some history

some history

My video hardware development work for the Experimental Television Center, and for Design Lab, included a contribution in building the last generation of custom Jones analog and digital image and sound synthesizers currently installed at the Television Center. I also have constructed various audio and video synths including a unique modular Jones video synthesizer.

While an undergraduate at Binghamton University, I had worked with Richard Brewster, learning circuit design and construction and building my first audio synth intended also as a control and image source for the Hearn Videolab on campus. Though Rich and I had met at the Experimental TV Center, where Brewster was working building video and audio hardware with David Jones, Richard had left the Center some years before and was back at Binghamton studying philosophy and playing bass and synthesizer with his new band. Two years earlier when working at the ETC, Rich played bass with the Flux with David Linton and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth fame. Richard had been responsible for building a great deal of the ETC’s first generation of Jones/Brewster video synthesizers and ETC’s dual yellow box analog synthesizer. My first analog synth was built with designs taken from Bernie Hutchins’ Electronotes and The Preferred Circuit collections, as well as modules based on Curtis Music chips, and circuits designed by Brewster.

I studied video and cinema with Ralph Hocking and upon graduating was invited by David Jones to participate in a weekly meeting of video synthesizer construction. It was called the Tuesday afternoon club. Peer Bode, Barbara Buckner, Mimi Martin, Neil Zusman and I would gather at Jones’ house in Barton NY. Circuits were hand wired in David's Lab. All were Jones designs and the work was generally limited to video synths. Jones had many ideas and was not able to prototype them all fast enough. The group became the prototypers and built their systems in the process (unfortunately sometimes the prototypes did not always turn out to be as good as the final published designs). Each person was given the choice of what they wanted to build, and Jones was responsive to creating personal modifications for each system to meet the personal needs of the builder. Peer built a prototype of the Jones frame buffer. Zusman was working on a modular synth and completed a sync repositioner that turned a Sony AVC 3400 black and white camera into a wobulator. Mimi Martin was working on a colorizer. I completed a modular Jones video synthesizer that became the core of my system. David would write schematics on notebook paper, give pointers on construction and test each circuit or circuit element upon completion. Mostly David would build and draft while others constructed circuits around him. After some time I began constructing synths for the ETC, Design Lab, and for Ralph Hocking.

Later I participated in the four board project which was funded by a NYSCA grant and whose goal was to build four circuit boards, based on David Jones designs, considered basic building blocks for personal video systems. The four circuit boards were a keyer, a sequencer, a colorizer, and a high frequency lockable video oscillator. Though each circuit design benefited from the prototyping that had been taking place at David’s house, each printed design was significantly different from what came before. The grant also included building these same modules for the ETC. I taped-up the circuit boards for photo-processing (this was before CAD was readily accessible) and built the current Jones colorizer, the dual keyer/ sequencer, and the Jones Oscilator bank which are installed at the ETC (the oscillator bank had been started a year or so before and some of the circuit boards were hand wired by Neil Zusman and others).

I also built the ETC routing switcher and the Jones Frame buffer. The frame buffer project was also funded by NYSCA and included the construction of four buffers. I built all four as well as one for myself. The first four buffers were later upgraded and transferred from surplus racks, so often used in ETC construction, to a more contemporary, roomier and cleaner package by David himself. I also repaired and modified existing ETC synths as was needed. Printing circuit boards had allowed the development of hardware at the ETC to accelerate, but the wiring of the boxes still took a great deal of time. As the Jones synthesizers had more second level control than any other video synths they also took the most time to wire. In designing a synthesizer this is one of the parameters to consider as many circuit boards have been built which have never made it to being wired into a case.

My own video system had evolved during this period. I left Owego in 1985 with a system that included a multi-module video synthesizer, a frame buffer, and three racks of audio synth modules designed for music, control and image sourcing.