Rob Turner, founder of EMG, has been playing around with pickups since 1969, starting his own business in 1974 in the back of his parents' garage, fixing amps and building gadgets. He started making pickups in earnest in 1976, when he founded Dirtywork Studios, later to change its name to Overlend, and released the pickups we know today as the EMG H and EMG HA.
EMG pickups were intended from the beginning to provide very even string-to-string response and enhanced bandwidth over traditional pickups. To this end, most use bar magnets rather than individual pole-piece magnets — though pickups with individual pole-pieces are available from EMG — and an internal pre-amp built into the pickup itself. These characteristics made them ideal for the original Steinberger guitars when they were released in 1983, the same year that Overlend changed its name to EMG. As the Steinbergers became more widely known, so did the pickups, and EMG's reputation grew by leaps and bounds, especially among players who were seeking a pickup that would drive the racks full of effects so common at the time, a task at which the low-impedance design of the EMG pickups excelled.
Artists and luthiers began to pick up on the advantages of active pickups, with endorsees ranging from David Gilmour to Judas Priest and virtually every manufacturer offering instruments with EMG setups. As the popularity of the pickups grew, the variety of pickups expanded, eventually adding passive pickups, traditional pole-piece designs and a range of accessories, like the PA-2 booster or SPC "fat control." Almost 40 years after its founding, EMG continues to innovate and move guitar sound forward.