Robbie, Your posting yesterday on MMD about my early work on
electronic player pianos brought back pleasant memories; what
a pleasure to reflect on those early days again! They were heady
times, when player pianos were pneumatic and electronic player piano
technology was just a dream. Nothing was known about how to proceed
and everything was new. I would like to expand on your note and make
some small corrections for the sake of accuracy.
I did my early work in a room provided for me by Dick Carty in his
shop, which was located on Imperial Highway in El Segundo, just across
the highway from Los Angeles International Airport. I remember that
from the building we had an excellent view of the first Concorde
landing in Los Angeles [Oct. 23, 1974].
On Joe Feenstra's web site at http://www.jfeenstra.com/Carty3.html
there is a photograph of the entrance and also a photograph of the
room where I worked and the instrument I was working on at the time,
with Eubie Blake seated at the keyboard making a recording.
That instrument was built by the Gordon Laughead Piano Company of
Grand Haven, Michigan, now out of business. I equipped it with 88
Ledex tubular solenoids, one per note, each 1" diameter by 2" long.
This was in the pre-microprocessor days, so the electronics was
composed entirely of hardwired 7400-series TTL logic. It was an
open-loop system, with no feedback. Data was recorded on a TEAC
A-3300S stereo tape deck with a tape speed of 15 ips.
Although that first piano recorded and played well, I never
completed it. Before it was done I was commissioned by J. B.
Nethercutt of Merle Norman Cosmetics to build a record-play mechanism
into a Steinway D instrument for his musical instrument collection.
I started work in late 1975. It took me 2-1/2 years to complete,
with delivery in mid-1978. It was the first player piano to use
feedback [velocity feedback to the solenoid] and the first to be
software driven. It used an 8080A microprocessor running at 2.048 MHz.
Shortly after that I began work on the third generation of electronic
player pianos. I subsequently worked with Bösendorfer and later with
Yamaha, but the earliest days were the best.
Wayne Stahnke - Live Performance