Vermona Synth Update 1: Boards

(This is an update to Notes from an Exploration of a Vermona Synthesizer.)

In spite of the apparent quietness of the last few months, Iʼve been working on synths in between other things; in particular on the Vermona.  After the initial post, in the absence of any written technical information, I was planning to draw my own circuit diagrams.  Actually I did some board drawings, because thatʼs easier when all you have are last yearʼs photos and enough space to sit. :-) [1]  A couple of weeks ago, this was complicated by my discovery of a new (I think) and rather great old manuals page at vermona.com, which includes circuit schematics [2] for both versions of the Synth.  The full update I was slowly working on will be rewritten in the light of the new information ... but it will be better.  For now, here are my drawings – with the component numbering brought into line with the schematics, as far as possible.  (My earlier numbering was entirely arbitrary as there is no screening on the boards.)

Korg MS-10 Notes

(Synthland 6)

MS-10s need no introduction, so – hereʼs one.  Probably from about 1980 but I havenʼt got it far enough apart to look for component dates.

This arrived in a purportedly “Pro-Serviced” state.  In contrast to my many other gripes on the topic, I must note that it was well-packed, and arrived faster than the estimated earliest date.  Also in near-perfect physical condition, which for me is a first, for a synth without a case.  So would buy again?  Maybe.  It doesnʼt even smell bad.  No rotting food or wildlife, no decaying components, no decades of garage-storage and no undead tobacco[1]

But Iʼd like to kow what “Pro-Serviced” means.  Perhaps that this time Iʼm paying someone to do the things I would normally do myself?  This clearly doesnʼt include cleaning, past a cursory wipe; thereʼs a lot of dust ingrained on the modwheel and at the back of the keys.

a weather report

I have just had a rather disturbing thought about the weather, or its function in human communication.

What if the reason why people blither on meaninglessly about the weather is not, as I had generally assumed, a sort of mutual grooming by which they indicate that they are high enough in each othersʼ regard that theyʼre willing to coexist, and even communicate meaningfully when there is something worth saying?

achievement changes you

Large image and prints at engrafi.deviantart.com.

the tubes

Some tubes from a newly arrived vintage radio, out for cleaning ... for about the first time since it was manufactured.  Arenʼt they shiny?  The story with these is the strange and wonderful alliance of thermionic valve technology and the Internet.

This set is a little over fifty years old.  (And I suspect there are people out there who could identify it from the tubes alone.)  One of the same model used to live in my parentsʼ house, humming away happily for nearly twenty-five years, until one day in the late eighties they said it had stopped working and would I look at it.

MagSafe As It Should Have Been

(Or closer-to.)

(This is an update to “MagSafe – the Last Straw?”)

Since I last wrote on this topic Iʼve been living uncomfortably with my fourth Apple MagSafe PSU in a temporary-repair state; and many other things have been getting in the way, some of which have been much more interesting than fixing old PSUs.  But recently the (now, what, 18-month-old?) cable on Nº4 has shown additional signs of deterioration, requiring further bandaging.  Wonʼt last long.  So on to a full refurbishment of Nº2, which (including previous emergency repair) looks like this:

As the migrant plasticiser had almost completely evaporated when I took photos last year, there is no significant further deterioration, though a few flakes of sheath have fallen off.  The plan was:

“3. Whether or not (2) is successful, open up Nº2 and replace the whole cable.  I did look for something similar in the way of coaxial cable last year, unsuccessfully.  But I suspect this isnʼt necessary; itʼs just a DC power supply.  Ordinary 2-core flex should do – though all things considered I think Iʼll opt for heat-resistant.  Ideally this should include putting a socket in the adaptor, so the cable can be replaced if need be.  This will probably not look very elegant ... but nor does it in its existing state.”

So, to work.  Start with cutting.

Some Pipe and Register Measurements

(Anorak Adventures in Synthland 5)

(This is an update to a tangential note in Notes from an Exploration of a Vermona Synthesizer.)

I mused: “Are feet and Prime an English-language convention?  Since this convention stems from pipe organs, were pipe organs all over Europe described in feet, in the past? ... Have there ever been organs (or synths) described in cm?  Or, were the Prime (′″) marks used with other pre-metric measurements?

