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Bits and PiecesA History of Chiptunes$
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Kenneth B. McAlpine

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190496098

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190496098.001.0001

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The Atari VCS

The Atari VCS

The Rise of the Machines

(p.11) 1 The Atari VCS
Bits and Pieces

Kenneth B. McAlpine

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the Atari VCS, the machine that took video games out of the arcades and into the living room and established Atari as the dominant player in the home video games industry, at least for a time. It examines the context that surrounded the birth of the Atari VCS and how that influenced its hardware design, in turn shaping both the sound and people’s expectations of video game music. The Atari’s sound chip, the Television Interface Adaptor, gave the Atari VCS what might charitably be described as a ‘characterful’ voice. By reviewing the hardware, this chapter explores how and why the Atari VCS sounded just the way it did, and by exploring some of the games that were released for the platform the chapter shows how, while sound games did indeed sound dreadful, with a little musical ingenuity they could work wonderfully as game soundtracks.

Keywords:   Atari VCS, video game, console, technology, composition, electronic music, interaction design, programming, 8-bit computing

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