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Off Topic: The pure pleasure of a classic Casio

Tone it up.

Some people covet vintage Gibson guitars, pristine Roland drum machines or an original Fender amp handwired by Leo himself, but I've spent the past 18 months researching and collecting humble Casio keyboards - partly because they're actually affordable, but mostly because they're downright awesome.

There's a parallel, I'm sure, with one of my favourite video game companies somewhere in there. Toshio Kashio, a younger brother in the family behind one of Japan's most famous exports, repurposed the calculators he'd built to accommodate his amateur musicianship, making it possible to play simple melodies on them before they eventually blossomed into full-sized keyboards, just as Gunpei Yokoi once took those LCD displays and repurposed them for something more playful.

Casio, though, always seemed to embrace a more egalitarian, open-armed philosophy that's hard-wired into its hardware - indeed, it's the foundation of their success, the ubiquity of their keyboards making them an understated yet phenomenally important part of modern music history. You've heard the distinctive pre-set beat of the as it opens up The Fall's 'The Man Whose Head Expanded' before being sneerily dismissed by Mark E Smith, but the Casio sound goes beyond those tinny beeps - the insistent 'Sleng Teng' rhythm that Wayne Smith discovered as a preset on the MT40 that would go on to become a cornerstone of modern dancehall, while the scratchy sampling of the SK1 was an integral part of Portishead's early sound.

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About the Author
Martin Robinson avatar

Martin Robinson


Martin worked at Eurogamer from 2011 to 2023. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.