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  1. FAQ Atari XL XE: What is the history of Atari's 8-bit computers platform?
  2. Blog Archive
  3. Atari Inc. Business is Fun (Complete History of Atari - Volume 1)

FAQ Atari XL XE: What is the history of Atari's 8-bit computers platform?

Click here to cancel reply. Email Address. All rights reserved, callahan. Share this: Facebook Twitter Email Reddit. Like this: Like Loading…. Martin Goldberg April 4, at pm - Reply. Curt November 27, at am - Reply. Atari Inc. Business is Fun is now available for ordering and immediate shipping. Thanks for the update Curt! Name required Email required Website. Great post. The location of the supposed game dump — Alamogordo — also seems pretty significant.

This is indeed a good point.

Some observers have also noted that the mythology of the dump is fueled by this location on a landscape linked to alternative histories that may or may not have left material things on the New Mexico landscape. In all these cases—ET games, Roswell, and Area 51—it is interesting that people turn to archaeology and material things as evidence to support their causes, some of which receive skeptical receptions the Atari dump and others that really press the limits of credibility Area There is probably something to be said about the archaeology of such imagined histories.

I am so impressed by your postings, they are thoughtful and always provide a new view on archaeological perspectives. Just great! A digital marketing campaign is exactly what it is. We already solved the issue of what was buried there in our book released last year Atari Inc.

Absolutely none of the press coverage from the time of the dumping both local and national mention the ET dumping myth once. In fact, the local coverage was very accurate as to what was being dumped there — a wide assortment of game titles and hardware computer and console , which is what the El Passo plant had been manufacturing up until that time.


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  • 11.1) What is the history of Atari's 8-bit computers platform?.

Even a revisit with some of the now grown kids who had been raiding the dump causing Atari to have the dump steamrolled and capped with concrete and people involved in the dumping itself produced the same results: a plethora of game titles including ET and an assortment of hardware had been dumped. El Passo was simply a manufacturing plant for actively in production products, no development or prototyping was ever done there. Most in Alamogordo have their doubts as to whether any digging will actually occur.

If it does not, it will be interesting to see how this myth continues to grow. Likewise, if by some chance it does occur and anything salvageable is recovered, will the finding of a single ET cart among the rest of the game titles and hardware simply further prop up the myth? Video Game Dump. Pingback: Ich bin nicht todt: ich bleibe monat in Herne Bay my nerves are bad to-night.

Pingback: Archaeology, Xbox, and the Legendary E. Video Game Adequacy. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. None of this was lost on Bushnell. They quickly discovered how to produce a facsimile of Pong on standard-issue TV sets. Bushnell trumpeted the news that Atari's first home game console would be unveiled at the next toy industry exposition. Now Bushnell simply had to finance the game's production.

Atari needed an investor willing to risk a fortune on an untried invention aimed at an uncharted market and produced by a one-shot company. The omens were not favorable. Many retailers over-estimated the demand for the prior electronic craze , digital watches, and found themselves overstocked with slow-selling timepieces after the novelty wore off. Understandably, they were reluctant to place large orders for another gizmo that might become a disappointment. In such cases, though, there is sometimes a contrarian who hopes to make a killing by rejecting the conventional wisdom.

How many games do you plan to manufacture this year, asked the buyer. Oh, 75,, responded Bushnell. Make it , and give Sears the exclusive rights, said the buyer; we'll help arrange the financing to make sure we get delivery. Where do I sign, Bushnell asked. The home version of Pong made its debut in the fall of Sears retailed the game through almost outlets nationwide and picked up the tab for advertising it.

Thirteen million home Pongs were sold in the next three years, and Atari attained that state of grace, a positive cash flow. Not bad for a three-year-old. By the bicentennial, Bushnell was on something of a roll. Atari scored big in with a reprise of the Pong idea called Breakout. Players used a paddle to bounce a Pong ball against a wall, knocking away a brick with each bounce until all the bricks were gone.

It sold 15, games, and Bushnell was feeling his oats. He'd established credibility as the canniest operator in the video-game industry, and some of the flaming chutzpah typical of the Silicon Valley mentality had rubbed off on him along the way. His Mormon upbringing--by now a fading memorydid little to shield him against the blandishments of success.

