September 26, 2006

Example of how a Standard and an Open Marketplace changed one industry...

I'm on the part-time IT staff at COR, and I get to talk to Clif directly. I agree with his perspectives on ChMS. We've argued out lots of these points over lunches and Skype chats.

I'm also a worship musician. And I was there in 1983 when the music industry figured out something critical: that a common standard could help *everybody*. Even though the manufacturers were scared and skeptical at first, when they finally dived in THE WORLD CHANGED.

In the 70s and 80s, keyboard players (like me; hey it was 1983!) spent thousands of dollars on instruments: music synthesizers with names like Moog and Yamaha. Learning to play them was cumbersome, and each was a completely independent experience.

In 1982 (still pretty much before PC's) my 3-man company became an original member of the old IMA, right along side giants like Yamaha and Sequential. The objective was to develop Dave Smith's idea for a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), which was/is merely a language that all manufacturers could use to translate Black & White key presses into music notes for the sound generator of a synthesizer. If there was a *standard* language for this (the unlikely reasoning went), then instruments could communicate, new grass-roots development from outside would introduce hybrid vigor, and everyone would benefit. But, it was a hard sell: most companies had lots of money tied up in their own systems, and saw things through Old-World colored glasses, hoping for customers to stay "locked in" to the company after learning one instrument's subtleties.

AND THEN: "In a rare example of insight and cooperation, U.S. and overseas companies began working together..." (see Mix Mag's interview with Dave Smith) - - and the 2 companies that spent huge $$ to technically design and implement MIDI gave the technology away to everyone and told *them* how to implement it. (read about the birth of MIDI)

So, in January 1983, at the Anaheim NAMM Trade Show, one guy carried one synth to another synth company's booth, one tiny little MIDI cable linked 2 totally different instruments, and The World Changed. We all quickly discovered digital control, computer mixing, new soundscapes, and a slew of eager new companies hatching new strategies to exploit the newly expanding market. Practically every bit of the worship music I listen to (and create) every day depends on MIDI - a standard that everyone bought into when no one was sure anyone would.

Guess what? Yamaha, and Korg, and the Big Boys are still around, leading their industries, and happy that MIDI came along. The MIDI specification, now nearly 25 years old, transformed the creation of contemporary music. Every church I know of uses it every week, and you've benefitted from it a hundred thousand times. You probably even have .mid files on your PC.

The lesson (of course): working to develop or promote standard schemas will help *your company*, *your church*, and *God's Kingdom*.

More about MIDI at these links:
* Wikipedia - -
* - -

1 comment:

Hal Campbell said...

In the middle 70's, slightly ahead of the MIDI standards development, the computer industry was going through a similar phenomenom. The first event was when Gary Kildall (Digital Research) developed CP/M, which became the leading operating system for the fledgling microcomputer (PC) industry built on the Z80 chip. This allowed software companies, like ACS, to begin developing software that could run on different brands of computers. This was a huge step in the PC Revolution.

Then IBM released the IBM-PC in the early 80's with Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system and suddenly the PC revolution jumped into high gear. We all know what happened over the next 20 years.