DJ Controller, Meet Your Great Granddad

DJ Controller precursor, the Chronophone

The precursor to turntables, mixers and the DJ controller- the Chronophone

The DJ controller may be the current tool of choice for those looking to rock the party, but it has ancestors who have been doing the same thing for decades. Clearly, the vinyl turntable is the most obvious of these. It is the turntable that we have to thank for what has become accepted as a ‘standard’ DJ configuration. That is, two (or more) turntables connected via a mixer.

It is often thought that UK DJ, Jimmy Saville, was the first person to be connect two turntables in this way, such that one record could be cued whilst the other was playing, for a performance with no gaps. The Chronophone, which was revealed in 1910 by Frenchman Leon Gaumont, casts doubts on that theory however. Well, sort of…

Compressed air amplifier

The Chronophone looks like a mutant, steam-punk gramophone. In reality, it was a very ingenious solution to a problem that hampered the development of films with synchronized sound. The sound for films of the time was delivered by a gramophone, which limited the maximum length of time that movies could be to the length of a gramophone platter.

Chronophone

The Chronophone got around this by having two platters, connected via what could be called the world’s first crossfader. This was used to allow the operator to switch between one gramophone and the other, thus increasing the length of a film to however long its creator requires.

Chronophone

The Chronophone used a neat system of air pressure valves to drive the turntables. A single motor was employed, but an air hose with valves for each platter allowed a switching system to direct power to the one that was to be played, thus ‘cross-fading’ between them. The first DJ controller? Perhaps…

Traktor Kontrol S4 MKII

The Chronograph may have a little more visual impact, but the modern DJ Controller is, well, a bit more portable and a bit more functional. Take the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4, for example. Full, 4-deck control with two touch sensitive platters, balanced outputs, and complete with Traktor Pro software. The S4 would fit in a backpack along with a laptop. Amazing stuff, but then it is 102 years younger…

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