Long before technology enabled each of us to cram our entire record collections into digital slivers the size of cigarette cases, there were essentially two ways of storing high-fidelity recordings: big tape and vinyl. But in the 1950s, the transistor came along and changed everything. Yes, it enabled greasers to blast doo-wop hits or whatever on their pocket-size AM radios, but it also made it possible for Robert "Bob" Moog to perfect the analog synthesizer -- a development commemorated on today's Google Doodle in honor of what would have been the inventor's 78th birthday. (He died in 2005.)
If you're like most people, you're probably wondering how the heck that thing on Google.com's main page works -- and I'm not here to tell you, though I'm pretty sure you can tweak the sound that comes out of the keyboard by twiddling the various knobs. Instead, I'll just say that the Moog synthesizer was the Kubrickian obelisk that pointed the way to everything from "I Am the Walrus" to "Wanna Be Startin' Something," to "Mitt Likes Music, Including This."
Yes, there had been other synthesizers, but this was the first one that was versatile and druggy-sounding enough to break up pop music's guitar-bass-drum hegemony. The Beatles used the Moog on Abbey Road, Stevie Wonder used it on his classic 70s albums, the late Donna Summer used it on "I Feel Love," the Beastie Boys and Q-Tip sampled it on "Get It Together" and 90s indie-rock stalwarts Stereolab basically built an entire identity around it.
Robert "Bob" Moog was born in New York City on May 23, 1934, and developed his classic synthesizer models in the late 60s and early 70s. He was the subject of a 2004 documentary, simply titled "Moog," and his legacy inspired the creation of an entire festival, Moogfest, which presented its first-ever Moog Innovation Award to the 1980s art-punk band DEVO in 2010.
Moog never claimed to be a musician -- "I see myself as a toolmaker and the musicians are my customers," he once said -- but his vision helped change the sound of our lives.
Below, check out HuffPost Entertainment's Spotify playlist of songs that make use of various instruments in the Moog family.