Archive for May, 2006

Analog Fever

Some of you might remember a previous post regarding the release of a new analog synthesizer from Moog Music called the Little Fatty. While this recently released Moog is far too expensive for my hobbyist tastes, it got me wondering if there are other mono synths out there in a more affordable price range – like less than $500.00. As it turns out, there are some low cost options for new synths along with a few options for overlooked vintage analog synths. I’m not really looking to dump a bunch of money into an analog synth, since I really just want one to screw around with and process with my computer…similar to what I currently do with my all digital Korg Wavestation. Of course I should be saving money for a new pair of hiking boots this summer, but that’s so boring.

PAiA FatMan

This is a rack-mounted or desktop mono synth. One of the best features one the FatMan is MIDI inputs. The big downside? The FatMan is sold as a kit, meaning you have to solder it all together. I guess you can buy it pre-made, but that seems kind of lame. The price for the kit is around $150.00, which is very inexpensive. I also think you need a preamp to use with the audio outputs, so I guess I would need something like a SansAmp to run the audio into the computer.

MFB Synthlite II

I have no idea if MFB makes decent sounding stuff, but I’m intrigued by this little mono synth in their product line. It has three digital oscillators (bummer), external audio input, lowpass filtering, and a voltage controlled amplifier. Unfortunately, it’s not fully analog, but it’s programmable, meaning sound settings can be saved (unlike the FatMan or the original MiniMoog). This synth sells for a very reasonable $250.00. MFB also makes a drum machine with samples from the Rhythm Ace, Casio PT-68, Casio VL-1, and the Drumulator.

Technosaurus Microcon2

I don’t think this sexy little Swiss analog mono synth is in production anymore. I can’t find anyone selling it new in the States. The Micron II is MIDI compatible and did retail for around $350.00 a couple of years ago. Seems a little expensive for what you get, but it is Swiss made.

Analogue Solutions MiniModular

A little on the expensive side at over $500.00, this mono synth is unique because if offers modular patching. Kind of like the old Korg MS20. I don’t think it has MIDI though.

Korg Polysix

Well, this isn’t a mono synth, not fully analog, and it’s not new (released in the early ’80s), but I’ve heard they go for pretty cheap these days. Sells for around $150.00 used.

Yamaha CS-01 II

Small analog mono synth made in the ’80s, but with the dreaded mini keys like those found on children’s toy keyboards. Not programmable. But it looks really cool and I like the small size.

4 comments May 18th, 2006

Super 8 Editing

For the longest time, I’ve been editing Super 8 and regular 8mm footage with a small light box, scissors, and press tape. This has been an extremely frustrating process, especially since Kodak press tape didn’t seem to want to cooperate with my junky splicer (I’m convinced only the fingers of a five-year-old could get this to work). I finally decided to do all my editing using a viewer and make my splices with a good cement splicer. So back in February I bought an Elmo editor on eBay and a nice Agfa cement splicer at a thrift store. Well, the editor was stolen off my porch, so I bought another one, this time a Vernon. It’s taken a while to get adjusted to threading the film through the Vernon, but I’m liking the way it works. The viewing screen is kind of small, but the image is nice and bright. Take a look at my editing set-up below. Note the Grundig radio tuned to KPSU 1450 — one of the only AM college radio stations left in the States.


1 comment May 17th, 2006

My X-Files Moment

Back in the late spring of 1998, I was driving from Oregon to Chicago along I-80 when I spotted a very bizarre looking aircraft. It was late morning and I recall being between North Platte and Grand Island in Nebraska. I caught a glimpse what looked like the Concorde passing briefly from one cloud bank to another (traveling south to north?). I’m guessing the ceiling at the time was around 750 to 1,000 feet. The aircraft was odd because it had no windows, but its under wing engines looked similar to the Concorde and it had the same elongated shape. I’ve seen the Concorde in flight around Dulles International Airport, so that was the visual reference I was working off of. The landing gear was not down and there were no visible marking. The overall color was light grey or white.

There were a ton of other cars on I-80 at the time, so I’m certain others saw it. But what was “it”? I guess it could have been the Concorde. But I don’t think there are any sizable airports in the area and even if there were, it’s unlikely the Concorde would be using one of them. Could is aircraft be the rumored Aurora spyplane? Maybe. But why flying so low in broad daylight? And why Nebraska? The descriptions of the Aurora spyplane I’ve read about all suggest a squatter aircraft painted black. Maybe it was one of the X-planes developed by NASA during the late ‘90s. Again, what was it doing in Nebraska? I’m not aware of any aircraft or spacecraft testing facilities in the Midwest.

I thought this whole weird experience would remain a mystery. But then last week I saw a link on to an article posted to The Register (an IT related website) about a mystery spyplane called the Blackstar (SR-3). Actually, it not just one aircraft, but two: a mothership that takes a smaller craft to the edge of space. Kind of similar in concept to Burt Runtan’s Space Ship One. In the case of the Blackstar, the mothership looks very similar to the old XB-70 Valkyrie, an American supersonic bomber that never went into production.

While I’ve never seen the Valkyrie in flight, what I saw did look very similar. However, I did not see a spaceplane attached to the aircraft. But this got me back to thinking about all the Aurora sightings. Could the small spaceplane be what folks are calling Aurora? To me this makes sense, since those who have seen the supposed Aurora have not specifically stated that it’s a large craft. I also think the proposed timeline for the Blackstar program is interesting, since the SR-71 was taken out of service right around the time Blackstar allegedly went into service.

Another intriguing clue is the suggestion the spacecraft is the offspring of the early 1960s Dyna-Soar X-20A program, which was in turn based on the Nazi era Saenger-Bredt Silverbird intercontinental skip-glide rocket bomber (Robo) concept. The Dyna-Soar program was originally envisioned as a manned hypersonic bomber delivered to low earth orbit by rocket. The program advanced to prototype stage, but was cancelled by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in 1963. This all makes me wonder: was the program revived in the 1980s after the Space Shuttle disaster? I’m guessing the USAF was concerned about its ability to access space. And much of the R&D on this type of small spaceplane would have already been done. The same goes for the mothership. There would have been all sorts of performance data from the XB-70 program. And maybe even actual airframes and parts to work with.

So is the Blackstar still in service? According to Aviation Week, the program was canceled due to Iraq war costs or poor performance. My guess is the program has been replaced with an expensive stealth satellite system. Maybe the Aviation Week story was leaked by disgruntled folks who worked on the Blackstar program who feel they got the shaft from the current administration. But with increased classification of canceled secret projects, I doubt we’ll ever hear an official disclosure regarding Blackstar.

Blackstar: the US space conspiracy that never was?

Aviation Week & Space Technology article


XB-70 Valkyrie

Dyna-Soar X-20A

2 comments May 2nd, 2006


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