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Nostalgic Waves

Let's go back to the late 70s and early 80s, a time when electronic music emerged as a mainstream genre. Picture a small machine that encapsulates this period: the Casio VL-1 released in 1979 was an intriguing amalgamation of a pocket calculator and a monophonic synthesizer.

For me, the VL-1 symbolized a dream during my primary school days. Priced at approximately $70 (back then), this synthesizer was considered to be the most affordable synthesizer one can get, but in my parents' eyes, it was more like an expensive calculator and a luxury item for a child like me. I vividly recall the mixture of envy and fascination as I watched a few of my classmates play with their VL-1s. Its electronic tones, cheesy but nonetheless captivating, are my 'Proustian Madeleine' today, instantly transporting me back to a time of youthful innocence and wide-eyed wonder. The VL-1 was a symbol of the future, an example of how innovation could be both compact and (almost) within reach.

In this soundscape, the VL-1's nostalgic beeps and rhythms are interwoven with layers of (way more expensive) analog synths. They collectively recapture the essence of an era that was just starting to explore the realms of electronic sound.

Complementing the VL-1 in this auditory time capsule is another emblematic piece of technology, Texas Intruments' Speak and Spell released in 1983. This toy was my first encounter with computerized speech, a glimpse into a future where computers (and now mobile phones) could talk to us.

Reflecting on these technologies, I realize their subliminal influence on my journey. Years later, I found myself as a synthesizer sound designer at Roland, shaping the sounds of the 90s. My journey then led me to the Belgian Royal Military Academy, where I taught military students about speech processing and Linear Predictive Coding - the same technology used in the Speak and Spell, but originally developed for low-bitrate military communications. Witnessing their excitement in re-synthesizing their own speech during practical exercices, I remembered my own excitement when I first heard a computer speaking.

Let this soundscape take you on a journey down the memory lane and be a tribute to a simpler, yet innovative time in music history.

Published by Stéphane on February 5th, 2024

User Stories

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  I've been trying to study for a big exam for a few months now and it's hard to get my brain to focus, especially with some of my chatty and noisy roommates. But this, along with the Cave Water set to speech blocker locked me in for a solid 2 hour study session! More than I've been able to sit and do solo.

  Melts my working hour stress away. I do a little dance now and then, keeps my brain fresh.

  Didn't expect to like this one so much. Tapping my feet at work? That's good stuff!

  Simple but soothing for my ADHD brain.

  Sweet memories of my first Casio and Kraftwerk. - I'm the operator with my pocket calculator. - when pressing down a special key it plays a little melody. :)

  Despite me being born in the mid 2000’s, the Casio VL-1 sounds like something I’d want to get and play with. I would love to make music with this!

  It reminds me of CCC (Chaos Computer Club) event talks. While waiting for a talk to start, this kind of music is playing. Chiptunes!

  I guess we're of a similar age! Love this, I was also jealous of VL owners, and I can hear Kraftwerk in this too.

  This might be my favorite one so far! The nature sounds are wonderful for relaxing, but it's sounds like this that help me stay focused and working.

  This is great.

  I love these synths... It always brings a smile to my face that the first stem is the DA DA DA synth track.

  Wow, I love this! It reminds me of the "chiptune" sound that came into fashion in indie electronic music around ~2010 (of which I was and still am a fan).

  Born too late, I don’t have any nostalgic associations with these sounds, but still they make a really nice stimulation, so I groove a little while I work. Great! (And still wondering which song the initial beeping reminds me of.)

  I'm not a big fan of electronic music from 70s/80s, but I'm really a big fan of the story behind this Noise. So I decided to give it a chance, I chose Surprise and on the 3rd try of "suprise mix" I've unexpectedly discovered a mix I like and I'm listening already about 15 minutes :) Thank you for opening a new horizon for me.