back to article MIDI daddy Dave Smith: '30 years of version 1.0 shows we got it right'

The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) specification is 30 years old this month and it's still on version 1.0. More to the point, it still works – with more people using it than ever. In this interview, Dave Smith talks about MIDI past, present and future. It was the combined efforts of Sequential Circuits founder …


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  1. ChrisCabbage

    Interesting you have a photo of the DSI Tempest on there.

    I'm a Tempest owner.

    Not knocking the potential of the machine, but would you believe that after a couple of years of Tempest being out in the wild, there are still fundamental problems with its MIDI implementation? Especially relating to MIDI clock synchronisation.

    To be fair, we get fairly regular OS updates and direct communications with the developers, but it is ironic that a machine with the Dave Smith name attached to it is in such poor shape with its MIDI implementation.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If MIDI was so great there wouldn't be masses of people lusting after modular synths.

    There's a significant scene around modular synthesis now. The advantage being that you can use the filter section from one device, an oscillator from another and the mod matrix from another device.

    MIDI could sort of do this, but not as simply.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      MIDI was so great

      but have you tried modern stuff. Like Jack or NetJack - free software that allows you to connect pretty much anything to anything else. And then you have JackRack and Audiveris and all the plugins with means you dont need any hardware other than a computer and a set of headphones. Well a midi keyboard is nice if you can read music and you can use MuseScore to quickly write a part for something.

      And if you want retro the Bristol Synthesiser collection is not perfect but unless you've got AR turned up full it is pretty damn good.

      Spend a week in darkened room learning the above and you wont need to spend a penny and the world is still you blue oyster cult.

      It took an 'open standard' like MIDI to make it possible - there's a lesson to be learned here. In the modern world we'd be paying 12 different companies for the different keys.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        12 different companies for the different keys

        I think you'll find after apple patented the sharps and flats (who would have thought of notes as having round corners?!) it will be 7 keys.

        at least all the keyboardists in the world will have to play in keys that dont make guitarists cry!

        Cmaj or Am anyone :D

    2. ChrisCabbage

      You can use MIDI to drive modern modular synths and still have the near infinite routing flexibility.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If MIDI was so great there wouldn't be masses of people lusting after modular synths.

      What on earth are you talking about? The decline of modular synths preceded the advent of MIDI by a number of years, as people wanted something a bit more compact and convenient. MIDI simply gave us a more comprehensive and universal alternative to control voltages (which were often incompatible even between models from a single manufacturer). MIDI did coincide with the ascendancy of digital synthesis, as as well as cost cutting interfaces that did away with dedicated controls for parameters.

      The only people I come across using modulars nowadays are anoraks who seem incapable of actually playing an instrument judging by their YouTube videos.

    4. Naughtyhorse


      'masses of people lusting after modular synths.'

      So what you are saying is they are fashionable.

      If i cast my mind back to the heady days of my yoof (when midi was born) with all them shoulder pads and big hair and wtf? makeup it makes me realise that being fashionable dont mean shit, and that you will end up looking like a dick... sooner rather than later.

      If it makes you happy, then go for it! dip your bread, and the very best of luck to you (really!). But at the next party round my house you get to stand in the corner with the DJ fuckwits who think vinyl is king.

    5. JimC

      eh, what...

      Midi will drive a modular setup as well as anything else... Note ons are note ons. Or are you thinking you want some kind of protocol for interfacing multi manufacturers module components? Get real man! Bandwidth alone threw it right out of the window back then, never mind analogue vs digital...

      The only thing that maybe might have been better was another byte on the program change, which would have helped the GM limitation

  3. Oli 1

    Long live MIDI, still rock solid after all these years!

    Loving all the touch apps that have been built on top, so you can use the latest tech with the oldest tech usually without issue after an inital setup and learning process.

    Beers to you Dave!

  4. ChrisCabbage

    For what it's worth, DSI released a new beta OS *today* with some of the long-standing MIDI problems fixed!

    Some of the nasty bits which were putting people off the machine have been addressed.

    The big MIDI clock bug has been fixed. The sequencer will now do 8 bars per beat and also unquantised sequencing.

    It will also sequence one channel on an external device channel. If they bump that up to say - 8 external external channels and it'll be a properly brilliant sequencer for live performance!

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