In contrast to a piano or organ, early synthesizers, just like the Moog and ARP, might generate just one word at a time. Shaping a selected tone concerned setting a number of knobs, switches or dials, and making an attempt 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 capabilities with microprocessors, it might play 5 notes without delay, 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 moveable sufficient for use onstage.
Mr. Smith’s small firm was swamped with orders; at occasions, 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 understand how straightforward 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 special, incompatible interface, a scenario Mr. Smith mentioned he thought of “form 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 should be this, however all of us actually need 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 completed MIDI the same old approach, getting a regular made takes years and years and years,” Mr. Smith advised the Purple Bull Music Academy. “You have got committees and paperwork and da-da-da. We bypassed all of that by simply mainly 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 straightforward for firms to combine into their merchandise. It was given away license free as a result of we needed everybody to make use of it.”