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Music Thing: The ZX Spectrum SpecDrum module

Ryan Block, @ryan
10.28.05
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Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

Sinclair ZX SpecDrum

Back in the early 1980s, high-tech music gear was really, really expensive. A Fairlight CMI sampler cost $25,000+. A Linn Drum machine cost $5,000. Even the Greengate DS3, a primitive sampler that interfaced with an Apple II cost well over $1,000.

But by 1985, in Britain, anyone with a £125 ZX Spectrum could buy a SpecDrum, a black box which turned the rubber-keyed home computer (owned by the kids whose parents couldn't afford a Commodore 64) into a drum machine pumping out 8 bit samples that were loaded from cassette.
The SpecDrum sounded like a lofi Linn Drum, and had an interface like the Fairlight's 'Page R' sequencer, which had inspired all those terrible white-boy funk records by people like Thomas Dolby. Even allowing for inflation, it was an incredible bargain for £29.

SpecDrum

It?s built into some Spectrum emulators (like Spectaculator) and was last week randomly rediscovered by the Analog Industries blog, which prompted a storm of beat-making, sample editing and archive digging. Even cooler than the SpecDrum was the RAM Music Machine, which did even more Fairlight-style stuff (onscreen wave editing). But coolest of all was the Moog Song Creator ? an elaborate MIDI interface for the C64, with a huge Moog logo across the front. Happy days.

SpecDrum screen
SpecDrum
Moog song producer

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