In high school with an interest in sound and music electronics, he designed and built a synthesizer. He majored from Northwestern University, with radio-TV-film. While here he perfected several more synthesizers. Upon graduation, he qualified for a post as junior engineer by showing circuit boards of his designs. He entered a competition to design a semicustom chip and as a result was offered a job at Interdesign, where he worked for four years.
He founded Curtis Electromusic Specialties, which produced the integrated circuits that were used in a variety of analog synthesizers for decades. There are several patents in his name. in 2006 he was inducted into the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame for technical contributions to music. In 1988 with the advent of digital technology, Doug formed the company OnChip Systems.
Musical instruments with CEM ICs are said to have that Curtis sound, described as "fantastically saturated, brash and powerful".