Jump to content

How many of you own an Atari Hotz Box?

Recommended Posts

Stumbled upon (missed) an article written by David Small for Current Notes December 1990 issue that sent me down another deep dive after the mention of a Hotz unit that was supposed to appear on Arsenio Hall Show in 1991. While I couldn't find a Hotz being used on any of the available episodes currently online, they did show an Atari STacy laptop being used by the shows band. Since it's not on any streaming services, it's possible it did air and just isn't out there yet for archival purposes though it would be interesting to learn if they actually ever did use it on stage.


This also led me to discover another artist that ended up using the Hotz box as an instrument (to what extent wasn't mentioned) for his entire album titled "Livin It Up" from 1991 through an article in Ohio State University (The Lantern) that specifically references the Hotz Box (dropping the Atari name and Jimmy's name altogether) but also found a video clip interview where Trent talks about the Hotz Box but doesn't directly specify that's what it actually is, yet the newspaper article references back to it as such, which I've shared below for anyone who may find it interesting as well.


Current Notes article with David Small December 1990:





Trent Dean OSU Lantern article and video clip interview from 1991:




Out of curiosity to see if Trent still owned and used it (he lives in my home state just a few hours out), sent him a message and this was his response:


"Hi Clint. Yeah I wish I had that Hotz box. It was a proto-type. And belonged to the producer I worked with. He was friends with Jimmy Hotz and lived near him in North Hollywood. We used that thing on almost everything. It was awesome." I thought that was really cool to learn and wanted to share.


A few hours an evening a few weeks back and after some refinements here and there, this is my latest guitar jam played on the smaller Hotz unit alone. Really love how it turned out, please have a listen if you like the 80s Synth Guitar stuff:



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad the scan helped. 


Here is the full issue if anybody wants to read the whole thing.




There is a lot of great info in these later Current Notes issues on Jaguar, ST-TT, Lynx and even the 8-bit stuff produced in the 90's when most people had abandoned the 8-bit computers.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/21/2020 at 4:34 PM, Allan said:

Glad the scan helped. 


Here is the full issue if anybody wants to read the whole thing.




There is a lot of great info in these later Current Notes issues on Jaguar, ST-TT, Lynx and even the 8-bit stuff produced in the 90's when most people had abandoned the 8-bit computers.

I think a lot of people wouldn't have abandoned 8-bit computers in the '90s if anyone (ie. Atari) had bothered to tell them that there were still new products being released for the system. I think I saw Current Notes for sale once or twice in local shops, and not with any consistency. When Antic folded I thought "well, that's it" -- and pretty much relegated my 130XE to writing university essays, thinking there was no future in it. Pfft.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the video I promised a while back. Feel free to leave a comment on YouTube. Thanks to Clint for the snazzy thumbnail! A history, overview and tutorial of the very rare Hotz Box MIDI Translator hardware and software, invented by Jimmy Hotz. I decided to make this video because the only videos I found were of people playing the Hotz Box, but there was really no information out there on how it worked, and on forums it was very misunderstood. Hopefully this video will provide enough insights to educate people interested in this system and how it can be used. If you'd like to get a custom system built of any size, Jimmy can add polyphonic aftertouch and other features. For more information visit www.jimmyhotz.com.



  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Every few months I'll do a quick search to see if anything new pops up. It looks like a slew of ST Reports and few other things have surfaced beginning of February which had a bit of, well... colorful tidbits that I found fascinating to read and sharing for those who may be interested.


This appears to be from the GEnie days in 1989, it's just a shame that the the messages or responses weren't all printed in their entirety but it seems someone wasn't exactly on-board with the idea of the Hotz Box, at all. This one is called "A different look at the Hotz Box" by John Eidsvoog, which I would later learn was co-owner of CodeHead Software. I did find he has a YouTube channel is and is quite the piano player, though I didn't see a Mac in sight anywhere.


