After the surprise announcement on Friday, January 13, 1984, that Jack Tramiel is stepping down as the President and CEO of Commodore, he and a group of investors buy the ailing consumer division of Atari for $240 million, taking the reins of the newly renamed Atari Corp. as CEO on July 2. The next day Atari presents its new CEO, holding a press conference at the 1984 Summer CES in Chicago and billing it as “The Day the Future Began”. The future of the coin-op division is that it is spun off the next year to Atari’s old arcade game partners at Namco America, and is renamed Atari Games, Corp…. makers of such arcade games as Gauntlet (1985) and Cyberball & Cyberball 2072 (1988-1989), among many others. On the consumer side, Tramiel remodels the 2600 into the even smaller $50 2600jr in 1985. Production of the Atari 2600 ends in 1991; its 14-year run marks it as the longest lasting home video game system in history.
Rewinding back to 1976, Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell is getting tired of the day-to-day operations at the company, and his constant run-ins with the suits at mother corp. Warner are wearing him down. He finds his interest drawn to a new project within the company, to develop a national chain of pizza parlours/arcades that intends to be a more family-friendly place to play video games than seedy bars or bowling alleys. He convinces Atari to set up a new department called the Restaurant Operating Division, headed by Gene Landrum. On May 16, 1977, they open a 5,000 sq. ft. prototype restaurant at the Town and Country Village in San Jose, the grand opening of which is attended by local dignitaries, including San Jose Mayor Janet Gray Hayes. Getting as close as Bushnell ever will to realizing his youthful dreams of becoming a Disney Imagineer, the restaurant concept includes a cast of animatronic characters playing in a musical band for the customers. Over 30 video games and other mechanical attractions surround the dining area in an enclosed environment to keep sound at a sane level. Controls are also in place to ensure only restaurant patrons are playing the games.
Atari is wary of expanding the restaurant experiment further, so Bushnell purchases the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre concept from Warners for $500,000 in June of 1977, and after he leaves the company the following year, Bushnell furthers expansion of PTT, with Joe Keenan joining him soon after. After a successful IPO, share prices rise to over $25 per share through the video game boom. When Bushnell’s non-compete clause from his departure from Atari in 1978 expires, he forms new video game company Sente Technologies in 1983. Like his former company, the name of his new gaming venture comes from the game Go, this term meaning to make the first move. Plans for the new company include arcade games called SAC or Sente Arcade Computer, which would allow operators to change their offerings with just a swap of a cartridge and some decal changes on the cabinet. Bushnell enters into a contract with his former company, Atari, giving them exclusive home video game rights to any coin-op made by Sente or Pizza Time Theatre, starting on Oct.1 1983. On January 31 of 1984, Nolan Bushnell steps down as chairman of Pizza Time Theatre, while retaining 1.2 million shares of the company, or 19% of available notes. Bushnell moves to a chairmanship position at Sente, and Joe Keenan steps up as chairman of the restaurant chain the next month. Sente manages to roll the roller-ball controlled Snake Pit into arcades, before it is eventually folded into Bally/Midway as Bally Sente in April of 1984.
The game company manages to release a couple dozen other conventional arcade games, such as Hat Trick, Chicken Shift, Snacks’N Jaxon and Stocker. Sente introduces the 2nd generation SAC system, SAC II that same year. Hoping to energize the sagging arcade market by combining video games with motion control technology, SAC II puts gamers in a moving cockpit driven by hydraulic actuators to create a sense of actual flight in the first game for the system, Shrike Avenger, announced in 1984 but not released until 1986. One of the first games to charge $1.00 a play, with powerful actuators causing the motion it was also known to have flipped over and nearly injured a rider. Riding on the coattails of smash laser game arcade hit Dragon’s Lair, the planned model III SAC games are to be laserdisc machines. Pizza Time Theatre ends up going bankrupt in 1984, done in by the crashing videogame market and mounting debts via overzealous expansion and acquisitions. Bushnell’s company is then picked up by competitor Showbiz Pizza Place, and the two entities eventually merge into the modern Chuck E. Cheese franchise.
Doing the Robot
Bushnell engages in a myriad of other comeback attempts of varying success, including Androbot, a San Jose-based consumer robotics company that in 1983 produces Topo, the “world’s first personal robot”. A stripped down version is initially made available at a within-reach pricetag of $495; this model is eventually replaced with a more advanced version with all the bells and whistles at $1595. Sporting dimensions of 36.5″ x 24″, the 33-lb, battery operated Topo can move and speak via a remote IR interface card inserted into an Apple IIe or II+ computer, controlled by either joystick or keyboard. Interfaces for the IBM PC, C64 and Atari 8-bit computers are also promised by Androbot. Topo’s speaking ability uses text-to-speech, to simplify the programming process. The robot comes with TopoBASIC, which includes intuitive movement commands such as TFD (forward) and TRT (turn right) and TLT (turn left). Programmed distances are measured in Topo Steps, with one step equalling a centimeter. Also made available is TopoSoft, a programming language based on Forth, and a TopoLOGO programming package can be purchased for $125. This simplified language allows users without programming skills to easily input directional commands for the robot. The computer needed to program your new electronic buddy is not included in the price, but there is an emergency stop switch on the top of his head in case his programming goes wonky. Topo‘s name is derived from the word “topology”, meaning the study of spaces or surfaces.
