The Atari Video Music was introduced in 1976 and designed by the initiator of the home version of PONG, Robert Brown. The idea was to create a visual exploration that could be implemented into a Hi-Fi stereo system. As the legend goes, when Atari was on tour promoting the device, a Sears representative asked what they were smoking when they invented it. With that, a technician stepped forward holding up a lit joint. Devo used one as a background in the video for "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise". The unit never gained enough popularity and was in production for only a year. The Atari Jaguar CD used the same engine for its visualizer when an audio CD was inserted.
The Video Music hooked up to a TV through an RF switchbox. The other hook ups were left and right RCA jack inputs that hooked up to an audio amplifiers RCA outputs. To keep up appearances with other Hi-Fi components of the time, the face was a brushed metal plate and wood panel sides. The unit consists of 5 potentiometer knobs and 13 push buttons. The way the audio generates the visual is in basic form a diamond in two parts. The outer part is the left audio channel while the right is the inner part. The knob controls were as follows:
- Gain - 2 knobs controlling the left and right audio input signals strength.
- Color - 1 knob controlling. from a rainbow of colors to a solid color.
- Contour - 2 knobs controlling the left and right audio input signals visual representations shapes from soft to geometric.
The push button controls were as follows:
- Power - Turns unit on and off.
- Shape (solid) - Any imaged that is displayed will be solid
- Shape (hole) - One stereo channel controls the outside with a hole in the center controlled by the other stereo channel.
- Shape (ring) - Both stereo channels will represent 2 outline shapes that retain their thickness with the pulse of the music
- Shape (auto) - The system automatically cycles at random between the different Shape settings as well as the next 8 buttons:
- Horizontal 1 - Displays 1 generated image.
- Horizontal 2 - Displays 2 horizontal generated images
- Horizontal 4 - Displays 4 horizontal generated images
- Horizontal 8 - Displays 8 horizontal generated images
- Vertical 1 - Displays 1 generated image
- Vertical 2 - Displays 2 vertical generated images
- Vertical 4 - Displays 4 vertical generated images
- Vertical 8 - Displays 8 vertical generated images
The last 4 buttons had an auxiliary function when the "Auto" button was pushed. In this mode, the last 4 buttons represent Solid, Hole and ring. When the unit is in auto, it will retain the shape of one of those three shapes. The 4th button is "Auto All". This sends the entire unit into automatic mode.