Propellerhead Software was founded in 1994 by Ernst Nathorst-Böös, Marcus Zetterquist, and Pelle Jubel with the development of their debut release, the sample loop editing software "ReCycle" and REX technology. ReCycle was an indispensable program in breakbeat genres for its ability to manipulate drum loops or "breaks."

The trio's involvement in the music industry long preceded the formation of Propellerhead. The career of Ernst Nathorst-Böös began in the early 1980s at a Scandinavian music instrument distribution company, currently known as the Fitzpatrick Import Group. While at Fitzpatrick, Ernst sold Roland products and offered his production services programming the 808 and 909. Later, he formed Synkron, a company that specialized in music technology documentation, most notably the manual for Steinberg's Cubase.

Marcus Zetterquist also worked for Fitzpatrick in the late 80's. His experience with computer programming led to a position at Steinberg, where he developed their Cubase Master Track Editor. Having met through their work at Steinberg and Fitzpatrick, Marcus founded his own company, Zetterquist Software, in the office of Nathorst-Böös' Synkron as the two teamed up to create a paperless book on MIDI called "MIDI Xplained" (originally titled in Swedish, "Hyperbok om MIDI", 1991). Marcus was also working on the development of the ddrum and Nord Lead, the analog-modeling synthesizer at Clavia.

Also working at Clavia and instrumental to the modeling engine of the Nord Lead synthesizer was Peter "Pelle" Jubel. Jubel's background in signal processing (both analog and digital), was integral in the development of the sample loop manipulation application, ReCycle. Together with Zetterquist and Nathorst-Böös, the three have formed the central figures of Propellerhead Software since its inception.
Summer of '96

Marcus Zetterquist had conceived the idea of a small music production application for some time, but it wasn't until after the release of ReCycle 1.6 in the summer of 1996 that the techno micro composer started taking shape. Originally, the project - codenamed "Tiny Techno" - resembled a rudimentary version of Reason, complete with a REX player, effects, synthesizers, and sequencing features bundled into one application. The concept was an all-in-one application for music creation that combined the technology of computer-based synthesis with the power of software-sequencing features for editing and automation.
With the resurgence of the Acid sound and renewed popularity of the TB-303, a software version of the Roland Bass Line synthesizer fit the bill. Comprised of a few delay effects, compressor, and distortion for the Acid sound, ReBirth provided the basics for creating techno tracks.

Having borrowed a TB-303 from a friend for analysis, the Propellerheads began developing its software equivalent. Pelle Jubel's expertise in analog circuits and digital signal processing was invaluable in deconstructing the 303. Rather than relying on digital recordings of 303 sounds, analog modeling "samples the circuitry" as a mathematical formula to simulate the synthesizer sound. Following the decision to emulate the 303, the TR-808 was the logical compliment, but unlike the bass line synthesizers, the drum machine was sample based.

The key aspect of ReBirth was the graphic user interface. Software that simulated the sound of synthesizers or drum machines were already in use, but adding the visual cues of the classic TR-808 and TB-303 units made this program unique. Jubel fashioned graphic representations of the Roland devices between hammertone metal panels and wooden end-caps. Zetterquist coded the input-and-response system that enabled mouse clicks to depress buttons and twirl knobs. The images of key pads, numeric displays, flashing LED lamps, and old knobs evoked the feeling of using real vintage hardware.

Branding the Identity
The name ReBirth is a natural progression from ReCycle, though other potential names were "Transistor" (in reference to Transistor Bass, TB-303), and Transistor Rhythm (TR-808), as well as "Kiruna," an industrial and mining city in Northern Sweden. Other candidates included insect nomenclature and even "Redrum," which eventually found a place within Reason. In the end, ReBirth RB-338 was chosen for the sentiment of vintage analog synthesizers and to match Propellerhead's naming conventions. The "RB-338" numbering scheme mimics Roland's product identification - the "33" indicating two 303s, and "8" representing the 808.

Innovative Scandanavian style and design is reflected in the logos and packaging of Propellerhead Software products. Andreas Karperyd's long-standing association with the company began with his design of ReCycle and the company's corporate branding. Mirroring the geometry of the hexagonal Propellerhead and ReCycle graphics, Karperyd's ReBirth emblem is a futuristic coat-of-arms that establishes strong visual ties to the company's identity. Inspired by the silver 303 housing, Karperyd designed the stylish silver CD jacket to appear more like protective tin than folded cardboard.
ReBirth for the Masses
Despite the growing popularity of the TB-303 through the 1990s, it was uncertain how producers and electronic music creators would receive ReBirth RB-338. With the exception of technologically-savvy producers, the Roland pattern programming system was not widely understood, and its use as the basis for song production in ReBirth was a gamble. To test the waters, Propellerhead Software launched their website in December of 1996 and invited visitors to download a free alpha version of the software. Webmaster Fredrik Hägglund - who had joined the company a few weeks earlier - went searching the web for individuals who were internet active fans of the TB-303, and Ernst Nathorst-Böös sent them an invitation email. This was the defining moment.

On the first day, downloads numbered in the few and garnered a handful of email replies. The second day yielded dozens more, and then the number of downloads exploded as word-of-mouth news about this innovative software made its way around the Internet. The immediate response caused the owner of the website hosting company to phone the Propellerheads on a Sunday night with the concern that some kind of illicit content was being downloaded. Within days, the website traffic exceeded their one gigabyte per month quota, roughly translating to 200 hundred copies downloaded. The number of ReBirth downloads continued at this pace - an incredible fact considering only the Macintosh version had been released. The Windows version had yet to be posted!
Part 4: The Debut

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