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John Simonton

11/29/2005 1:17 PM
Mark Hammer John Simonton
Someone posted on the DIY stompboxforum today that apparently John Simonton, one of the true godfathers of DIY, passed away last week from cancer. I have no other details, and no idea of how old he was.  
If you ever flipped through Radio Electronics or Popular Electronics during the "golden era" (70's and 80's), chances are good that what you considered a "really good issue" contained a construction article by John. It could have been a synth module, or it could have been a weird little sound effects gadget. What it would have always been, however, is something that if you built it you came away smarter.  
If you ever dealt with John's company, PAiA Electronics in Oklahoma (still going strong as of this writing, some 30 years after it started), you will know that they always provided fair prices, really interesting projects, terrific construction manuals, and always provided exceptional after-sales tech support.  
John started POLYPHONY magazine in the mid-70's, several years after PAiA got off the ground. Though it was obvious that Polyphony provided a vehicle for marketing PAiA products, it was also a tremendous resource to the DIY community, and is where a lot of folks got their start. Steve "T-Boy" Morrison, your esteemed webmaster here and the omniscient god of Ampage had a number of submissions to Polyphony.  
The relationship between John and Craig Anderton was an extremely productive one, and PAiA supported virtually all the projects that Craig debuted in Guitar Player and other places like Modern Recording magazine, as well as all his EPFM projects (which they still sell). Craig took over the editorship of Polyphony around 1980 or 81, and eventually became the first editor of Electronic Musician magazine in 1985 when Polyphony turned into EM. John also supported designers like Thomas Henry and Jules Ryckebusch, whose work has appeared in many many places. It would not be unfair to say that a great many of the the analog modular synth houses like Doepfer, MOTM, Modcan, Oakley, and so many others, owe him a huge debt of gratitude. PAiA was the prototype for these companies showing how it was done. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the designers in these places started out on a PAiA 2700 series synth.  
Big big contribution to the community. Big big loss.
11/29/2005 3:48 PM

I remember his articles from RE & PE, and I often found myself drooling over PAiA kits that while priced nicely were just out of my budget at the time. I still have my MK50240 top-octave divider chip that was going to be the heart of my synth "someday".. One of the first things I ever built was Craig Andertons "super tone control" - made from a kit from PAiA (IIRC). (My very first was a synth made using dc motors as tone generators.. stone knives and bear skins!)  
I learned a ton about how things could be done from his writings. Although the news was not what anyone would have wanted, thanks for posting that. It's nice to reflect. Amazing the difference one person can make..
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11/30/2005 10:27 AM
Mark Hammer
They posted a nice obituary on the PAiA website today:  
Interesting life. Interesting guy. He was 62.
12/4/2005 11:28 AM
Stephen Giles
This is very sad news, I telephoned John from England once many years ago, and he was extremely friendly and helpful.  
12/1/2005 5:52 PM

"I still have my MK50240 top-octave divider chip"
I still have one of those too, Joe. If I ever get around to doing something with it, I know I'll be thinking of the head honcho at pAiA. Somewhere I still have a hand-typed letter from him responding to my inquiry about when the pAiA synth kit would be available.  
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