Part of an overall incubation think-tank for high-tech start-ups called Catalyst Technologies that Bushnell had founded back in December of 1980, Androbot only manages to sell a few thousand robots. These include Topos, as well as B.O.B.s (Brains On Board), Topo‘s 43 pound, nearly four-foot high big brother that doesn’t require an external computer and runs about $4,000. The brains referred to in his name are represented by three onboard 16-bit CPUs, as well as 3M of RAM. Available options include the Androwagon and Androfridge, which BOB can pull behind him, weaving in and out between party-goers offering pretzels and beers. BOB has a certain amount of autonomy in comparison to his cousin, in that he contains five ultrasonic sensors, such as the autofocus sensors found in cameras, which allow him to move around freely while mapping the dimensions of his environment and the objects within it. He also has two infrared sensors to help him identify living things. Utilizing this feature, programming BOB‘s movements can be simplified using his Follow Me mode, where the unit will follow the user and remember the path and repeat it on command. Voice synthesis seems out of reach to its designers, so instead, he draws on a pool of over 100 pre-recorded, digitized phrases. Cartridges are to made available for BOB soon after his release, such as AndroSentry, which turns the robot into a mechanical night watchman for your house.
At the Summer 1983 CES Androbot announces a cheaper robot version called Androman, a 12-inch robot buddy for your 2600. Controllable by joystick, a cartridge for the 2600 would put obstacles on the screen for the device to avoid, and interact with an included 6’x8′ cardboard game playing field and set of data coded game pieces. Androbot also announces a $350 robot named F.R.E.D. (Friendly Robotic Educational Device) that includes a drawing pen attachment and a keypad for programming. It can also talk and sense drop-offs so it won’t roll off a desk. Androbot, however, eventually rolls off a cliff and goes bust, along with the idea of personal robots running households. Bushnell tries again with the company Axlon, that had originally gotten its start making add-ons for the Atari 8-bit computers, including the RAMCRAM memory expansion module. They retool F.R.E.D. into a new robot named Andy, selling for only $120. Also from Axlon comes a line of robotic pets called Petster, as well as the stuffed animal A.G. Bear, which responds to a child’s voice in gibberish “bear language”, as well as converse with others of its kind when in close proximity. The company also makes Party Animals, a line of six hand puppets with a light sensor in the mouth that triggers noise as the child makes them “talk”. Selling for around $25 each, kids can pick such animal pals as Silly Goose, Tetrazzini Turkey, and Dippity Dolphin.
Navigating His Way
Bushnell also gets in on the ground floor of in-car navigation systems, bankrolling the founding of Etak for $500,000. A pioneering company in the field, the idea behind Etak comes to electronics whiz Stanley Honey while navigating aboard Bushnell’s racing yacht. The Etak system uses the old-school nautical navigation method of “dead reckoning”, using the vehicle as a static point and considering the relative speed over time through the landscape around it to determine its position. Since the Polynesians had used dead reckoning to travel large swaths of the Pacific Ocean, Honey appropriates the Polynesian navigational term etak for his invention. In 1985 the company produces two versions of the first practical in-car navigational systems made available on the market, licensed to General Motors: one with a 7″ screen meant for commercial vehicles, selling for $1,595, and a $1,395 system for consumers that contains a 4.5″ display. Information on vehicle speed and direction is fed to the devices via a roof-mounted magnetic compass and magnetic sensors placed near the wheels. Various EtakMap videotape cassettes, sold for $35, are produced providing map coverage for the Bay Area in California, with an eye towards eventually covering SoCal and beyond. Drivers can input their destination via twelve buttons placed around the edge of the CRT display. The dead reckoning system can provide accuracy up to 50 feet, but errors accumulate over time which requires a position reset at the touch of a button. Eventually rendered obsolete by GPS navigation systems, Etak does pave the way for the later ubiquity of in-car map devices. After a series of acquisitions, Etak ends up being sold to Tele Atlas in 2000.
Bushnell later gains a minority stake and title Director of Strategic Planning in Aristo International Corp. in 1996, with a plan to build Internet-connected music streaming, messaging and video screens for installation in bars and other entertainment venues. Renamed Playnet Technologies, the enterprise eventually sinks. From this, started on July 1, 1999, is a new company called uWink.com, developing Internet-based gaming kiosks. The focus of uWink moves to developing electronic kiosk dining bistros, and after the opening and closing of several restaurants in the California area, eventually ends up licensing its technology under the name Tapcode. As for Bushnell’s former partner-in-crime at Atari and Pizza Time Theatre, Joe Keenan eventually ends up back in the game industry as president of Data East USA in 1990.
