Now here's a controversial topic amongst drummers. I've always found that there are two types of drummer. Those whom I will label as "purists", the ones who turn their nose up at anything electronic because, 'they're not real drums maaaan' and everyone else on the other side of the fence who accepts that it's the 21st century and music is evolving and incorporating more electronic elements.
But I'm not here to debate whether electronic drums have a place in the world, I'm here to give you a brief and informative article on the subject and you can go forth and research and make up your own mind as to whether they're for you or not.
One of the earliest examples of electronic drums takes us back to 1967 when Felix Visser, drummer of the Dutch band, the VIPS, modified an Acetone electronic rhythm box so that he could trigger electronic sounds whilst still maintaining a human feel. This, of course, is because the Acetone rhythm box couldn't replicate the subtle feel that a human makes when playing a real drum kit. It was just quantised and bland 'drumming'.
The Acetone was invented by Ikutaro Kakehashi, who later founded the Roland Corporation Japan (you may have heard of them).
The first electronic drum kit available commercially in 1976 and was created by a company called Pollard Industries and caught the attention of drummers including Terry Bozzio. However, the product was a financial disaster and the company folded soon after.
Then came the electronic drums that everyone recognises (even your gran will have a memory of these drums...they've even been parodied on Spongebob Squarepants for crying out loud) and those are the Simmons kits, you know, the ones with the characteristic hexagonal pads.
There have been many innovations since these early electronic kits, many of the top lines from Roland now include mesh heads which give the user a feel that's a lot closer to a real drum head. The programming has also come a long way, with even entry level kits coming with advanced drum brains that allow you to change the tuning of the drums, to play along with a metronome and even have built in songs to play along to.
There are many companies now who build good quality electronics including Roland and Yamaha. Go and check their electronics out and incorporate them in to your own kit. The endless possibilities on a drum kit just doubled.