The greatest technological leaps forward are the ones we later come to take for granted. The Internet. Mobile telephony. Mains electricity. And, if you’re a musician, the MIDI protocol, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year.
Nowadays, we barely give a second thought to the idea that a keyboard or fader surface might simply be a dumb controller, instructing something else as to how to produce a sound. After all, conceptually, it’s not so very different from using a QWERTY keyboard to address a computer. But back in 1983, this itself was a radical concept in a world where most people still used typewriters. Even more outlandish was the notion that different instruments from different manufacturers might acknowledge a common control protocol.
The magazine you’re reading now probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for MIDI and the innovations it has enabled.
The fact that MIDI achieved widespread adoption in the first place was a minor miracle. The fact that, four decades on, we still use it all the time is a testament to the foresight of its designers. Fewer of us still plug in 5‑pin DIN cables or hook up hardware sequencers, but MIDI is still fundamental to the operation of our studios and to our creative practices, to the point where it’s hard to even imagine an alternative reality where MIDI didn’t catch on. The magazine you’re reading now probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for MIDI and the innovations it has enabled.
Now in their third year, the Awards aim to celebrate and reward creative and original applications of MIDI from hardware designers, software programmers and artists. The Awards attract many entrants from all over the world, who stand to gain not only invaluable publicity but also tangible help for their enterprises. Winners in each of five main categories are chosen by a stellar jury from a shortlist compiled through public voting — and that’s where you come in!
The voting process is designed to be easy, fun and informative. Head to www.midi.org/innovation-awards to learn about the entries, watch them in action, and cast your votes.
Last year’s finalists ranged from face‑powered synthesizers and knitted keyboards to Bluetooth sensors, iOS synths and chord‑bending plug‑ins. What new applications for this venerable but still revolutionary technology will this year’s entrants find? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.
Happy birthday, MIDI!
Sam Inglis Editor In Chief