Bushnell’s contribution to the modern videogame landscape via the company he created and the console that company produced cannot be overstated, even though we now look back at the blocky graphics and limited colour palette of the VCS/2600 with nostalgic wonder that such a system could be the wellspring of today’s powerhouse monstrosities. It’s not often that a game console, or the company that produces it, penetrates the public consciousness to such an extent that a powerful Hollywood actor produces and stars in a film about its history. However, such a rumour is floated, concerning fervent video game player Leonardo DiCaprio producing and starring as Bushnell in Atari, developed by DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company and optioned in 2008 by Paramount. It makes sense to put the breakneck, roller-coaster story of Atari to film, since the company and its VCS console marked the ascendancy of video games to the top of the entertainment market, along with the programmers that wrestled with the restraining technology to produce some of the greatest games of all time.
Sources (Click to view; inert links kept for historical purposes)
Page 1 – Have You Played Atari Today?
Birth of the VCS
The Arcade Flyer Archive – Jet Fighter – flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=540&image=1
Robert Jung’s Electric Escape – www.digiserve.com/eescape Image of Tank II home game console and other information from Radio-Electronics, “Videogames – Videogame History” by Jerry and Eric Eimbinder, pgs. 50 – 54, Jul 1982
Design case history: the Atari Video Computer System – 1984 IEEE Spectrum article – http://www.atarimuseum.com/videogames/consoles/2600/Atari_case_history.html
Saunders, Glenn. “Stella at 20, Pts. 1 and 2.” Glenn Saunders, 1997. Accessed 1998. Joe Decuir relating the origin of the Stella name. Image of VCS prototype with Combat! controllers. ;Nolan Bushnell discusses his plan to Atari board members to slash the price of the VCS to increase market share. ;Space Invaders designer Rick Mauer discusses video game design work he had done previous to his employment at Atari.
“Video Olympics.” Edited by Lumberjack42, Video Olympics (Atari 2600) – The Cover Project, The Cover Project, www.thecoverproject.net/view.php?cover_id=15534. Image of 2600 Video Olympics cover
“Atari Mania – Atari 2600 VCS Indy 500.” Atari Age, atarimania.com/game-atari-2600-vcs-indy-500_7642.html. Image of 2600 Indy 500 cover
“Atari Age – Atari 2600 – Street Racer [Atari].” Atari Age, atariage.com/box_page.php?. Image of 2600 Street Racer cover
“Atari Age – Atari 2600 – Star Ship [Atari].” Atari Age, atariage.com/box_page.php?SoftwareLabelID=493. Image of 2600 Star Ship cover
“Atari Air-Sea Battle box | airjmax | Flickr.” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/airjmax/15087404622. Image of 2600 Air-Sea Battle cover
“Surround.” Edited by Lumberjack42, Surround (Atari 2600) – The Cover Project, The Cover Project, thecoverproject.net/view.php?cover_id=14067. Image of 2600 Surround cover
“Atari Age – Atari 2600 – Basic Math [Atari].” Atari Age, atariage.com/box_page.php?SystemID=2600&SoftwareID=850&BoxStyleID=2&itemTypeID=BOX. Image of 2600 Basic Math cover
“Blackjack.” Edited by Lumberjack42, Blackjack (Atari 2600) – The Cover Project, The Cover Project, thecoverproject.net/view.php?game_id=9544. Image of 2600 Blackjack cover
Creative Computing, “Atari Speaks Out” by David Ahl, pgs. 58-59, Aug 1979. “Peter [Rosenthal, Atari marketing manager of personal computers]: We currently have sold more than a million programmable Atari video computer systems” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Creative Computing collection, Sep 29 2015
Andrews, Mark, and Jason Scott. “’Exploding’ Industry Meets in Chicago.” Leisure Time Electronics, 1981, p. 12. Internet Archive, archive.org/details/1981SummerLeisureTimeElectronics/page/n11. Dealers bought 1.7 million videogames last year, the Association (EIA) reports…
Atari 2600 History and Commentary – www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Heights/9176/2600essy.html
Discovery Online, You Shoulda Been There — Pong – www.discovery.com/stories/history/toys/PONG/birthday1.html
Page 1 – Here’s Your Hat
Bushnell pushed out of Atari
New York magazine, ‘On Madison Avenue: The Grant Tinker Show’ by Bernice Kanner, pgs. 16-20, Nov 29 1982
Image of Steve Ross, by Harry Benson, as well as other information from New York magazine, “Steve Ross On the Spot” by Tony Schwartz, pgs. 22-32, Jan 24 1983
Image of Warren Robinett from InfoWorld, “Computer Erector Sets: Software’s Missing Link” by Scott Mace, pgs. 38-40, April 1984. Photo by K. Gypsy Zaboroskie. Retrieved from Google Books, Sept 12, 2015.
RetroGameChampion, and John Sellers. “The Visionary.” Arcade Fever – The Fan’s Guide to the Golden Age of Video Games, Running Press Book Publishers, 2001, pp. 18–19. From Nolan Bushnell interview: I had a bunch of ferns and plants hanging down from the ceiling. And off to the side I had an oak beer tap. AF: Do you remember what kind of beer it was? NB: Actually I do: Coors.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “California Clippings.” Cash Box 20 Jan. 1979: 44. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox40unse_34/page/44>. Following last week’s announcement that Raymond Kassar and Joe Keenan have been named president and chief executive officer and chairman of the board, respectively, of Atari, word this week from Atari’s parent company, Warner Communications, Inc. is that Nolan Bushnell… will “continue to serve Atari in the development of coin-operated games.” In addition, according to WCI, Bushnell plans to “devote more time to his personal affairs, investments, and other interests, including politics.”
