Mark this day. April 17th, 2012. These are the Good Old Days.
I intentionally sortof ripped off a lyrical passage of a well known 70's song there. But it cannot be denied. This time we live in, this era, this total renaissance of audio electronics .. it truly is The Golden Age of Audio Electronics. Never before has there been a time such as now. When I first started playing music in the mid 1970s, if you wanted an FX pedal, you had Boss, MXR, and Ibanez for the most part. If they didn't have it, it just wasn't to be had. Oh sure, there were little shops with "that cat in the back" that could build you a fuzz, or perhaps a small A/B box .. his soldering pen sharing space with his bong on the bench. But if that shop didn't buy an advert in the back of Guitar Player magazine or Contemporary Keyboard magazine the only people that even knew about "that guy in back" were the select few customers that the store manager would tell about the exisitence of.
The times, thay have changed. There is no doubt. Whatever it is you are looking for, you most likely have access to it.
I think this is due to a couple of things .. the present global economic state and the internet. People looking for jobs that just aren't out there have pushed many folks into taking their *hobbies* into far more serious levels of undertaking.
ECONOMY: Someone who used to casually build an amplifier, or guitar pedal, or synthesizer module, or a guitar, or a speaker cabinet has been sortof ~forced~ to start actually doing it for a living. The Darwinian nature of capitalism has weeded out those that cannot keep up, those that don't take it seriously enough, or those that plain old just ain't smart 'nuff to get it all done .. are quite literally competed clean off the playing field. Those that are left are the pick of the litter.
INTERNET: I gotta thank (blame?) the forums for this part. The amount of information available to someone with the brains, ambition, and personal courage it takes to actually employ themselves in some sortof entrepreneurial endeavor is staggering! The advent of ever-easier access to the 24/7 "convenience store" that is the internet has opened countless avenenues of approach to an ever growing database of information. The human drive to draw attention to ourselves simply feeds this fire with bucketloads of gasoline. Someone creates something they wish to *show off* and it gets posted on some video forum (You Tube) or some topically specific forum. Those forums, wow. Talk about a exponentially growing set of encyclopedia!
The forums also provide this highly focused and extremely tight feedback loop between user and builder. Nearly instantaneous response from customers that voice (quite loudly at times) their approval or disapproval of just about anything that just about any manufacturer of a given device or product creates has provided this sortof wireless connection between entrepreneur and consumer. That in itself makes for a very accellerated Darwinian affect to take hold. A car company can put out a commercial on TV hinting of some new car or gadget, and in seconds The Almighty Twitter will respond with comments. Said car builder can then respond in their marketing division with changes drawn up for the engineering department to make to the new car differently than first planned ... months before the car even hits the dealers! The "call and response" between manufacturer and consumer is nearly realtime!
It all adds up to this Golden Era of product development.
This whole ethos has done well to create the absolute Golden Age of music related gear. There has NEVER been a time like this. For someone wanting a guitar pedal, guitar, synthesizer, amplifier, (on and on) the nearly unreal number of choices the buyer has is simply headnumbing. And most of what is offered is really good shyte!!
I am a perfect example .. call me "benefactor" or perhaps "victim" of all of the above cause and effect. I had a brick and mortar industrial repair shop for fifteen years. We represented around 42 different manufacturers of industrial equipment as the authorized repair, warranty, and installation center. Equipment such as power tools, auxiliary generators, RV generators, welding equipment of all types, even automotive battery chargers and hydrualic equipment. Manufacturers such as Onan, Black and Decker/DeWalt, Makita, Miller Elctric, Lincoln Electric, Generac, Snap On Tool, Mac Tool, Porter Cable, Victor Equipment. The list was crazy. Well, I got injured sometime around 2005 or so helping someone when not at work. I put myself in a position to protect someone from physical harm at the expense of my own well being, and I lost. I do not qualify for any governmental financial assistance, there's no Workman's Compensation claim here, and no Military involvement that my injury can be attributed too. So it turns out that I'm just plain old permanently disabled with an inoperable spinal injury that causes intolerable chronic pain. I'm uninsured as well. So ... Farndurk to the rescue. Building custom audio gear started out as a hobby, and in 2007 I began to toy with the idea of perhaps doing it for a living.
