The RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer (nicknamed Victor) was the first programmable electronic synthesizer and the flagship piece of equipment at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. Designed by Herbert Belar and Harry Olson at RCA, it was installed at Columbia University in 1957. Consisting of a room-sized array of interconnected sound synthesis components, much of the design of the machine was contributed by Vladimir Ussachevsky and Peter Mauzey. The Mark II gave the user more flexibility and had twice the tone oscillators of its predecessor, the Mark I. The synthesizer was funded with a large grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Earlier 20th century electronic instruments such as the Telharmonium or the theremin were manually operated. The RCA combined diverse electronic sound generation with a music sequencer, which provided a huge attraction to composers of the day, many of whom were growing tired of creating electronic works by splicing together individual sounds recorded on sections of magnetic tape. The RCA Mark II featured a fully automated binary sequencer using a paper tape reader analogous to a player piano, that would send instructions to the synthesizer, automating playback of the machine. The synthesizer would then output sound to a synchronized shellac record lathe next to the machine. The resulting recording would then be compared against the punch-tape score, and the process would be repeated until the desired results were obtained.
Video: April 29th 2016