Want a music synthesizer but short on cash? Did you know you can get one for very little (< $50) or perhaps even free? Read on and see how...
Step 1: The Secret
OK you knew there was a catch - you aren't getting an Oberheim, Arp or Moog for cheap here. But you do get a lot, especially if you need parts, like to experiment or want to relive a bygone era of cheesy middle-class entertainment and analog sounds.
The secret is: look for synthesizers called "home organs."
Home organs were popular in the West during the post-WWII era up to the early 1980s. You know, back before the internet and cell phones, when people did social things together for entertainment - like playing music, or at least that was the idea sold at the time.
Anyhow, with the advent of modern forms of electronic entertainment and the collapse of the western middle class, home organs have plummeted in value. What was once (vastly overpriced) thousands of dollars is now essentially worthless. No "normal" person wants these things. However, they are excellent as a source of parts, for hacking and many of them are still pretty good at making music.
Pictured below are two good examples of what you can easily find for next to nothing or free. On the left we have a Lowrey Holiday H-100 from 1977 and on the right a Viscount F20 from about 1979. These are both squarewave, top-divider synths built with TTL waveform generating logic and analog filtering. More on that in the next parts.