The "Computer Musical Instrument" was the first polyphonic, digital sampling synthesizer, designed in 1979 by Fairlight founders Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, in Australia.
It was heavily used by 80's musicians such as Trevor Horn (and a number of ZTT's artists like Art of Noise and Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Herbie Hancock, Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, Bill Sharpe, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Jean Michel Jarre and Alan Parsons, amongst others.
The CMI featured two Motorola 6800 8-bit microprocessors, and a modified version of the Motorola MDOS operating system, called QDOS.
In 1983 MIDI was added to the CMI. Apart from the keyboard, a light pen was used on a green monochrome CRT for interfacing (this CMI feature can be seen on Duran Duran's 1984 video for The Reflex). Later models dropped the light pen in favor of a graphics tablet.
Sadly, Fairlight couldn't keep up with the high costs of CMI's production (built by hand with top-of-the-line components), so they went bankrupt, and the last CMIs where sold as word processors...
Notable albums that used the CMI in its production are:
Magnetic Fields, Jean Michel Jarre, 1981.
Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, 1982.
Future Shock, Herbie Hancock, 1983.
The Unforgettable Fire, U2, 1984.
Songs from the Big Chair, Tears for Fears, 1985.
How to be a...Zillionaire!, ABC, 1985.
Planet Rock: The Album, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, 1986.
Hysteria, Def Leppard, 1987.
Automatic, Bill Sharpe + Gary Numan, 1989
Notable videoclips that feature images of a CMI are:
The Reflex, Duran Duran, 1984.
Change Your Mind, Bill Sharpe + Gary Numan, 1985.
Miami Vice theme song, Jan Hammer, 1985.
Sequencer, Al Di Meola, 1983.
Hanging on a Heart Attack, Device, 1986.
* Tony Wilson said that producer Martin Hannet quit Factory Records after the label put money on the Haçienda instead of buying him a CMI.
* Lots of reverbs were used on Art of Noise's Into Battle to mask the CMI's initial low sampling fidelity.
* The orchestral stabs heard on Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock where made using a rented CMI.
Fairlight CMI on "This Week" ABC TV
Bob Moog Fairlight Intro
Al Di Meola - Sequencer
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