[Eliot Curtis] found himself a little too close to 1960’s counterculture while restoring a vintage modular synthesizer — he began tripping out on acid. The instrument in question is a Buchla Model 100. The Buchla is a modular synth. Instead of a keyboard, it used capacitance-sensitive touch plates. This particular model 100 was purchased by California State University East Bay Campus. The synth was popular for a while, but eventually fell into disuse, and was stored in a classroom closet.
Modular synths are experiencing a renaissance, as can be seen right here on Hackaday. The Buchla was pulled out of storage and given a proper restoration. [Eliot Curtis] is the Broadcast Operations Manager at KPIX 5, the San Francisco CBS TV station. He also is the hacker who volunteered to restore the Buchla.
During the restoration, [Curtis] found residue and crystals stuck under one of the knobs of the Control Voltage Processing Module. Was it flux, conformal coating, or something else? [Eliot] hit the board with contact cleaner and wiped it down. Within 45 minutes, he was feeling a strange tingling. It was the beginning of a nine-hour LSD trip. Three independent tests on the module came back positive for LSD.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD for short) can be readily absorbed through the skin, which is exactly what happened to [Eliot]. Synth designer [Don Buchla] was friends with [Owsley Stanley], who worked for the Grateful Dead and allegedly cooked up some very potent LSD. Some of Buchla’s modules even found their way into Ken Keesey’s hands, where they wound up on his famous bus “further”. As it turns out there were rumors that modules had been dipped in LSD back in the ’60s. Why someone would do that to an electronic module, we’re not sure — they must have been on drugs. [Eliot] recovered from his brush with the ’60s and continued with the restoration with gloves on.
If there is a moral here, it should be to take precautions when working on equipment which might contain dangerous substances. We’ve learned this lesson ourselves cracking open broken laptops. You might find anything from coffee to soda, to pet urine or worse. A box of nitrile gloves definitely should be standard equipment in any hacker’s lab.