That one word brings back memories for all of us.
From the earliest video arcade games (singlehandedly revitalizing – reinventing an industry into the arcades we remember)- to helping create the home market we know today, Atari was the benchmark for years, until the industry caved in on itself- glutting the market with awful games- just for a cashgrab.
But- before the crash- Atari was king of the video game mountain. Their arcade games of the early / late 70’s that had helped redefine what an arcade experience was- were ported over for home use- effectively starting the home market we know today.
It started June 27, 1972.
Nolan Bushnell, along with Ted Dabney, Larry Emmons, Allan Alcorn, and others would become the core people at Syzygy.
What? Syzygy? I thought this was about Atari?
…And you’d be half right. Syzygy was the ORIGINAL NAME for the company. Until they found out the name was already taken- (some early Pong machines still have the Syzygy logo.)
So- Nolan looked to has favorite game- GO for inspiration- and Atari was born.
Soon- lots of early arcade classics- with some of the most amazing artwork- were hitting the family amusement centers all over the world- and taking every quarter they could along the way!
It was great to be a kid in the Atari era! Some of my favorites from this time were-
Super Bug 1977-
This racing game from KEE Games-
(an offshoot of Atari- from Wikipedia- Kee was formed by Joe Keenan, a friend and neighbor of Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, in September 1973. In reality, Bushnell had worked with Keenan to create Kee Games in response to the pinball and arcade distributors of the time who demanded exclusivity deals; Bushnell believed that Kee Games could offer similar but renamed arcade games, or “clones”, to distributors, which would greatly expand Atari’s distribution beyond the limits of these deals. Bushnell assigned several of Atari’s staff to work at Kee Games, including Steve Bristow, Bill White, and Gil Williams, and discreetly supplied them the parts for which they could make their games. To the public, Kee Games advertised itself as a competitor to Atari and that it was hiring defectors from Atari.)
You drive a dunebug through suburbia- avoiding oil slicks, piles of sand, parked cars, while staying on the road without crashing. To an 11 year old me- I was driving a car WITHOUT A LICENSE! It was awesome- the car looked real!
Fire Truck- 1978-
This one I loved. it was a staple at Chuck E. Cheese. This cabinet was a sight to behold.
Probably the first two player co-op ever- player 1 drives the firetruck, player 2 is co-pilot, steering the tanker on the back- navigating though the neighborhood to a fire in progress!
Atari Pinball- 1979-
This one I used to play a lot at The Derby- our local roller rink.
What I truly loved about this machine was the use of a superimposed background with blacklight and LEDS (like Space Invaders, and many EM machines of the last 20 years before) plus real pinball controls- a plunger and flipper buttons were included! It felt like a real pinball machine to 14 year old me.
Now that we have gone though a few of my favorite early Atari games (believe me- there are more!) let’s talk about the Atari consoles that influenced me the most!
Pong home console- 1975
This is the first home console I ever saw. In 1975, My neighbor got it for Christmas. I played that thing for MONTHS. It was the first step to being an Arcader.
Atari Video Music-1976-
This one I never had- but wished I did.
You would hook it up to a TV- and it would create video patterns on the screen to music. it was AWESOME. I first saw this in a movie I grew up watching- Over The Edge. If you have never seen it- watch it.
Check this out-
Atari Video Pinball- 1977-
This one I have in my collection!
It plays Breakout style variants- and Pinball too! Its awesome!
Atari 2600 VCS-1977-
This is the one. The system that changed my life. The Cartridges. The boxart. The games. The fun. The memories. I loved every game. That first time I found the hidden room in Adventure. When I powered up a game for the first time, it gave me chills unlike any system after it. Haunted House, Maze Craze, BERZERK- I loved them all. It was the one thing I could do on my own- kind of hide in my own little world. I have my wife’s 2600 in my game room, and still use it to this day.
Atari 400/800 computers- 1979
October, 1982. Another day which changed my life forever. I got my first computer- an Atari 400. I loved the system and it’s format so much- six months later, I upgraded to the Atari 800. I’ve used it for years- and still own it! Programming simple things, and playing some of the best ports of my favorite arcade games- plus so many more original games- this machine holds a special place in my heart.
So- that’s my childhood with Atari. They defined my childhood, and were the beginning of my life in an industry I have loved for over 40 years. That’s the effect Atari had on all of us back then- and still does to this day. So- whether your playing on original hardware, a compilation set on any modern system, or emulating your favorite console… Have You Played Atari Today?
Thank you Atari for all the amazing memories. Happy 50th.
Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981.