Geek Of The Week: Dave Smith

Geek Of The Week: Dave Smith

I was looking back at previous GOTW’s and came across Robert Moog. This epis geek passed away in 2005 and is sorely missed. This started me thinking… who is his modern day equivalent. There are many who have been influenced by Moog, but one name immediately came to mind… Dave Smith.

Dave Smith is the quintessential musical electronics geek. For starters, he has degrees in both Computer Science and Electronic Engineering from UC Berkeley. He had an interest in making music and started building his own synthesizers in the early 1970’s. He founded Sequential Circuits in 1972 and within a few years was making synthesizers full-time. He released the Prophet 5 synthesizer in 1977 and it was a huge hit. In fact, this model is revered and sought after by collectors today.

sc proone Geek Of The Week: Dave Smith
A vintage Sequential Circuits keyboard synthesizer

Even more impressive than his instruments, were his ideas. In the early 1980’s, far before people were integrating instruments and computers, he though there should be a easy way for electronic instruments to communicate using a standard data protocol. Applying his knowledge of computers, electronics, and music, Smith created the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) standard. Though it was developed over 30 years ago, this protocol is still widely used for electronic music synthesis today.

Due to the wide adoption of MIDI, Smith stopped making analog instruments in the mid-80’s. He went to work for DSD (a division of Yamaha) and laterĀ Seer Systems. Both firms made software-based instruments. Over the next couple decades, Smith was was instrumental (no pun intended) in the progression of digital music. In 2002, he went back to his roots and opened Dave Smith Instruments (DSI), a manufacturer of analog keyboards and synthesizers. The San Francisco based company produces high quality instruments that have become very popular with musicians all over the world. I own one and love it!

mopho Geek Of The Week: Dave Smith
A modern DSI keyboard synthesizer

Smith has received various accolades for his contributions to electronic music and DSI has received rave reviews for their products. Smith was inducted into the TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Hall of Fame in 2005. He also received a Technical Grammy in 2012 for his design of the MIDI standard. Now he can add GOTW to his list of honors.

About the Author

avatar KALE: A geek who works in the IT field and lives in Dallas, TX. He is also a music geek who has played in several local bands. Previous to his IT career, Kale worked as a photojournalist. He brings technical advice and artistic counterpoint to the podcast.