Category Archives: Synthesizer History Timeline

Synth History Timeline – Zeitleiste Synthesizer-Geschichte

the synthesizer was invented in / by.. who added and did what in electronic music history

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Synthesizer History Timeline



1 The First Synthesizer To…

and this one is helpful to sort it out…

1.1 Notes

If you are going to add to the list please use the same format and insert in chronological order.

1.2 The Synth List – Formating: Year – Manufacturer – Model – First at what..?

  • 1837 – C.G. Page (Salem. Mass) – first to produce electronically generated sound (not necessarily associated with a musical instrument). After inventing the Volta in 1800 (an early battery), in 1837 Page was doing experiments with coils and realized when certain coils were attached to a batter they omitted a ringing sound. While he initially thought the ring came from the electrical current was interrupted (battery disconnected), what was actually taking place was the induction through the coils was causing them to vibrate.
  • 1885 – Person and Ernst Lorenz – Elektrisches Musikinstrument – the 1st musical instrument designed to produce electrically generated sound. It used electronic vibrations to drive an electromagnet that were connected to resonating boards, which translated these vibrations to sound.
  • 1897 – Taddaeus Cahill – Telharmonium – electromechanical instrument.
  • X-1905 Helmholtz Resonator (Human Voice “Emulation”)
  • 1936 – Oskar Sala – Mixturtrautonium – first electronic instruments using Subharmonic synthesis (not a “synth”)
  • 1938-42 Oscs, Filters, Envs, LFO (Mech) – no CV –  Hammond Novachord

  • 1939 – Homer Dudley invents the Parallel Bandpass Vocoder (VODER) – A manually key operated speech synthesizer
  • 1940 – Homer Dudley invents the The Voder speech synthesizer – A device which used the human voice and an artificial voice to produce a composite. Both were researched as a way to transmit speech over copper wires (id est, telephone lines)
  • 1948 – Hugh LeCaine – Electronic Sackbut – First voltage-controlled synthesizer
  • 1948 – Dr. Raymond Scott – Wall of Sound – First polyphonic Sequencing Workstation (electromechanical) and the Electronum – first sequencer.
  • 1950 – CSIR – Mk 1 – The first known use of a digital computer for the purpose playing music
  • 1953 Harald Bode – it had: OSCs, Filter – Ringmod – Reverb – finally named: Melochord

  • 1953 RCA-Synthesizer:  Herbart Belar, Harry Olson – RCA Synth Mk1, 2 (rec. auf Vinyl) // /1955 mk1 / 1957 mk2 made mk2 used tape instead of vinyl disc