Page 1 – Home Invaders
Home version of Space Invaders/Atari marketing focus
“Retroview: April 1980.” NextGen, Apr. 2000, p. 102. During January of that year , Atari would release a port of the immensely popular arcade hit Space Invaders for the VCS system.
Creative Computing, “Random Ramblings/The Consumer Electronics Show/Electronic Games and Craziness” by David H. Ahl, pgs. 16-18. “Earlier this year, Atari purchased exclusive rights to market the home video version of Space Invaders in the US. The game immediately became the fastest selling of Atari’s thirty-six games…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Creative Computing collection, Oct 21 2015.
The New York Times, “For Fans of Video Games, Fast Fingers Are a Big Help” by Paul L. Montgomery, Oct 11, 1981. “Ron Stringari, vice president for marketing in the consumer division, said Atari had sold more than a million cartridges for Space Invaders…”. Retrieved from the NYT archives, Sept 8, 2015.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Atari, Namco Game Agreement Told.” Cash Box 28 Nov. 1981: 39. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 27 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox43unse_26/page/38>. Atari announced that it has entered into an agreement with Namco, Ltd….for the exclusive manufacture and sale of the coin-operated version of Namco’s newest video game in the U.S. and Canada, among other territories; [Atari chairman Raymond E. Kassar] “Namco brought the world two of the most popular video games, ‘Pac-Man’ and ‘Galaxian’, to which Atari has the rights for its home video game system.”
1982 Atari trade ad from Billboard magazine, retrieved from Google Books archive
New York magazine, “On Madison Avenue: The Super Selling of Super Sunday” by Bernice Kanner, pg. 18, Jan 25 1982
Science on American Television: A History, by Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette, pgs. 160-161, University of Chicago Press 2013
Atari Connection, “Atari to Sponsor TV Science Show”, Vol. 2 No. 3, Sept 1982
Adilman, Glenn. “Videogames: Knowing the Score.” Creative Computing Dec. 1983: 224-31. Creative Computing Magazine (December 1983) Volume 09 Number 12. Internet Archive. Web. 27 Feb. 2016. Midway’s Space Invaders, the first massively popular video game, sold more than one million cartridges in its first year.
Page 1 – Riding the Digital Wake
SuperCharger/Amiga Power Module
“Starpath Corporation.” The Video Game Update, Apr. 1983, p. 1. The working titles for this game are “HAREBRAIN” and “HOPALONG CATASTROPHE”.
WallyWonka. “Atari 2600 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies, 25 July 2018, emumovies.com/files/file/1487-atari-2600-3d-boxes-pack/. Images of game boxes for SuperCharger titles Phaser Patrol, Communist Mutants from Space, Escape from the Mindmaster and Killer Satellites.
Trost, Mark. “The All-Purpose VCS.” Comp. Zadoc. Electronic Fun With Computers & Games July 1983: 46-47. Imgur. 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2019. <https://imgur.com/gallery/cU9O5>. Image of Amiga Power Module and peripherals and game, 1983
Scottithgames, comp. “Output-input.” Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Sept. 1983: 11. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_11_1983-09_Fun_Games_Publishing_US/page/n9>. The Power is going to be marketed as a super cartridge; one that has three, three, three games in one. The reason for this change of tack is cost. Since game cartridges are coming down so radically in price, there’s no point in putting games out on cassette in order to make them less expensive – at least that’s Amiga’s opinion.
Page 2 – In the Key of Atari
VCS keyboard add-ons: My First Computer/The Graduate/Entex 2000 Piggyback/Unitronics Expander/Compumate
Chin, Kathy. “Entex Takes Piggy Back to Market.” InfoWorld, Apr. 1983, p. 9. Built into the machine is 8K of BASIC…
Atari Age, “Keyboard Will Turn Atari VCS into Powerful Home Computer”, Vol. 2 Num. 1, May/Jun. 1983
Compute!, “Atari’s New Add-On Computer For VCS 2600 Game Machine” by Tom R. Halfhill, pgs. 44-46, May 1983
Scottithgames, comp. “Atari, Mattel, Coleco: How the Add-ons Add up.” Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Sept. 1983: 37. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_11_1983-09_Fun_Games_Publishing_US/page/n35>. Software that will support the system [Atari Graduate] includes An Introduction to Programming…Donkey Kong, about…well, we’ll assume you know: Robotron: 2084 and Caverns of Mars. And, lest you think this is all frivolity and games, there are two home management programs: The Home Filing Manager and Family Finances.
“New Products.” Computers & Electronics, June 1983, p. 8. B&W image of Entex 2000 Piggyback.
Starlog July 1983: 43. Web. Image of Entex Piggyback
Images of the Unitronics Expander from Video Games Player, “How to Turn Your Atari Into a Computer” by Martin Bass, pgs. 28-30, Aug/Sep 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Video Games Player collection, Sep 11, 2015.
