Wednesday, June 27, 2012

That's A Lot Of Quarters

Today marks the 40th birthday of video game company Atari, still kicking after bringing us Pong for the holidays in 1972.

In 1972, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were looking to produce an electronic tennis game to be called "Pong." They formed Atari Inc. on June 27 of that year and released the black-and-white tennis game five months later. The gaming world hasn't been the same since.
"Pong's" primitive, two-dimensional graphics look ridiculous now, but it was an immediate hit and is considered the first commercially successful video game.
But Atari's more lasting contribution to living-room entertainment may have been the Atari VCS, more commonly known as the Atari 2600. The home video-game console launched in 1977 and sold more than 30 million units before being discontinued in 1992 according to a Business Week report.
Many people credit the Atari 2600 as their gateway into the world of electronic gaming.
"While I had dabbled with the NES at a friend's house and Apple II titles at my uncle's, this was the first console that was mine," said Matt Paprocki of Toledo, Ohio. "It sucked me in and kept me there. I doubt any parent knows how important a little console that plays video games can be, or what it can do for someone's life. It's a path I started on and stayed on well into my adult life, all because of that faux wood box fitted with ungainly switches."
"You never forget your first love!" said Matt Thebert of Lawrenceville, Georgia. "But it also was the beginning of a whole era of populist electronics and computing where you could have in your home, finally, a computer and video games. Which as a kid meant I could explore these worlds from my home, not from a computer lab or, at that time, the public library, where we would reserve time in one-hour chunks on the Apple IIe to play 'Zork' in its amber glory."

Myself included. I got my Atari 2600 as a wee lad in the early 80's, back at the height of the Atari 2600 boom and proceeded to learn everything you ever needed to know about spatial Newtonian physics through making bank shots with tanks in Combat. Ask my brother, he still hates me for the shots I made.  Pac-Man, Crystal Castles, Donkey Kong, Demons to Diamonds, Yar's Revenge, man those were good times.

Sadly, Atari really isn't 40 years old, the name was sold off years ago to Infogrames and more or less used to make people in my generation go "Hey, Atari" and buy a crappy game.  They're promised to reform for what it's worth, but the name will never had the glory it did 30 years ago.  That's a shame.

Still, here's to Nolan and Ted, the closest thing to cool nerdy uncles I had growing up.  Nolan went on to found Chuck E. Cheese and he's still kicking it on Twitter these days, 40 years later.

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