In Detroit, techno resulted from the melding of African American music including Chicago house, funk, electro, and electric jazz with electronic music by artists such as Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Added to this is the influence of futuristic and fictional themes relevant to life in American late capitalist society, with Alvin Toffler's book The Third Wave being a notable point of reference. Pioneering producer Juan Atkins cites Toffler's phrase "techno rebels" as inspiring him to use the word techno to describe the musical style he helped to create. This unique blend of influences aligns techno with the aesthetic referred to as afrofuturism. To producers such as Derrick May, the transference of spirit from the body to the machine is often a central preoccupation; essentially an expression of technological spirituality. In this manner: "techno dance music defeats what Adorno saw as the alienating effect of mechanisation on the modern consciousness".
Stylistically, techno is generally repetitive instrumental music, often produced for use in a continuous DJ set. The central rhythmic component is most often in common time (4/4), where time is marked with a bass drum on each quarter note pulse, a backbeat played by snare or clap on the second and fourth pulses of the bar, and an open hi-hat sounding every second eighth note. The tempo tends to vary between approximately 120 to 150 beats per minute (bpm), depending on the style of techno. The creative use of music production technology, such as drum machines, synthesizers, and digital audio workstations, is viewed as an important aspect of the music's aesthetic. Many producers use retro electronic musical devices to create what they consider to be an authentic techno sound. Drum machines from the 1980s such as Roland's TR-808 and TR-909 are highly prized, and software emulations of such retro technology are popular among techno producers.
Music journalists and fans of techno are generally selective in their use of the term; so a clear distinction can be made between sometimes related but often qualitatively different styles, such as tech house and trance.
The initial blueprint for techno developed during the mid-1980s in Belleville, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (the so-called Belleville Three), all of whom attended school together at Belleville High, with the addition of Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter and James Pennington. By the close of the 1980s, the pioneers had recorded and released material under various guises: Atkins as Model 500, Flintstones, and Magic Juan; Fowlkes simply as Eddie "Flashin" Fowlkes; Saunderson as Reeses, Keynotes, and Kaos; with May as Mayday, R-Tyme, and Rhythim Is Rhythim. There were also a number of joint ventures, including Kevin Saunderson's group Inner City, which saw collaborations with Atkins, May, vocalist Paris Grey, and fellow DJs James Pennington and [Arthur Forest]. The Electrifying Mojo was the first radio DJ to play music by Atkins, May, and Saunderson. Mojo refused to follow pre-established radio formats or playlists, and he promoted social and cultural awareness of the African American community.