My spinal condition continued to deteriorate until around 2008 when I finally gave-in to the fact that I was no longer able to do the work required to continue to own and operate our industrial repair business. So I decided to make the jump and bring Farndurk online with a website, and begin building up that buisness to be able to feed my family. By 2009 I had the confidence to sell the industrial repair business and go full-time at the custom audio electronics bench. My hand literally trembled when I clicked on the last detail that launched the Farndurk website and presented us to the world. The comittment began, ready or not!
That where the magic that is the internet came into play. I was forced to learn so frelling much about audio electronics and the sortof ~science~ behind it all at a simply crazy accellerated rate, while simultaneously producing worthwhile audio gear. The pace was insane! 20 hour days ... literally falling sleep at my workbench with a powered-up soldering pen in my hands! Every skill that I had learned during the entirety of my life up to that point was put to use to develope original products that weren't simply "me too" offerings. My metalworking skills and attention to detail were my greatest assets, and I exploited the hell out of every single gram of previous experience and skill. The bills in the mailbox being my main motivator.
Had it not been for the forums, and other little tiny operations that build pedal kits (which is what ended up being like "electronics 101" for me) and the plethora of information available I would have NEVER been able to pull it off. You kiddin me? What book are you going to find at the public library that has the enormous amount of experience and knowledge willingly shared by the internet user community? I would literally be on a streetcorner holding up some pathetic sign begging for pennies had it not been for the Big Three:
- Personal Courage.
- Availability of information (the forums and internet in general).
I am no hyper-educated person, hell I just barely graduated from a rural high school with a D- grade average (severe homelife problems the cause, for the most part .. as well as a horrible case of "couldn't give a fek about school" on my part, combined with parents that taught me absolutely zip). My physical limitations had to be overcome as well, that is a daily struggle for me and a hurdle I must jump at every turn. Sometimes the meds I take every single day of my life seem to cause more problems than they cure. But I have learned to adapt. I learned to be an adaptor as I was growing up, if there is one thing that I absolutely know .. as an absolute fact .. is that the only thing constant is change itself. If you wish to survive you must learn to adapt to changes.
I'd bet money that my story is a lot like many others out there ... hence .. This Golden Age.
Perhaps millions of people worldwide have similar stories. They have all had these same tools available to them that I have. The consequence is this golden era of guitar pedals, guitars, amps, synthesizer development, and just about anything the "cottages" of the world can learn to produce.
The Doombringers: Steely blades in silken sheaths.
The rancid smell of money has alerted the sharks. This flood of cottage industry entrepreneurialism has the Big Giant Corporations watching us very very closely. You now see big companies providing products that have the same innovations that the little internet-based manufacturer originally produced. At times, even adopting the same *look and feel* of handmade gear. The big corps have taken notice of our ways of marketing (You Tube, forums, etc..) as well as the actual products themselves, and are attempting to grab-up as much as they can. In the process, they will create completely homogenized mass produced CRAP that will be fat with mainstream appeal. The song "Video killed the radio star" has some very relevant meaning here. What will kill this Golden Era is the participation of the Big Giant Corporations. In the same way they kill everything that is original and genuine, they will milk this to death and corrupt the genuine reality, just the same way that record labels force new and genuine artist to "fit the mold" until their music is just more mainstream shit. Once the A&R guys creep in and contaminate the efforts of the genuinely original electronics builders and designers in the name of "helping some small company make it big" it's all over. Listen to Pink Floyd's song "Have a cigar" for some serious truth, the situation could not be explained any better.
Live in the moment, bask in the warm glow of The Now.
As it stands you will remember this era as something highly precious. So take it all in, folks. Take full advantage of the insanely cool products and efforts of little tiny folks working their everlovin' asses off just trying to feed their families. These times never last forever. And someday, you will find yourself saying that "back in the day, you could buy nearly any kind of phase shifter you could imagine just by doing something called *running a search* on a thing called a personal computer! It's no lie .. I was there!"
Never Quit .... Die Falling Forward.