Don Buchla, who spent 40 years designing and building electronic keyboards died on Wednesday (Sept. 14). He was 79.

Thump confirmed the death in an e-mail from Buchla's son, Ezra. He said that the cause of death was "complications following a long battle with cancer."

According to the bio on the website of the company that bears his name, Buchla began building synthesizers in 1963, three years after getting a degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. The Buchla Music Box (known as the 100) consisted of several "modular" boxes that could be connected to each other to develop new sounds. By 1970, he had moved onto the 200 series, which remained in production until 1985.

A year later, he introduced the first hybrid analog/digital instruments with the 300 and 500 series'. As Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) took over in the mid-'80s, he incorporated it into the 700. The early '90s saw him move into production of MIDI controllers, but he returned to the 200 a decade later, incorporating modern digital technology into its design and selling it as the 200e.

He preferred to refer to his creations as electronic instruments rather than synthesizers. The reasoning was simple: Synthesizers had a connotation of replicating existing sounds, while he was interested in creating new ones.

Robert Moog, the creator of the Moog synthesizer and his chief competitor said late in his life, "For the past four decades, Buchla instruments have consistently set the standards for innovative musician interfaces that provide performer-friendly access to an enormous wealth of sonic resources. Don’s new modular synthesizer system, the 200e, continues this tradition. The panel layouts are nothing short of elegant, while the underlying functions are the most advanced and musically rich available today.”

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