  • 1956 – Louie and Bebe Barron – Produced the first all-electronic musical score for a major motion picture – MGM’s ‘Forbidden Planet’
  • 1957 – Max V. Mathews at Bell Labs – MUSIC – the first digital synthesizer. Technically, it was a computer program, though it set the stage for every digital synthesizer that proceeded it.
  • 1961 – Harald Bode his studio modular lab was- very much like the first synth made by HB except oscillators (tapes were used) – but it had filters etc.
  • 1963-65 Prototypes of Moogs Modular Synth (first modules shown to the first 2 clients in 64/65) – the official time should be given as 1964 (shown to people) – but finally it was shown to the public with more modules in 1965
  • 1965 (not sure) – Buchla – model 100 modular – 1st “modern” modular synth
  • 1965-67 – Moog – Moog modular synthesizer I, II & III – 1st commercial modular synth. final official version – 1st delivery!
  • 1969 – EMS – Synthi VCS-3 – first non-modular mini-synth
  • 1970 – MoogMinimoog – 1st Mono Synth with keys (non-modular)
  • 1971 – Tonus/ARP – Soloist – 1st preset mono synth
  • 1971 – John Chowning – developed FM synthesis using the MUSIC-IV language (source), a direct descendent of Mathew’s MUSIC program. FM synthesis was later licensed by Yamaha, and used in popular synths such as the DX7.
  • 1971 – Buchla – 500 – micro-controlled polyphonic analogue in 1971, it was also programmable as you could save patches to floppy.
  • 1972 – Triadex Muse – first of many horrible sounding digital synth/seq workstation thingies
  • 1973 – Coupland Digital Music Synthesizer – First Digital (Triadex beat it?) Update via Peter Grenader: “No time to read through all these posts to see if it’s come up yet, but the Coupland was vaporwear…it never existed. I met Mark Vail, who’s now a friend, by writing him a letter informing him that his story about the Coupland in his Vintage Synthesizers book (GREAT book) which mentioned it’s only recorded showing was at the AES show in LA in 1978 was a farce. I was there – at their booth and their suite in the Hilton where the instrument was said to be. I was there on the first day, I was there on the last day. The only thing they had was a small model – about six inches across, sitting on a table. The booth was amazing – this radial orb multiple people could sit in, with a cover that came over each person which played what I remembered was a very impressive demo which swirled around four speakers inside the box. I, and everyone else, were blown away. They kept saying…’it will be here tomorrow, it’ll be here tomorrow’…so I showed up the last day just to see it, figuring by the then it would have arrived…it didn’t. I did see the frst Synclavier at that show however. Their suite was across the hall from the Coupland folk. That completely kicked the crap out of everything else shown that year.”
  • 1973 – NEDSynclavier – first digital synth
  • 1974 – RolandSH3a – first commercial additive synth
  • 1974 – RMI – Harmonic Synthesizer – first commercial additive synth
  • 1976 – YamahaCS80 – first synth with poly aftertouch = polypressure
  • 1976 – PPG – PPG 1003 sonic carrier – 1st programmable mono/duo synth (this, along with the model 1020, might have been the 1st synths to use DCOs as well)
  • 1977 (late) – OberheimOB1 – 1st commercial programmable mono synth
  • 1978 (late) – PPG – Wavecomputer 360 – 1st wavetable synth
  • 1978 – Sequential Circuits – microprocessor control the SCI Prophet10 (briefly) and the P5 — again based on existing E-mu tech stuff
  • 1979 – NEDSynclavier – First FM
  • 1979 – Fairlight CMI – First Sampler, First Workstation
  • 1982 – Sequential CircuitsProphet600 / First Midi Synthesizer (though some argue the Prophet 5 rev 3.2 is pre-MIDI MIDI)
  • 1983 – YamahaDX7 – Digital takes over, FM goes mainstream
  • 1983 – OSCOSCar – First real-time additive with analog filters
  • 1984 – Sequential CircuitsSixTrak – first multitimbral
  • 1985 – CasioCZ101 – First battery-powered all digital mini-synth
  • 1989 – Emu Systems – Proteus – First dedicated ROMpler
  • 1994 – Yamaha – VL1 – first physical modelling synth
  • 1995 – Clavia – Nord Lead – 1st Virtual Analog (VA)
  • 1996 – Rubberduck – still not the first softsynth but came before Seer Systems Reality.
  • 1996 – SteinbergVST – Ok not a synth but enabled a lot to be written as plug-ins and used simultaneously
  • 1997 – Seer Systems – Reality – First Modular Soft Synth
  • 2912 – KalQuestoTron – the first genetically engineered synth. Each cell is an oscillator, filter, and neural sequencer. Can be delivered via injection to always play ‘hold music’ in your head.

1.3 Related Links – Synthesizer History

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Synthesizer Vorgeschichte


Info steht bei /Retrieved from “

WAS ist eigentlich ein Synthesizer? Wo kommt er her Synthesizer – Synthetisieren – Zusammensetzen, künstlich

Mehr über Synthesizer-Geschichte hier: Synthesizer History / Geschichte


Moog und Buchla, Pioniere

Die offizielle Geschichte der Synthesizer ist im WESENTLICHEN mit dem Jahre 1964 verbunden. Genau hier baute Robert A. Moog den Modular aufgebauten Synthesizer aus verschiedenen Grundbausteinen, welche mittels Kabeln “Patchcords” verbunden werden. Jedes Modul entspricht dabei einer Musikalischen Funktion. Einer sehr einfachen. Das Prinzip ist also in der Tat ein zusammensetzen von Klangbausteinen im technischen wie im musikalischen. Aber es gab gleichzeitig (Don Buchla) und vorher auch schon Aktivitäten.