Atari Age, “Sneak Peeks – 2600 Keyboard Postponed”, pg. 14, Vol. 2 Num. 3, Sept./Oct. 1983
“Growing Pains for Stringy Floppy.” 80 Microcomputing, Sept. 1983, p. 294. At June’s Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, stringy floppies appeared in several products, from Atari’s Graduate upgrade for the VCS to Unitronics’ 48K, $200 Sonic home micro.
Image of the Atari 2600 and The Graduate computer add-on attached together from Electronic Fun With Computers and Games, “Atari, Mattel, Coleco…”, pgs. 33-38,97, Sep 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, EFWCG collection, Sep 9, 2015.
Ressner, Jeffery. “Video Game Manufacturers Planning Extensive Christmas, Survival Strategies.” Comp. Associate-manuel-dennis. Cash Box 10 Sept. 1983: 5. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 7 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox45unse_13/page/n5>. …”The Graduate,” has been put on the “back burner” indefinitely by the company “in light of the turmoil in the under-$100 home computer market.”
Popular Science, “New add-ons turn video games into computers”, by Myron Berger, pgs. 114-115, 166, Oct 1983
Image of CompuMate box taken at the Videogame History Museum display, CGE 2014, in Las Vegas
CompuMate image and information courtesy of the Spectravideo Campmate page
Page 2 – Reach Out and Play Someone
Byte, “Byelines: Reader’s Digest Buys The Source” by Sol Libes, pgs. 214-215, Dec 1980. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Byte magazine collection
Nollinger, Maek. “America, Online!” Wired Sept. 1995: 158+. Print. …Case left Pepsi later that year  for Control Video Corporation… …it was at Control Video that Case met Jim Kimsey and Marc Seriff, his co-founders at America Online. Lacking the cash to go it alone, they formed an alliance with Commodore International Ltd…. In return, Commodore agreed to bundle the QuantumLink service with its computers and modems.
Image of William von Meister from Electronic Games, “Games on the Phone” by Arnie Katz, pgs. 32-36, Jun 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
Antic, “Dial-A-Game” by Deborah Burns, pgs. 82,84, July 1983
Scottithgames, comp. “If a Pac-Man Answers, Don’t Hang Up.” Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Aug. 1983: 16. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_10_1983-08_Fun_Games_Publishing_US/page/n15>. What games will be on the system? Specific titles weren’t available at presstime, but the lineup includes Fox, Imagic, TigerVision and Spectravision.
Libes, Sol. “Bits & Bytes: Atari & Activision to Broadcast Software.” Computers & Electronics, Apr. 1984, p. 13. Atari and Activision have formed a joint venture to broadcast video game and home computer software via radio.
Computer Games (ne: Video Games Player), “Telegaming” by Len Drexler, pgs. 34-36, 52, April 1984. “So far, of the major video game makers, only Imagic has agreed to allow its games to be used on GameLine.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Video Games Player collection, Sept 12, 2015.
Image of the QuantumLink menu, as well as other information, from Ahoy!, “Reviews: QuantumLink Personal Computer Network” by Joyce Worley, pgs. 63-65, April 1986
Baker, Robert W. “Inside QuantumLink.” Commodore Feb. 1987: 8. Print. Before Habitat, users relied on simple QShorthand graphics to represent facial expressions. …how to create more elaborate QGraphics.
Broadcasting, “Monitor: DWS”, pg. 51, Aug 16 1982
Image of the Gameline Master Module and box courtesy of Atari Mania
AtariAge, “Starpath” – atariage.com/company_page.html?CompanyID=32
Gap Khakis. Wired June 1995: 18-19. Print. Image of Steve Case sitting in chair
Page 2 and 3 – End of the Line
Remote control 2600/outside deals/Atari struggles in sagging market/AtariSoft/Jack Tramiel
Creative Computing, “International Winter Consumer Electronics Show, Video Game/Computer Systems, Atari” by David H. Ahl, pg. 62-63, Mar 1981. “Atari, the acknowledged leader in video games, unveiled a remote controlled video system.” “The controllers are an advance over the existing controllers in that they combine both a paddle and joystick in one unit. The firing buttons are heat sensitive, finger-tip touch controls…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Creative Computing collection, Oct 21 2015.
Ressner, Jeffery. “Factories Bullish on Home Video Licensing Possibilities.” Cash Box 18 Sept. 1982: 43. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 1982. Web. 28 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox44unse_14/page/42>. According to Williams’ marketing director Ron Crouse, the company [Atari] is planning home version of arcade games while the upright modules are still in the R&D stages of design.
“Atari.” The Video Game Update , January 1983, p. 6.
Atari has entered a licensing agreement with United Feature Syndicate & Chas. Shultz Creative Assoc. for the design and manufacture of video games utilizing the Peanuts characters. Atari has also announced a long-term working agreement with Destron, Inc. The major thrust of the Atari show plans revolve around their recently announced deal with the Sesame Street characters and the Children’s Workshop.
“Warner Reels from Atari’s Unexpected Drop in Profits.” Editorial. Softalk Feb. 1983: 230+. Softalk V3n06 Feb 1983. Internet Archive. Web. 29 Dec. 2015. By 1981, Atari had sales of $1 billion, practically a monopolistic hold on the low end of the home entertainment market and what looked like an eternal money-machine.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Atari, Williams Pact.” Cash Box 7 May 1983: 42. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 27 Sept. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox44unse_46/page/42>. Atari, Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Williams Electronics, Inc. of Chicago, Ill., have jointly announced a long term agreement by which Atari will have right of first refusal to market home video and computer games based on Williams’ coin-operated amusement games.
