When we think of the first drum machines we automatically think of the Rhythm Ace or LinnDrumor even the MPC, but there are a couple that actually predate even those machines. Harry Chamberlin’s all tube Rhythmate was actually the prototype for all that came after, but unfortunately it’s been most overlooked and forgotten. It was not the first however.
That distinction is held by the Rhythimicon, a device created in 1930 by American composer Henry Cowell and Russian inventor Leon Theremin (yes, that Theremin). The unit generated sounds by passing light at photoreceptors through holes in a spinning disc. This generated a rhythm of sorts, but didn’t actually create sounds that were close to a drum kit. Only 3 units were ever built, and they’re all preserved in museums.
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