Fairlight Week: Pt 3: "I bought a Fairlight"

Only 50 Fairlights were ever sold in Britain. My friend Mikey bought one in 1984. You can't imagine how excited I was when he let that slip one afternoon in the pub. Anyway, over to him…
"5 things that made it great to own a Fairlight: Page R: The simple built-in sequencer had novice Fairlight owners creating gawky funkless Thomas Dolby within minutes. The inflexibility of the interface had them creating uncannily similar funkless Thomas Dolby tracks up to two years later.
The light pen: No fiddling with mouse or keyboard, just point at something on screen and it’s selected. Cool!
Waveform drawing: Everything you drew sounded like a door buzzer, but it was a waveform, and you drew it. Art directors of William Gibson adaptations throughout Hollywood took note.
The giant floppy disks: They were huge. They made you feel like a mad scientist. They were surprisingly hard to lose.
The Household Name Factor. Even people that know almost nothing about music technology are impressed if you've got one.

5 things that made me feel stupid for buying a Fairlight: Resale value: I bought mine in 1984 for £23,000. I sold it, in 1986 for £7,000. I used that seven grand to buy an Atari 1040ST and a Roland S550 that outperformed the Fairlight in every way, and I had enough left over to pay the VAT man.
The Weight: It was huge. The two keyboards weighed enough on their own, and you only ever used one really. Then there was the unbearably primitive CRT that threw out evil radiation that heated your fillings up, and that’s before you faced the sheer Neolithic bulk of the CPU. Like an oceangoing fridge-freezer. For dwarfs.
All the stuff you’d paid for, but didn’t understand: The main sequencer page, the synthesis pages – who the hell understood them? And how much less would it have cost if they’d left them off?
The Sampling: The first sound sampled into a Fairlight was a dog bark. Apparently so were all the others. Everything that went in came out sounding more-or-less like a dog bark. Or more accurately, a grainy 8-bit sample of a dog bark.
Mockery from Atari owners: People with a 520ST, an Akai S900, and a cracked copy of Cubase could run rings round us Fairlight owners more-or-less weeks after we’d shelled out the price of a cottage in the provinces on our electronic wonder-boxes. And they weren’t quiet about it.
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Fairlight programmer John "Page R" Reekie went on to work in UCBerkeley on the TCL and Ptolomy visual programming environments for DSP. (Got his doctorate, and now sometimes teaches at University of Technology Sydney.)
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