Opcode: Lest We Forget

Back in 1984 I happened to meet a fellow named Ray Spears who had just written the manual for the yet to be released Opcode MIDIMAC Sequencer for the Macintosh that his partner Dave Oppenheim had written. It turned out to be the first commercially available music sequencer for the Macintosh (although Southworth Music Systems’ Total Music was very close to shipping too). The “MIDIMAC Interface” was also the first widely commercial MIDI interface available too. We used to sit around Dave Oppenheim’s kitchen table and put the MIDI interfaces together by hand, one by one, and try to avoid getting peanut butter on them. Throughout the rest of the 1980s and 1990s Opcode continued to make a number of major innovations.
Publish date:
Updated on

One afternoon Dave Oppenheim suggested that the industry needed a standard format to pass sequencer files between programs, he ended up creating the MIDI File — today an industry standard format. When MIDI became more complex (with sometimes hundreds of channels needing instant access), Doug Wyatt, with help from Dave Oppenheim, invented the Open Music System (OMS) also widely adopted by the music industry on the Macintosh as the standard for MIDI setup until Apple’s OS X came along.

One of Opcode’s many artist connections was Bryan Bell of SynthBank, an engineer, producer and computer savvy technician whose clients always needed the most complete setups possible. Bryan suggested that we combine all of our MIDIMAC Patch Librarians together in one bundle, even if it cost him $1,000 it was worth it. After selling several copies, then getting requests for the product, it formally became Galaxy The Universal Librarian, and soon after, “Galaxy Plus Editors” the first universal (or close to it!) editor/librarian for the Macintosh.

In 1990 Opcode came up with the idea to add digital audio into its “Vision” sequencer for the Macintosh. First introduced as “Audio Vision,” the concept of the MIDI and Audio sequencer is now taken for granted, thanks to Opcode’s wildly popular Studio Vision; another Opcode first in music software.

Remember when everyone had two (or more!) huge racks of synths and multiple keyboards as well? These were Opcode customers and they needed a MIDI connectivity and routing solution: enter the Studio 5 MIDI Interface with 30 MIDI ports each and a network-system of 6 per Macintosh for control of 90 separate instruments. And the accompanying OMS+Patches software is still unrivaled today; technician Bob Rice set up Lyle Mays with an “old” Macinotsh and Studio 5 system so he could play The Pat Metheny Group’s latest 68-minute non-stop opus “The Way Up.”

Today Opcode’s innovators are scattered across the MI field from Digidesign to Apple.