Remembering Bob Moog, one year after the music world lost one of its great pioneers, CDM contributor James Grahame offers his own look back:
Bob Moog is legendary within the music industry, yet his products didn’t leap into the consumer mainstream like later digital offerings from companies like Casio and Yamaha. But — believe it or not — Moog Music products once stood on the edge of mass market success, available at every Radio Shack store in North America.
The Realistic Concertmate MG-1 was a low-cost analog synthesizer created by Moog Music for Radio Shack in the very early 1980s (although Bob Moog departed the company that bore his name in 1977). Its front panel was greatly simplified to suit the needs of a (perhaps imaginary) group of home synthesis hobbyists. This budget instrument included a 2 1/2 octave keyboard (without pitch or mod wheels), a single ASR envelope generator and a pair of thin-sounding analog oscillators, along with a classic 24 dB/Oct Moog filter. There was also a cheesy 10 voice ‘organ’ sound, if you wanted to let Aunt Thelma take it for a spin. The instrument offered a thoughtful audio pass-through that made it easy to connect a home stereo with stereo RCA phono plugs.
Sadly, the MG-1 didn’t have much of an impact and disappeared from Radio Shack’s 1982 catalog. I suspect this was partly because it pre-dated MIDI by several years (although it did offer CV/gate analog connectors). There was an enormous pool of technically inquisitive Radio Shack computer users who might have been interested in a computer-controlled synthesizer but who lacked the musical training to invest $399 in a stand-alone “traditional” keyboard instrument.
I still dream of a world where the MG-1 had sold millions of units. The impact of its tactile front panel in the hands of millions of eager Radio Shackers would have been immeasurable. As it was, many young synthesists were introduced to electronic music by affordable yet impossible to program digital instruments like the Casio CZ-101 and Yamaha DX100. Long live Bob and his analog legacy!