Opcode Systems

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Opcode Systems, Inc.
IndustrySoftware Development
Founded1985; 39 years ago (1985) in Palo Alto, California, United States
FounderDave Oppenheim
Defunct1998 (1998)
FateAcquired by Gibson Guitar Corporation
    • Vision (a MIDI-only sequencer)[1]
    • Studio Vision (a full sequencer, including digital audio)[2][3]
    • Galaxy (a patch editor and librarian)
    • OMS (a MIDI-interface environment)
    • Max (a graphical development environment)
    • Overture (music notation and hybrid DAW software, now published by Sonic Scores)

Opcode Systems, Inc. was founded in 1985 by Dave Oppenheim and based in and around Palo Alto, California, USA. Opcode produced MIDI sequencing software for the classic Mac OS and Microsoft Windows, which would later include digital audio capabilities, as well as audio and MIDI hardware interfaces. Opcode's MIDIMAC sequencer, launched in 1986, was one of the first commercially available MIDI sequencers for the Macintosh.


In 1985, Stanford University graduate Dave Oppenheim founded Opcode. Dave was the majority partner, focusing on Research & Development, with Gary Briber the minority partner focusing on Sales & Marketing. Paul J. de Benedictis joined the company to write product manuals, test products and demo the products after meeting Ray Spears in San Francisco while he was printing the beta manual for MIDIMAC Sequencer v1.0. The products were announced at the New Orleans Summer NAMM (June 22–25) (after which Apple objected to the name)[4] and, according to composer Laurie Spiegel, publicly available in July, 1985.[5]

In 1986, two major products were released. One was the MIDIMAC Sequencer, which later became the Opcode Sequencer and, eventually, Vision. The other was the MIDIMAC interface for the Macintosh computer. These products allowed musicians to use the Macintosh platform for music sequencing and were utilized by electronic music pioneers such as Herbie Hancock, Wendy Carlos, Thomas Dolby, and others.

In 1986, music software programmer David Zicarelli licensed his Editor/Librarian for the Yamaha DX-7 to Opcode, which published this product. At its peak, Opcode would market over ten separate Editor/Librarians, software programs designed to facilitate the editing of sound patches for digital synthesizers and the storage and organization of those patches on a personal computer.

In 1987, Gary Briber sold his portion of the company to Chris Halaby, with Chris assuming the position of Chief Executive Officer and Marketing and Sales responsibilities falling upon Paul J. de Benedictis and Keith Borman, respectively. Paul de Benedictis was also the product manager for many of the products including the new version of Opcode's sequencer, Vision.

In 1989, Opcode introduced Vision, its award-winning sequencing platform for the Macintosh (and, eventually, Windows computers as well). A simplified version, EZ Vision, was soon released.[6] EZ Vision's successor, MusicShop, included a simple notation view - a first in a sequencing product in that price range (roughly $100 US).

Also in 1989, it licensed the computer music authoring system Max from IRCAM, where it had been developed academically by Miller Puckette. Opcode began selling a commercial version of the program in 1990, developed and extended by David Zicarelli. Never a perfect fit for Opcode Systems, active development on the software ceased in the mid-90s. The current commercial version of Max has since been maintained and distributed by Zicarelli's company, Cycling '74 (founded in 1997), since 1999.

In 1990, Opcode introduced Studio Vision (initially called 'Audio Vision'), which added digital audio recording (using Digidesign's digital audio hardware) to Vision's recording and editing platform. Studio Vision was the first-ever commercially available product integrating MIDI sequencing and digital audio editing and recording on a personal computer. Paul J. de Benedictis was the Studio Vision product manager and helped come up with the idea of audio and MIDI in the same product after speaking with Mark Jeffery, a Digidesign employee key to their software development.[7] A version called VisionDSP was released just before the company folded. Caitlin Johnson Bini, Senior Tech Writer, wrote the Studio Vision, Vision, EZ Vision, and Galaxy user manuals.

In July 1995,[8] Opcode acquired Music Quest, Inc., makers of MPU-401-compatible expansion cards and peripheral boxes, such as the PC MIDI Card, the MQX-16s, the MQX-32m, and the MIDIEngine.[9][10]: 355  Opcode continued to sell Music Quest's hardware following the acquisition.[8] Opcode's hardware products also included a line of serial MIDI interfaces which included the Studio 3, Studio 4, Studio 5, Studio 64X[11] and 128X,[12] as well as USB interfaces including the DATport, SONICport, MIDIport and STUDIOport lines.[13]

In 1998, Opcode was bought by Gibson Guitar Corporation. Development on Opcode products ceased in 1999.[14]


  1. ^ "Opcode Vision DSP v4.1". Sound On Sound. January 1999. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Opcode Studio Vision Pro v3.0". Sound On Sound. March 1996. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Opcode Studio Vision Pro 4". Sound On Sound. October 1998. Archived from the original on 6 June 2015.
  4. ^ Hallaby, Chris. "The Early Days of Software Sequencers". kvraudio. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  5. ^ Spiegel, Laurie. "A short history of intelligent instruments". Retrieved 3 July 2014. ("Letter to the Editor, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 11, #3, Fall, 1987.")
  6. ^ [R.L. Blevins, Computer Music Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1, New Performance Interfaces 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 82-85]
  7. ^ Petersen, George. "Studio Vision". mixonline.com. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b Helmstetter, Anthony (1996). Web Developer's Guide to Sound & Music. Coriolis Group Books. p. 147. ISBN 1883577950 – via the Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Heywood, Brian (1996). PC Music Handbook. PC Publishing. pp. 40–41, 46–47, 90–92, 95, 201. ISBN 1870775422 – via the Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Rubenking, Janet (March 12, 1991). "Add a Musical Dimension to Your PC with MIDI". PC Magazine. 10 (5). Ziff-Davis: 355–366 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Opcode Studio 64XTC". Sound On Sound. April 1998. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Opcode Studio128X". Sound On Sound. September 1998. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015.
  13. ^ Harmony Central
  14. ^ "Harmony Central News". Archived from the original on 2007-10-27. Retrieved 2007-09-13.

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