RCA Synthesizer 1955

Dem voran gegangen waren natürlich Vorfahren, die aber nur Teilaspekte des Synthesizers, wie wir ihn heute so kennen: So baute RCA 1955 den Electronic Music Synthesizer, der auch schon Grundlegende Klanggeneratoren für Rauschen und Grundwellenformen hatte. Er ist sogar auch schon mit Filtern ausgestattet (LPF und HPF, Tiefpass und Hochpass) und LFOs gibt es auch schon.. Natürlich auch Mischung und Verstärker. Damit ist er schon sehr nahe dran, jedoch ist seine Steuerung ein Lochstreifensystem “Piano Roll” – ähnlich der Key-Darstellung in Softwaresequencern aber eben mit Papier und Löchern an bestimmten stellen ;) rca synthesizer.

Link + Bild dazu:

–> RCA pic is -> this flickr shot..

Trautonium 1930

Davor war es ansich recht düster, es gab das Trautonium (Trautwein der Erfinder, daher Trautonium, bekanntester Spieler: Oskar Sala “Die Vögel”) 1930 (monophon) und 1952 (2/4 stimmig), welches aber klanglich mit Synthesizer schon nicht mehr korrekt bezeichnet werden kann, eher eine Mischung von Obertönen , ähnlich wie die Orgeln von Hammond (ab 1934).

Ondes Martenot 1928

1928 gab es das Ondes Martenot (“Ondes”, frz “Wellen”), tja aus heutiger sicht eher ein Wimmerkasten (sorry). und ein Jahr später gab es auch schon einen per Lochstreifen gesteuertes etwas mit Oszillatoren von 2 Franzosen (Coupleux-Givelet “WellenOrgel”). Timbre, Lautsärke und 200 Oszillatoren. Das Teil wurde für das Radio geschaffen, Das ganze wurde parametertechnisch mittels Lochstreifen gesteuert. So gesehen durchaus etwas “synthesizerartiges”.. So kann man das schon als eine Art intellektuelle Geburt des Synthesizers sehen. Wenn auch eher rudimentär.


davor gab es natürlich das Teil,was auch Moog als erstes baute: Theremin, aber er hat es natürlich nicht erfunden – Das war der Russe Leo Theremin. Das Theremin war klanglich “an sich uninteressant”, es gibt aber irre spielerinnen (ja, meist weiblich und supergut, barbara buchholz, lydia kavina und co..) aus heutiger Sicht im Vergleich mit dem RCA und dem seltsamen frz. Wellenklavier.. DAS THEREMIN aus den 20ern:

Theremin Original

Es hatte aber eine Steuerung ,die Ätherophon genannt werden konnte und das Wort Äther das neueste in der Technik und Vorstellungswelt war. Wieso? Das Theremin erzeugt einen “singende Säge” Ton mit ein paar, aber nicht vielen Obertönen. Dieser Ton kann in Tonhöhe und Lautstärke durch 2 Antennen gesteuert werden. Je näher man diesen kommt, desto mehr wird Tonhöhe oder Lautstärke (Vertikale und horzontale Antenne!) verändert. Stufenlos! Ein Instrument für feinsinnig Damen. IRgendwie futuristisch? Denn in StarTrek hört man diesen Sound ja. Ja! du kennst die Melodie!! =/\=

1906 Dynomophon

gibt es ein amerikanisches Instrument, ehm, MONSTER, was das erste mal mit Strom Töne erzeugt. Wog Tonnen und stammt von einem Herrn Namens Cahill. “Dynamophon”.

Pioniere 50er – heute

Das ist es auch schon. Sicher ist elektronische Musik nicht zu wenigen Teilen aus ersten Anläufen dieser Instrumente und musikalischen Strömungen wesentlich geprägt. Es gab vorher ja einfach nichts anderes.. Heutige Elektronik ist eindeutig von Elektro Pionieren wie Stockhausen, viel später dann erst Kraftwerk oder davor Musique Concrete (früh Industrial , quasi) entstanden.

Die elektronische Musik hat natürlich auch eine lange Geschichte, das wäre aber ein weiterer Artikel..