As the owner of just over half the company's stock, he had amassed a considerable personal fortune. The press christened him King Pong , and he lived up to the name. He divorced his wife indulged his eye for the ladies. He assigned code names to games in development, usually the names of attractive female employees. A California newspaper account of Bushnell's high roller lifestyle showed him cavorting in a hot tub with a nubile young woman. He bought a slick foot sailboat and named it--what else?

He was pugnacious with business adversaries, but he ran Atari with a carefree hand. Atari became something like Bushnell's vision of Disneyland, the perfect place for creative, fun-loving engineers to work. The management style was California casual. At Atari, business and pleasure not only mixed, they were inseparable. It didn't matter if people showed up for work late or wore T-shirts in the office, as long as they had a lot of fun ideas.

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Skull sessions between top management and the engineering staff sessions ran gonzo. Pajaro Dunes, a scenic Pacific Coast vacation resort a few hours south of Los Gatos, was the scene of marathon bull sessions where brainstorming about game theory and psychology was fueled by infusions of cannabis and Coors. Ideas were batted back and forth like hyperactive Pong balls.

In Atari's funky San Jose factory, long-haired workers assembled components to the tune of piped-in rock music. And in the executive suite, Bushnell and his fellow executives found time to play their favorite games daily. This radically unbusinesslike approach seemed to be working. It made sense, in a way. After all, could sober and serious businessmen far removed from the phantasmagoria of their own childhoods make toy come alive for the adolescent minds of Atari's clientele?

In demand overwhelmed the video game makers. There was an apparently insatiable demand for the games from armchair athletes, and Atari and Magnavox, the only homegame manufacturers the year before, were joined by a host of competitors.


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Ever since , with economical microprocessor chips a reality, hundreds of circuits could be added to the games. The new consoles worked like a cassette tape recorder: to change the game, one merely inserted a different game cartridge, containing a semiconductor chip.

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RCA and Bally entered the fray in '76 and '77, introducing their own programmable video games. As demand mounted, supply problems developed, beginning with a shortage of the complex integrated circuits that were the brains of the games. General Instrument Corporation, the only semiconductor manufacturer that made a major commitment to game circuits, rationed its production for six months in Lawsuits flew, alleging that GI unfairly allocated its circuits to favored clients.

Competition for the home video game market heated up tremendously. The consoles had a short product life, even by the fast-moving standards of the electronics industry, as manufacturers leap-frogged each other's models with ever more sophisticated entries. They were, in the words of one disgruntled retailer, "almost like a Stone Age game now. Like a music box with a single tune, it played Pong and only Pong.

The advantages of adding a strong home-games arm to the firm were obvious. There was only so much arcade space to be had, but with games attachable to home TV sets, every household in the nation became a potential customer. The players need never become jaded because new cartridges could be released monthly. Atari would become a vast marketing scheme, an ever-expanding system geared to keep even the most affluent kid one step behind.

The day Dad broke down and bought an Atari console, he'd commit himself to a never-ending purchasing plan. Given this component approach, owning the complete system would be as distant a prospect as paying off the mortgage on a house. Furthermore, creating new arcade games proved to be a laborious and risky process. It could take from three months to a year for a game to be programmed, prototyped, and produced.

Some games were stalled in conceptual doldrums for months until someone suggested the right combination of sounds, action, and graphics to bring the idea to life. Development costs could exceed a quarter of a million dollars for a single game. And, noted Don Osborne, vice president of Atari's coin-op marketing division, "for every eleven games you create, you only get one winner".

An arcade video game with a manufacturing life of more than four to six months is a rare exception. The options were clear: Raise the wherewithal to create a new line of games or replay the Pong episode, watching competitors walk off with most of the spoils. Once again Atari needed cash in a hurry. That meant either assuming huge loans, the uncertain prospect of going public, or selling out to a cash-rich, established company.

Atari went on the block, displaying its wares to three companies "with some synergies," as Bushnell put it. MCA, the entertainment conglomerate that owns Universal Studios, looked at the chaotic video game market and at Bushnell's fledgling company, and to the everlasting regret of its stockholders declined to acquire it.

Irony of ironies, Disney followed suit. Third time lucky, Atari got an attractive offer from Warner Communications, an arch rival of the other companies in the battle for America's entertainment allowance. Atari came along at a time when Warner could use a big score. Its biggest division--records and music publishing--was performing poorly. The record market was heading toward collapse in And without blockbusters, Warner's film production profits fell to the lowest level in years.

