Percussa micro super signal processor

The year we made contact: the first-ever MIDI connection, recorded for posterity. Think about that the next time you plug in a MIDI cable. Photo evidence now proves that the first public MIDI connection was made between a Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 and a Roland Jupiter 6. Now, get those instruments and an Instagram filter and recreate this shot, if you like. Courtesy Dave Smith (personal collection).

It’s been almost 30 years since MIDI was first demonstrated at the winter NAMM show, 1983. Marking the anniversary, The Recording Academy is giving a coveted Technical Grammy to the two people most associated with its creation – so-called “father of MIDI” Dave Smith (then founder of Sequential Circuits, now Dave Smith Instruments) and Roland founder and engineer Ikutaro Kakehashi. Actually, it’s a bit interesting to me that Mr. Kakehashi is being left out of some of the news; it was the fact that MIDI could connect between two pieces of gear that demonstrated its value. In other words, it takes two to tango.

We’ll be looking more in depth at the history of MIDI for the anniversary. In the meantime, back to that connection: Dave is at last able to clear up the mystery of what gear make the historic first public link.

Dave deserves credit for shipping the first-ever MIDI-equipped synth, the Prophet 600. In fact, BBC recently marked the anniversary of MIDI as the first shipments of that hardware in December 1982.

Most people, however, including the MIDI Manufacturing Association, mark the connection as the seminal moment. The date is undisputed: it was a public demo at NAMM 1983 that first introduced MIDI to the world. And the Dave Smith side of the equation – then branded Sequential Circuits – was the Prophet 600.

It’s the Roland side that produced some confusion. Called upon to remember back across the decades, various reports described the first link as connecting the Prophet 600 to Roland’s JX-3P. That synth does deserve credit as the first Roland synth to ship at NAMM. But Dave digs up a photo that finally proves it wasn’t a JX-3P at NAMM; it was a Jupiter 6.

It’s a good thing this news is coming out now: there’s still time to rustle up a Prophet 600 and JP-6 and recreate that first demo.

More on the announcement:
IKUTARO KAKEHASHI & DAVE SMITH AND ROYER LABS TO RECEIVE TECHNICAL GRAMMY® AWARD [Grammy.org]
Dave to Receive Technical GRAMMY® Award [Dave Smith Instruments]

Got questions for Dave before CDM talks to him? Or were you at NAMM in 1983? Let us know.

Another NAMM ’83 shot, courtesy Dave Smith Instruments. From left, John Bowen (in the red jacket), Roland’s Jim Mothersbaugh, Dave Smith.