System 2.7: The World’s First Sample Deck DJ Controller?

Phil Morse | Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 16 November, 2017

1917

System 2.7
System 2.7: What you get when you hack two old Hewlett-Packard monitors and some US Army-issue record players together.

Way back in 2003, there was an exhibition in Frankfurt that included the controller above, which was unearthed today by an eagle-eyed reader and which we had to show you. Apart from being a truly curious looking piece of gear (and “vintage” even for 2003), System 2.7’s mode of operation shows that loop recorders and sample decks were alive and kicking long before you might think.

How it worked

The left-hand deck let you record from any record into one of 24 letter-coded sample memories, with pitch adjustment of playback loops using the little arrows in the bottom of the screen. The right-hand unit let you play samples on a four-track sequencer, with the trigger frequency adjustable from one to eight times per loop via the symbols at the top of the screen, the volume adjustable using the lines at the bottom of the screen, and eight different preset drum patterns available to underpin your compositions.

System 2.7
How it appeared in the installation, complete with a pair of headphones for each deck and its own record collection.

It was made from two old workstation monitors from Hewlett Packard and some US Army record decks from Califone. The installation came complete with its own record collection consisting of classical orchestral works, commercial advertising record, and recordings of pioneers in electronics, right up to (of course, this is Germany) some techno and rock. Material, the installation artists said, which covered “varying degrees of coolness”. You were meant to walk up to it and sample bits of tunes into the loopers, adjusting pitch and frequency (yup, it had timestretching too).

This was, said the artists, in order to “turn an initially totally uninteractive, classical record collection in to a source of abstract material that can be introduced into new compositions without consideration of genre and origins.”

Anyway, we published it because we wanted to show you the pictures. Thanks to reader Richard Overall for unearthing it.

Do say: How forward-thinking in the way it questioned the essential idea of DJing in a post-copyright world!
Don’t say: Does it come with Serato DJ Intro?

Have you spotted any wacky takes on DJing or controllerism at art galleries or installations near you? Have you come up with any yourself? Tell us about them!

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