Jump to content

Atari 5200 Voice Synthesizer Module


Recommended Posts

46 minutes ago, RickR said:

Interesting!  I'll bet it was just a misunderstanding by the writer of that article, as there are two talking 5200 games that don't need an adapter.  Berzerk and Realsports Baseball (two of my favorites).


It would be nice to find out if this device was ever really a thing or a misstatement. The article does say “Atari confirmed…” so if it’s a misstatement, it’s a pretty big one. Especially since he/they called it a module. Module suggests additional hardware to me. 

Edited by sramirez2008
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, another thought is that Atari could have been working on such a module, and then figured out how to do it within the cartridge and normal hardware of the system as both Berzerk and Baseball were released in 1983 after that article was published?

Another thought is that whomever they were getting their information from with Atari could have been mistaken about how the tech was being done, or it was deliberate as it would be quite something to have speech working from the console and games without extra hardware when the competition required separate modules to be purchased to accomplish this. It would be the shining gold star on Atari's image and on the hardware if it was suddenly announced that they could do the same thing without the extra cost required to consumers.

So it is all speculate at this point. We know Atari was able to do it as both of the games listed demonstrate. Perhaps mention of a module exists in some paper archives in some body's house still yet to be discovered?


Edited by CrossBow

See what I'm up to over at the Ivory Tower Collections: http://www.youtube.com/ivorytowercollections


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not so sure.  The 400/800 had speech games (Castle Wolfenstien, Tumble Bugs, S.A.M.) all done in software BEFORE the 5200. 

It is possible though!  The issue with software speech on Atari or C64 was that nothing else could be going on during the speech playback.  Maybe a hardware box solved that one.  But in the end, they figured it wouldn't be worth the extra cost for consumers. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chapter 11 of Atari Inc. Business is Fun, (5200 Super Blunders and Mistakes) makes mention of a possible other console, code named Sylvia. According to the book Sylvia “…was intended to have an onboard Speech Synthesizer.” The book doesn’t mention this as a possibility for the ‘PAM’, but maybe this was thought of as a possibility for PAM as well, and it never went any further than mere discussion. Guess we’ll never know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always thought it would be cool if a non gaming cartridge was made for the 5200 as sort of another toy to play with.  I dunno exactly what that cartridge would be, but all sorts of things come to mind of what it "could be".  The fact that the 5200 is not exactly on the radar of most people except a very few of us sort or precludes that ever happening though.

<<< My YouTube Page >>>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The voice module was first mentioned at the Summer 1982 CES show in Chicago.  RS Baseball was first mentioned in the March/April 1983 issue of Atari Age magazine, but makes no mention of it having voice. Matthew Hubbard did the initial programming for the game, before leaving for Activision.  Jim Andreasen took it over.  Keith Hayena mentioned at CGE2K7 that consultants Larry Car (sp?) and Andy Barber (sp?) devised a method to insert digitized sounds into a program, and Hayenga used it to add voice to the game.  Programmer Frank Hausman was able to adapt a voice compression algorithm developed by Electronic Speech Systems into the game.  According to the V1N6 March/April 1983 issue of Atari Age, this was to be available in April for $31.95, but it didn't appear for sale until the Sept/Oct issue for $28.95.  Michael Current says it was released November 1983: https://mcurrent.name/atarihistory/wci_games.html

Whether or not an actual voice synthesizer module was being developed or not, we don't know.  Atari had the habit of announcing a lot of things back then that ended up being vaporware (5200 keyboard, expansion module, etc).  I'm sure the voice module was talked about in-house, especially since the Intellivision had one in 1982, as did the Odyssey2.  Remember, Atari's Marketing was looking to one-up Mattel's Intellivision with the 5200, which is why the controllers were designed the way they are, with having a keypad and a "360 degree" joystick, which was deemed far superior to the Intellivision's 16-position pad controller.  But it took Atari a year from announcing a VCS Adaptor to finally releasing it, and it's possible that if a voice module was being worked on, the development of RS Baseball being delayed to add voice into the game probably convinced someone within Atari that the module wasn't needed if voice could be done in software.  Besides, Mattel's Voice Module wasn't the runaway success it had hoped for:








Edited by Scott Stilphen
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.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  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.

  • Create New...