The Allen Computer Organ was one of the first commercial digital instruments, developed by Rockwell International (US military technology company) and built by the Allen Organ Co in 1971. The organ used an early form of digital sampling allowing the user to chose pre-set voices or edit and store sounds using an IBM style punch-card system.
The sound itself was generated from MOS (Metal Oxide Silicon) boards. Each MOS board contained 22 LSI (Large Scale Integration) circuit boards (miniaturised photo-etched silicon boards containing thousands of transistors – based on technology developed by Rockwell International for the NASA space missions of the early 70’s) giving a total of 48,000 transistors; unheard of power for the 1970’s.
6 thoughts on “The ‘Allen Computer Organ’, Ralph Deutsch – Allen Organ Co, USA, 1971”
Thanks for listing my website as a source. I assume some of your photos came from my site.
In your video, there is a some misinformation you may want to correct.
The reason the stop tabs go up and down in several time slots had nothing to do with the speed of reading information from memory. In fact, this was another clever invention in its own right. The idea was to reduce the power requirements in the console. The electromagnets that forced the tabs up and down were (and still are in moveable tab consoles) big power hogs. By phasing the action, they were able to reduce the instantaneous pulse power requirement and therefor reduce the amperage of the console power supply.
The “gyro” tab did not control a Leslie speaker – because Allen did not use Leslie speakers. Instead, they had their own rotating speaker design, which I think they called a “gyrophonic cabinet.” While a Leslie speaker had a fixed speaker cone and a baffle that spun in front of it, the Allen system placed a set of speakers on a large wooden disk which was rotated. You can tell if your organ still has the original gyrophonic system if you stand next to the speakers. You will hear a clicking sound which comes from commutator brushes that route the signals onto the rotating disk.
Our Parish Church has one of these Allen Card Readers and the speaker wires were cut during a Church renovation and the speakers were disposed of. I have a sound tech connecting a pair of vintage Alec Lansing speakers to it to see if it is playable.
Would you be able to give any advice on what may need to be replaced or upgraded to make the best of this instrument before we consider an upgrade? or who in the State of Michigan would best be able to service this instrument?
An excellent collection of data on electronic musical instruments from the earliest to recent. However, there is a hole in your listings from 1939 through 1971: it was during this period that Jerome Markowitz pioneered the individually-tunable oscillator; initially with tubes and later with transistors. A minimal model had 96 oscillators with larger models adding ranks of oscillators as pipe organs add pipes. Allen’s 1971 introduction of digital was late in their history with analog oscillator organs already around the globe.
I belong to a church that owns an Allen Digital Computer Organ. The instrument is in good working order but is seldom used and the church is considering the possibility of reclaiming the space devoted to the instrument and the gyrophonic speakers. Are there any collectors, museums or dealers that might be interested in an organ of this make and vintage?
Hello – I really enjoy your site. I have a The ‘Allen Computer Organ’, Ralph Deutsch – Allen Organ Co, USA, 1971 that i purchased when it was Sold after being a Delta State University for years. I believe the speakers are Leslie Speaker but not sure. If I send a picture of them, would be tell me what brand they are. I have looked for something visually similar online (speaker-wise) but can’t find them. How could I send you a picture of them to you. I have noticed the speaker are quite expensive in price these days even without the organ. Do you have an email that I could send pictures of the speakers. Thank you for your time. Regards – Ed
Our parish has an Allen Digital Computer organ. We are having a problem with the starting switch. Do you have knowledge of a repair service that we could have come and repair it for us. Thank you.