It even states in the beginning his attempt at trying not to be biased about the Hotz (I had incorrectly presumed in favor of lol) but that would sharply turn into a deafening no. :lol:



Interestingly it didn't stop there with just a long-winded unfavorable review, though it doesn't mention he actually played the unit first hand. There seems to be quite a bit of messages responding to anyone showing interest or posting positive views of the Atari Hotz Box with quick lashes of how the Hotz Box does nothing for the musician but restricts them and is no better than a Chord Organ. Yikes. I decided to keep these clippings in their entirety as it kind of shows the bias against Atari ST computers as well and favors Macs so there could possibly be some other deeper-rooted bias than even just outright disliking the Hotz as a whole. Though it turns out they were selling a supposedly competing product called MIDIMATE that ran on the 8-bit line, which could yet be another variable.


What I found most fascinating with John's dislike is completely discrediting both the software and the hardware altogether unless the comparison was to that of again, the Chord Organ. Anyone can recognize instantly that the Hotz isn't going to be a device or setup that you start banging out some ragtime Maple Leaf Rag on, it's a completely different setup/approach for a different type of music. Not to say that it would be entirely impossible either but I wouldn't want to try it and if that were my intent to begin with, I would certainly use a standard piano over a vastly different controller/instrument to do it with.


Anyways, it unfolds...








World of Atari in 1989 must have been held at various locations (the one I know of being in Dallas, TX) but apparently also in Anaheim, CA posted by John Nagy and expresses how the concert side of things turned out to be a doosey, in not such a good way it seems, at least from his experience:




Some more good reading material from John Nagy with mention to Hotz and such from NAMM 1990:









A guy named Rocky Sgro apparently recorded the shows in 1989 and back then you could order a VHS copy from him so I'm really hoping it surfaces, that would be great to watch!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ran across this somewhat by accident, reading an article with Mike Pinder and he mentions working on a "Musicians of Atari ST" video in 1989. Provided by Jason Scott, what an amazing video. Perfect Throwback Thursday type of thing to share and while it's not the World of Atari 1989 video from Dallas, TX I was hoping to uncover (fingers still crossed it comes to surface), this video is fantastic! Highly recommend checking it out if you haven't already seen it already and while there's nothing really new, it does show where some of the original Hotz video clips originated from. Check out that ADAP system being used! Also liked the Honey I Shrunk The Kids part with Scott Gershin and how he used his setup.


The 30-minute full length video with just about everyone mentioned in the article:

Here's the original article/interview from Atari Explorer, which is also a nice read:



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Serge Leroy from Lightwave was kind enough to forward me this link earlier yesterday evening and wanted to share it here as well. Since there seems to be a very limited number of actual musicians who used these devices during the time period it was released, it's particularly fascinating to me when someone actually goes into detail on how or why they used one.


February of 1994

Paul Haslinger talks about changing the group's outlook:


"One of my main influences over Lightwave was to introduce them to computers and software. I'm using the Atari Translator which is an alternative MIDI controller. It looks like any other keyboard, but instead of keys, it has rows of pads that you can program to produce any scale or combination of scales or chord structures. These are supplied as separate software which encompasses Western scales plus those from the Eastern world that can be pinned down to half‑tone steps — with some Indian scales you can't do that. You just pick the scales and sound combinations that you like, then develop them with the Translator. The Translator has a flat surface so you can paint with your hands much more than you can on a keyboard. It's extremely touch sensitive with very fast triggering. Translator technology was originally developed in the United States by Jimmy Hotz for Mick Fleetwood. If you've seen a Fleetwood Mac concert during the last five years, he wears a vest with built‑in pads like on the Translator which he hits to trigger drum sounds.


"You don't really need a lot of equipment any more. We have an integrated setup where I can jump in either with keys or the Translator at any time. It's all MIDI connected, controlled from two Atari computers and pretty easy to set up. Our collaboration developed really in night‑long sessions of working with the system — it's a little bit like the early Tangerine Dream years, but we're making music with '90s technology and hopefully creating new visions in music."


