Modular to go (update)
The compact and bright red housing makes the Nord Modular look like a toy instrument. Mind you, it's a mighty tool for synthesized sound design, currently being reborn in the shape of the G2 model.
In the early days of synthesizer development, modular systems were the state of the art. Being large and expensive equipment, such resources were initially few and far between and would often be used for scientific and educational purposes. Real modular synthesizers tended to be rather immobile units, as the sound generating devices, such as oscillators and filters, were housed inside large metal boxes and connected by a bunch of cables to create different sounds.
Manipulating a sound was done by changing the cable-connections between the modules. Of course, there was no way to save the previous cabling to some sort of memory other than the musician's brain, so countless hours of experimenting might have been lost after such a procedure. In fact, the only way to get back to the original wiring was by drawing it on a piece of paper before changing it.
In theory, such an original modular system meant unlimited freedom to the ambitious musician and sound designer, but in fact the awkward handling made him feel rather like a slave at times. Hence the introduction of hardwired synthesizers must have been a blessing to many less experimentally minded musicians.
Gone was the unlimited connectivity
within the system, but now the instruments had a simple user interface
that was a lot more practical and is still used in modern synthesizer
models. For the past few years, some companies have successfully tried
to revive the old modular concept on a software-only basis, hence build
a "virtual" version of the modular dinosaurs. The blueprints however have
not passed away completely, there's a small number of dedicated companies
like Doepfer or Curetronic
who still build analogue modular synthesizers in their original form.
A contemporary analogue modular system (Doepfer A-100)