You may not expect it from a bunch of carefree guys who just want to play music, but the Grateful Dead has been pushing the technological boundaries of music for decades. The legendary concert experience—which inspired people to drop out of conventional society and follow the band from city to city—included customized setups so elaborate that the band had to invent the systems, because there was nowhere to buy the technology infrastructure.
Rolled out for the first time in 1974, the Wall of Sound took eight years of experimentation, $350,000 to create, and used 26,400 watts of power from fifty-five McIntosh 2300 amplifiers. It was so far ahead of any other rock band's concert sound system, it catapulted the Grateful Dead into a different music-technology solar system. "The Wall" was also a visual work of art, including over 600 speakers (88 JBL fifteen-inch, 174 JBL twelve-inch, 288 JBL five-inch, and fifty-four ElectroVoice tweeters) in a huge geometric pattern that caused concertgoers to literally gasp when they first saw the setup.
Throughout the decades, technology has continued to be an essential element of live shows. For example, in the 1980s a $30,000 harmonic analyzer originally designed by NASA to evaluate the aerodynamic strength of metals was added to the live show equipment.