Monday, July 25, 2011

Betamax, Dvorak, and Leblanc Rationale

Lots of folk remember how Sony Betamax was a superior format to the VHS which won out in the video tape wars of the ‘70's and ‘80's.  The first Betamax tapes would only go for an hour, and by the time this was improved, they were history.  Everyone else decided to sell on VHS early on, so some of us never even saw Betamax.

I had an Apple Iic computer that had a switch to allow the user to type with the Dvorak system, designed in 1936 to improve the QUERTY keyboard we all know and don’t love.  The “simplified keyboard” placed the most used letters where they were easiest to access.  The old QUERTY keyboard was designed to place letters away from where they might easily be used.  This was because early typewriters were big, heavy, slow, klunky mechanical things.  If you typed too fast you could beat the mechanism.  But if you used Dvorak, you could never type on a standard keyboard, and everyone still used and taught QUERTY.

“One hundred years after the invention of the saxophone, Messrs. Leon LeBlanc; Georges Leblanc;  and Charles Houvenaghel developed a unique instrument which offered viable solutions to problems which had plagued saxophonists since the very beginning. By using innovative key mechanisms and following the true Bohem theory of tone hole placement, they produced an instrument which is unsurpassed in technical facility and even voicing.  Unfortunately, this complex instrument did not gain wide market acceptance, and was withdrawn after a limited production run.” (– Steve Goodson, the Sax Gourmet, and designer of my weird Orpheos -- Also, there is a brief mention in The Devil's Horn, p. 183.)

Here is a pic of the Vito system alto that I owned.  I was intrigued because Johnny Hodges of the Ellington band (orchestra is more exact) played one.  It had a high F# played with the left pinky.  You can spot these horns because there are two extra tone holes, one below the right hand D key, not found on other saxes.  You could drop a half step while playing C,B,Bb,A,Ab or G by playing any key with the right hand.  Intonation was nearly perfect.  Vito had cork rather than screws and nuts for adjustments.  But it was RATIONAL.  Again, if you learn this system you can't play a standard sax, and no one is teaching the LeBlanc system.
Ooops.  My spouse is yelling at me -- Oh.  She is saying "Why do you write and talk about this stuff.  Nobody but you cares!"

Well, there is a message here.  Theology, economics, and political theory are enhanced by this lesson.  THAT WHICH IS RATIONAL, SENSIBLE, OR BETTER DOESN'T ALWAYS SUCCEED.  Think about it.  

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