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Synthesizer History Timeline
1 The First Synthesizer To…
If you are going to add to the list please use the same format and insert in chronological order.
1.2 The Synth List – Formating: Year – Manufacturer – Model – First at what..?
- 1837 – C.G. Page (Salem. Mass) – first to produce electronically generated sound (not necessarily associated with a musical instrument). After inventing the Volta in 1800 (an early battery), in 1837 Page was doing experiments with coils and realized when certain coils were attached to a batter they omitted a ringing sound. While he initially thought the ring came from the electrical current was interrupted (battery disconnected), what was actually taking place was the induction through the coils was causing them to vibrate. via Peter Grenader
- 1885 – Person and Ernst Lorenz -‘Elektrisches Musikinstrument’ – the first musical instrument designed to produce electrically generated sound. It used electronic vibrations to drive an electromagnet that were connected to resonating boards, which translated these vibrations to sound. via Peter Grenader
- 1897 – Taddaeus Cahills – Telharmonium – electromechanical instrument.
- 1936 – Oskar Sala – Mixturtrautonium – first synth using Subharmonic synthesis
- 1939 – Homer Dudley invents the Parallel Bandpass Vocoder (VODER) – A manually key operated speech synthesizer
- 1940 – Homer Dudley invents the The Voder speech synthesizer – A device which used the human voice and an artificial voice to produce a composite. Both were researched as a way to transmit speech over copper wires (id est, telephone lines)
- 1948 – Hugh LeCaine – Electronic Sackbut – First voltage-controlled synthesizer
- 1948 – Dr. Raymond Scott – Wall of Sound – First polyphonic Sequencing Workstation (electromechanical) and the Electronum – first sequencer.
- 1950 – CSIR – Mk 1 – The first known use of a digital computer for the purpose playing music
- 1956 – Louie and Bebe Barron – Produced the first all-electronic musical score for a major motion picture – MGM’s ‘Forbidden Planet’
- 1957 – Max V. Mathews at Bell Labs – MUSIC – the first digital synthesizer. Technically, it was a computer program, though it set the stage for every digital synthesizer that proceeded it.
- 1963/64 – Buchla – model 100 modular – 1st “modern” modular synth
- 1967 – Moog – Moog modular synthesizer I, II & III – 1st commercial modular synth.
- 1969 – EMS – Synthi VCS-3 – first non-modular mini-synth
- 1970 – Moog – Minimoog – 1st Mono Synth with keys (non-modular)
- 1971 – Tonus/ARP – Soloist – 1st preset mono synth
- 1971 – John Chowning – developed FM synthesis using the MUSIC-IV language (source), a direct descendent of Mathew’s MUSIC program. FM synthesis was later licensed by Yamaha, and used in popular synths such as the DX7.
- 1971 – Buchla – 500 – micro-controlled polyphonic analogue in 1971, it was also programmable as you could save patches to floppy.
- 1972 – Triadex Muse – first of many horrible sounding digital synth/seq workstation thingies
- 1973 – Coupland Digital Music Synthesizer – First Digital (Triadex beat it?) Update via Peter Grenader: “No time to read through all these posts to see if it’s come up yet, but the Coupland was vaporwear…it never existed. I met Mark Vail, who’s now a friend, by writing him a letter informing him that his story about the Coupland in his Vintage Synthesizers book (GREAT book) which mentioned it’s only recorded showing was at the AES show in LA in 1978 was a farce. I was there – at their booth and their suite in the Hilton where the instrument was said to be. I was there on the first day, I was there on the last day. The only thing they had was a small model – about six inches across, sitting on a table. The booth was amazing – this radial orb multiple people could sit in, with a cover that came over each person which played what I remembered was a very impressive demo which swirled around four speakers inside the box. I, and everyone else, were blown away. They kept saying…’it will be here tomorrow, it’ll be here tomorrow’…so I showed up the last day just to see it, figuring by the then it would have arrived…it didn’t. I did see the frst Synclavier at that show however. Their suite was across the hall from the Coupland folk. That completely kicked the crap out of everything else shown that year.”
- 1973 – NED – Synclavier – first digital synth
- 1974 – Roland – SH3a – first commercial additive synth
- 1974 – RMI – Harmonic Synthesizer – first commercial additive synth
- 1976 – Yamaha – CS80 – first synth with poly aftertouch = polypressure
- 1976 – PPG – PPG 1003 sonic carrier – 1st programmable mono/duo synth (this, along with the model 1020, might have been the 1st synths to use DCOs as well)
- 1977 (late) – Oberheim – OB1 – 1st commercial programmable mono synth
- 1978 (late) – PPG – Wavecomputer 360 – 1st wavetable synth
- 1978 – Sequential Circuits – microprocessor control the SCI Prophet10 (briefly) and the P5 — again based on existing E-mu tech stuff
- 1979 – NED – Synclavier – First FM
- 1979 – Fairlight CMI – First Sampler, First Workstation
- 1982 – Sequential Circuits – Prophet600 / First Midi Synthesizer (though some argue the Prophet 5 rev 3.2 is pre-MIDI MIDI)
- 1983 – Yamaha – DX7 – Digital takes over, FM goes mainstream
- 1983 – OSC – OSCar – First real-time additive with analog filters
- 1984 – Sequential Circuits – SixTrak – first multitimbral
- 1985 – Casio – CZ101 – First battery-powered all digital mini-synth
- 1989 – Emu Systems – Proteus – First dedicated ROMpler
- 1994 – Yamaha – VL1 – first physical modelling synth
- 1995 – Clavia – Nord Lead – 1st Virtual Analog (VA)
- 1996 – Rubberduck – still not the first softsynth but came before Seer Systems Reality.
- 1996 – Steinberg – VST – Ok not a synth but enabled a lot to be written as plug-ins and used simultaneously
- 1997 – Seer Systems – Reality – First Modular Soft Synth
- 2912 – KalQuestoTron – the first genetically engineered synth. Each cell is an oscillator, filter, and neural sequencer. Can be delivered via injection to always play ‘hold music’ in your head.
1.3 Related Links – Synthesizer History
- This List via MATRIXSYNTH: 
- Pre-Synthesizer Era (german via Moogulator) http://sequencer.de/synth/index.php/Synthesizer_Vorgeschichte