Studio für Elektronische Musik Köln

Natürlich sollen auch Namen wie Herbert Eimert und das Studio für Elektronische Musik Köln hier erwähnung finden. Hier wirkten die Pioniere der Elektronik. Das Studio wurde 1952/53 aufgebaut. Hier arbeiteten Herbert Eimert, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Xenakis oder Ligeti mit Tonband, Impulsgeneratoren und Ringmodulatoren oder auch Filtern. Man hatte sogar das komplette Wissen, was heute jeder Synthesizernutzer haben sollte (mal abgesehen von der dunklen Masse der “Presetuser” und “Schrauber”). Faktisch hatte man aber natürlich in den 50ern noch keinen Synthesizer in kompletter Aufbauweise, dies kam erst mit dem Moog und bestenfalls mit dem RCA.

2 Videos aus dem Studio, bzw. was 2008 davon übrig geblieben ist und von Volker Müller sehr liebevoll gepflegt und unterhalten wird:

Video & Bilder



Dieser Artikel ist natürlich nicht “vollständig” im musikhistorischen Sinne.. Über Herbert Eimert und Co. gibt es mehr Infos im Netz..

spätere Phänomene wie das EMS Studio (The Putney Studio) siehe link im EMS Bereich – war aber nach 1964, daher hier mal nicht mit dabei.. sonst müssten hier wesentlich mehr Dinge stehen.. soweit also zunächst..

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Video / Foto: Das historische WDR Studio für Elektronische Musik, Köln

The historic Studio of Electronic Music – Cologne, Germany.
Images: scroll down, I reuploaded them – sorry for some glitches & loading time but may be worth it.

Vielen Dank an Volker Müller (WDR) für Führung und Erklärungen. (6/2008)

(Nice visit of the Studio where Stockhausen, Xenakis and others did their works in cologne, germany – it’s not a complete walkthrough, I got some more images of everything there..). Yes, it’s the Synthi 100 in the foreground here and there was more…

Studio für Elektronische Musik Köln 2008 Part 1 VIDEO

Studio für Elektronische Musik Köln 2008 Part 2 VIDEO

Er ( ) hat 5 dicke und bessere Videos gemacht – He made some much better Vides. So you may see most of us, incl the grea Volker Müller, who did a GREAT Job..

1 – Images I

2 – Images Zwo – oldschool galore! “sind ja nur Geräusche” – just noises, huh`?

3 – wir reden über Musik.. Talking music now.

Rechnerraum (ne Menge Macs) – Der abstimmbare Anzeigeverstärker (hört, hört!).. – lots of Macs in da house

(5 von 5) – Bandmaschinen stabil laufen synchron ab start, some more reel to reel stuff, works sync’ed when you start them – thats quality stuff.


Info: Privatbesuch beim ‘Studio für elektronische Musik’ in Köln

Wiki: Synthesizer/Elektronische Musik_Vorgeschichte

(Studio für Elektronische Musik Köln (des WDR))

Note: This is not the real PLACE where the original recordings have been made but it’s still in cologne!

Hinweis: Natürlich sind das hier nur einige Geräte und der Originalschauplatz wo die Aufnahmen gemacht wurden ist natürlich nicht genau hier gewesen, dies ist nur eine Art Abstellraum im Keller (ein Jammer) – Aber hier sind alle Sachen versammelt, die noch gerettet wurden. Da Elektronische Musik für die meisten scheinbar weniger zählt, ist es immernoch nicht soetwas wie ein Museum oder Begehbarer Erlebnispark. Wer sich einsetzen will, fragt den WDR nach der Musik aus diesem Studio – Auch für Geld. Nach den Geräten, den Bändern. Man weiss nie, wie lange die Sachen hier noch stehen werden.

erste Bilder von Jan van Volt / Elektrolabel

(Hier als “Stockhausen Studio” bezeichnet. Es handelt sich aber nur um das Studio für Elektronische Musik, wo unter ANDEREN auch Stockhausen gearbeitet hat. Es ist also nicht “sein” Studio.)

Hier ein Rundgang – Part II, Intro

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Hi-End Synthesizer Special – from Synclavier, ConBrio to GDS/Synergy to Fairlight


– New England Digital – Synclavier..

read the manual “why a synclavier has no midi” ;-))
hi end FM and sampling station,
better run it with a 68k vintage mac for editing..
NED synclavier

it does Resynthesis,
12 OSCs with additiv Spectrum per OSC, FM but with one modulating and one carrier each, multiple additiv waves can be morhed into another that appear on a sort of a time line/linear envelope (just time between those additive spectra oscs)
– 4 sample OSC/Timbres- >  sampling is possible on this machine.

you may have heard one @ depeche mode, kraftwerk or other ,even non-electronic-sounding groups/musicians like Zappa and Prince or Michael Jackson. it’s far beyond the capabilities of a fairlight!

