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“Father of MIDI” Dave Smith dies at 72

Smith founded the synth company Sequential and built the first commercial polyphonic and microprocessor-controlled synthesizer, the Prophet-5.

June 02, 2022
“Father of MIDI” Dave Smith dies at 72 Still from “Sequential Prophet-5: The Legend Return,” a short video by Mark Wilcox and Tracy Wadley, uploaded to Youtube by Sequential.  

Dave Smith, a pioneer in synthesizer technology and the founder of Sequential, has passed away, the company announced early Thursday morning. “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Dave Smith has died,” their post reads. “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.” Smith was 72.

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Known as the father of MIDI for his seminal role in the development of the now-ubiquitous music technology, Smith founded Sequential in 1974 in Berkley, California. He was still in his 20s when he and John Bowen invented the Prophet-5, the first fully programmable polyphonic synthesizer and the first instrument to include an embedded microprocessor. Later, in the early ’80s, Smith developed the first MIDI interface with Sequential engineer Chet Wood and collaborated with Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi to enshrine MIDI as the “universal language for electronic instruments.”

Smith sold Sequential to Yamaha in 1987 and went on to found Dave Smith Instruments in 2002. In 2015, he reacquired the rights to the Sequential name and released the Prophet-6. Watch him discuss the history of Sequential and the Prophet-5 in a promotional video for the synth’s 2020 Rev4 model, his 70th “birthday present to the world,” below.

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“Father of MIDI” Dave Smith dies at 72