To learn more about the philosophy behind the creation of this timeline, read Bob Moog Foundation Archive and Education Specialist Marc Doty’s blog entry here.

Telharmonium (United States, 1897-1900)

The Telharmonium was an electro-mechanical music synthesizer that used rotating pitch shafts with notched tone wheels to generate fixed frequencies. It was entirely hard-wired and had a keyboard for triggering the tone-generating circuitry.
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Audion Piano (United States, 1915)

The Audion Piano was the first electronic music instrument to use audio oscillators: vacuum tubes to generate sound. It was played using a keyboard interface.
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Theremin (Russia, 1924)

The Theremin was an early gesture-controlled instrument, meaning that one played it by waving one?s hands in the proximity of two antennae.
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Ondes Martenot (France, 1928)

The Ondes Martenot borrowed Theremin?s means of generating tones using vacuum tube oscillators. To this was added an attractive cabinet at which a musician could sit and a playing surface that resembled a keyboard for the precise articulation of tones and melodies.
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Trautonium (Germany, 1930)

The Trautonium was an instrument using neon-tube relaxation oscillators (repeating output through a feedback loop) to generate a sawtooth wave rich with harmonics. Its three-octave range was played by pressing a resistor ribbon with the finger onto a metal strip.
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Coupleux-Givelet Organ (France, 1930)

The Coupleux-Givelet Organ utilized the principle of one vacuum tube per note and was designed to replace church organs. It had two keyboards and was polyphonic.
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The Rhythmicon (United States, 1931)

The Rhythmicon was an electro-optical rhythm machine that used a small keyboard and two rotating wheels to regulate patterns of pitch and rhythm. It was an early drum machine.
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Warbo Formant Organ (Germany, 1937)

Not an organ, but an early synthesizer, the Warbo Formant Organ improved upon the principles of the Trautonium?s relaxation oscillators. It was four-note polyphonic, resembled an upright piano, and featured an early implementation of preset voices, all controlled by flip switches on the face of the instrument.
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Novachord (United States, 1939)

The Hammond Novachord was a fully polyphonic organ-style synthesizer that used individual vacuum tube oscillators. It was the most advanced synthesizer of its time and allowed the player to adjust the tone color of a note, its attack and decay characteristics, and also mix certain timbres to create unique sounds.
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Ondioline (France, 1940)

The Ondioline was a small, monophonic keyboard instrument using vacuum tube oscillators to create a variety of sounds and effects. The keyboard was miniaturized, with eight octaves, and had specially mounted spring-loaded keys so that the player could bend and make notes waver.
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Electronic Sackbut (Canada, 1945)

The Electronic Sackbut (1945?48) was one of the first synthesizers to use voltage control techniques to trigger and modify sounds. It had a touch-sensitive, monophonic keyboard, and a control pad for the left hand for changing the balance of overtones and type of waveform (sawtooth and pulse).
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Melochord (Germany, 1947)

The Melochord was a monophonic synthesizer using vacuum tube oscillators with a split keyboard capable of playing two notes at the same time.
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Multimonica (Germany, 1950)

An accordion-like keyboard instrument with two keyboards. One triggered a fan-blown reed organ, the other keyboard controlled a monophonic synthesizer with vacuum tube oscillators and related sound modifying controls.
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RCA Mark I and II (United States, 1952-58)

The RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer was a large, modular, rack-mounted collection of interconnected components including vacuum tube oscillators and modifiers, all controlled by two paper tape readers used to program the sounds. It was essentially a composing machine that produced its audio output in sections that could be recorded and edited into larger compositions.
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Clavivox (United States, 1952)

The Clavivox was a three-octave keyboard instrument resembling a small electronic organ. It used the beat frequency principle of the Moog Theremin and had the unique ability to slide notes from key to key at adjustable rates of portamento.
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ANS Synthesizer (Russia, 1958)

The ANS Synthesizer was an electro-optical musical instrument that directed light through hand-drawn etchings and created musical sound by means of a light reader connected to an array of optical phonograms stored on glass discs.
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Oramics Machine (United Kingdom, 1959)

