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Atari Video Music: Forgotten 1970s Tech

by Paul Strauss

Everyone remembers Atari for their famous video game consoles, arcade games and even home computers. Being a child of 1970s and 80s technology, I’m surprised that I don’t ever remember seeing this oddity.

Atari Video Music

The Atari Video Music was released in 1976 and was an analog video synthesizer that could generate a kaleidoscopic light show on your TV screen when hooked up to your stereo.

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The device offered RCA inputs for audio, and an RF video output for your TV. By adjusting a variety of knobs and buttons on the front of the device, you could create psychedelic video patterns on your television.

Atari Video Music Manual

The one pictured in this article is in working condition and currently available for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $149.99. So if you’re into owning extremely rare pieces of techie nostalgia, you better get in on the bidding.

Atari Video Music Ad

One footnote: according to the seller, “Legend has it that while on a tour of the home Pong manufacturing facilities, the Sears people were shown the Video Music prototype. One of the people from Sears asked what they were smoking when they designed it, and one of the technicians stepped out from the back room and produced a lit joint.” For some reason, that has a strange ring of truth to it.

Comments (3):

  1. Robert Merrill says:

    I have the Atari Video music box.Still Great with todays music.

  2. Alex T says:

    Im writing a piece for college the atari and im wondering how it works, in terms of the technological aspects. Im wondering if you know anything or if you could send me in the right direction?

    • Glenn says:

      There is a patent on the device – # 4081829 Audio Activated Video Display. It used a n-channel MOS metal-gate semiconductor chip that was the most common process for fast logic at the time (requires +5, -5 and +12volts for powering the logic). The chip was created by a small team, Harold Lee, Bob Brown, Carl Nielson and Allan Alcorn. The idea for Video Music came from Bob Brown with support from Harold. Go to Atari Museum .com to find schematics for it.

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