Atari Helps You See the Music

Instead of an arcade game I decided to highlight the Atari Video Music which came out in 1976. Here’s what Atari had to say about their new product “The Video Music adds a whole new dimension to the high fidelity listening experience. For the first time ever, you can SEE the music you hear. You can explore a limitless range of brilliant shapes, patterns and colors, visually synchronized on your TV screen to the music from your stereo system.” As great as that sounds the Video Music didn’t sell that well and was discontinued after about a year.

The Video Music was the first electronic music visualizer and it would generates real-time images on your TV that move in sync with the music that is feed into it. The idea came from Robert Brown with support from Harold Lee the two guys that came up with the idea of building a home version of Atari’s Pong. With the help of fellow Atari engineers Carl Nielson and Al Alcorn they designed the Custom IC that was to be the brains of the device. Later when Alcorn was asked about the product he responded “It was somewhat ironic it came from Bob Brown as he seemed to be the most Conservative “adult” engineer we had.”

I really like my AVM. I use it quite a bit and keep it plugged into my stereo all the time. There are fancier looking visualizers out there. Most media players for the PC come with some version built-in nowadays but to me they just don’t sync to the music the way this machine does.

They are fairly scarce and usually are not cheap if you do find one. It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea but it was a must have for me. If you do find one and want to hook it up it is suggested to always plug the unit into the wall before you plug in the RCA inputs there’s a grounding issue that could allow static electricity to damage the circuitry.


I'm a kid of the 70's and 80's. Grew up on Saturday morning cartoons, Atari and Music Videos. My current hobby is repairing arcade games, mostly from the 70's and trying to find space to put them.

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9 thoughts on “Atari Helps You See the Music

  1. vinvectrex says:

    Fantastic looking product. I love the full color instruction manual it shipped with. I can’t recall the last time I got a product with a decent manual – let alone one in color.

  2. Great post and video. I have been wanting a working Music for a while. When I lived out west I picked one up at a garage sale “as is”, which meant it did not work when I got it home. I re-posted it on craigslist for parts that day and made 5 bucks in profit.

    I will get a working one someday.

  3. Badwolf says:

    Really Cool Component. I’ve never seen one, but now I’ll probably spot one. I don’t have any televisions hooked up near my audio gear, so it might be a little disappointing. It does, however, appear to work really well with Kraftwerk.

  4. mwentworth says:

    What is this wizardry?? I never knew about this; a new quest begins…………..

  5. Rich Gott says:

    I’m with mwentworth — how could there be any Atari product of this magnitude that I’ve never heard of. Cool, cool, cool.

  6. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Oh man…
    Did not know this cool Atari offspring existed.
    Pinched myself. Still here.
    Wish I had one, but this video is the next best thing.

    Great presentation of the whole package, blinddog.
    And like vinvectrex said, they don’t make manuals like that anymore (you’d probably have to print it out yourself, anyway)
    Great choice of music, too.

  7. Like pretty much everyone else has mentioned, I had no idea of the Atari Video Music’s existence until today. Great post and video, please keep ’em coming. By the way…at the beginning of the video…did I see Q*Bert peeking over the table edge?

  8. Drahken says:

    I think that the biggest failing point of this system was probably the fact that it requires your stereo & TV to be close enough together to connect one component to both. It was far more common however for people to have each at opposite sides of the room at best, and more commonly in 2 seperate rooms.

  9. blinddog says:

    It does look like Q*Bert doesn’t it. It’s actually Clyde, one of the ghosts from Pac-Man

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