InfoWorld, “This Week: Atari Introduces Keyboard with Software Packs & Peripherals” by Kathy Chin, pg. 13, July 11 1983. “The Voice Controller, a $100 module that includes an audio headset, will plug directly into the 2600’s controller port.” “Demonstrated at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago…” “Also scheduled to be available in retail outlets in October, the Voice Controller will support an initial library of games including RealSports Baseball, Star Raiders, Battlezone and Berserk.” Retrieved from Google Books, Sep 18 2015. The Video Game Museum – www.vgmuseum.com/
Scottithgames, comp. Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Sept. 1983: 38. Internet Archive. 28 May 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Fun_with_Computer_Games_Vol_01_No_11_1983-09_Fun_Games_Publishing_US/page/n37>. The October introduction of Atari’s voice synthesis/voice recognition module for the VCS will be accompanied by four new cartridges designed to exploit this technology: RealSports Baseball, Star Raiders, Battlezone and Berzerk.
Image of Bushnell holding pizza and tokens, and image of Bushnell at Catalyst Technologies, photos by Roger Ressmeyer.
InfoWorld, Androbot advertisement, pg. 26-27, Dec. 26, 1983
Leyenberger, Arthur. “The New Atari.” ANALOG Sept. 1984: n. pag. Web.
“News & Products/Popular Games Released.” Compute! Apr. 1984: 183-84. Internet Archive. Web. Atari, Inc., has released 12 of its games for competing computers and videogame consoles in a new line of software called ATARISOFT.
WallyWonka. “Atari 2600 3D Boxes Pack.” EmuMovies, 25 July 2018, emumovies.com/files/file/1487-atari-2600-3d-boxes-pack/. Images of game boxes for Pac-Man, Snoopy and the Red Baron, Cookie Monster Crunch and Moon Patrol.
“1983 Atari Coupon Calendar.” Edited by Savetz, 1983 Atari Coupon Calendar, Internet Archive, 14 June 2017, archive.org/details/1983AtariCouponCalendar. Image of ‘Vader’ 2600; image of kids playing 2600 with black scottie dog
Edgemundo. “Microsoft MS-DOS 3D Boxes Pack (732).” EmuMovies. N.p., 17 May 2020. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. Images of boxes for Atarisoft PC games
Ahl, David H, and Jason Scott. “Atarian Goes to CES.” Atarian, 1989, pp. 4–5. Internet Archive, archive.org/details/atarian-03/page/n5. Images of Atari booth at 1989 Summer CES
Page 3 – Bushnell Rebounds
Bushnell founds Pizza Time Theatre and Chuck. E. Cheese/Sente
Atari Coin Connection, “Chuck E. Cheese Joins Atari”, edited by Carol Kantor, pg. 3, May 1977. “‘The Big C’ [Chuck E. Cheese] will be reporting directly to Mr. Gene Landrum, General Manager of the Restaurant Operating Division of Atari.” “The Grand opening on May 16 was a great success. Mayor Janet Gray Hayes, together with many other prominent people from the community and the press, came to welcome Chuck E. Cheese and The Pizza Time Theatre to San Jose.” Retrieved from Pinball Pirate, Sep 15 2015.
Sutton, Alan. “Atari Restaurant Combines Fast Food & Coin-Op Games.” Comp. Associate-manuel-dennis. Cash Box 25 June 1977: 50+. Internet Archive. Web. 24 Sept. 2019. A prototype restaurant opened in San Jose, Calif. on May 16, with Mayor Jane Gray Hayes and other community leaders on hand for the festivities.; Included in the 5,000-square-foot facility are over 30 video, pinball, foosball and air hockey games set up in controlled room environments… [etc. etc.]
“Chuck E. Cheese Joins Atari.” Atari Coin Connection June 1977: n. pag. Internet Archive. Web. 24 Sept. 2019. Image of interior of prototype Chuck E. Cheese store, San Jose 1977
St. Games, ne: Softline, “Infomania, The Laser Connection” by Roe Adams, pg. 48, Mar/Apr 1984. “Bushnell’s new company, Sente, is planning a series of arcade parlour game bases called SAC (Sente Arcade Computer). Into each SAC box would go a different game cartridge.” ;”The SAC model III will be a laser disk machine.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softline collection, Nov 2 2015.
Electronic Games, November 1983, Hotline Article “Atari, Bushnell Bury Hatchet”, pg. 12
Chicken Shift. N.p.: Bally/Sente, 1984. Internet Archive. Denzquix, 1 May 2018. Web. 07 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/arcadeflyer_chicken-shift>. Arcade flyer for Chicken Shift, 1984
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Keenan Named Pizza Time Chief.” Cash Box 18 Feb. 1984: 27. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 7 Oct. 2019. Image of Joe Keenan; Joseph F. Keenan has been named chairman of the board of Pizza Time Theatre, Inc., replacing Nolan Bushnell, who resigned from the position on January 31.
