In the mid 1970s, specialized hardware for synthesizing digital audio helped computer music research move beyond its early reliance on software synthesis running on slow mainframe computers. This hardware allowed for synthesis of complex musical scores in real time and for dynamic, interactive control of synthesis. Peter Samson developed one such device, the Systems Concepts Digital Synthesizer, for Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. The “Samson Box” addressed the classical problems of digital audio synthesis with an elegance that still rewards study. This article thoroughly examines the principles underlying the Box's design—while considering how it was actually employed by its users—and describes the architecture's advantages and disadvantages. An interview with Samson is included.

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