A brief history of MIDI: How powerful is it?

MIDI can essentially control anything that can be programed to take commands.  It sends a signal of code from the source (usually some sort of piano keyboard) to a receiver, which, in turn, translates that signal to a command (usually in the form of a synthetic instrument).

Stemming from the VCA (Voltage Control Amplifier) keyboards, MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was invented in 1983 MIDI was an avenue adopted incredibly fast for its versatility.

The pre MIDI synthesizer was a room-sized laboratory experiment for it’s early life.  However, According to the MIDI Manufacturers Association, “Bob Moog is generally, and appropriately, credited for taking the synthesizer out of the university laboratory and putting it in the hands of musicians” 1 when they introduced their model in the 1950’s.  Moog’s comparably portable synthesizers brought the idea of sound synthesis into the forefront of the music industry.

MIDI as it is known today was first displayed at the 1983 NAMM Show. Invented not even a year earlier by John Bowen and Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits, their synthesizer, the Prophet 600, was closely followed by Roland’s JP-6 synth, and synth creators never looked back.1 According to a BBC article written by Tom Bateman, “the wide availability of the format and its ease of use helped redefine pop music in the 1980s” 2 Without it, that quintessential feel of 80’s pop music would never have flooded the airwaves, guaranteeing an entire genre of music to never come to fruition.

Today, Virtually every synthesizer created has the capability of passing midi protocol through either MIDI Cable, USB, Firewire, or even Wi-Fi, and it can control anything from musical sounds, to Entire light shows for a performance, to Tesla Coils.

1: “History of MIDI.” History of MIDI. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

2: Bateman, Tom. “How MIDI Changed the World of Music.” Editorial.Http://www.bbc.com/news/technology. BBC News, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-20425376>.


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  1. Victor Reply

    I always wondered about the history of MIDI. It was invented before I was even born so for me it was always just there and for a long time I didn’t understand it. Tomorrow I am getting my first Midi-to-USB interface and I am so excited for the musical options it is going to open up for me 🙂

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    Sharknado ReplyReport user

    “It was invented before I was even born .” Thats kind of depressing, as I was proramming synths from the late seventies onward. (Yes Kids, even really old people think the YRG is fun! )
    Prior to ’83 all synths used control voltage, but they nearly all used different protocols, so trying to get equipment from different manufacturers to play nicely with each other was Hell.
    One of the many great things the guys from Sequential did was to convince all the big Japanese companies that, by deciding that everyone was going to use the same form of comunication, everyone would sell more equipment.(The bad thing they did was impose the awful 5 pin Din plug on us all. MIDI actually only uses three of the pins, but the story I heard at the time was that Sequential had a surplus of 5 pin plugs laying around, so Yeah, we all got stuck with conectors that bent or broke on a regular basis if you were gigging.) But, honestly, although MIDI seems like Anchient History now, it was absolutely a game changer. EDM woulden’t exist without it.
    Thank you YRG for putting a MIDI socket on the controller.I’ve still got a few analogue relics that I haven’t switched on in years that are about to get rudely awakend. Yeah!

    • Profile photo of Emma
      Emma Reply

      Nice! Get those relics humming ..

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