Full article link: https://www.soundonsound.com/people/lightwave-uk-electronica?fbclid=IwAR3xyqLmkICp7cOEW7NfAmutvZK3TGUF22TXUQnNwrD8rDeMiHWZM3ya2Ng


And while I'm at it, here's what appears to have been an unused photo of just Jimmy Hotz posing with one of the Translators for the Fleetwood Mac / Atari Tour promo stuff from their 1990 Behind The Mask tour...




  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

Friday was exciting!

I took delivery of the original pre-Atari Hotz Box prototype, the same unit that toured with Jimmy Hotz and Mick Fleetwood to several of the NAMM conventions at Atari's booth and played by Sam Tramiel. Also as pictured in the Atari STart magazine with Jimmy Hotz crouched behind.




It's incredible to finally see the original in person to not only get a hands on perspective of size differences but also a better understanding or sense of the original idea that developed and transformed into what ultimately became the superior MIDI controller (in my opinion).


These pictures do not show just how roughly used the unit is, though you can see some of the surface peeling on the lower left and there are a ton of scratch marks all around the unit. Thankfully the surface area is mostly in decent shape but does reflect use and age of the unit. Having sat for the past 30-years seems to have taken a toll on it overall though. The black paint does a good job of blending the blemishes and if you're not particularly looking for them, would only notice a few of the more major scratches near the top and bottom front.




While it is functional, the side and bottom pads are not currently working. Included were the extra pad overlays and sensors parts from the prototype run, though I'm not sure I want to tamper with this unit. Probably best to keep it in its original state as I feel the historical value outweighs trying to revive it further.




For size comparison, here's the prototype in front of the released version. Huge difference in size (and weight for that matter) whereas the prototype is 26"x21", the large released unit is a very wide 37" by 22.5" - another note of interest are the keypad sizes, which are much smaller on the prototype. They don't really appear to be in the pictures at first glance, though I'll have to measure them. It's like a tiny keyboard compared to an oversized standard keyboard between the two.




Perhaps the most interesting point of all is that the entire playing surface of the prototype is a single sensor pad, whereas the released large unit is divided into four separate surface sections. Would make it easier (and cheaper to manufacture) to replace a section should one become damaged or faulty as oppose to the entire surface. The two sets of smaller 15-button squares on top left and right? They were supposed to be used as shortcuts for the Translator software as I understood it. While never implemented, they could be routed to serve as other functions.


A few more pictures of the Large Atari Hotz Box and Wing units from earlier this year:






At some point, I would like to get into the unit and check the circuitry. I was thinking it would be incredibly cool to setup a play along of some Fleetwood Mac songs (Seven Wonders in particular) with the original Hotz controller hooked up and take it to one of the local computer shows here in Indy for people to try out someday.


The ability for others to play it as shown at NAMM in 1989 some 30+ years later would be unreal!

  • Like 6
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/15/2022 at 5:41 AM, Allan said:

That's pretty amazing. Looking forward to seeing what it looks like inside.

Here are some pictures of the inside of the demo/prototype Hotz box. Notable differences being these are listed as Revision 1 and of course instead of saying Atari Hotz Box they say Hotz Instrument Technologys - 1989. Other interesting major difference being the use of the Intel P8032 whereas the released version uses the Intel P8051s. Using 4 boards instead of just 3 as a result, though the release version also has more than just one CPU per board totaling 10 instead of just 4 that this unit has.


Here's the internal layout of all 4 boards plus the arbitrator board on the top right - interestingly all boards have MIDI ports:



Here you can see the FSR to MIDI Interface Rev 1 text up top and the ROM chips reading Hotz KB2 and Hotz:




Unfortunately the mylar ribbon for the bottom pads had snapped due to the very tight angle at how the pads were placed in and attached. I was aware of this being an issue before getting the box and possibly with some copper foil and a lot of work and patience, I may be able to work together a hack to reconnect it so that section of the board works again as well as the primary keyboard section. At least that's my hope. I'm not sure I'll be able to fix the side pads without replacing the entire top surface but I'm kind of reluctant to do so. As previously mentioned, this is the original unit across the board and it's probably best to keep it that way.