NED Synth overview / überblick..

NED synclavier


– Fairlight CMI

cmi – computer music instrument.

more known but could do only samples.

this machine was (maybe) the most expensive (digital) gear in the 80ies. 0.5secs samples, additive and resynthesis (no, it’s NOT like the k5000 and the cube.. but maybe inspired) – it’s just a sampler,
after this PCM sampling like in the korg M1 and D50 samples became very popular..

the fairlight was a complete system with sequencer controlled by lightpen, 2x 8″ floppy discs, and midi (not like the midi-less synclavier)..
famous users: vince clark / depeche mode, cabaret voltaire, erdenklang, peter gabriel..

hardware:8 CEM3320 VCF in earlier version
8 SSM2044 VCF in later versions – data eet –

fairlight CMI
Fairlight Series III.. using real big diskettes & drive ;-)

–> Fairlight Synth overview / überblick..


– DK Synergy Synthesizer

a digital Synthesizer that could only be programmed via a Kaypro Computer attached to it.
The Kaypro was a quite “normal” Computer at that time, today it is very exotic of course..
dk synergy

on top: a thomas synth organ crossover synth “thomas 1055”dk synergy + moog thomas synth

DK Synergy

Vorgänger / Predessessor was this:

– Crumar GDS / DK Synergy with Kaypro Computer

32 Digital Voice Oscillators
16-fach Hüllkurvengenerator pro Voice !
16 Software Filters
76- Keys
3 CPUs
Portamento, Arpeggiator, Modulation, Pitch,
XLR and Jack Outputs
16-Bit D/A Wandler
5 Digital Sound cardridges
Synergy 3X Software
Midi In/Out
RS-232 Serial Computer Interface
Voice Library mit 1200 Voices
GDS Sound Design Software

techshop CH, sold one Euro 6172.41 (on 

crumar gds


– Jayemsonic / Jomox  – Neuronium Resonator

more info click here

it’s a system of analog resonanting filters controlled by a DSP.
NOT to confuse with the hartmann neuron! (See below)
-> neuronium resonator here!
neuronium resonator

Neuronal Synths: Info

– Symbolic Sound – Kyma

check the link -> Symbolic Sound – Kyma
Symbolic Sound Kyma Capybara synthesizer
Symbolic Sound Kyma , Capybara Modular Synthesizer
+ advanced sequencer
modular digital synthesis,
0 Keys, external velocity pressure MIDI deluxe Ctrl, Sequencer, Arpeggiator, continue / weiter..?
– later updated to Paca/Pacarana, which is a lot faster and chances the way the audio is sent to.

– Hartmann Neuron

by Axel Hartmann – programmed by Stefan “prosoniq” Bernsee
hartmann neuron synthesizer
neuronal synth – has 13 special parameters and morphs 2 samples into another seamlessly. completely digital – basically this is a standard Linux computer, like Korgs Oasys.


– Yamaha VP1

VL: the more affordable physical modeling Synth

in it’s V2.0 .. you have access to a load of parameters – resonating delays and lots more that form that simulation of classic acoustic instruments – the more interesting part (with V2) was, to stretch those parameter ranges which was in a time of digital synths simulating analog synths just starting to become popular, so the VL has not had a good standing and wasn’t sold that often!..

it is – mono- / duophonic
the Yamaha VL1 – physical modelling for the masses. still quite rare: there are 3 versions:

-the vl1 – duophonic (has 2 “elements” = sound enignes) or the racked vl1m
Yamaha VL1 synthesizer
2 Voice, (1994)
Yamaha VL1 Digital Synthesizer
2 OSC, 1 Filter, 1 LFO, 6 EG
physical modeling digital synthesis,
49 Keys, pressure velocity deluxe MIDI controller Ctrl, ~1200€ (in 2005) continue / weiter..?

-the vl7 – monophonic
the downsized version vl70m or the vl module that can be found in some yamaha mu modules and as a module to slot into their bigger newer workstations.the vl70m is NOT the same as the vl1/7 series and also sounds “weaker”. and the FX are also downsized.