The Oramics Machine was an electro-optical synthesizer that converted hand-drawn images into sound. It was monophonic and controlled by instructions drawn onto 35mm film strips. A transport mechanism kept the strips in synchronization and a bed of photo-sensors converted the images into sounds of all types. Image credit: daphneoram.org
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Bode Audio System Synthesizer (United States, 1960)

The Audio System Synthesizer was an early attempt to create a voltage-controlled system for managing a series of interconnected components. These components, or modules, were assembled to create an electronic music system that could create tones, process the sounds, and add audio effects for mixing the sounds.
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Syn-Ket (Italy, 1962)

The Syn-Ket was a small analog synthesizer designed using principles of voltage control. It used three transistorized tone-generation modules and was played using three, small monophonic keyboards. Image source: encyclotronic.com
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Mellotron (United Kingdom, 1963)

The Mellotron is an analog audio sampler that played prerecorded samples of instrumental sounds by means of a keyboard and magnetic tape loops. Image source: mellotron.com
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Moog Modular Synthesizer (United States, 1964)

The Moog Synthesizer was a transistorized, voltage-controlled synthesizer composed of individual audio generating and processing modules. It was played with a monophonic, organ-style keyboard or other controllers and programmed with patch cords.
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Buchla 100 Modular Synthesizer (1964)

The Buchla Synthesizer was a transistorized, voltage-controlled, modular synthesizer contained in a small desktop cabinet and programmed using miniature patch cords.
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EMS Synthi VCS3 (United Kingdom, 1969)

The Electronic Music Studios (EMS) VCS3 was a portable, voltage-controlled synthesizer with a pin-matrix patching system. It was the first widely used electronic instrument in the UK.
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ARP 2500 Modular Synthesizer (United States, 1970)

The ARP 2500 was a monophonic, voltage-controlled modular synthesizer that used a 10 x 10 sliding matrix switch system in place of patch cords for the purposes of connecting signals.
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Minimoog (United States, 1970)

The Minimoog was a preset, monophonic synthesizer with a keyboard, modulation wheel, and three oscillators. It was a simple, compact, synthesizer designed for live performance situations.
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EMS Synthi 100 (United Kingdom, 1971)

The Synthi 100 was a large, modular analog synthesizer designed for music production studios. It featured 12 oscillators, a 64 x 64 pin matrix patching system, and an extensive sequencer for programming up to 256 steps.
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Roland SH-1000 (Japan, 1973)

The Roland SH-1000 was a monophonic, analog synthesizer using a single primary oscillator, two low frequency oscillators, an envelope shaper and 10 preset sounds. It was originally designed as a companion to a home organ.
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Yamaha GX-1 (Japan, 1973)

The Yamaha GX-1 was an analog, polyphonic synthesizer equipped with 2 ,61-key, 8-voice keyboards; one monophonic keyboard with 37 keys, Portamento and ribbon controller; a monophonic pedal board with 25 pedals, and a full complement of filters processing functions. Image source: encyclotronic.com
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Moog Polymoog (United States, 1975)

The Polymoog was a fully polyphonic, preset analog synthesizer with a 71-key, velocity sensitive keyboard that could divided in three sections and voices.
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Oberheim 4-Voice Polyphonic (United States, 1975)

The Oberheim 4-Voice Polyphonic was an analog music synthesizer with a four-octave keyboard, analog mixer and the ability to output each of the four voices independently.
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Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 (United States, 1978)

The Prophet 5 was an analog, 5-voice polyphonic synthesizer with a five-octave keyboard. It was one of the first synthesizers to provide programmable memory.
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Korg MS-20 (Japan, 1978)

The Korg MS-20 was a semi-modular, monophonic synthesizer that emulated the large modular systems produced by Moog and others. It had two oscillators, envelope generators, and a 3-octave keyboard with a modulation wheel.
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Present and Future

(content to come)
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