It is important to understand what led up to DMX512 so we can really get excited about what is to come in the next five, 10, and 20 years.
Before we say thank you to DMX512, it is fitting to look back 50 plus years and say thank you, George C. Izenour, for the remote controlled dimmer and the 10-preset console; remember the thyratron tube dimmer built from US Navy WWII surplus?! Thank you Ned Lustig for the remote dimmer per circuit light strip. Thank you Ed Kook for Edkotron electronic dimming. Thank you Rank Strand for the punch card sequential cue console. Don't drop them or change your mind! Thank you Fred Bentham for the light console. Thank you George Van Bueren for the integrated memory controller lighting console. Thank you John Kliegl, Jose Sanchez, and Joel Rubin for building the first high-density dimmer rack and eliminating the patch panel. Thank you Wally Russell and David Cunningham for following suit with the CD racks. Among other things, thank you Gordon Pearlman for the application of multiplexing that brought us away from analog control circuitry and so much wire. There certainly have been many who have contributed to the advancement of modern lighting design, all of which have been the result of industry responses to forward-thinking of designers and consultants supporting the artistic needs of modern theatrical productions, but one of the greatest contributions is DMX512. So, thank you Steve Terry and the USITT community for DMX512.
DMX512 has enabled us to gain the flexibility and economy of system design, streamlined building infrastructure, opened up the compatibility of a variety of lighting system devices, fostered the ingenuity of intelligent light sources, all for the benefit of greater artistic expression of lighting. Midway in the life of DMX, the digital world advanced to a point where we had the opportunity to go beyond much of the proprietary nature of the theatrical lighting control of the manufacturers and make use of “the network.” The Ethernet greatly simplified the transmission of DMX and other information with tremendous speed and reliability. The capacity and dependability of networks permit the control of thousands of dimmers with information feedback, intelligent light sources, effects devices, and video and scenic projection. The application of fiber optic transmission and wireless data delivery has added even greater dimension to what can be done. Yet the limitations of proprietary protocols still exist, and just now, the industry recognizes the value of creating the next generation of DMX or a common language that enables the building of integrated artistic control, no matter what the piece of equipment may be.
We have also seen audio system design follow suit, as well as the application of automation systems for rigging and stage machinery fashioned after the development and hands-on nature of the lighting console, providing scenic choreography with ease and safety. It is evident that the lighting industry has been the leader of theatrical systems development and will continue to do so.
We are at another cusp of development, and seeing the last twenty years flash by, I tend to wonder what is to come, but I am sure it will be exciting.