Let’s get something straight: I am not a musician. I do have a small box of harmonicas that I used to enjoy playing when I could get somebody with a guitar to play with me, but it has been years since I got those out. I’m certainly not an electronic musician. But somehow, a couple of times a year for the past, say, 20 years, the Roland Users’ Group Magazine has found its way to my mailbox.
Way back in the day, before integrated sound chips right on the motherboard, Sound Blasters coming standard, having a sound card in one’s computer was a pretty big deal. In the late 1980s, I had myself an AdLib card, and hoo baby, did it ever make Wing Commander sweet, provided one was able to engineer a working CONFIG.SYS for it. I won’t get into a dissertation or anything here on the grand era of gaming in early VGA; it should be enough to let on that, as in the case of my possession of a Sega Master System, the AdLib card put me squarely on what would come to be the losing side of the battle for consumer and technological standards.1 By the early 1990s, AdLib was crushed by the Sound Blaster.
Continuing with my main story here, sometime long before I actually got the AdLib and placed it delicately (holding my breath) into the massive expansion slot of my sleek, sexy, 16mhz 386sx powerhouse, I must have sent away for information on sound cards from Roland. Known, apparently, to musicians for their array of sound equipment, Roland back then made PC sound cards—this was in like 1985. I’m sure that I did something innocent like fill out a card that came in the box with King’s Quest III.
Well, they never sent me information on sound cards, but they put me on what has become the most persistent mailing list I have ever known: The Roland Users’ Group. Enduring moves to college and home again, from Utah to Arizona and two more in-town moves since then, I have never escaped the attention of the Roland Users’ Group Magazine. Another issue was waiting for me when I got home this afternoon, promising to reveal the secrets of The Monsters of the MV-8000 and the Fantom Power of the Fantom-Xa Workstation. Inside the magazine, I am informed that the RC-20XL has sound-on-sound looping that will blow me away. Well, I’m certainly in no position to argue; my wedding photographer is the closest I’ve ever come to anything with the name Roland.
Magazines that I pay for haven’t kept up with me and Morgan Stanley thinks I have vanished from this earth, but RUG (as they call it) knows exactly where I am. I have to commend the persistence of whoever runs the mail room at Roland of America, but to tell you the truth, it’s a little creepy. Also, I feel like an imposter every time it comes, like I’m stealing from some real musician who’s just waiting for the big break that will come from incorporating the MV-8000 sequencer into their rig, or getting really good with the EXR-7.
1 Note that I still claim Phantasy Star to be superior to any of its contemporaries.