If you've listened to any music in the last 48 years, chances are you're familiar with the Moog Ladder Filter, whether you know it or not. Idiot savants might know the invention by its government identifier: Patent No. 3475623.
But to the majority of Americans, the Moog Ladder Filter is known for the electronic tones it generates -- warm, humming, quivering sounds that have been ubiquitous in rock, pop, disco, hip-hop, electronic dance music and more since the invention was introduced to the public in 1965.
Invented by the late electronics pioneer Robert Moog and used in both his Moog Synthesizer and its compact follow-up, the Minimoog, the filter and its creator were inducted into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office National Inventors Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The honor is bestowed upon "men and women whose work has changed society and improved the quality of life," and anyone who's ever sweated and danced to Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" can testify that the invention has done so.
Artists ranging from Diana Ross to Deadmau5 have harnessed its power, and EDM especially has relied on its cosmic tones to launch tracks and dance floors into orbit. Techno and house couldn't have existed without the filter. If you've ever lost it to Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman," the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" or various Daft Punk, Kraftwerk or Stereolab jams, you've climbed on or around the Moog Filter Ladder.
"The Moog sound is the heart and soul of music from the '60s to the present, from rock and roll to prog rock to R&B to electronic music to country music," said Rick Shaich, Moog hardware engineer, in a video celebrating the induction. "There's nobody making great music today that doesn't have that sound somewhere, and that sound is the ladder filter."
Yes, circuitry and engineering jargon is tough to translate, but Moog Music has offered a basic explanation of the invention in an announcement of Moog's induction.
"The Ladder Filter was the first voltage controlled filter and was used in the monstrous Moog modular synthesizers of the 60s, the legendary Minimoog of the 70's, and is still the same filter topology used in all Moog synthesizers to this day. The ladder filter creates the massive, thick sound for which Moog instruments are renowned."
Still baffled? Watch the Moog Music clip.