DSP Heros: Miller Puckette

The work of Miller Puckette has been a big influence on my own algorithm designs. The first reverb I ever programmed was a minimal feedback delay network, based around a design Puckette and John Stautner published in the Computer Music Journal in 1982. Michael Gerzon had originally described the theory behind feedback delay networks in 1971/1972, but in a British journal that saw almost no distribution within the United States, so Puckette’s work was a case of convergent evolution. The Puckette reverb had great spatial characteristics, and used random delay line modulation for a fantastic long decay.

Outside of my admittedly nerdy world, Puckette is best known for inventing Max during his time at IRCAM, and for developing Pure Data as an open-source alternative to the Max/FTS hardware/software platform. The DSP code in Pure Data was later adapted to become the basis of MSP in Max/MSP. Pure Data is now making its appearance in all sorts of environments, from mobile audio to video games.

Miller Puckette’s website at UC San Diego is the home of his excellent tutorial, “Theory and Techniques of Electronic Music.” This provides an overview of basic DSP processes, and has an informative introduction to the use of unitary matrices in reverberators. Highly recommended to DSP programmers and all electronic musicians.

Salut, Miller Puckette!