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The History Of MIDI

We put together a series of articles about the history of electronic music and MIDI. Here are links to the series.

The History of MIDI from 850 AD to the present

MIDI History:Chapter 1- 850 AD to 1850 AD –

To really understand the origins of MIDI, you need to go all the way back to before there were digitally controlled synthesizers and computers, In fact you need to go back before there was even electricity to the very first mechanical music machines.

MIDI History:Chapter 2-Player Pianos 1850-1930 –

The golden age of mechanical music machines really came in the late 19th century and early 20th century with player pianos and orchestrions. A player piano is defined as any actual acoustic piano that is played by a pneumatic or

History Of MIDI:Chapter 3-Orchestrions 1900-2015 –

From mechanical to digital to virtual….and back! The relationship between mechanical musical machines and MIDI gets even more intriguing with orchestrions and fairground organs.

MIDI History:Chapter 4-Synths Come of Age 1900-1963 –  

The first electronic musical instruments As electricity became more widely available, the early 20th century saw the invention of electronic musical instruments including the Telharmonium, Trautonium, Ondes Martenot, the Theremin , the Hammond organ and the RCA “Victor” Mark I and II.

The History of MIDI -Chapter 5-Precursors to MIDI –  

To really understand MIDI, we need to explain the way electronic musical instruments were connected together before MIDI.

MIDI History Chapter 6-MIDI Begins 1981-1983 –  

In researching this article, we realized that the simple story that Roland and Sequential connected a Prophet 600 and a Jupiter 6 together at the 1983 NAMM show and that instantly MIDI became an overnight success was very far from the reality of what was happened between January 1983 and May of 1985 when the MIDI Manufacturers Association was formally created as a non-profit trade association.

MIDI History Chapter 7- MIDI Associations (1983-1985)

In Chapter 6 of the History of MIDI, we left off with the demonstration of MIDI at the 1983 NAMM show.

John Bowen, head of sound design for Sequential had recounted that he had been busy finishing the presets for the Prophet 600 and that although Sequential had tested the Prophet 600’s MIDI connecting to another Prophet 600, they really had no idea if it would work when they connected it to the Roland Jupiter 6. But it did and everybody was pretty amazed.

We also documented that at the time there were only 5 companies working on MIDI- Sequential Circuits, Kawai, Korg, Roland and Yamaha. That is pretty easy to confirm because here are the SysEx IDs in the Prophet 600 manual from December of 1982.

Historical Early MIDI Documents Uncovered –  

In November of 2018 we uncovered some unique historical MIDI documents. These were discovered in a file cabinet at Yamaha Corporation of America’s headquarters in Buena Park, California.These documents pre-date the formation of the MIDI Manufacturers Association and give us a truly remarkable look into the the early development of MIDI. There were three key documents.The first is a very early version of the MIDI 1.0 specification from August 1983.

We also uncovered two issues of the IMA bulletin- one from June 1985 and another from June 1987.

MIDI From The Inside –

This post was contributed by the well known film composer Jeff Rona. Jeff was the first president of the MIDI Manufacturers Association and ran the MMA from 1983 until 1992.  Jeff was instrumental (pun intended) in getting MIDI started.

Craig Anderton’s Brief History Of MIDI

The MIDI specification first saw the light of day at the 1981 AES, when Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits presented a paper on the Universal Synthesizer Interface. It was co-developed with other companies (an effort driven principally by Roland’s I

The Founders Of Modern Music Production


Bob Moog- The Father of Modern Synthesis –  

If you were forced to pick one single person who is responsible for the creation of the modern music production environment, Bob Moog would be a good choice. He spans the era from the early days of synths to the post MIDI world


Don Buchla-a different approach to sound and life –  

At almost the exact same time that Bob Moog was starting to make modular synths on the East Coast, Don Buchla was starting to make modular synths on the West Coast at San Francisco Tape Music Center.

Alan R Pearlman and ARP Synthesizers –  

Alan Robert Pearlman was born in 1925 (9 years before Bob Moog and 12 years before Don Buchla although he would outlive them both).

Ikutaro Kakehashi, the driving force behind MIDI –  

Ikutaro Kakehashi was certainly one of the most influential figures in electronic music in the 20th century. He influenced music and technology throughout his lifetime. He overcame many challenges in his early life to become the head

Dave Rossum, EMU, and Rossum Electro –  

Dave Rossum is another one of the founders of the modern music production ecosystem and had a unique relationship with several other key synth figures including Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim. In fact, it was technologies that Dave

Tom Oberheim and Oberheim Electronics –  

Tom Oberheim was born in Manhattan, Kansas in 1936.

In junior high school, he started building HiFi amplifiers for friends probably based on the same articles in Popular Mechanics that his contemporaries Bob Moog (1934) and Don Buchla (1937) were reading.

He was also listening to a lot of Jazz music and when he read an ad in Downbeat Magazine about an LA jazz club you could get into at no charge, he made the decision to save enough money to go to LA.

He arrived in LA in July of 1956 with $10 in his pocket.

Roger Linn and Roger Linn Design –  

When I would do demos of the early LM–1 prototype, people’s jaws would drop. They were amazed to hear the sound of a real drum when they hit a button. So I knew I was on to something.

Dave Smith and Sequential Circuits –  

Dave Smith was born in San Francisco in 1950 and like Dave Rossum grew up in the Bay Area in the 1950s.

He took piano lessons as a child and started playing bass and guitar in rock bands in high school because it was after all the 1960s in San Francisco.

When the record Switched on Bach came out in 1968, Dave bought a copy of the record and was intrigued by the sounds coming from the Moog modular synth.

Just like Don Buchla 10 years earlier, he went to college at the University of California, Berkeley where he earned a degree in computer science and electrical engineering.

One of his college projects was a very primitive program to write music on a printer plotter.

After graduating he got a job in the Aerospace industry.

Tsutomu Katoh and Korg –  

Early History KORG’s founder, Tsutomu Katoh was born in Nagoya on August 28, 1926 (Taisho 15) to a merchant family that ran a livestock feed wholesale business along the Iida Highway. These were tough times in Japan.