And the company's ambitious investment in cable television--in partnership with American Express, Warner operates the country's fifth largest cable system--was not expected to show a profit until the mid-Eighties. So the quarters that poured down Atari's coin chutes looked very tantalizing indeed. Warner's executive vice president Emanuel Gerard, an erstwhile Wall Street entertainment industry analyst who was charged with finding acquisitions, decided Atari and Warner belonged together, and set the deal in motion.

The corporate Anschluss proceeded by inches for weeks while each firm's lawyers and managers performed an elaborate hesitation waltz. At one point, the former Mrs. Bushnell entered the fray with a suit challenging her ex-husband's claim to his shares, and it appeared that the various parties might tumble into a thorny thicket of litigation. On the advice of Warner's lawyers, however, she settled out of court for a comfortable sum. Four months after the merger was initiated, Atari was Warner's subsidiary. According to the terms of the acquisition, he would stay on under long-term contract as board chairman.

But the forces that were to dethrone King Pong promptly made themselves felt. Atari got the capital it needed. Not only was the new system versatile, it promised to be wildly profitable. VCS sales got off to a sluggish start, however. The system was introduced in time for Christmas , but retailers were stocking up on hand-held electronic games for the holidays. Fairchild and Bally had programmable--but incompatible--consoles on the market, and confused consumers shied away from them. Production and supply hitches held up the introduction of Mattel's Intellivision unit for two years.

Atari ran into problems, too. Static electricity from a carpet could blow the circuitry of early VCS consoles, throwing them into a frenzy of lazer-beam firing that spoiled the fun for the human at the controls. The baseball game Home Run was delegated to an engineer who didn't understand the rules. He created a game in which a batter who swung and missed was credited with a ball instead of a strike. It went back to the drawing board for corrections. During the next year, nobody's system sold very well.

The charismatic Bushnell went on a road tour to tout Atari's new system, playing Shootout with reporters from the New York Times and the Washington Post. He seemed to be out to steam-roll the competition with psychological warfare as well as to outsell them. If the market was turbulent, the situation inside Atari was worse. He began arriving at the office only occasionally and shunned the more tedious aspects of corporate management: dealing with stockholders, the SEC, IRS, and the like.

He left the day-to-day business of running the company to president Joseph Keenan, himself a low-key manager who emerged from the Warner windfall a millionaire. With the confidence truly extravagant wealth provides, Bushnell found it easy to concede, "I'm not a very good CEO.

The head of a company like Atari ought to be fun-loving, but there's a place where you've got to draw the line. With more than , VCS consoles gathering dust in Atari's warehouses, a confrontation was not far off. Several weeks before the annual budget meeting in New York, Gerard proposed a reorganization plan. Keenan would assume the chairmanship; Bushnell would step down from that post but continue as director. The new chief executive would be Raymond Kassar, head of the home games division for less than a year.

A punctilious manager, Kassar knew virtually nothing about nuts-and-bolts electronics, but was adept at taking apart corporate balance sheets. A kind of smoldering resentment had developed between long-time Atari personnel and the more structure-oriented newcomers from Warner. It flamed into open warfare at the budget meeting. What began as a harsh critique of Atari's performance degenerated into screaming, bare-knuckles confrontation between Bushnell and Gerard.

The VCS was initially the point of contention. Bushnell took the offensive, insisting the system was moribund because it was over-priced. If you want it to sell, he bellowed, cut the price. Gerard counter-attacked emphatically: Cut the price now and you'll destroy the VCS's credibility, killing the component system in the cradle. The argument soon adopted language rarely heard in boardrooms. The meeting ended in palpable tension. Fun and games had become very serious business indeed. The following day Bushnell agreed to Gerard's reorganization scheme. But when he returned to California he began to reconsider.

Atari Inc. Business is Fun (Complete History of Atari - Volume 1)

Had he done the right thing in stepping aside? While he vacillated, Gerard called a special session of the executive committee of Warner's board, which ousted Bushnell in absentia. The official public explanation was that he had left the firm to return to his first love, inventing. Marketing had always been Atari's Achilles heel.