Saturday, June 02, 2007



I've an article in the new issue of The Believer about the rise and fall of the Birotron, a 1970s keyboard made from 8-track car stereos:

Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman sunk a pile of money into it manufacturing it, and it actually shows up in a hit single, 1978's "Don't Kill the Whale." The Birotron's now probably the rarest rock instrument ever -- you can count the surviving units on your fingers.

I've been mulling this article for a really long time -- at one point, back in 2000, I mentioned it to Dave Eggers for McSweeney's #5. (We went with my piece on Solresol instead.) Since then I tracked down inventor Dave Biro, who was kind enough to send me the above photo. (That's him with his prototype.)

What does a bunch of 8-track tapes crammed into a keyboard look like? On the production model, something like this:

And from the front, here is what The Future looked like in 1977:

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