Blakeman, Mary Claire. “Video Games Interview: Nolan Bushnell.” Video Games May 1984: 68-73. Print. Image of Nolan Bushnell in front of ‘Snake Pit’, photo by Cooksy Talbott
Dphower. “Bally/Sente SAC 2 Game Cabinet.” The Arcade Flyer Archive, 13 July 2002, flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=3060&image=1. Image of Bally Sente SAC III flyer, https://flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=3062&image=1. Image of Snacks’N Jaxon
Rubin, Owen. “Shrike Avenger – 1986 Bally Sente Inc.” Atari History Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2019. <http://www.atarimuseum.com/orubin/shrike.html>. It had to large, very powerful linear actuators to move it….we still managed to flip a game over and drop a kid almost on his head.
Zorn, Eric. “Nolan Bushnell: Video Game Guru Dreams of next Toy.” Chicago Tribune 15 Mar. 1984: C1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2021. Photo of Nolan Bushnell playing Snake Pit, photo by Karen Engstrom. Other info: Bushnell resigned as head of Pizza Time Theaters Inc. on Jan. 31….still controlling 1.2 million shares (19 percent) of company stock.
Page 3 – Doing the Robot
Bushnell founds Androbot
Zorn, Eric. “Nolan Bushnell: Video Game Guru Dreams of next Toy.” Chicago Tribune 15 Mar. 1984: C1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2021. In December, 1980, Bushnell created Catalyst Technologies, a venture capital organization that provides seed capital, business advice and office space to small, high-technology firms….
Image of B.O.B., along with other information, from Electronic Fun with Computers and Games, “Congratulations! It’s a B.O.B.”, by George Kopp, April 1983. Photo by Androbot, Inc.. “He’s equipped with…a cassette player that gives him a voice.”. “Topo’s name comes from topology, the study of surfaces…”. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, EFWCG collection, Sept 8, 2015.
Compute!, “Androids and Robots” by David D. Thronburg, pgs. 18-22, Jun 1983
“Robots Come Home.” Softtalk Aug. 1983: 144-57. Softalk V3n12 Aug 1983. Internet Archive. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. Half an hour after opening the box and removing the thirty-three-pound plastic and steel robot…;Topo is controlled at this point through a remote radio link that connects to the Apple via an expansion board in slot 5.;Programming Topo in its TopoBasic is a snap…the commands are easy to remember – TFD moves Topo forward…TRT turns Topo right; TLT turns topo left…;Topo also works with Androbot’s special version of Logo – TopoLogo.; …the robot can also be programmed with TopoForth…;With AndroSentry, on of the planned plug-in cartridges, B.O.B. with reportedly be able to patrol and safeguard your house.
Ahl, David H. “1983 Summer Consumer Electronics Show.” Creative Computing Sept. 1983: 200-22. Creative Computing Magazine (September 1983) Volume 09 Number 09. Internet Archive. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. Androbot also introduced AndroMan…designed to be used with an Atari VCS and comes with a game cartridge, transmitter, 6’x8′ cardboard game playing field, set of game pieces imprinted with coded data…
McComb, Gordon. “Personal Robots.” Creative Computing Nov. 1983: 196-204. Creative Computing Magazine (November 1983) Volume 09 Number 11. Internet Archive. Web. 27 Feb. 2016. …Topo uses text-to-speech algorithms to allow easier programming.;B.O.B….draws on a ready set of digitized, pre-recorded phrases…he randomly chooses from over one hundred stored words and lines;image of Bushnell surrounded by Androbot robots.
Image of Topo by himself, along with other information from Antic, “Buyer’s Guide/Other/Topo”, pg. 98, Dec 1983
“Screening Room Rising Stars.” Editorial. K-Power Feb. 1984: 68. K-Power Magazine Issue 1. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.>/span>
Kid computer, image of F.R.E.D.
Atari Connection, “Robots Come Home” by Jim Inscore, pgs. 38-43, Spring 1984
Byrne, Betsy. “Rendezvous with a Robot.” Comp. Jason Scott. Family Computing Mar. 1984: 52-56. Internet Archive. 30 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Feb. 2020. Unfortunately, this $495 Topo model is no longer available. A more efficient Topo with voice capabilities, a built-in memory, and other extras at a steeper price ($1,500) has replaced the earlier version. ;The manual told us that Topo had subroutines for each direction. For example, to make him go forward 100 Topo steps (each step is a centimeter)…
Kelly, Christina, and Jane King. “Will Robots Take Over the World?” Editorial. K-Power May 1984: 25. K-Power Magazine Issue 4. Internet Archive. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
Image of Nolan Bushnell and robots, photo from Androbot
Bushnell is chairman of the board of Androbot, which makes B.O.B. (Brains On Board), Topo, and F.R.E.D. (Friendly Robotic Educational Device).
“Hotline: Atari to Market Robots.” Electronic Games May 1984: 8. Electronic Games – Volume 02 Number 12 (1984-05)(Reese Communications)(US). Internet Archive. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. Atari has entered into an agreement with Nolan Bushnell to market a line of products from his new company, Androbot, Inc.
