Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Roland SH-101: A Keytar Ready To Hit The Slopes

Roland_sh101blu_HLINE_99I got my first keytar a while back, and pretty much everyone thought (thinks) I was (am) the biggest dork. Even other keyboard guys. I'm not saying that I haven't earned that title many times over (this existence of Retro Thing is testimony of that!), but over a keytar? When I got mine, it was a decidedly out thing... and it didn't help my case any that the instrument was large (full size keys, go figure.), blazing white, and had "Casio" written on it in a huge font.

We seem to be in a place now where there are new models of keytar every week. So when I wanted to hot dog on some blazin' keyboard solos I was weird, but when some smug ironic hipster straps into a keytar he's "totally meta"? Sorry dude - you're just a dork with moustache wax.

Maybe it's the wanna-be guitar shape of most keytars that cemented their role in the annals of music history as a peculiarity. Except for showboating, there's little real need for a keytar. You can only play one handed with your left mitt just swinging around whatever passes for a guitar-style neck. I'll bet the synth history books would tell a different story if we were all rocking the Roland SH-101.

First of all, you're talking about an excellent analog synth. Monophonic, I grant you... but that's perfect for soloing. All the knobs and tweaks are right there. It's small and square, so no phallic posturing here. An SH-101 player is clearly comfortable with himself as a person. Available in cheerful read, blue and silver. You can even bolt on a tiny guitar-ish handle for pitch & mod wheels, or just to more fully bring the rock. And of course it's the 80s you can be dressed like you're ready to go skiing at pretty much any time.

The first time I saw one of these in action was on a TV interview with John Tesh. The internet was there and remembered to put a tape in the VCR.

Tesh was struggling to get out from under the stone of his mid-afternoon Hollywood gossip show to prove that he was a serious musician too. True, his albums were mostly of the New Age variety, but on an appearance with Dweezil & Ahmet Zappa he produced his SH-101 and wowed the crowd with Black Sabbath's rock classic "The Wizard" (the harmonica sure can get kinda dark). Ahmet did his incomprehensible dance, Tesh nearly lost his specs (right at 1:42), and I was out of my chair! I was dancing along with John Tesh! I was jammin' along with Ahmet Zappa! And the Roland SH-101!

Oh wait. I'm a dork again.


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