Dave Smith, founder of synthesizer company Sequential and ‘father’ of MIDI, has died aged 72

Dave Smith, founder of synthesizer company Sequential and ‘father’ of MIDI, has died aged 72

(Photo via Sequential) This news got in our spam folder unfortunately, but the synthesizer company Sequential has informed that Dave Smith, its founder, has died at the age of 72 on May 31st. The news was announced on June 2nd. The Sequential website posted this: “We’re heartbroken, but take some small solace in knowing he was on the road doing what he loved best in the company of family, friends, and artists.”

Until his death he was collaborating with fellow engineer Tom Oberheim on a brand-new synth, the Oberheim OB-X8. The collaboration was to be the second between the two synthesis pioneers, after 2016’s OB-6.

Smith, who had degrees in both Computer Science and Electronic Engineering from UC Berkeley, founded Sequential Circuits in 1974. In 1977 he designed the Prophet 5, the world’s first microprocessor-based musical instrument and also the first programmable polyphonic synth. Sequential went on to become one of the most successful music synthesizer manufacturers of the time.

The father of MIDI

In 1981 Smith set out to create a standard protocol for communication between electronic musical instruments from different manufacturers worldwide. He presented a paper outlining the idea of a Universal Synthesizer Interface (USI) to the Audio Engineering Society (AES) in 1981 after meetings with Tom Oberheim and Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi. The new standard was introduced as “Musical Instrument Digital Interface” (MIDI) at the Winter NAMM Show in 1983, when a Sequential Circuits Prophet-600 was successfully connected to a Roland Jupiter-6.

After Sequential, Smith was President of DSD, Inc, a Research and Development Division of Yamaha, where he worked on physical modeling synthesis and software synthesizer concepts. In May 1989 he started the Korg R&D group in California, which went on to produce the Wavestation synthesizer and other technology.

Smith went on to serve as president at Seer Systems and developed the world’s first software based synthesizer running on a PC. This synth, commissioned by Intel, was demonstrated by Andy Grove in a Comdex keynote speech in 1994. The second generation of this software synthesizer sold over 10 million copies, as a result of being licensed to Creative Labs in 1996.

In 2002, Smith launched Dave Smith Instruments, a manufacturer of electronic musical instruments.

Here’s an interview with Smith on MIDI.



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