Lewis, Jim, and Barbara Krasnoff. “Robots Come Home.” Enter, June 1984, pp. 24–27. FRED, which sells for about $350…
Herrington, Peggy. “The Robots Are Coming.” RUN Aug. 1984: 70-76. Bombjack.org. Web. Dec. 2016. B.O.B. stands just under four feet tall… One of it’s [B.O.B.] best features is a Follow Me mode, which makes teaching it to follow a path very easy – you walk and it follows. It will remember the route and repeat it by itself on command. …F.R.E.D., which is programmable with its own seperate keypad… [F.R.E.D.] can talk, draw and sense a void so that it doesn’t fall off the table. It sells for under $400.
Boy’s Life, “The Robot Invasion” by Scott Stuckey, pgs. 30-32, 78 Dec 1984
Image of Andy robot by Axlon taken by William Hunter at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View CA
Page 3 – Navigating His Way
Bushnell founds Etak/uWink
Image of Stan Lee playing Spider-Man from Blip: The Video Game Magazine, “Spider-Man Plays SPIDER-MAN!”, photographer Michael Tweed, pg. 3, Vol. 1 Num. 2, Mar. 1983
Image of Etak navigational system, as well as other information, from New York magazine, “Star Tech: Directional Signals” by Phoebe Hoban, pgs. 14-16, Jul 15 1985
Image of uWink facade from Chika’s Flickr photo stream
Hubz, comp. “Coin-Op Vet Joe Keenan Is New Prexy of Data East.” RePlay May 1990: 16. Internet Archive. 27 Oct. 2020. Web. 8 Apr. 2021. 1990 image of Joe Keenan. Other info: Joe Keenan is the new president of Data East, the firm announced in late March. he’s an industry veteran whose coin-op roots go back to being prexy and CEO of Atari in the early 1980s. Keenan helped Atari build Pizza Time Theaters into a powerhouse chain…
Photo of Nolan Bushnell glancing to his left from kandinski
Image of uWink 6-player PONG game from news report on CNBC’s Morning Call, 2007
Zorn, Eric. “Nolan Bushnell: Video Game Guru Dreams of next Toy.” Chicago Tribune 15 Mar. 1984: C1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2021. Illustration of Nolan Bushnell by John Schmelzer
variety.com, “Leonardo DiCaprio to play with ‘Atari'”, Jun. 8, 2008
Unannotated, Uncategorized or I Just Don’t Damn Remember!
Electronic Games, “A Decade of Programmable Videogames”, pgs. 20-23, 34, Vol. 1 Num. 2, Mar 1982
Video Games, “Video Games Interview – Nolan Bushnell”, by Jerry Bowles, pgs.16, 19 – 20, 78 – 79, Vol. 1 Num. 1, Aug 1982
New York Magazine, “Can Atari Stay Ahead of the Game?” by Bernice Kanner, pgs.15-17, Aug 16 1982
Video Games Player, “Profile – Big Daddy: Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell is the Father of Video Games”, by Steven Slone, pgs. 16 – 18, 22, 56, Vol. 1 Num. 1, Fall 1982
Video Games, “From Cutoffs to Pinstripes”, by Steve Bloom, pgs. 37 – 50, 80, Vol. 1 Num. 3, Dec. 1982
Electronic Games, “1983 Arcade Awards”,by Arnie Katz and Bill Kunkel, pgs. 22-37, 120, Jan 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
InfoWorld, “Atari: From Starting Block to Auction Block”, by Giselle Bisson, pg. 52, Aug. 6, 1984
Arcade Express, “Videogames Go to the Movies”, pg. 4, Sept 12, 1982. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Arcade Express newsletter collection
Videogaming Illustrated, “Focus on: Sturm Und Drang”, by E.C. Meade with contributions from Jim Clark, Martin Levitan, Dale Rupert and Samuel Lawrence, pgs. 19-23, 74-75, Jul 1983. “Lou Abbagnaro, director of engineering, CBS Games: …realize that no games at that time used more than 1K of memory.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 17 2015.
Bushnell, Nolan. “How to Do It Your Way.” MicroKids Mar. 1984: 40-43. MicroKids – Issue 02 Volume 01 No 02 (1984-03)(Microkids Publishing)(US). Internet Archive. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Newsweek, “It’s All Fun and Games” Bushnell Interview, pg. 12, Aug. 18, 2003
The General Mills/Parker Brothers Merger: Playing by Different Rules, by Ellen Wojahn, pg. 126, Beard Books 2003
MetroActive News and Issues | Nolan Bushnell – www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/09.16.99/cover/bushnell2-9937.html
The Cover Project – www.thecoverproject.net/index.php
AtariAge Magazine Archive, Activisions Newsletter
El Atari 2600 celebra su 30 cumpleanos | Empresuchas – www.empresuchas.com/el-atari-2600-celebra-su-30-cumpleanos
Atari Inc. – Business Is Fun, by Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel, pg. 384 – 385, Syzygy Press, Nov. 25 2012
The Atari History Museum- www.atarimuseum.com
Retromags – The VintageVideo Game Magazine Archive – www.retromags.com
Money for Breakfast, Fox Business Channel, 2007 Bushnell interview