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Happy 40th Birthday Atari – Tech Thursday

I don’t remember the exact events of that morning, but I do remember the feeling I had as I ripped open the wrapping paper on a great big box and seeing that picture of the iconic Atari 2600 with the square plastic game cartridges floating next to it. I remember the feeling of joy as I read the directions on how to connect it to my parent’s TV and started playing Target Fun and Video Pinball. I was in 8 bit heaven wrapped in gold!

Atari 2600 and some Game Cartridges
Photo: BIG Rich Lawrence

Atari is an icon in the video gaming world. I mean how many times did someone like me walk into an arcade in the Amsterdam Mall or the VIdeo Palace on Main Street in Gloversville, and see the Atari logo scattered all over the cabinets. Nolan Bushnell who was one of the founders of Atari, helped to start the video game boom of the late 70′s and early 80′s. Starting with a simple pong system in arcades and moving into the home console with the 2600. Video games became a part of American culture, even scaring a few moms back then saying video games would ruin our minds.

Centipede, Asteroids, and even one of my all time favorites, Tempest were all created by Atari and swallowed more than a few quarters in the arcades and more than a few weeks of tips from my Leader Herald paper route buying game cartridges for my 2600. I remember saving frantically to get Pac-man for my 2600, only to be utterly disappointed with the graphics of the game. It looked so horrible, I played it maybe 3 times and opted instead to get my fix at a cabinet version when I could. But it never shook my love for Atari.

At it’s height, Atari was the “Apple” of Silicon Valley before Apple even existed. Steve Jobs even worked for Atari for a while. It’s said because Steve had this thing with not showering, he stank and so they moved him to a night shift. Atari was in some ways a model for Jobs in the founding of Apple. Atari it self was founded by a couple college students, just like Jobs and Wozniak.

After the video game crash of the late 80′s, Atari has been bought and sold many times. Now it’s a whole new company and still putting out games and software, but it’s out of the hardware business. Gone are the days of the 2600, 5200, and Atari 400, 800 and ST computers. But I still have fond memories of my Atari 2600. I even still had my old 2600 up until I recently moved. But time had corroded all the components and it was basically useless to me. But I’ll never forget the hours I spent on summer vacation playing Video Pinball and racking up the high score time and time again, or the tournaments I had with family members when they came over for the holidays. Atari gave me some great memories and for that I say thank you. Happy Birthday Atari!

Anyone else have some fond memories of Atari?

$>Atari Forever!

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