A memorial service for John Stayton Simonton Jr., one of the leading innovators in electronic- and computer-based music technology, will be Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Simonton, who lived with his family in Arcadia, died Friday after a yearlong battle with esophageal cancer at the age of 62.

In 1968, Simonton founded PAiA Electronics Inc. in Oklahoma City, a company dedicated to providing synthesizer kits to the do-it-yourself electronic musician. He designed hundreds of products including the Gnome MicroSynthesizer, the SMPL System SMPTE/MIDI/Machine synchronizer and the PAiA Programmable Drum Set, which is credited with being the first commercially available user-programmable percussion box.

Many music artists received their first exposure to synthesis with PAiA’s modular systems. Many engineers, scientists and technicians had early exposure to their professions through Simonton’s trade journal articles. His work with starved tube circuitry produced the TubeHead series of preamplifiers and his most recent project was PAiA’s Theremax theremin.

Oklahoma City businessman Charles Weddington, who along with Simonton opened Oklahoma’s first computer store, High Technology, said Wednesday his longtime friend was “a very capable and talented electronic engineer.

“John was a very intellectual person, always interested in science and the world and how things worked,” Weddington said. “He mentored and encouraged a lot of people who were interested in electronics.”

One of those was Craig Anderton of Santa Fe, N.M., who has known Simonton since the mid-1970s. Simonton was the first person to figure out how to make a programmable drum set and also found a way to use a basic personal computer to help movie makers synchronize sounds and pictures.

“One thing about John — he really foresaw the impact of personal computers on music ... he saw that in the not-so-distant future people would be doing their music from their comfy computer chairs,” Anderton said Wednesday.

Marvin Jones, who lives in northern California, worked with Simonton at PAiA from 1974 to 1980, and counts him as a major force in his life.

“We’ve always been friends. He was 10 years older than myself, so he was as much a mentor as a co-worker,” Jones said. “He was just a model for entrepreneurism. All of the lessons I learned from John come back over and over.”

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to John and Eva Simonton, John Simonton grew up in New Orleans, La., earning a degree in electrical engineering and psychology at Louisiana Tech University.

After completing his degree in 1967, he moved to Oklahoma to work for the first computerized jet engine test facility at Tinker Air Force Base.

A widely read author and contributor in the electronic popular press, Simonton was also the publisher of Polyphony magazine, which was first published in 1975 and later renamed Electronic Musician. Electronic Musician eventually sold to Mix Publications of Berkeley in 1985. He was also the founding partner in High Technology Inc. the first computer store in Oklahoma in 1976, which became the first wholesale distributor for Apple Computer Inc. in 1977.

He is survived by wife Linda Simonton, a daughter Staci Craig, a son John S. Simonton III, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Omniplex Science Museum, 2100 N.E. 52nd St., Oklahoma City.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the John S. Simonton Memorial Fund at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1146, Oklahoma City 73101.


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