A Swedish company called Teenage Engineering has developed a fantastic series of small, calculator-like synthesizers and rhythm machines called Pocket Operators. These are terrific little toys that you can take anywhere and get jamming. They use two AAA batteries each, have a built-in internal speaker, a whimsically designed LCD screen that really calls to mind the Nintendo Game and Watch systems or Tiger handheld LCD games from the 80s, and 23 buttons and two encoder knobs for creating 16-step musical sequences. Add to that built-in effects, sequence-able parameters, and a sync pulse in/out that allows you to chain multiple units together or sync with other similar gear, and you can imagine the fun that can be had.
There are now nine in total, of which I currently have the first two series of three each, for a total of six units in my collection:
- Series 1:
- PO-12 Rhythm – A drum machine with monophonic bass and synth
- PO-14 Sub – A monophonic bass synthesizer with basic rhythm sequencer
- PO-16 Factory – Polyphonic synth with various modes of synthesis and a basic rhythm sequencer
- Series 2:
- PO-20 Arcade – The most feature-packed of the bunch, with cool 8-bit square wave synth effects, melodies, noise rhythms, and sequenced chord pumps
- PO-24 Office – The most odd of the bunch, combining samples of outmoded office equipment with synthesized effects.
- PO-28 Robot – A playable monophonic synth with melody and rhythm sequencing, plus a few other nice touches
So what? Well, in my hoarding of fun, affordable hardware like these units, I have lately been feeling the need to justify their existence with something a little more lasting than a private evening jam session. To that end, I have decided to create an EP of lyrical songs made on each solitary Pocket Operator. I haven’t determined any other ground rules for the project, but I’m toying with the idea of no external effects on one and only one contiguously-played performance from the Pocket Operator + vocals.
Sound fun? Keep it right here, and wish me luck!