History of the Music Composer

Music Composer

The Atari Music Composer is a computer program that ran on Atari 400 and 800 and sold on a cartridge.

By Jing Feng
April 30, 2020

Remember that orchestral soundtrack that captivated you and captured your imagination? Chances are that it was not created by a complete orchestra but rather, a single individual using a music composer software. While there is no doubt that computers have revolutionized music-making, several inventions have been particularly critical in the creation of today’s powerful music composers. One of those inventions is the musical instrument digital interface (MIDI), which allowed users to integrate other devices such as keyboards in the music-making process. Other important improvements included the human interface, ease of use, and functionality.  

The Atari music composer, developed in the early 1980s, represents debatably the biggest leap in the music composition software industry. It ran on Atari 400 and 800. In addition to the MIDI, the composer came as a stand-alone device, with a monitor for displaying the output and amplifying audio. In addition, the composer had a screen with menu pages and clear mnemonics arranged hierarchically for easy navigation. Besides editing music, the composer allowed users to store, retrieve, listen, and arrange music 1 . Atari developers emphasized ease of use as the composer targeted everyone, including novices. Because of these capabilities, the Atari music composer was an important step in the evolution of composers.    

  1. Jerry White, “Atari Music Composer,” Compute! 9 (February 1981), 80, https://archive.org/details/1981-02-compute-magazine/page/n81/mode/2up/search/Music.