Hard to believe it was 50 years ago, but in 1969 Dr. Peter Zinovieff, David Cockerell and Tristram Cary founded Electronic Music Studios (London) Ltd, creators of the first commercially available portable synthesizer, the now world-famous EMS VCS3. Over the next 10 years EMS would go on to design many seminal products, including the mighty Synthi 100.
Prior to founding EMS, Peter Zinovieff had built a large home electronic music studio, based around two DEC PDP8 minicomputers to trigger voltage-controlled modules, with the help of electronics engineer David Cockerell. As a composer, Zinovieff formed the Unit Delta Plus group with Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, working on projects from 1965‑67. The short-lived trio split leaving Zinovieff to concentrate on his own compositions. Meeting up with fellow electronic music composer Tristram Cary whose music credits included The Ladykillers film, episodes of Dr Who and Quatermass and the Pit; the idea of creating a commercial synthesizer was born. Zinovieff would specify the collection of modules required, Cockerell designed the electronics and Cary designed the iconic VCS3 wooden case.
Although the original company ceased trading in 1979, employee Robin Wood, who joined EMS in 1970, carried on with various new owners over the years until he was able to acquire the rights to EMS in 1995. He still carries the flag today making and maintaining these very British synthesizers.
The EMS influence was a significant one and many of the ideas found in synthesizers of today can trace their DNA back to this innovative company's products.
Read the in-depth two-part history of EMS we published back in 2000 and watch the video interview with founder Peter Zinovieff, talking in 2016 about EMS.