Not like a piano or organ, early synthesizers, just like the Moog and ARP, might generate just one observe at a time. Shaping a selected tone concerned setting a number of knobs, switches or dials, and attempting to breed that tone afterward meant writing down all of the settings and hoping to get related outcomes the subsequent time.
The Prophet-5, which Mr. Smith designed with John Bowen and launched in 1978, conquered each shortcomings. Controlling synthesizer features with microprocessors, it might play 5 notes directly, permitting harmonies. (The corporate additionally made a 10-note Prophet-10.) The Prophet additionally used microprocessors to retailer settings in reminiscence, offering reliable but personalised sounds, and it was transportable sufficient for use onstage.
Mr. Smith’s small firm was swamped with orders; at instances, the Prophet-5 had a two-year backlog.
However Mr. Smith’s improvements went a lot additional. “Upon getting a microprocessor in an instrument, you notice how simple it’s to speak digitally to a different instrument with a microprocessor,” Mr. Smith defined in 2014. Different keyboard producers began to include microprocessors, however every firm used a unique, incompatible interface, a state of affairs Mr. Smith mentioned he thought of “type of dumb.”
In 1981, Mr. Smith and Chet Wooden, a Sequential Circuits engineer, offered a paper on the Audio Engineering Society conference to suggest “The ‘USI’, or Universal Synthesizer Interface.” The purpose, he recalled in a 2014 interview with Waveshaper Media, was “Right here’s an interface. It doesn’t must be this, however all of us really want to get collectively and do one thing.” In any other case, he mentioned, “This market’s going nowhere.”
4 Japanese firms — Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Kawai — had been keen to cooperate with Sequential Circuits on a shared commonplace, and Mr. Smith and Mr. Kakehashi of Roland labored out the main points of what would develop into MIDI. “If we had finished MIDI the same old method, getting a normal made takes years and years and years,” Mr. Smith advised Waveshaper. “You may have committees and paperwork and da-da-da. We bypassed all of that by simply principally doing it after which throwing it on the market.”
In 2013, Mr. Smith advised The St. Helena Star: “We made it low-cost in order that it was simple for firms to combine into their merchandise. It was given away license free as a result of we wished everybody to make use of it.”