system was drawing to a close. Competitors’ technology had caught up with it, a glut of videogames flooded
the market, and magazines had sprung up with video
game reviews, meaning people didn’t blindly purchase
Atari products. The result was that, as 1929 was to the
stock market, 1984 was to the video game industry. A deep
depression occurred, leaving many wondering if it would
survive. At Atari, the number of employees fell from 10,000
in 1982 to just 200 in July 1984.
Obviously, the home video game industry did
survive, but with radical changes. With Atari and other
US companies eventually neutered, Japanese-based
businesses, such as Nintendo and Sega, were able to
clean up for the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s.
Significant American competition didn’t arrive until
The year 1984 also marked the year that Atari split up. The consumer division went to Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore, who
focused his efforts on Atari’s personal computers in order to compete
with his old company. Atari’s arcade division stayed with Warner Communications for a while, and eventually became Time-Warner Interactive, which sold it to Midway Games, Inc., the coin-op manufacturer.
Midway recently discontinued the name Atari for its coin-op games,
possibly marking the end of the line for the name Atari in the arcades.
In 1996, Jack Tramiel’s Atari merged with JTS, a disk drive
company, which eventually went out of business. In 1998, Hasbro bought
the rights to its home titles. And, in 2000, Hasbro sold the rights to their
Atari titles to Infogrames, Inc., which has since changed its name back
to Atari (and their website’s URL is www.atari.com).
■ LATER GAMES
THE 2600 IN THE PC AGE
The spectacular growth of both PCs and the Internet has
created several options for fans of the 2600 who want to
recreate its heyday. eBay typically has a vast collection
of 2600 games, accessories, and even whole systems available for purchase, mostly used. New and used equipment
can be purchased from Telegames, Inc. (www.tele
games.com), Best Electronics ( www.be
st-electronics-ca.com), and others. O’Shea Ltd. claims it recently discovered a
cache of one million 2600 cartridges, which it’s selling at $5.00
each. Check out www.atariclassic.com for details.
Several of the games, and their late-‘70s, early-‘80s coin-op
big brothers, are available for the PC. Microsoft has released
several Arcade packages, which include Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man,
Centipede, Missile Command, and other classic games. Meanwhile,
Hasbro and Activision have released many of the home Atari titles for
the PC, as well. A search of the Web will also turn up online versions
and downloadable 2600 emulators.
For die-hards like myself who remember Atari fondly, it’s great
to see a variety of options available to relive the glory days of the
Cartridge Family. Why does the popularity of the 2600 exist to this day?
Leonard Herman, the author of Phoenix: The Fall and Rise of the
Videogame Industry (Rolenta Press; ISBN: 096438485X) says, it’s “the
same reason why old music’s popular, old paintings are popular: it’s an
innocent art form. What Atari did with those games was, that because
it had so much more of a limited memory, they had nothing for graphics, so everything that they put into it was to make the games fun.” ■
November 2005 NUTS & VOLTS 13