HISTORY TIME oh yea searchers for facts and stories-worth-telling-down-the-pub. For your delectation we shall now unfold, in a few short words, the development of the effects unit. Prepare to be faxed.
1961 - the seas depart, the magma cools and Watkins Electric Music (WEM) produce the first tape-echo unit, though some say this Copicat appeared in prototype form as early as 1954.
1964 - footswitch type effects materialise with Gary Hurst designing the Tonebender, a crude fuzz box costing you £14.14s and offering controls for attack and level; could be responsible for the first recorded appearance of fuzzed guitar by (J. Page) on P J Proby's "Together" or (J Beck) on the Yardbird's "Heart Full of Soul".
1965 - new fuzz boxes from WEM (the Pep Box) and Vox plus an unusual echo device from Soundimension which features a rotating drum coated with a metallic oxide.
1966 - the Fuzz Face is introduced (J Hendrix gets one) and the Cry Baby blubbers in its cradle - the first and longest surviving wah-wah pedal.
1967 - phasing developed by engineers at Olympic Studios in London experimenting with two tape recorders running at different speeds. It's used on the Small Faces "Itchycoo Park" but technology needs another seven years to do the same thing in a box with batteries.
1970 - effects go gobby. Several companies introduce Voice Bags where the amplified signal is piped into the player's mouth by a tube to bounce of his tonsils and make strange sounds. Messy.
1972 - Coloursound begin to dominate the UK and innovate with the Octivider and Ring Modulator.
1979 - lots of effects in one place with the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli which puts slider controls and bits on a stand under the guitarist's hand. It cost £280, it coughs, and it crashes.
1974 - phasing makes it small in the Phase 90 from New York company MXR selling for around £75 (an unnamed Making Music writer had one apart and built it for a tenner).
1975 - Electro Harmonix enter the race (they left, broke, a couple of years ago). They produce the popular Small Stone phaser and possibly the world's first portable amp, the Freedom, depending on whether 40 (forty) U2 batteries qualify as portable. Roland launch the Space Echo, and it runs and runs and runs.
1976 - we begin to see greater miniaturisation in the six and ten band graphics of MXR, plus their analogue delay, the first delay effects pedal. Great year for firsts as Electro Harmonix make it with their Flanger, the Electric Mistress. The circuit diagram is dated 25/10/76 with Michael Abrahams taking the credit. And we witness the appearance of perhaps the most popular name in effects pedals, even up to today - Boss - and across its smiling face are scrawled the words CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. Take it from here, effectors.
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