Atari At 50: The Story Of Our Lives

It’s been a year of anniversaries, what with the 40th birthday of both the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. But there’s another anniversary that in a sense tops them all, today marks 50 years since Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney incorporated Atari Inc, a name that will forever be synonymous with the development of the computer game industry. PC Magazine have marked the event with a retrospective, an affectionate look at the progress from Spacewar! coin-ops to the unsuccessful Jaguar console of the 1990s, and it pulls no punches over the lacklustre management that oversaw its decline in later years.

For us the high points of the Atari story were the VCS console and the ST line of computers, which probably best represent the brand’s successes in Europe where this is being written. It’s with something of a wince that we remember watching an Atari Lynx advert in a British cinema, in which the laugh came when the teenager-unaffordably high price was revealed. At least diehard Atari fans can take solace in that by then Commodore was equally being run into the ground.

One criticism PC Magazine makes is that the current Atari incarnation is doing little beyond rehashing past glories, and perhaps they’re right. Last year we covered their release of some new cartridges for the VCS.

14 thoughts on “Atari At 50: The Story Of Our Lives

      1. Yeah. I bought one full-price at the time. The battery life was a killer. On the other hand, my GB was a fiver second-hand, and the Lynx 20 quid new when they were discontinued.

    1. Might depend on the teenager and motivation. The year the Lynx was released, I spent the summer working in hotel restaurant kitchen for something like 1.75UKP ($2.10usd) an hour to save up the ~800UKPs ($960usd) to buy an Acorn Archimedes A310 (took about 10weeks, long days). The work totally sucked, but no regrets (bonus, I got to learn ARM assembly before it was cool) it was totally worth it and served me well for years to come. It also got me my first serious tech job 3 years later, all thanks to being able to run an MS-DOS emulator on the Archimedes (and do what the company the hired me needed done).

      In contrast, and Atari Lynx would be less than ten days of horrible greasy dish washing and peeling tatties.

      When I was a kid it was up’ill to school in the morning, and up’ill to walk home in the evening…

    1. I had an Atari 1024 ST when I was in high school.
      Which I regretted a few years later when the Amiga came around…I had not enough money to buy one and had to do with my Atari.

      1. I bought an Atari 1040ST because even with its color monitor it was cheaper than the Amiga 1000 without and I never regretted it. Many of the games were written for the ST to be able handle so they could sell to both the ST and Amiga markets. Two birds with one stone so to speak. The GFA BASIC from Germany which could be compiled was an outstanding implementation of that language and is now freeware for the PC. Anyway, BOTH the ST and Amiga were VASTLY better than anything available for several times the price at that time.

        1. I had previously owned Atari 8-bits with their unique at the time custom sound and graphics chipset by Jay Miner of later Amiga fame. I read about that in a Byte magazine series before buying. When I bought the Commodore engineer designed Atari ST series, it wasn’t brand loyalty, it was a cost/benefit ratio judgement.

    2. Learned 6502 assembly, plus a few higher languages on my 8-bit machines. The ability to have a word processor and a spreadsheet got me several jobs back when few people had access to any computers…

  1. I always thought it was interesting that Steve Jobs worked on the production line at Atari (in sandals, saffron robes and topknot, no less), way before Apple. I’ve always been looking for a replacement on WII or a PC for Asteroids but I’m not seeing it. Can anyone make suggestions? I’m not looking for anything other than blasting spaceships to their demise.

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