fairlight

qasar

»  article : Computer Music Journal - Fall 1978

The Fairlight CMI was based on the architecture of the Qasar M8 (Multimode 8), created by Tony Furse in 1975.

In the early 70's, Tony Furse created his first prototype of hybrid analog/digital synthesizer, the Qasar I.

Qasar I
Qasar I - photo : Tony Furse


In 1972-1973, Furse created his second prototype, the Qasar II, with the financial help of both the Federal Government of Australia and Don Banks, composer and director of the Canberra School of Electronic Music.
Qasar II
Tony Furse
with the Qasar II
photo : Tony Furse
Qasar II
Qasar II
photo : Tony Furse
 
Qasar II
Qasar II
photo : Tony Furse
 
Qasar II
Qasar II
photo from the site Switched On
 

 

In 1975, Furse invented his first fully digital, bi-processor synthesizer : the Qasar M8 (Multimode 8).

»  Features of the Qasar M8 prototype (thanks to Tony Furse)

Qasar M8
Qasar M8
photo from the site Switched On

Qasar M8
Tony Furse with the M8
photo from the Peter Vogel's site

Qasar M8
Bruce Williams with the M8
photo from thePeter Vogel's site
M8 technical features
  • dual 8-bit 1 Mhz Motorola 6800 processors
  • 8  20 cm square channel cards : 8 voices of polyphony
  • wire-wrapped boards - no printed circuit board
  • 1 bit digital to analog converters (DAC)
  • 4 Kb shared RAM with the system and the 8 channel cards.
  • two 8" floppy disks
  • 4 octave keyboard
  • monochrome graphics monitor
  • lightpen
  • additive synthesis with FFT (Fast Fourier Transform)
  • sequencer
  • music notation software
  • dimensions (cm) W x H x D : 100,5 x 44,5 x 46,5


Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie were also working on the conception of a fully digital synthesizer. When they met Tony Furse, they were impressed by the M8, and decided to buy a licence from Furse, in order to use the conception of his machine.

Although its features and functions were quite impressive for the time, the M8 was a bulky machine, with a poor sound quality, and a design made for research workers, and not musicians, which made it hard to handle.

The first task of Vogel and Ryrie was to reduce the size of the machine, and to improve the general concept while keeping the functions of the M8. The components were not cabled anymore ; they were soldered to printed circuit boards. The keyboard changed from 4 to 6 octaves, with a better quality of the touch. The operating system, called QDOS (Qasar DOS) was an adaptation of MDOS (Motorola DOS) with a full implementation of the lightpen for most of the functionalities (browsing, editing, drawing a waveform...). This prototype, which was produced by Fairlight in 1976, was simply named Qasar ; it would later serve as a basis for Fairlight series I and II. The sampling function was added in 1978.


Fairlight Qasar - photo from the Peter Vogel's site