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Hi, I'm a sound designer working in games and I'm currently researching a PhD in Sound Design for Interactive Entertainment.


I'm very interested in knowing exactly how the pre-Pokey Atari games generated their sound as this isn't very well documented. I'm aware that it was all hardwired without processors but does anyone have more detail than this?



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Prior to the Pokey I believe all the Atari games generated thier sounds with a variety of custom digital/analog circuits. You would generally see a different circuit for each sound the system had to generate which allowed you to have multiple sounds simultaneously.


Taking the game SuperBug as an example, it had a circuit for the engine sound, a curcuit for the tire screech sound, and a circuit for the crash sound.


The engine sound circuit was built around a 555 timer (very common in sound circuits) the frequency of which could be controlled by the processor to give the impression of the engine running faster or slower. The output of the timer went into a counter circuit that generated a pseudo-random sound for the engine noise.


You can get manuals and schematics for a lot of the old Atari games at www.spies.com/arcade.


You may also want to check out the Video Game Logic Handbook Volume 1, which can be found in the Bronze Age section of that site. It has a couple pages on sound generation.




[ 06-03-2002: Message edited by: Dan Boris ]

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That's very interesting, much thanks!


Here are a couple of other questions. The easy one is what year was Tempest released (I've seen both 1980 and 1981 although it may have been Christmas 1980 which could be the casue of the confusion).


The harder one, and this is just more out of interest than anything else, is whether the Pokey chip was ever used to generate 16 bit audio. According to the Pokey spec sheet, the four 8 bit voices could be controlled in such a way to generate two channel 16 bit audio. This is quite surprising given when the audio chip was created.


Thanks again.

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