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>.