I welcome any tips or ideas on how to approach. I've never messed with repairing mylar before but it appears it's possible, though that's a very very thin, tight area of space to work with. Maybe copper foil and solder? I'm not sure. I don't want to further destroy it, especially if it is actually possible to repair it.




Backside of one of the FSR > MIDI Interface boards - here you can better see the Intel P8032 as well:




I love little Easter eggs when it comes to text on printed circuit boards.... Sleep is a good thing.





The Arbitrator Board:






The top side of the FSR (force sensing resistor) pads without the colorful graphic (vinyl?) overlay to give it a nice, user friendly appearance:




And finally, the rear I/O side:



Edited by Clint Thompson
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 11 months later...

Does anyone have a scan of the Atari manual for the Hotz software? I can’t find my original copy at the moment.


I’m a Hotz/Atari user from way back, and I’m very pleased that after many years of unsuccessful attempts, I have finally gotten it to work on my new MacBook using the latest version of Hatari along with MIDI Pipe and Cubase.


I can recall some of the basic operation, but I’d like to be able to drill down into the subtleties.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

I made this post across several social media pages a while back and feel like it's time to add it here:


"It has taken me a week after learning of the news, to come to terms that our beloved Atari Hotz Box creator Jimmy Hotz has passed away earlier this month on June 5th, 2023. Words cannot express the sadness I am still overwhelmed with but am fortunate to have had many amazing conversations with one of the greatest humans of all time!


He was working on several projects still as many of you may know and I was going to work with him later this year on realizing a fully illuminated version of the Hotz controller. None of that really matters at this point. We lost one of the most amazingly kind hearted souls that could exist. Jimmy Hotz was a musical genius for his futuristic inventions and contributions to the music universe.
May your music and inventions continue onward into the future to influence and impact so many people as it has me. May you rest forever in peace kind Sir, Beyond the Gates of Time!"
Picture of Jimmy Hotz in his home studio - 1985, Nashville, TN - Photo provided by his daughter Rain:
Fast forward another few weeks and I had learned very last minute that his estate items were for sale. I would have not even considered this a possibility so soon after but other plans were well underway. I was then notified that most of it would be trashed within a day, which sent me into panic mode.
Thanks to some family out near Burbank (Thanks, Jim!) he managed to head out to the estate and save most of the pads and several boxes of important paperwork and other misc. items. A few other Atari collectors also managed to thankfully save quite a bit of other very important items and I really hope they will come here to tell about said items and share what they managed to save.
While the AtariHotz domain currently points toward the Facebook group, I will turn that into a dedicated historical preservation site for any and all things Hotz-related, including spare parts (specifically pads for now) for current and future Hotz box owners, should they ever need them. I do want to note that I did not buy all this stuff as a means to hoard it, quite the opposite. His legacy and inventions deserve to live on and the last thing I wanted was for it all to end up in a landfill. As such, the goal was to save it from just that and along with some others, I feel that goal has been achieved.
I hadn't seen it before but this was his business card:
Backup 44MB NAMM Megafile Cartridge along with some Jon Anderson paperwork:
Edited by Clint Thompson
  • Like 1
  • Sad 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Damn, this is really sad news to hear. Jimmy Hotz was a pretty big deal in the music industry, even though a lot of people hadn't ever really heard of him. The guy was obviously very gifted and extremely intelligent. The world is a little worse off with him no longer in it. I think a lot of us are grateful towards what he contributed to both the Atari scene and to music in general. and I personally am grateful to hear that you and others were able to preserve some of what he left behind. 


  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Clint Thompson


It is sad to hear of his passing.


I am glad that you were able to recover some of his documents. If you need help digitally archiving these documents please reach out to me, even if it is for just some technical advice. I have a number of scanners including over-sized ones for larger documents.


