I have a strange obsession with Fairchild Industries. I bought another Fairchild 523 recently.
I flew to San Francisco in the summer of 2013 to pick up a 523, understanding it was a fixer-upper. You can see the overhead mechanism to that unit in the background of this photograph. (middle center) After seeing this complete unit, I realized there were many many crucial parts missing. So many parts were missing from the first one I bought, that out without this unit, I doubt I ever would have restored the original. Now that I have the original parts, I can have new gears machined. The only thing missing from this unit is a rubber shaft coupling which deteriorated over the years. Moving this thing solo was no joke...but it returned to NYC virtually unscathed. Technique: Straps, ropes, wheels, and come-along hand-powered winch. The interesting thing here, is that after 70 years, this unit just returned to its original home. These were manufactured in Jamaica, Queens, while it was operated in Manhattan. Now Bushwick, Brooklyn.
During transport, a dusty box fell out with a name and address on it. Hmmm, a clue. ! I am really into this type of thing...
After looking up who the original owners were, turns out I have quite a piece of history here. It belonged to Bebe and Louis Barron, a couple who lived in Manhattan in the 1950's. I Was stunned to discover who they actually were.
They had a recording studio called "Sound Portraits". It turns out they composed the soundtrack to "Forbidden Planet". The first all-electronic film soundtrack. Artists such as Raymond Scott and John Cage would have been working right around the block during this time period. It was the height of Manhattan Art Deco, the golden age of radio, and post-war prosperity. Manhattan has changed quite a bit since then... (no comment) Unfortunately, the musician's union would not recognize this as "music" and they were not given a lot of the credit they deserved as pioneers in this field.
Let's note that this was done without synthesizers. The team of louis and bebe was basically Louis creating all types of circuits which made the sounds, and Bebe as recording engineer. From what I know, the circuits would sometimes melt and smoke during operation, which created an all the more interesting effect. As long as Bebe was recording everything, they would manipulate the sounds later by reversing, effecting, and mixing the sounds to create this soundtrack.
I have never had such a nice lathe, let alone one which belonged to real figures from this era which I hold in such high regard. I discovered who Raymond Scott was after seeing this photograph...
First time I saw this photograph I thought, wow, cool studio! ... wait, WHAAAA...!!!?!?!
I noticed this lathe in the background, and I still have absolutely no idea which company made this thing. Could be some type of Presto 14-B which has been modified. Universal Microphone, perhaps? Either way, I discovered who Raymond Scott was through this photo and he has been a bit of an idol of mine since. Now to discover the Barrons in a much similar fashion...I guess I came to NYC for a reason.
Fairchild Aerial Camera Corporation, Aviation, and Recording are all technically defunct companies, But it still lives on as Fairchild Semiconductor. Which, as of time of wrieing this article, seems they have changed their name to ON Semiconductor. Not cool, guys. But it's OK, I have some things coming that will shake up the industry.