From a survey of the web, it seems that different languages do use versions of the ‘foot’ measurement to describe organ registers, but the Prime mark was not always used.  e.g.:

Notes from an Exploration of a Vermona Synthesizer

vermona synthesizer drawing
(Anorak Adventures in Synthland 4)

Back in the DDR days, before Vermona were reinvented as a purveyor of cool synthesiser and effects gear, they (or at least the brand) had already been a purveyor of moothies, organs, amps and effects to the people for decades, so far as the people were allowed such.  But in the early 1980s they came up with an all-in-one synth, simply named the Vermona Synthesizer.  (References to Vermonas below are to this model unless otherwise specified.)  They were manufactured from 1983 to possibly as late as 1990, though Iʼve not seen a definitive end date. [1]  This page begins with me getting one.  And recovering a few square feet of usable working space.  Up on the table with it:

Vermona Synthesiser front

PeNP?

We now know that terrorists have found ways of hiding communications encoded in financial transactions.

Never mind the evidence for the prevalence of this problem; weʼre only beginning to uncover the threat.  For now, itʼs clearly a technical possibility.  Even Paypal have done it for years.  Each single figure in an arbitrary decimal sum can represent four and a half bits of digital character information; the essential, brief command messages sent between terrorist cells can therefore easily be hidden in a few purchases between sock-puppet traders on eBay, Etsy and Amazon.  We know this sort of activity goes on, for all sorts of reasons.

But now weʼve realised that stock exchange high speed trading is also a perfect medium.  The volume of transactions is such that, with customised trading software, they can hide enormous amounts of data about targets, how to get round security systems, where to get the latest training videos and when.  And letʼs face it, terrorism is well-funded by certain interests with connections to people we know have access to a share of our oil wealth.  It might be time we did something about that.  Finish the job.

And not only stock exchanges.  Consumer-grade bank accounts can be used.  A disturbingly high proportion of the population now has these, and theyʼre all available over the internet.  Potential terrorists with no police record, no record of anything apart from walking past security cameras with abnormal features, could now be simply logging into a superstructure of terrorism command and control networks through their online bank accounts, sending a few pennies at a time in any currency, according to some master plan dictated to them by unidentified controllers.  Remember, we donʼt have total surveillance yet.  We donʼt know what theyʼre really doing in the gaps when weʼre not watching them.  Donʼt believe the naïve suggestion that the larger planning instructions can only be disseminated in the media weʼve already succeeded in monitoring.  If only it were that simple...

Clearly, thereʼs only one thing to be done if we are to give our children the secure future they deserve.  We have to take control of the stock markets. 

another day another battery

Iʼve spent much of today trying to get my main workstation working.  This is a Mac G5 Dual-Processor machine.  I remember when they came out, actually I remember seeing a picture of one for the first time, a week or two before they were released ... someone was trying to sell one on eBay, and I thought, that looks interesting but I doubt itʼs a real Mac.  Then there was a flurry of technical ecstasy in the Mac Press, and I donʼt remember a single critical and informed article, but maybe I wasnʼt reading the right sites.  I did note one significant disappointment in the design – the thing which made the New-World G3 tower even better than the excellent PowerMac 9600/8600, the hinge-out motherboard, had been dropped.  Surprising, given the convenience it represented.  The board-at-the-back approach in the G5 looked likely to be less manageable than any Mac since the early Quadras.

G5 tower case open in 2010

A few years later I needed to upgrade my rather underpowered G4 (underpowered for the latest round of software updates, that is).  And so I obtained a secondhand G5 ... which was great in as much as it worked, it was visually striking, it has all these fans in separate cooling zones, and maybe as a result is actually noticeably quieter than the G4.  Today I notice it also has a lower maximum power rating.  But handling it is comparatively unpleasant, as the aluminium case is a lot heavier, and the handles are less comfortable.  Itʼs a minor issue but I did think it surprising, as I often do, when design updates result in poorer products.  Should we not record our successes and study them?

Intending to get to grips with the G5 technically, I attempted to disassemble it it – you know, as you do...

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