The father of MIDI and inventor of the Prophet-5 synth has quietly shaped modern music — engineer and musician Dave Smith talks shop.
Dave Smith is an American engineer and musician whose innovations in synthesis have made him a key figure in the history of electronic music. He founded the synthesizer company Sequential, which was responsible for the first–ever commercial polyphonic and microprocessor-controlled synthesizer, the funky-sounding Prophet-5. He also played a central role in developing MIDI technology — he’s known as the father of MIDI. Starting out in the mid¬’70s as a fan of rock & roll, Smith got tuned on to electronics by Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach, and became inspired to explore synthesis more deeply. His inventions can be heard across American popular music, from radical pop and rock acts like Bowie and Talking Heads to film-score composers and directors like John Carpenter and JJ Abrams. In this Fireside Chat, Smith tells stories of growing up in 1960s California, how the mood of the times fueled his imagination and the genesis of the machines that music fans worldwide have come to know and love.