This is an evolving timeline of the events in the Optigan’s short life. Basically I’m going to put here just about anything that has a date and seems remotely pertinent. Some of the individual details may be mundane, but when you add them all together you get a better overall picture of what was happening with the Optigan over specific periods of time. I’ll be adding more details as they surface (I’m trying to keep guesswork out of this, so there will be very little “probable” dates), and eventually I’ll turn the whole history into more of a formal historical article.
- 1968-70 hardware R&D, early music recordings made in Cologne, Germany.
- 6/8/70 Patent application: “Disc Drive”
- 11/2/70 Patent application: “Music Instrument with Variable Amplitude.”
- 12/10/70 Patent application: “Optical Disc Drive for Organ.”
- 12/11/70 Patent application: “Electronic Organ wherein Musical Sounds and a Tremolo Effect are provided by Electro-Optical Apparatus.”
- 1/11/71 Patent application: “Cabinet for Keyboard Instrument or the like.”
- 1/11/71 Patent application: “Keyboard for Musical Instrument or the like.”
- 1/12/71 Patent application: “Radiation Sensitive Readout Head with Circuit Board Construction.”
- 1/22/71 Patent application: “Organ Keyboard Switching System.”
- 1/27/71 The World Premiere Presentation of the Optigan in the Los Angeles Room of the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. Johnny Largo is brought onboard as Optigan’s Musical Director.
- 2/71 A short, exclusive article about the Optigan, written by organist Bill Irwin, appears in Modern Keyboard Review Magazine.
- 6/71 The Optigan is exhibited at NAMM in Chicago.
- 7/71 The Optigan is exhibited at CES in Chicago.
- 9/71 Johnny Largo gives presentations for a variety of magazine editors for the purpose of encouraging press about the Optigan.
- 9/22/71 Idea of Automatic Beat Counter system is proposed as a sheet music format to make Optigan’s music books easier to read by non-musicians.
- 10/5/71 Johnny Largo demonstrates the Optigan for the merchandising department of Montgomery Ward.
- 12/71 Promotional cassette of Christmas music played on the Optigan by Johnny Largo is recorded and distributed.
- 1/1/72 Johnny Largo plays the Optigan on the City of Compton float in the Pasadena Rose Parade.
- 1/20/72 Johnny Largo gives training seminar for Sears Music Schools instructors on how to teach their customers how to play the Optigan.
- 2/72 Johnny Largo gives a presentation for new Optigan owners at the first Sears Optigan Class.
- 3/7/72 Patent granted: “Electronic Organ wherein Musical Sounds and a Tremolo Effect are provided by Electro-Optical Apparatus.”
- 3/11/72 Johnny Largo demonstrates the Optigan for snowbunnies traveling on the Amtrak Snowball Special bound for Sun Valley.
- 4/18/72 Patent granted: “Music Instrument with Variable Amplitude.”
- 4/18/72 Patent granted: “Organ Keyboard Switching System.”
- 5/15/72 Results are tabulated from the musical preferences questionnaire issued with the “New Highlight 6″ packs. These results directly influenced future disc-making plans.
- 6/17/72 Optigan is exhibited at NAMM.
- 7/11/72 Patent granted: “Cabinet for Keyboard Instrument or the like.”
- 7/25/72 Patent granted: “Keyboard for Musical Instrument or the like.”
- 9/72 Optigan launches a highly visual point-of-purchase promotional display campaign, designed by the Selig J.Smith Company.
- 9/72 Optigan launches the largest TV ad campaign ever for a musical instrument, produced by Carson/Roberts. The 30 second “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” commercial ran for 10 weeks.
- 9/26/72 Patent granted: “Radiation Sensitive Readout Head with Circuit Board Construction.”
- 10/72 Optigan names Art Fromader Midwest Sales Manager.
- 11/72 Johnny Largo demonstrates the Optigan on the “Newsday” show on KBFI-TV in Dallas, Texas.
- 11/72 Optigan enters the holiday season by releasing the “Joyous Sounds Of Christmas” Folio.
- 11/72 The Optigan “1972 Total Merchandising Program” wins the Best-Of-Class award at the Point-Of-Purchase Annual Merchandising Awards Contest.
- 11/72 A national newspaper article/ad campaign is run to advertise the Optigan for the holiday season.
- 1/13/73 The Optigan is demonstrated at the IHE (Independent Home Entertainment) Show at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago.
- 2/5/73 Mattel announces its plans to dispose of the Optigan subsidiary, citing “disappointing operating results.”
- 3/1/73 Mike LeDoux announces near-completion of the “Country” Style-Pak and Entertainment Folio #3. Both of these products would not be released until after the Mattel/Miner switchover. Also, plans for generating a “Beatles” Style-Pak as well as a “50′s Rock” Style-Pak are announced. Both of these projects never got off the ground.
- 3/13/73 Patent granted: “Disc Drive.”
- 4/73 By this point, Roy Chilton has formed a business partnership with General Electro Music (the American wing of Galanti). Roy forms the Chilton Corporation to develop the Chilton Talentmaker (an improved version of the Optigan) to be produced by GEM.
- 4/3/73 Patent granted: “Optical Disc Drive for Organ.”
- 5/73 Full page ad for the Chilton Talentmaker appears in the Music Trades Magazine.
- 6/73 Chilton introduces the Talentmaker at NAMM.
- 6/8/73 Mattel sells Optigan to Miner Industries, which forms a new subsidiary called “Opsonar” to commence production. Mike LeDoux is the sole employee to remain with Optigan. Arrangements are made for his software lab to remain on the west coast, while the rest of the “factory” is moved to New Kensington, PA.
- 6/17/73 Opsonar issues public warning in the NAMM Daily to Chilton Corp. for possible Optigan patent violations in regard to the Chilton Talentmaker.
- 7/73 Optigan’s software division, headed by Mike LeDoux, is moved from the Compton plant to a vacant area inside the Circuit Drafting & Photography building (Optigan’s vendor for disc production).
- 12/73 Mattel announces $13 million in losses due to the Optigan.
- 3/74 Miner announces record sales and earnings for the past nine months, due in part to Opsonar.
- 6/5/74 Opsonar releases its newly revised Optigan merchandise price list.
- 12/74 The Optigan is demonstrated at CES in Chicago. Several prototype cabinet designs are displayed, including the “baby grand” and the “space age” models.
- 2/75 A possible merger is proposed between Chilton Corp. and Opsonar which would convert the existing Talentmakers into an “improved” version of the Optigan. (This merger never occurred.)
- 3/75 Mike LeDoux becomes increasingly entangled in Miner’s process of shutting down their ill-managed Magnus Organ subsidiary on the west coast. Mike’s involvement with this process signals the beginning of the end for Optigan.
- 6/17/75 Opsonar establishes a Disc Warranty Program, which is advertised on the Optigan dust jackets. Optigan owners could send in worn-out discs along with one dollar per disc to obtain brand new copies.
- 8/27/75 By this date, all existing Optigan discs have been produced, and software development effectively halts.
- 10/75 Optigan “Songs Of Praise” Style-Pak is released.