Electronic Home Keyboards

Some Small Home
      KeyboardsThese are just a few random details of the keyboards and other electronic musical toys I've accumulated over the years, which should hopefully prove useful to others who enjoy the sounds produced by these old electronic instruments.

I'm mainly interested in the 1980s and early 1990s keyboards; these old keyboards all had their own unique sounds. Instruments made from around the mid 1990s onwards tended to employ very similar synthesis techniques to one another, making them all sound almost identical, particularly when sample-based synthesis became common.

Casio and Yamaha have consistently led the market for these small, home keyboards, and this remains the case today.

If you have any comments, corrections or suggestions, please don't hesitate to drop me a line.

This site was last updated 13th May 2013.

Casio ROM Packs, Yamaha Playcards and Other Keyboard Media

I am particularly interested in the Casio ROM Pack and Yamaha Playcard systems. These were roughly contemporary, presumably competing, systems for storing pre-recorded music information, for playback on home keyboards. Both systems also have 'training' modes which teach you how to play the music stored on the media, and both work in very similar ways, generally using small LEDs above each key to show you which key to play next.

The earliest Casio ROM Packs I have seen are dated 1983, while the earliest Yamaha Playcards are dated 1982. This suggests that Yamaha were first to market with their system, but I am not sure about this - please let me know if you know who was first and can prove it!

There are also some notes on Other Keyboard Media - if you know of any formats I've left out, please let me know

Casio Keyboards

Yamaha Keyboards

VTech (Saisho) Keyboards

VTech (or Video Technology) are now chiefly known for making educational electronic toys, but did once make a range of home keyboards - the "Rhythmic" series. In the United Kingdom, these were sold in Dixons shops, and were rebadged as Saisho - an own-brand of the Dixons chain. 
Thanks to Johanes Emmanuelli for enlightening me as to the true heritage of these keyboards!

Bontempi Keyboards

During the 1970s, before the electronic home keyboard revolution of the early 1980s, Bontempi were synonymous with cheap, plastic reed organs, driven by electric fans. When the likes of Casio and Yamaha began selling competitively-priced electronic keyboards, Bontempi also had to diversify and started offering their own range of electronic keyboards, though they did continue to make reed organs in parallel well into the 1980s. The company still makes a range of very cheap musical toys, including some toy keyboards, but some of their 1980s and 1990s keyboards were actually quite good, albeit cheaply made. While doing research for this page, I was surprised to discover that Bontempi also own the Farfisa brand (historically a relatively highly-regarded professional instrument brand) under which they now sell their "serious" non-toy instruments.

Other Keyboards

Cheap Toy Keyboards

User Manuals

User Manuals for most Yamaha keyboards are available from the Yamaha Manual Library.

Manuals for the Casio SK series of Sampling keyboards can be found at the Casio SK Series Keyboards site.

Here are some Casio manuals that I have not been able to find elsewhere:

Lots of other Casio manuals are available from gen.error's Casio Keyboard Manuals page

(Note that Casio manuals are usually bi-lingual, containing English and Spanish sections. Only the English parts of the manuals are included in the above PDF files, which explains the "missing" page numbers.)

I also have an Instruction Manual for the Saisho PRO.SYNTH.

Service Manuals / Technical Documents

Circuit Bending

Sorry, I'm not really interested circuit bending; I like the keyboards in their original unadulterated form.

If you're looking for an excellent detailed keyboard site with more of a circuit bending bent, try WarrantyVoid.