Look Back at Lighting ------ Pulsar Lighting

Pulsar Light of Cambrige. These guys produced some outstanding lighting control in the early 70's. Quality is a word that comes to mind. The electronics were excelent in design (I am an expert and qualified to say this) and the construction was pretty good too. These units were made for hard work and to last...and they have. You can still find some of the really old gear happily working away in venues and with mobile jocks all over the country. The modern kit they produce (yes..still in business) is maybe a little more on the 'built to a price' standard, but still robust as ever. Some of the early controllers were streets ahead of the competition in terms of performance, and many competitors copied the functionality of these units. The most widely used unit was of course the Zero 2250 sound to light controller. No frills, Bulgin socket to the lamps, jack socket to the speakers. No fiddling or adjustment, contained in a small steel box you could kick accross a football field and it did not let you down. The same internals could be found in other units with a few switches (good old big rocker switches from an ex navy battleship type) to overide lamps, put on dim etc).

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PULSAR 1970 to 1978
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An early lighting controller          



The company has its origins in the late Sixties, when two Cambridge students decided to improve their monetary situation by their own ingenuity and enterprise. Ken Sewell, who was reading Economics, spent his spare time as D.J./organiser of the Purple Cucumber Road Show, doing colleges, private parties and other venues around Cambridge's exciting night scene. Ken had an interest in many styles of music and a flair for providing audiences with something different – weird enough, to fascinate, but gutsy enough to entertain.

Interested in ways of linking light to sound for total environment control, Paul Mardon was only fifteen when he developed what may have been the first sound-light unit in the world. Using valve systems initially, he continued to work along these pioneering lines and by the time he was at Cambridge he had reached the stage of designing and building a 'primitive modulator' which won the University's annual prize for engineering. Paul had initially augmented his research funds by hiring out the equipment he produced under the name of 'Chameleon Lighting'.  Soon after he met Ken, however, Chameleon went 'on the road' with Purple Cucumber, and the embryo of today's company was formed. The combined units were a great success and the link became permanent when the entire venture was re-named 'Pulsation', which was later shortened to 'Pulsar'.
When the time came for Ken and Paul to leave the University, their enterprise was doing so well that it seemed to have potential as a full-time business. The road show prospered and a growing number of control units were hired out. A meeting with soul band drummer Arthur D. Saunders put them in touch with the man who was later to become Pulsar's marketing 'manager and who in fact made them their first sale.

In April 1971, however, the first proper premises were acquired - above a printers' shop in Mill Road, Cambridge.  At this time the firm was still a hire company making occasional sales, rather than concentrating on keeping down production costs in order to appeal to a general market. However, when Arthur Saunders joined the partners as sales manager, he found considerable interest in the equipment from prospective buyers. Changeover from hiring to selling came fairly rapidly. In the equipment produced, the emphasis was on sound-light and disco control units, but Pulsar also produced strobes and spots. The next big expansion brought the company to Cherry Hinton Road in September, 1974 and by August, 1977 they had expanded again to still larger premises in Stanley Road. Some exports now began to figure in the sales statistics and the work force rose to half a dozen and continued to rise.

Always on the look-out for new applications for Paul's ideas, the marketing team launched some products on the domestic market, but the Pulsar name remained, first and foremost, the name of what was best in disco lighting control. It was on the basis of success in this. field that the last big move was made  to 15,500 feet of purpose-built factory space at Henley Road. When the 'Disco Fever' explosion brought out a consciousness of what could be done with creative lighting control, it brought out the best in Pulsar. The upsurge of enthusiasm created a challenge for Paul Mardon to create ever more sophisticated and intricate display controllers. From the heart of Cambridge's 'Silicon Valley', Pulsar was soon competing successfully on an international market, and could boast a more comprehensive range than any rival company. Riding the crest of the Disco wave, Pulsar continued expansion, factory space more than doubled to 36,000 square feet, the eighty employees were  increased to 150, and stock control!, distribution and accounts were handled by the company's own computer (see pic below).

Pulsar have continued thier success and boast an impressive collection of lighting control equipment.

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Click to view Larger Image   Click to view Larger Image This was the state of the art stock control computer at the time, possibly a bit different today I think.
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Shown Left are Pictures of the factory and staff, taken from a sales leaflet issued around 1978. Above are pics of the factory process showing the high skill levels employed and attention to detail during production.

A big 'Thank You' to Pulsar for thier permission to include all the images on this page into the website. To see what they offer presently, view thier website by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.

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The range had grown by 1980 to this.   3 and 4 channel controllers.  
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Above 10 WAY CHASER (front & rear views)   Internal view of Modulator & Zero 3000
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Shown left is the SL3600. Intended for the export market, some were sold in the UK too. In fact..I have one. And it still works just great!

FAL (futuristic aids ltd) had this unit badged up for them.

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