My resume of sorts:https://archive.org/details/@allan52




  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a wild machine, I thought Atari got out of the music business after that one box in the 70's I had no idea it had this sorta spiritual successor thing. How cool! I guess it makes sense considering how widespread the ST was in the music production scene of the late 80's and early-to-mid 90's.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, finding this thread today was a whirlwind (crazy I never noticed it in being a member here forever). Especially with the news of his passing. I wanted to thank everyone who's contributed to this history. I quite honestly had no idea this device ever actually came out -- I remember Atari hyping it like crazy back in the day and then it seemed to just disappear, I sort of assumed it never made it past the prototype stage like so many of Atari's other amazing but sadly under-funded or under-supported ideas. 


I will need to spend a lot more time here going through the videos and documents posted because I've always had a fascination with synthesizers and the possibilities since I first got my ST back in the day, but sadly none of the actual musical talent (or patience?) to actually do anything with it. But this stuff really fascinates me so thank you to all who've worked so hard to preserve the legacy (and thankfully managed to save things from disappearing forever from the estate!)


Edited by Justin42
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tons of boxes have started to arrive and I've been spending what available hours I have every day to get through it all.


Combing through about a dozen hard drives, the 2 that work (but are problematic) have a lot of his backup audio projects up until about 2010 but nothing related to the actual Hotz controllers outside of some old diagram pictures and parts.


I found an unreleased song for what appears to be intended for his Gates of Time album, but I'm guessing he either didn't finish it in time, didn't feel it was good enough to make the album or most likely that it wasn't really using the Translator to a greater extent to showcase what it was capable of. That was the whole intent for the album originally outlined in the 90s (I'll scan in and upload that document later) but only finally realized almost 20 years later in 2007, and even then only 4 songs made the cut. There is also what appears to be a follow-up to his Crystal Sea album that is seemingly unreleased. It very clearly uses the Hotz controllers and are ambient, atmospheric tracks that run on for about 20 minutes each. No idea why he didn't do anything with those either, they're unreal. Maybe they were intended for a movie. I'll have to upload some clips from each at some point. Unfortunately the longer ones has a lot of static/noise for some reason but a lot of his audio backups seem to suffer from this issue.


For those interested in the evolution of the pads/design, here are the pre-Atari variants and the final Atari (upgraded design) version that made the final Wing and Hotz Boxes. They're not in perfect order as I went from smallest to largest but they were originally completely flat, then somewhere along the line revised to include the ridges and ultimately the Atari (bottom) version were much larger (and much better as a result imo) with a far better surface. These things are serious quality, like NASA grade! The 2nd row pads were super skinny/narrow and would have been awful to use I feel.




The PCB design evolution side of things for the Arbitrator Board (merges the multiple pads from the FSR processor boards simultaneously into one and output through the MIDI IN/OUT board) from breadboard, to test to Atari version:



and a larger unpopulated Atari Hotz Box Arbitrator board:


Most of these boards and pre-Atari pads were in a spare junk box, it looked like his prototype box variants and interestingly it looks like he had considered the possibilities as using an Atari 5200 keypad as a testing grounds for something? since they're very similar to an actual FSR but with far less contact surface area:


Here's an interesting letter about a possible CD-I use case scenario for the Hotz units, though clearly nothing materialized. There's a dozen others from very interested parties that I'll scan in / upload as time permits:




Does anyone have Pro Tools / Logic for the Mac? If so, I would like to send you a test directory to see if you can load one of them up please.


Also, does anyone have an AKAI S1000 that they still use?


For the hard drives that won't spin up, I'm going to try and repair them over the course of the next 2-4 weeks. Failing that, does anyone know of any reputable affordably priced outlets that can either fix the drives so they're readable again or recover the data?

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites


What is the copyright situation, especially with the unreleased music? Did the Family/Executor of the Estate provide a formal assignment of copyright (in writing)?


The absence of clear rights would make it impossible to to anything with this material other than quietly enjoy it in private. 


There may also be copyright/IP issues with the hardware too, but that I know somewhat less about that topic.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...