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Dead medium: Atari Video Music
From: (Nick Montfort)
Source(s): VIDEO MUSIC MANUAL (Owner's Manual Model No. Model C-240), Atari, Inc. (No date, but previous to 1978);

ZAP: The Rise and Fall of Atari, Scott Cohen, McGraw-Hill, 1984. ISBN 0-07-011543-5.

The cover to the manual has an image of a headphone- wearing woman with a pair of VR-like goggles. On the outside surface of these goggles, a pixelated geometric pattern with rainbow colors is overlaid.

The Atari Video Music, however, does not look like a set of VR goggles. It looks like a stereo rack component.. It plugs into the stereo for input and TV for output. From the manual cover (((my comments in triple parens))):

"Video Music adds a totally new dimension to the high fidelity listening experience. For the first time ever, you actually SEE the music you hear. You can explore a limitless pattern of brilliant shapes, patterns and colors, visually synchronized on your TV screen to the music from your stereo system.

"Video music generates images from digital selection, responding within milliseconds to the intensity and tempo (((I wish I could figure out the tempo of a piece of music within milliseconds!))) of the music being played. You can control colors, shapes, and patterns while creating an audio-visual concert. Or, set the controls to automatic and let the unit function with its own random selection."

There are four buttons for shape (solid, hole, ring, and auto), as well as knobs for gain, color, and contour, and buttons to set the scan rate. The manual explains the complex-looking process of adjusting the image, with illustrations suggesting the different results you can get.

The obligatory amusing anecdote about this dead medium comes from Zap, pages 49-50:

"Bob Brown, an engineering supervisor from Atari, has just designed Video Music, a game (((Atari's manual does not claim that this thing is a game))) that hooked up to the TV set and the stereo so that the sound from the stereo produced psychedelic visuals on the TV screen. It was Atari's most off-the-wall product. The man 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."