[quote=The Coupland was being developed until the sponsor ceased financial support, end of show. No one has ever reported seeing a working Coupland, the closest was a private demo in a hotel room near NAMM and the thing was dead on arrival with Rick Coupland tearing his hair out trying to get it working.[/quote]
I've seen the Coupland called vaporware enough times that I figured I should set the record straight. While the slick looking, performance oriented unit pictured in Vail's book may never have made it past the brochure stage, there were several working prototypes built, and I had the privilege of spending 3 months in a 16-track studio with one of them.
In the Fall of 1980, I was poking my nose into some dim and dusty corners of the music building at the University of Arizona in Tucson when I came across what was obviously a computer with a keyboard attached. Being an EE major with a CSC minor playing keyboards in a band by night, I immediately went to the department head and asked if I could play with it. I was told that the professor who had brought it to the University had left, taking with him all knowledge about the unit. They said that if I could get it to work I could have 6 hours / week in the studio with it for the rest of the semester.
The unit consisted of a card cage with 8 or 9 wire-wrapped cards (one with a TI-9900 processor on it), a dual 8" floppy, 25x80 CRT "dumb" terminal, an 88 key pressure sensitive keyboard, a stack of unlabeled floppy disks, and a one page xeroxed "instruction sheet". Amazingly enough, when I plugged it all together and turned it on, the floppy drive read light came on, so I started feeding it the disks from the pile until I found one that booted to a command menu. After a couple of very late nights it was actually making sounds.
The control software on those disks must have been in a very early state, because it was nothing at all like the brochure
The voice and the modulation waveforms were entered as mathematical functions of the form "sin(x)+cos(2*x)/2+sin(4*x)/4". You could get a square wave with round((sin(x)+1)/2), and with the mod function you could create sawtooth waves. There was no "filter" block, and no way (that I ever discovered) to use the ADSR to control any aspect of the voice besides amplitude.
Those limitations aside, though, it was a truly amazing synth for its day.
At the risk of being too long winded, I'll pass on a little history as well. One evening I took a girl I was dating into the studio. She saw the Coupland and told me that her father had showed her one just like it. It turned out that her father worked for Micor, knew Rick Coupland, and knew quite a bit of the history of the unit. He told me that there were 5 working prototypes: one at Arizona State University in Phoenix, the one I was working on, one that Rick had kept, and he didn't know what happened to the other two.
He also told me that Rick was very bitter over Micor pulling the funding for the project just as it was nearing completion. He said that when they pulled the funding, Rick quit Micor and took every shred of project documentation with him. Micor sued to get the documentation back, but Rick said that he had destroyed it, and no one could prove otherwise.
I asked if he could arrange for me to meet Rick, and he called a couple weeks later to say that Rick was not interested in talking to anyone about the project. Period.
I hope this sheds a little light into another dusty corner of electronic music history.
Dave Hamara (firstname.lastname@example.org)