Yamaha VL1m synthesizer
2 Voice, (1994)
Yamaha VL1m Digital Synthesizer
2 OSC, 1 Filter, 1 LFO, 6 EG
physical modeling digital synthesis,
0 Keys, pressure velocity deluxe MIDI controller Ctrl, ~1200€ (in 2005) continue / weiter..?
now that was the small brother – here’s the big one:

the absolute monster was the (1994 made)
it provides string- and other simulations and a much higher price – so this fits a lot more into this collection of super expensive synths – since:
16 Voice, (1994)
Yamaha VP1 Digital Synthesizer
4 OSC, 1 Filter, 4 LFO, 4 EG
physical modeling digital synthesis,
73 Keys, pressure velocity deluxe MIDI controller Ctrl, ~17899€ (in 2009) continue / weiter..?
Yamaha VP1 synthesizer

just to mention
-> no synth – just acontroller
DX7 – Programmer by Jellinghaus
this is the full knobbed DX7
only 25 were made in the mid. 80ies. this one simply sends SysEx Strings via Midi. so one can connect any DX7,TX7 or TF modules of a TX816..more on yamaha fm synthesizers, dx5,dx7 etc.. here



want a closeup movie? film1 (movie) film2 (movie2)

more on waldorf in the waldorf menu! english german/deutsch
his one has analog filters, but it’s digital part is a child of the well known PPG System (Palm Products Germany by Wolfgang Palm)
which works with a set of waveforms that can be changed, called a Wavetable – smoother interpolations can be made by not using all 60 (later 128 at Waldorf) waves in a table – the Wave can even analyse audio to create wavetables but needs an external software – but it can do algorithmic FM, PWM and more called UPAW that can be created directly on the synth itself. Waldorf Wave synthesizer
-> 8x Multi Timbral, 16 Voice, (1994)
Waldorf Wave Hybrid Synthesizer
2 OSC, 2 Filter, 2 LFO, 4 EG
Hybrid wavetable digital synthesis,
61 Keys, velocity aftertouch MIDI sysex Ctrl,~4000€ (in 2005) continue / weiter..?


PPG Wave2.2 Wave2.3 synthesizer
8x Multi Timbral, 8 Voice, (1982)
PPG Wave 2.2, Wave 2.3 Hybrid Synthesizer
+ advanced sequencer
2 OSC, 1 Filter, 1 LFO, 2 EG
Hybrid wavetable digital synthesis,
61 Keys, velocity aftertouch MIDI Ctrl,Sequencer, ~1400€ (in 2011) continue / weiter..?
the wave system also comprised of a computer called the waveterm which was there to use samples and create waves and wavetables – which was later done on the Waldorf Wave without the need of the waveterm – but losing the sampling capability.

– Qasar M8, made in 1978

never seen that one Рand looks like it was to pricey to be released or sold, so the well known computer had to come and it was sooo cheap, remember the price? so Рthis one must be Ҥ$%& unaffordable.

Deviant Synth – Analogue Heaven is poison. We are the antidote. XD » What came before the Fairlight?.

– ConBrio

Con Brio is a large expensive and very rare digital Synthesizer system (early 80ies), Matrix found a nice source of images:

Con Brio Pics and Videos ConBrio ADS200 lightshow

click – enlarges the images..


multitimbral and 16 OP Oscillators, seems like it was spotted on a vintage computer (!) festival.Possibly this one is owned by Brian “Moog Cookbook” Kehew (was posted on the blogs earlier and I am sure Matrix has a post on this, too)..


Ah, and there’s an Altair on that page, too..


Brian Kehew has some Con Brio Sounds up. Con Brio is a very rare digital Synth. Of course at Matrix Con Brio


Technos Acxel
Technos Acxel synthesizer

16x Multi Timbral, 32 Voice, (1987)
Technos Acxel Digital Synthesizer
1024 OSC, Filter, 0 LFO, 1024 EG
resynthesis digital synthesis,
61 Keys, velocity aftertouch MIDI Ctrl,
continue / weiter..?

Forum & Diskussion-> Real Digitale Synthesizer

(C) aus dem alten Moogulatorium von 1872…

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