The Synclavier was an early digital synthesizer (uses FM synthesis), polyphonic digital sampling system, and music workshop developed at Dartmouth College, and produced by New England Digital Corporation, out of Norwich Vermont. It was first prototyped in 1973 (as the Dartmouth Digital Synth.) and came to fruition in 1978 as the Synclavier 1. The real success, however, was the Synclavier 2, which introduced many new features to the industry unseen before.
external image Synclavier1_JB.jpg
(Pictured above, the Synclavier 1)

The Synclavier introduced many new technologies to the industry, with many of its technologies being widely adapted, thus the system being considered "The" pioneering system. Some of the technologies include the first 16-bit polyphonic digital sampling system, as well as many in house developed technologies the the rest of the industry didn't have yet such as all their own software, their own cpu, and most importantly, their "Direct-to-disk" Technology which got rid of the use of tapes in their system. The Synclavier 2 was rivaled by the "Fairlight CMI", but overall the system was a mass success giving studios new recording capabilities the didn't have before.

external image NedSynclavierII.jpg
(Pictured above Synclavier 2)

Some famous uses of the Synclavier was Musician Frank Zappa, The Scoring for Apocalypse Now, and Christopher Boyles, famous sound producer, used the Synclavier on many of his films.

A video demonstrating what the Synclavier was and how it was used:

Video interview of Frank Zappa, him demonstrating the Synclavier, and talking about it, as well as his career and music in general.