Look Mum No Computer highlights two unique vintage DIY synthesizers you built from monthly magazines: the Elektor Formant and Digisound 80.
There was a time before e-books, the internet, smartphones or even YouTube. At that time, information was most widely disseminated through newspapers and magazines. And not for free like today. Besides classic daily newspapers, there have also been specific magazines that look up in a more detailed way certain topics. In a few you even learned how to assemble a complete modular Synthesizer from scratch.
YouTuber Look Mum No Computer showcased two DIY modular synthesizers from the past, that you could build from monthly magazines step by step on his channel. The Elektor Formant and the Digisound 80.
The Elektor Formant is a modular Synthesizer that was published in a series of articles in the Elektor, a Dutch magazine called Elektuur in the late 70’s (1977/1978). The Format is a classic Moog-style Synthesizer consisting of different modules mounted in a rack. The original releases featured description of the keyboard and interface, power supply, VCO, VCF, 3 LFOs, noise, ADSR, VCA, output module (COM), a RFM (resonance filter module) and a 24dB VCF.
Later the Austrian author M. Aigner expanded the synth with other modules like a ring modulator, envelope follower, mixer, phase shifter, and more in its own book. This is not much different from today’s modular Synthesizer, since it already had the 1V/octave characteristic.
In the case, you would like to rebuild the Elektor Formant today, or see what it looked like, the complete magazine issues are available as a PDF download.
Then, we come to the Digisound 80, another DIY modular Synthesizer that you could build from monthly magazines. It was designed by Charles Blakey, who run a company in Blackpool in northern England. The first modules appeared in articles in two British electronics magazines – Electronics Today International (ETI) and Electronics & Music Maker (E&MM) in the early to mid 1980s. So a bit later than the Elektor Formant.
Many of the Digisound 80 modules were based on the CEM (Curtis Music Specialities) range of ICs.
The Digisound 80 was also a classic analog modular synth with 1V/octave characteristic, oscillators, filters, envelopes, as well as LFO. They offered a wide range of features for the time and were more flexible than the Format modules. For example, the LFO went into audio range or the state variable had 7 different filter settings with various cutoff slopes. Also here, you can check out the original documents as free PDF files.
Look Mum No Computer has also made a very entertaining video for this exciting project from the past.
In times of flooding with YouTube videos etc., such a project would be super exciting again today. There would certainly be enough musicians who would buy the issues every month.
More information here: Look Mum No Computer