It's easy to assume that drum machines are a fairly recent invention but nothing could be further from the truth. The nickelodeon was, effectively, a drum machine - an automated mechanism that was used to create drum patterns.

Major players in the market today started their existence manufacturing drum machines and nothing else. Korg was just one of them and (allegedly) released the first ever totally electronic drum machine, the intriguingly named 'DoncaMatic'.

Organ manufacturers such as Hammond and Wurlitzer were keen to make drum machines to accompany the organs they sold. Later on, of course, organs came with primitive drum machines built in. These drum machines were not the programmable ones we enjoy today - instead they offered cheesy preset patterns such as waltz, mamba, foxtrot, etc., using equally cheesy sounds!

These sounds were generated electronically using very simple analogue electronics. Typically, two circuits were used - a noise generator for hi-hats, cymbals and snare drums and a simple Wien-bridge sinewave oscillator for 'pitched' drums such as toms, bongos and kick drums. In the case of a snare drum, this was typically a mixture of a sinewave and a noise element. It's fair to say that they didn't sound anything like the real thing but they do have a charming character all their own.

Acetone were making drum machines in the late '60s and the company was to go on to become one of the biggest and most influential electronic musical instrument manufacturers in the world. Yes - Acetone was to go on to become Roland! Given their origins, it's hardly any wonder Roland were so pioneering with the development of drum machines.

The Rhythm Ace was released around 1970 and was very successful it seems. The sounds, however, were typical of drum machines of the day - i.e. totally unrealistic!

You can enjoy these sounds again for those times when you need a really cheesy rhythm accompaniment (or you get the local ballroom dance hall gig!).