After 30 years, the inventors of MIDI are being recognized by the Recording Industry with a pair of Grammy awards. My friends Dave Smith and Ikutaroo Kakehashi are both receiving the awards during this year’s ceremony for the creation of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface. These guys were the true pioneers who set MIDI in motion and made it possible for millions of people to enjoy music creation by employing synthesizers, computers and music software.
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.
My memory is a little fuzzy about the first public demo of MIDI in 1983, but I remember being there and getting inspired. It was an amazing demonstration of collaboration between a little company and a big one. The thing about MIDI that I think is so fantastic and unusual in a historical perspective is how the standard was widely embraced by all parties without a dominant player forcing it down everyone else’s throats. When you look at other standards (Ethernet, WIFI, SCSI, etc.) they generally came from a market leading company licensing and dictating terms. MIDI was the anthesis of that. We we all part of a tiny market looking to increase our businesses and revenues and MIDI was a way to create interoperability on a shoestring with little financial or technical risk. That was the brilliance and simplicity of the idea. As a result, all boats were lifted.