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A lot of the (sucky) music you hear today in movies, TV, and advertising is made with software synths and samplers. Sucky not because it's made with virtually but because it's made for business people, who want everything bland (except for the triphop between Adult Swim cartoons--that's good). Nowadays your average PC can imitate any synth and even convincingly reproduce symphonic instruments. 20 years ago a softsynth cost $50,000 and looked like....this.
From a website devoted to the now defunct German company PPG Instruments:
The Realizer may well have been the world's first virtual instrument, yet ironically some feel the stress of its development put PPG out of business. It was the last PPG product, and never got beyond the prototype stage. Still, its features were staggering, even by today's standards. (Check out the photo above to see it emulating a Minimoog.)Hat tip to G.K. Wicker, whose links also led to the images below, of the Space Invaders-style interface to the famous hexagonal Simmons drum kit. (Another defunct company.) Check out the little guy drumming, enlarged in the detail .
From the September 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine, Dave Frederick wrote an article on the 1986 summer NAMM show stating:
"An impressive exhibit from PPG was the Realizer (about $50,000). This consists of software versions of familiar synthesizer configurations. It allows you to design your own analog, FM digital, and sampled sounds, patch any of the components of one instrument into another instrument, and then sequence or sample the resulting sound. Wolfgang Palm, designer of the Realizer and head of PPG Instruments, earns the the quote-of-the-show award for explaining how he designed it: 'I copied the circuit diagrams into software.' No easy task."
The picture above shows the Realizer control unit only. In addition to it were racks that contained the actual processing hardware.