Dave Smith, the synthesizer engineer often referred to as the “Father of MIDI,” has died. He was 72.
Sequential, the synthesizer company Smith founded, announced the news of his death on social media Wednesday. “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,” they wrote.
Smith was born in San Fransisco, California, and graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in computer science and electronic engineering. He founded Sequential in 1974, and in 1977, he designed the Prophet 5, the world’s first microprocessor-based musical instrument and also the first programmable polyphonic synth.
By the early 1980s, Smith had begun developing what would become known as “Musical Instrument Digital Interface,” aka MIDI. This allowed musicians and producers to be able to connect instruments from different manufacturers, marking an extraordinarily influential invention that’s still used frequently today. In 1987, Smith sold Sequential to Yamaha, and would go on to launch Dave Smith Instruments in 2002.
Smith worked for a number of companies throughout the latter part of his career, including Korg and Yamaha, where he continued developing synthesizers. He received a number of accolades for his contributions to the recording industry, including an induction into the Mix Foundation TECnology Hall of Fame for the MIDI specification, as well as a Technical Grammy (along with Ikutaro Kakehashi) for contributions to the development of MIDI technology.
In 2015, Yamaha returned the Sequential name to Smith in a goodwill gesture. Dave Smith Instruments then rebranded as Sequential.