Send in the clones

Isn’t it rich?

Virtually every week I hear someone say, “I am building a clone of a Fairchild 670, or Pultec EQP1, or [insert name of famous piece of gear here]. Clone is just a euphemism for copy. That doesn’t sound so creative, does it? Copying the Fairchild 670. Friends won’t be quite so impressed. No loud talk of making a copy while drinking sub-standard bourbon, in a bar in the trendy part of town. “Clone” sounds so high-tech. In another field — writing — the word would be “plagiarize.” The company is out of business or the person who designed it is dead? Doesn’t matter. Neitzsche is dead but if someone takes his words and calls them his own it’s plagiarism.

If these cloners, these technological plagiarists, knew what they were doing they would not be copying. They would analyze the best of what has been accomplished so far and ask, How is this function best done today? The result would be something new, something superior.

But to do this they would have to start from the ground up, learn, make mistakes, learn some more, understand­ — and that takes time. Ten thousand hours? Too long. They can copy someone in one one-hundredth of the time and then use it or sell it. In both cases they are profiting from someone else’s work.

They plagiarize circuit details that now 20 to 50 years later can be done a better way. But that’s to be expected. And these forgers want to have all the mechanical parts — knobs, meters, dials, escutcheons — match the real thing, as if their clone, hewn on their kitchen table, is going to confuse anyone into thinking it’s the real thing. And almost every one of these counterfeiters thinks his is superior to all other clones because each claims “I am the only one who understands the circuit.” They understand very little.

And where are the clones?
There ought not be clones…
Well, maybe next year.

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