The VL-1 was the first instrument of Casio's VL-Tone product line, and is sometimes referred to as the VL-Tone. It combined a calculator, synthesizer, and sequencer. Released in 1980 and selling for around $150, the VL-1 is notable for its kitsch value among electronic musicians, due to its cheap construction and its unrealistic, uniquely low-fidelity sounds.
The VL-1 was followed by the VL-10, basically the same machine in a smaller unit, and the VL-5, a polyphonic version, capable of playing four notes simultaneously.
Its sounds were mostly composed of filtered squarewaves with varied pulse-widths. Its piano, violin, flute and guitar timbres were nearly unrecognizable abstractions of real instruments. It also featured a "fantasy" voice, and a programmable synthesizer which provided for choice of both oscillator waveform and ADSR envelope. The synthesizer was programmed by entering a number into the calculator section's memory, then switching back to keyboard mode. It had a range of two and a half octaves.
The VL-1 featured a small LCD display capable of displaying 8 characters. This was primarily used for the calculator function, but also displayed notes played. As well as this, the VL-1 also had changeable tone and balance, basic tempo settings and a real-time monophonic music sequencer, which could play back up to 99 notes. There were also 10 pre-loaded rhythms which utilized just three basic drum sounds.
Notable uses and appearances 
- The VL-1 acquired enduring notability when the German band Trio used it in one of their songs, the "faux-Kraftwerk tune" "Da Da Da". They used the Rock-1 rhythm preset and the Piano voice.
- A similar rhythm preset, Rock-2, features in the first half of The Man Whose Head Expanded by The Fall, only to be cut short by Mark E. Smith's command to "turn that bloody blimey space invader off".
- Soviet rock band Kino (Кинo) used it prominently in their 1984 album Nachalnik Kamchatki (Начальник Камчатки), for instance on songs like "Последний герой" (The Last Hero) or "Камчатка" (Kamchatka).
- Industrial artist Monte Cazazza uses the VL-1's drum patterns on both sides of the Stairway to Hell / Sex Is No Emergency single (1982).
- The music video for Thomas Dolby's hit "She Blinded Me With Science" shows a group of schoolchildren holding VL-1s during a dream sequence.
- The Human League used the VL-1 for "Get Carter," a song on their album Dare.
- Le Casio, the final track on the album Vehicles and Animals by Athlete prominently features the VL-1's 'Fantasy' voice.
- The VL-1 is used by death industrial act Brighter Death Now.
- The Rock-1 and Rock-2 rhythms are heard on the track Stop/Start by The Assembly.
- A VL-1 is used in A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When The Stripper Is Crying by Bloodhound Gang
- In 1995, "parsimonous" French singer/songwriter Dominique A used a minimum of instruments, including the VL-1 (called the "VL Tone" in the French press).
- The progressive electronica band Yip-Yip often uses the VL-1's distinctive beats.
- Fergie's "Clumsy" also uses one of VL-1's beats.
- On older Sakata (Australian rice cracker company) advertisements, the Rock-1 rhythm is used as a backing beat.
- In one Homestar Runner cartoon, Strong Bad creates a "crazy cartoon" called "Sweet Cuppin' Cakes", in which he appears as a character, but with a VL-1 as a head. When he gets angry, he plays the VL-1's Demo Somg.
- The Rock-2 rhythm is used in the track "Who was That" by Deee-Lite.
- 2-D, from the band Gorillaz, says that his first keyboard was a Custom VL-1.
- Canadian musician and sound designer David Kristian's "The Mariana Trench" album was made entirely using a VL-1 through various guitar effect pedals and loopers.
- In Ecuador, the demo song of the VL-1 is played in a news program that broadcast in Radio Cristal Guayaquil called "desayúnese con las noticias"; the song is played daily on 7 30 AM.
- British bubblegum-pop duo Mogul used the VL-Tone extensively throughout their early recordings, including a female vocal-led version of 'Roll With It'.
- A VL-1 rhythm appears towards the end of the Trans-X song Living on Video
- In 2009 Cobol Pongide toy music artist used Vl-1 on the album "Musica per Anziani Cosmonauti" in ADSR synthesizer mode.
- Luke Haines' 2011 album "9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early '80s" includes the track "Big Daddy Got A Casio VL-Tone", which features the Casio's distinctive beats.
- Tony Banks (musician) used VL-Tone's Rock 1 rhythm as the basis for his song Charm (from The Fugitive (album)(1983)). The song was also released as a single (Virgin BANKS 12).
- XTC's Andy Partridge used the VL-1's sequencer in conjunction with the Violin sound to produce the fast Middle-Eastern runs on his demo to Terrorism (1985) which can be found on Coat of Many Cupboards and (originally) The Meeting Place EP.
- "Casio Song", the opening track on the Dzeltenie Pastnieki album Depresīvā pilsēta (1986), is the Casio VL-1 demo song with lyrics written and sung over it by Roberts Gobziņš.
- "Fantasy Shift" from Stephen Molyneux's "The Stars Are the Light Show" (2012, Watery Starve Press) features the VL-1 "Fantasy" tone
See also 
- Brend, Mark (2005). Strange sounds: offbeat instruments and sonic experiments in pop. Hal Leonard. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-87930-855-1.
- Holmes, Thom. Electronic and Experimental Music (Routledge 2002, ISBN 0-415-93644-6), p.218
- Paphides, Pete (2009-08-01). "The world according to Frankmusik: The world as listed by the new star of British pop". The Times. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- Adams, Cameron (2009-11-07). "Nostalgia never hurts". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- Renaud, Alain (1995-11-11). "A 27 ans, Dominique A est en passe de devenir un label". Libération (in French). Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- Mortaigne, Veronique (1995-05-18). "Dominique A, le dépouillement élégant". Le Monde (in French).