruments
Electrocomp 101
Electrocomp 200
300 Controller
301 Controller
Electrocomp Sequencer (model 400 and model 401 expander)
Electrocomp 500
"Black Monster" (early modular synth for the educational market)
SynKey 1500
Synkey 2001

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Electronic Music Laboratories

"EML started doing business in 1968 in an unusual fashion. 'All of the original founders - Dale Blake, Norman Milliard, Dennis Daugherty, and myself - were all electrical engineers working for a company called Gerber Scientific,' Jeff Murray explains. 'It looked like things were getting tough and some of us might be laid off. So we talked about the possibility of starting our own company, pretty much as a survival effort. We had no particular route in mind, really.

"'A friend of mine named Fred Locke owned a hi-fi store in Hartford [Connecticut, USA]. Out of the blue, he called me up and said he had built some electronic instruments for some of the local schools the year before. It was an experimental project, sponsored by the Department of Education of the State of Connecticut, that required some simple modular synthesizer equipment. Fred had bid on the job, gotten it, and made several of these instruments, but he lost money doing it. The next year, some other schools ordered the same equipment, but Fred wasn't interested in doing the job because he could see himself losing more money. So he called me and asked if I'd be interested in designing and building some of this equipment...."

"'I talked to the other three guys and we thought we'd give it a whirl. We built equipment down in my cellar, pretty much to Fred Locke's original specs, supplied the instruments to the schools, and made a little money on the deal....After we made the first ten, we thought if we had a chance to do it again, we'd do it differently. When Norm got laid off, we took the profits that we'd earned and made a prototype of an instrument that we thought was a better solution.'

"The EML founders soon discovered who they were competing with. 'Moog was one step ahead of us,' says Murray. 'We were following closely at Moog's heels, but using different techniques. Most of Bob Moog's early equipment used discrete transistors, which tended to drift. You had to continuously tune the components. We used a slightly different approach: linear integrated circuits called op amps were becoming feasible for consumer-type equipment...so we relied heavily on those to earn a reputation of making equipment that was rock-solid and dependable.'"

"By 1975, internal disagreements at EML eventually led to a parting of the ways. Co-founder Norman Milliard and Musician John Borowicz, along with a few others, left the company in '76 - 'because we could no longer influence the direction of the company,' Milliard explains. 'People left over basic business issues. You must recognize that neither Dale Blake nor Jeff Murray understood musicians or how our products were used. I did not fully understand the music part of our business, but I listened well to what our customers wanted, which were polyphonic instruments that were easy to use'"

"As business began to slide, Murray and his remaining cohorts were able to sustain their company's life by utilizing the manufacturing skills they had developed making synthesizers. [Murray explains] 'We were always a small outfit that survived hand-to-mouth, and we saw the handwriting on the wall. Starting in the latter '70s, we continued to make all our existing music products, but in order to survive and make a living we did a lot of consulting work for other companies in the area, mostly in Connecticut. We had about 50 active clients that we helped to develop products, all sorts of things. If a company wanted a prototype or a small quantity of some special gadget, we were capable of doing that. That's what we did until 1984.'"

[excerpted with permission from the book Vintage Synthesizers by Mark Vail, copyright Miller Freeman, Inc]

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