Earl Vickers

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Earl C. Vickers
Earl Vickers.jpg
Born Withheld
Birth Place USA
Nationality American   USA.svg
Aliases ECV, EV

Earl Vickers is an American audio engineer and sound programmer known best for his work with Atari in the 1980s.

Vickers was introduced to music at an early age, and by the time he began college, he could already play the piano and guitar.

Vickers graduated from Duke University cum laude with a bachelors of science in electrical engineering. Vickers describes his time in college:

A course on the Physics of Music (taught by Dewey Lawson) was a big influence on my career. Most of the courses at that time were focused on analog electronics—transistors, etc., which I didn't find that interesting, though I did design a flanger (phase shifter effect box) in one of my classes. Programming courses mostly used fortran, with each command programmed onto a separate punch card. Needless to say, this was not very interactive!

Even though most of my courses were engineering-related, I spent as much of my college time as possible absorbing the humanities - literature, music, philosopy, etc. Learning how to learn and how to pursue my interests wherever they led were the most important things I got from college. Most of my engineering skills were learned on the job, but my early music education and a strong high school math foundation went a long way.

Vickers first foray into video games was at Bally Midway where he worked on the sound for a few games and even designed and programmed entire game called Spitfire (ARC) which involved spitting eyeballs at your opponent. The game was never released because management thought it was disgusting, especially with the digitized sound effects Vickers created.

From 1982 to 1988 Vickers worked at Atari Corporation as an engineer and programmer. During those six years Vickers developed many audio technologies including audio compression and decompression, multi-channel playback, and composite sine modeling synthesis for several of Atari's arcade games. In addition to audio engineering, Vickers also created sound effects for several games, recorded speech for several, and even composed music for a few.

Describing his work at Bally Midway and later Atari, Vickers said the following:

When I started, the sound effects were mostly done by discrete electronic components, like back-biased diodes to generate explosions and other noise-based effects. "Sound designer" wasn't really a separate job title at first, so I did a mix of programming, hardware design, music composition, even animation. Later things got more specialized. I hadn't really intended to end up as a sound designer, so while I was at Atari I started gravitating toward digital signal processing, which is what I do now (speech enhancement for cell phones, etc.).

Starting in 1991, Vickers was working for Tengen, Atari's home console division, where he composed music and created sound effects for several Nintendo and Genesis games. In 1993, Atari was bought by Time Warner and Tengen was renamed to Time Warner Interactive. Vickers stayed with the company and continued to write music and create sound effects, but by 1996, Time Warner Interactive closed down as well.

While at Atari, some of Vickers's favorite memories was working on Star Wars (ARC), Gauntlet (ARC), and 720° (ARC). Vickers has said that one of his proudest moments was working on Xybots (ARC):

I figured out a way to create robotic speech using a Yamaha FM synthesis chip (normally used for music), which saved the cost of a separate speech chip.

From 1999 to 2000 Vickers was the senior audio DSP engineer at Aureal where he again worked as a programmer and designer of audio technology.

In 2000, Vickers was hired at Creative's Advanced Technology Center as the senior staff DSP engineer. He worked with many of Creative's audio technologies including the Audigy 2 sound card.

Vickers founded his own company in 2001 called The Sound Guy, Inc. It's a privately held small company that designs audio manipulation software like the SFX Machine Pro, and other sonic tools like ChatterBlocker. He continues to operate The Sound Guy to this day in San Francisco, California.

Vickers left Creative in 2004. In August of 2007, Vickers has been working as the Principal Audio Algorithm Engineer STMicroelectronics where he works on algorithm development for their various audio enhancement technologies.

Vickers describes his musical influences and taste as:

My influences are a mix of pop and more serious music. The Monkees were probably my earliest influence, because they were on TV. During Brad Fuller's funeral, I learned that this was true for him as well, so I guess it's okay for me to come out of the closet on this. My parents had some old 78s of novelty songs from the '20s and '30s (I'm guessing). Possibly as a result of these early experiences, I have a particular fondness for humorous music, like Bob Dylan and The Band's Basement Tapes. I especially like funny music with depth, songs that can make me laugh and cry at the same time… …Harry Nillson, Mike Cross, David Bromberg, and Randy Newman. Other influences include a variety of rock / folk / country / Americana / punk, etc., including The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, Patti Smith, and Leonard Cohen. I listened to Suicidal Tendencies to get inspiration for the 720° music. As for classical, I stumble my way through Bach, Chopin, Debussy and Beethoven on piano.

Audio Development


Earl used LSD, which was a conversion of Atari's RPM.


Released Title Sample Notes
1981-12-?? Kick Man (ARC)
1982-??-?? Tron (ARC)
1982-??-?? Unreleased Spitfire (ARC)
1983-??-?? Star Wars (ARC)
1984-??-?? Paperboy (ARC) Voice Effects
1985-10-?? Gauntlet (ARC) Voice recording and programming.
1985-??-?? Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (ARC) Voice Coach
1985-??-?? Road Runner (ARC)
1986-??-?? Gauntlet II (ARC)
1986-12-?? 720° (ARC) Audio
1987-??-?? A.P.B.: All Points Bulletin (ARC) Speech
1987-??-?? RoadBlasters (ARC) With Brad Fuller.
1987-??-?? Xybots (ARC)
1988-??-?? Cyberball: Football in the 21st Century (ARC)
1991-??-?? Ms. Pac-Man (GEN)
1991-??-?? Ms. Pac-Man (SMS)
1991-??-?? Pit-Fighter (GEN)
1991-??-?? R.B.I. Baseball 3 (GEN)
1991-??-?? RoadBlasters (GEN) (ロードブラスターズ) Arranged arcade music and sound effects.
1992-??-?? Steel Talons (GEN) (スティールタロンズ)
1993-??-?? Race Drivin' (GEN)
1993-??-?? R.B.I. Baseball '93 (GEN)
1993-??-?? Paperboy 2 (GEN) Composer?
1993-09-16 Gauntlet IV (GEN) Sound
1993-12-25 Awesome Possum Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt! (GEN)
1994-??-?? R.B.I. Baseball '94 (GEN)
1994-06-?? Dick Vitale's "Awesome, Baby!" College Hoops (GEN)
1995-06-01 Virtua Racing (SAT)
1995-??-?? RBI Baseball '95 (32X)

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