It had impeccable geek credentials. It was designed by two MIT professors, Marvin Minsky and Edward Fredkin. At the
time, Minsky was moonlighting on the set of ?2001 A Space Odyssey?, teaching Stanley Kubrick about Artificial
Intelligence as he created Hal. Ten years later, Edward Fredkin would create the Fredkin Prize, to be awarded to the
creators of the first computer to win the World Chess Championship. He paid out to Deep Blue in 1997.
So what was the Muse? Well, not really a
synth. It was a digital sequencer, which played melodic-sounding bleepy music through the internal speaker, based on a
baffling set of algorithms. As you moved the sliders, the algorithms changed, and the music changed. Like the
Chiclet DSP Music Box, it was designed to replace a radio
- why listen to old music, when this neat-o box can make new music? There was an idea only a MIT professor could
The Muse even had an even rarer accessory, the ?Light Show?, which flashed coloured lights in time to the music.
Inevitably, the Muse was a commercial disaster. Only 280 units were ever manufactured. Unlike vintage analog synths, a
Muse won?t generate a fat bassline for a hip hop record, but they are very collectable. One of the Muses sold last week
on Ebay received a bid of $1,799, although $800 is a more realistic price. If you can?t afford that, try Paul Geffen?s
basic-but-interesting PC Muse Simulator.