Atari AMY Sound Processor  



    AMY-1 Specifications - Version 2

     AMY 2 - Chip Notes

     AMY Development Notes

     AMY Formula's

     AMY General Description

     AMY Technical Manual

     AMY Wav Demo 1

     AMY Wav Demo 2

     AMY Software development & Demo disks

     AMY IC Simulations, Netlists, drawings and data

      AMY ERRCELL GDSII Tape Out Chip Data








The Atari AMY Sound Processor Chip

The Atari AMY Sound Processor, like so many other projects within Atari,  has been cloaked in some of the most deeply seeded Silicon Valley lore, rumor, innuendo to just outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding this highly advanced sound processor.  A chip developed in August 1983 that had sound capabilities and quality that was 10 years ahead of its time.

Yet the chip had numerous design issues, was slated for a new next generation line of 16-bit Atari computer systems as part of the "Rainbow chipset" (Silver, Gold and AMY) and was being discussed throughout the company in various groups to be used in other proposed designs. It was being considered for use in next generation Atari game consoles and in the Atari Arcade division.

When Atari was sold in July 1984 to Tramel Technologies Ltd, which renamed itself to Atari Corp, the AMY was examined by lead technologist Shiraz Shivja, the father of the Atari ST.  It was considered for the new ST computer (codenamed RBP), but with more development needed and a very tight schedule and deadline, it would instead be considered for use in an Atari 65XE computer designated the Atari 65XEM.

Issues continued with the AMY and it would never materialize and this is where the classic mystique of Atari lore kicks into high gear.  Like a Cold War spy thriller with people being silenced, evidence being burned in a warehouse fire and spies lurking behind every corner... A tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists dream come true :-) 

So, theories aside, lets focus on facts.  So first things first.  The credit for finally locating an actual fully intact AMY IC chip goes to John Hardie of the National Videogame Museum.   The Atari Musuem and the NVM work cooperatively with one another and John was extremely gracious in donating the AMY chip to the Atari Museum.


To the Left are links to a mother load of technical documents, Chip simulation and design data, network lists, software, harmonics and music creation tools.  So lets have at it, lets take all this data and start to delve into the AMY and lets look into how it functions, what issues it may have had so that they can be corrected and try to reconstruct the chip logic in Verilog and in Emulation.

Lets look into the software more closely and lets see about the demo's and getting more of them working.  2 very short sample sounds are included on the Left side Menu Bar.

Leonard Tramiel gives a good historical recounting of some of the events regarding AMY during the Atari Corp years from July 1984 onward:

"I was deeply involved with virtually all of the AMY work once we came to Atari. To give people important background here's the basic story:

AMY, stands for Additive Musical sYnthesis which describes how the chip works. I won't go into detail but it is very different from the way most synthesis systems work and it is my favorite way to synthesize sound.

It was developed by Atari before we got there and they had working TTL versions that sounded GREAT but no working chips. Chips were due to arrive in weeks and we kept the project alive to see if they worked. They didn't. The designer didn't have a good explanation for what went wrong and being a full custom chip it would be quite expensive to continue. The project was shut down.

A third party group that had done work with Atari, both Inc and Corp, said they were interested. A deal was reached where we would give them what we had and permission for the designer to work with them. The deal was that they could do whatever they liked with the resulting chip as long as we able to use the chips in our products. We would buy the chips from the manufacturer and pay them a royalty.

After lots of false starts and details the 3rd party didn't share with us they eventually called me and announced that they had working chips that they wanted to demonstrate to us. I said great, let's get working on setting a royalty rate. They said they wouldn't let us use the chips for any price. This went back and forth MANY times. I reminded than that there were obligated to licence the chips to us and they agreed that was true but wouldn't do it.

We sued. I flew to give court testimony about how the chip worked and why it was so unique. They agreed to licence the chips. We said great but nothing happened. We got word that they were going to demo the technology we said "Great, what's our royalty arrangement?" They said we couldn't use the chip. We filed a TRO to prevent them from demoing the technology. We won. They agreed to negotiate.

More time passed and we flew out to meet with them but they kept agreeing and then denying that they had agreed. We refused to continue negotiations unless everything was put down on paper (it was a LONG time ago). We never got a deal, the technology never was released.

I never heard a working AMY chip but I think they did exist because I worked with the head of the project at their end on other things and found him to be honest. He was not involved in any of the failed negotiations.

This is a very high level synopsis with LOTS of detail missing but it has all of the information needed to understand the situation."

If you are a former Atari or S&S employee who worked on the AMY or have additional information, documents or other technical data/software, materials, etc...  Please: