8bitrocket.com
3Apr/161

Excerpt From The Diary Of An Atari Nerd

Note: Here is a piece of creative non-fiction.  I've changed the names, and compacted some events, but everything is true that happened.  I've been toying with the idea of creating a fictionalized diary based on real events for a long time.  The article in the last section is the real article printed in the newspaper.  This was also inspired by The Diary Of Adrian Mole.

-Steve Fulton

Thursday Nov. 17 1983

A weird thing happened to me today in computer lab.  I was helping a class of kids in my grade with a writing assignment on Bank Street Writer.  I always hate to work with kids in my own grade.  It’s much better to help 6th and 7th graders.  It’s easier to be someone else around them. To kids in my grade I will always be me, but to younger kids I can be like a superhero, showing them how to do things they can’t do on their own.  Anyway, there are not enough computers for every kid, so the classes pair up. After the last time a class of 8th graders came in, Ms. Brown told me  that I  “had to” ask everyone if they need help.

I walked around behind everyone, whispering advice about loading files, and saving text.

As it turned out, Bryce and Chance were working together, a dangerous combination.  So I waited until the last possible minute to see what they were up to.  Predictably, they were both struggling over a single paragraph about surfing.

I asked them if they needed any help.

“Bro, how do you spell ‘barrel’?” Byrce asked, not turning his head

“Dude, I don’t think ‘gnarly’ starts with an ‘n” Chance interjected although not actually responding to his question.

I told them that they should use the spell check.  I reached over them to the keyboard and  I selected the word “narlly” and pressed the Apple key.

Bryce looked at me and said “Smell check!”, and then snorted a laugh.  Chance joined in, and laughed like it was the funniest thing anyone had ever said.

When they were finished, Bryce looked at me.

 

“Seriously bro, what happened to you?”

“Yeah dude, you could still be cool” Chance continued,

“Get rid of this black sweatshirt, cut your hair”

“And stop playing with these computers all the time” Bryce added

They both laughed again together again.

 

“Okay guys, sure” I told them.  Then I left as quickly as possible.  I hid in the last row of computers for the rest of the period.  I put my projects disk in the Apple disc drive and loaded up the Koala Art program to work on my drawing.  When Ms. Brown looked over, I pretended to help the kid in the computer next to me.  From her vantage point at the front of the room, Ms. Brown could not see that the seat was empty.  

 

Friday Nov. 18th 1983

Actual school classes were uneventful today. I played one game of handball at snack time, but at lunch I  spent my time by volleyball court #8, you know, the one way at the end by the old shed that holds broken lockers.  The court  with the sagging net and ripped upper-right hand corner. We’ve been coming down to practice sometimes  at lunch since the beginning of the month. John Sheldon has this idea that we should enter the March tournament as a team.  To be honest, we’ve been force-fed volleyball since  the day we entered 6th grade, all of us: John, Dave Gregory, Christian Bolden, Shane Tanaka, Barry Kendon, Rich Marksson, my brother and I, we are pretty good at volleyball...for a normal school.  However, this is not a normal school.  The high school we feed into regularly wins State Volleyball Championships.  The city prides itself on volleyball.  The beach is filled with pro volleyball players on any given day.  If all we did was play volleyball every minute of our lives, we still would not be good enough to compete on any level.  Still though, John wants to play in the tournament, and, secretly, I do too.

As we were playing the second game today, Brad Fenders and Brent Jacobs grabbed the volleyball from the sideline as they walked by.

“Hey look, the ‘tards are playing a game” Brad said.

“Give us the ball back” John replied.  He said it in a tired, bored voice.  The kind of voice that said ‘we’ve been through this many times before and it got old in the 6th grade.’

Then John did something I’ve never seen him do.  He walked right up to Brad and tried to take the ball.

“Woah there Godzilla!” Brad said

He passed the ball to Brent in the air, just out of John’s reach. who proceeded to hold it behind his back, again, just out of John’s reach.

The rest of us stayed silent and still.  I wanted to help John, but I also wanted to stay out of firing line of Brad and Brent and their group. I think everyone else felt the same.  We liked John, but we also didn’t mind that he was the focus of the wrath and not us.

Brent taunted John, “You volleyball stars gonna enter the tournament year?”

John did not answer.

“What’s your team’s name gonna be?” Brad demanded.

“Just give me my ball back” John said, ignoring the question and lunging towards the ball.

 

“I bet it’s The Metalers!”  Brent yelled back to Brad as he held the ball high.

“Come On Feel The Noise!” Brad said, as he pulled the ball away from John yet again.

“Quiet Riot is not even a metal band, now give me my ball” John yelled. jumped higher than ever, just missing it.  

 

I think Brad and Brent sensed that they had squeezed enough out of the their ball kidnapping, and finished with a final shot.

 

“Whatever spaz” Brent said, as he turned and drop-kicked the ball to the lower soccer field.

“Faced!” Brent yelled.

“I was just kidding.  Can’t you take a joke?”

 

They both laughed and walked towards the #1 court.

John and Rich ran down to get the ball.  By the time they returned, lunch was over.

 

Saturday Nov. 19th 1983

I was up most of the night thinking about the incident with Bryce and Chance.  I had been good friends with both of them in the past.  Bryce, my twin brother and I started the 5th grade pretty much inseparable.  Bryce invited us to an open house at his dad’s work (a defense contractor that made satellites). All three of us plus Ricky and Mark were in the talent show together  We performed a skit we wrote  named “What happens when your mother is away.”  My brother and I played the kids, and Ricky was our dad.  He kept messing things up, and he did stuff like leave the iron on too long.  Bryce played a door-to-door salesman  who ended up getting a pie in the face.  Mark played  the pie machine. As far as I could tell, it was a huge hit.  Bryce also performed a solo version of “Puff The Magic Dragon” that his mom insisted he sing.

Soon after, Bryce’s attitude changed subtly.  He stopped calling to hang out.  However, he still responded when I called, so I thought everything was okay.

That same year, Chance invited my brother and I over for sleep-over, and we trick or treated on Halloween together.   He seemed like a really cool guy, and it was nice to have a new friend who filled some of the gap left by Bryce.

Later in the year, things changed.   Bryce and Chance hung out more and more.

They both cut their hair, and rode skateboards everywhere.    One time in class our teacher was talking to us about how to be nice to people that you don’t like.  Bryce shared his method.  When he didn’t like someone any longer, he stopped calling them.  He would still respond if they called, but he would not go out of his way to call them.

I felt like a garbage truck hit me.  Bryce was not my friend any more.

Duh.

The nice thing is, that realization is like a bee sting.  It only really hurts badly the first time you feel it.  Once it happens over and over with different people. you get used to it.   These days, I expect it.  When I meet someone new, I try to figure out how long it will be until they are no longer my friend.  If they last longer than I expect, it’s like a win all around!

I spent the morning watching  cartoons in a daze.  I played “ghetto baseball” with my brother outside.   I didn’t even attempt to take nap, as I have not been able to fall asleep during the day since I was 3 years old.

TV tonight was all about NBC. On Silver Spoons Ricky daydreamed that he was the president of the United States and then proceeded to start WWIII!  Weird.  There is this movie named “The Day After” that everyone is talking about.  It's on tomorrow.  It’s about World War III.  I can’t wait to see it.

 

Sunday Nov. 20th 1983

I poured over the ads in the sunday L.A. Times today.  Still, no one was selling the Atari 800XL yet.  It was supposed to be released months ago.  How could I get one for Christmas if no one was selling it?   My dad finally caved in and told my brother and I he would get us a computer this year, but everything seemed to be against the idea.  Where are the computers Atari?

I sat on the couch all morning watching The Tom Hatten Popeye show.  It bled into The Family Film Festival’s showing of The Swiss Family Robinson before I realized 1/2 the day wizzed by.

I thought about Chance and Bryce again.  I decided that, in their own way, they were trying to be nice.   I mean, they suggested ways for me to be more like them, right?  The trouble is, I don’t want to be like them.   Why would I want to act stupid all the time and spend lunch time at school pouring over issues of High Times looking at photos of marijuana buds?   Plus, to me, surfers were the enemy.  My older sisters had told me over and over again how the surfers had ruined everything.  The surfers were the ones who threw food at them at school.  The surfers were the ones who beat-up their friends.  The surfers were the ones who invaded the punk clubs and invented slam-dancing.  The last thing I wanted to be was a surfer.  The one thing I admired about them though, was that they had chosen something to be.  When will I find my thing to be?

Listened to Dr. Demento tonight.  The top-5 were as follows

  • #5 Stinky Breath - Doctor Badbreath
  • #4 The Scotsman - Bryan Bowers
  • #3 Marvin I Love You - Marvin The Paranoid Android
  • #2 My Bologna - "Weird Al" Yankovic
  • #1 Ice Box Man - George Carlin

Note: “Ice Box Man” by George Carlin may be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Holy Shit.  

“The Day After” was just about the scariest thing I’ve ever watched.  Even scarier than “Carrie”, and that’s saying a lot.   

I can’t get this one scene out of my head.   The nuclear bombs hit, and then there is a flash, and seconds later, people just disappeared.  Like they never existed.

Never existed.

 

Monday November 21st 1983

Still reeling from “The Day After”.

I only had dreams about nuclear war last night.

Not much else I can say today.

 

Wednesday Nov. 23rd 1983

 

This was printed in the Begg Flyer today.  My first published work. Note: my job in the lab is a computer aid, so I really tried to pump up my work.  

It not this glamorous, believe me.

 

Computer Lab :  Begg Flyer, Nov. 23, 1983

By Steve Fulton

In the back right hand corner of the Learning Lab, Room 23 are the Begg School’s very own Apple computers.  Although not used to their full potential, these computers help students with learning problems, to do better in whatever subjects they are sent to work with.  They also provide a course of information retrieving never before available  to Begg School.  This source is called software.   Software is the disk program that can be run on the computers.  This software includes science programs, math programs, English programs and many others.

How can these computers be operated?   How can students be taught how to use the computers or programs?  The answer is Computer Aides.

The Computer Aide is one of the small groups of students that have been trained to teach other students how to use computers.

A Computer Aides job are as follows:  1. They must see if any student need help using the computers. 2. They see if the teachers need any help. 3. They use utility programs and work on their own programs.

Most of the Computer aides use the third job, to play games or use Logo (a graphics program), but the Aides that are really into computers and programming make their own programs.  Two of these programs are Spelling Magic, a spelling educational game, and Arithmetic Clash; a mathematical space game.

The prime reason of the computer aides is to introduce computers to students at Begg School, and in my opinion, they are doing a pretty good job of it!

So the next time you are sent to the Learning Lab, ask the teacher if you can use a computer. It might change your life!

COMPUTER UPDATE

Begg School has recently received 25 new computers donated by a company named Pertec.  As soon as they are set up, you may be using one with your English class.

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2Apr/160

Atari Vault : Multi-Player Breathes New Life Into Age-Old Games

atarivault

I spent much of last weekend attempting to get a multi-player games started with someone, anyone, on the internet. It was not a game of Star Wars Battlefront, or Words With Friends, or even Clash Royale.

It was a game of Atari 2600/VCS Basic Math.

Let me back-up a bit.

Basic Math was released as part of a new Steam-only, PC-only release from Atari named Atari Vault. When Atari Vault was released last Friday, my initial reaction was negative.  While it includes 100 games (18 coin-ops, 82 Atari 2600/VCS games), they are pretty much the same games Atari has been publishing for the past 2 decades.

My thoughts ran like this: "Why do they always release the same old batch of unlicensed 2600 titles and arcade games?"

Atari has a rich history that goes far beyond what we've seen in past titles like Atari:80 Classic Games and Atari Anthology.

"Where are the 5200, 7800, Lynx and Jaguar games?  Why can't Atari let people try the 8-bit computer version of 'Star Raiders', once called the best computer game ever made, or judge for themselves if 'doing the math' would have helped the Jaguar succeed?"

" Where are the odd an wonderful coin-ops from the 70's and early 1980's?     Where is Shark Jaws, one of the first violent coin-ops?  What about X's and O's Atari Football or Food Fight?  Where are the licensed coin-ops like Pole Position and Did Dug? Where is  the remarkable Rick Mauer designed Space Invaders for the VCS, the game that arguably jump-started the console era?"

" Where is the Star Wars coin-op, maybe the best golden age video game ever produced?"

 To me the Atari story cannot be told  unless people can play the whole history of Atari.  They need to the play VCS/2600 versions of E.T. and Pac-Man and judge for themselves whether they are "the worst games ever made" (hint: they are not).  

However, I'm a bonafide Atari Nerd, so there is no way I would pass-up this collection.   I also love Steam, as it has revolutionized my enjoyment of PC games.    Atari Vault was developed by Code Mystics, who have been involved in many emulated retro collections  over the years, so I knew there was a pedigree of knowledge and quality to back-up the title.

When I was searching through the games list in Atari Vault, I noticed one named Basic Math that I vaguely recall playing at my friend's  house in 1978, the first time I played an Atari 2600.      It was one of the first games that Atari produced with the original VCS in 1977.   I had not thought about Basic Math (also known as Fun With Numbers) in almost 4 decades.

As I recalled,  all you did was use the joystick to answer simple math problems.  I maybe played it once,  because even back then, I was not easily amused by educational video games.   It had to  feel like an arcade game or I was out.

basicmathselect

However, the interface for Basic Math was intriguing.  The 3D box spun in-place pleasingly.    The interface and visuals developer Code Mystics created for Atari Vault are very well-done.  I felt them tugging me gently back  to a specific time and place in my childhood, which I suppose is the goal in a nostalgia product like Atari Vault.    They made me want to "open" the box and see what was inside.

22Feb/160

8bitrocket Consulting Combines with Humdigital.com

Humdigital.com

      Humdigital.com

 

8bitrocket IT Consulting has now partnered with HUMDigital.com  to provide the full vertical in digital solutions.  From ideas to finished product, ongoing support and beyond, the combination of these two consulting companies brings a new meaning to full service digital development. Jeff Fulton is now the CTO of HUMdigital.com, working in tandem with their team of seasoned pros to bring you the best of the best in digital concepts, designs, and systems.  This team can and will provide you with the full service you need to be a success in the digital space.

10Feb/160

MEAN Stack Primer

MEAN Stack Primer.

MEAN - at its core, MEAN means Javascript. Unlike other technology platforms, the MEAN stack allows the user to rely on a single technology for the full stack architecture (front-end, back-end, database, and MVC).

Many people have heard of the LAMP stack. It was and is the most commonly used set of technologies to power web sites.  LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.  This is a very robust and powerful set of technologies that powers the back end of some of the most vital sites on the internet today.   It has a competitor though, the MEAN stack.

MEAN stands for Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node. Let's go through what each of these are to get a better idea of how powerful this new set of technologies is.

Node.js is a server-side Javascript framework. It allows developers, who already use Javascript to power their font-end apps, the ability to more easily transition to a full stack using a similar language.  Node.js is a very powerful, threaded architecture that is built from the ground up to support multiple instances of the same app. Combined with the lightweight Express web server, these two act as a pair to allow deployment of an app in a cloud-based architecture that takes full advantage of  multiple servers and processors.

Without a database, even with all of this power, this could only provide a rudimentary level of application to the user.   That's where Mongo comes in. Mongo is a "page level", "document"  or "Json Object" level database. It is one in a series of BIG Data ideas that removes SQL from that data processing architecture.   Mongo does support foreign keys in multiple "tables" (sets of documents with the same schema), so a somewhat normalized set of data can be created with it, but that doesn't harness the power of a No SQL database.   Records in a Mongo Database are stored as full fledged native JSON.  This allows the developer a multitude of ways to create his/her data driven application.  The developer can choose to use the powerful Node engine to parse  the JSON and pass it back to the front end, or, he/she can send the entire set of JSON back in the response object and let the increasingly powerful desktop/mobile browsers parse and use the data.

Node.js also can be used to create a full web site experience. Combine Express with a templating engine such as Jade or Mustache and you have full PHP-like control over the data and content integration on your web pages.  Add in Ionic with Bootstrap and you have the best of breed front-end solutions for hybrid web and mobile applications with responsive design.

Now, what about Angular? Angular is an MVC frameork that works with these technologies to provide a clean separation between the view of the data, the way data is accessed and transformed and the data itself.  Following the Angular.js MVC closely will allow the developer to more easily keep the front-end application clean. It separates "dirty little secrets" such as DOM manipulation from the application logic, creating a clean separation of the front-end and back-end systems.

What does all of this mean to the developer and his clients?  Clean, fast, relatively easy to build full stack applications and web services (Mean is perfect for REST web services) with optimum performance in a shorter time than with most other technologies.

Check out the MEAN stack at mean.io.

If you want help implementing a MEAN stack, we can provide consulting services help get you to the next level.

9Feb/160

8bitrocket Launches New Consulting Service

8bitrocket IT Consulting

8bitrocket IT Consulting

8bitrocket IT Consulting brings together 25 years of web application development, project management, IT solutions architecture, and book publishing experience, along and the sheer love of code, to your IT project.

Owner, Jeff Fulton, has years and years of experience at companies big and small, including 15 years of core web application development/architecture/management for Mattel Toys, and 4 years as the Chief Technology Officer of Producto Studios.   He simply loves code and can bring his expertise and put together a team to solve any IT project, problem or opportunity.

Do you want a responsive site? Do you want a an HTML5 Game (we wrote the book, literally on HTML5 Canvas games). Do you want a mobile app that will work across all machines with a build once, deploy everywhere capability? Do you have a legacy app or site that needs a fresh code polish to bring it up to date? Do you have a great idea, but no idea how to execute it?  Do you want a hybrid app that can work on the web and be packaged as a mobile app?  Do you want all of these? Do you need help with the latest and greatest architecture ideas (Node, Ionic, Angular, Mongo, Express, Bootstrap, and others)?  We can help with all of these and more. Just send an email to jeff@8bitrocket.com or call 310-351-6726 to discuss your problem or opportunity.

We test the latest and greatest everyday so you don't have to.

Check out our consulting page for more info.

8bitrocket Consulting, Code Rules!

If it's code, we got this!

7Nov/150

Old Crap From My Attic: Atari and Sega Extravaganza – Atari 400/400/xl/xe, Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear storage space win!

Old Crap From My Attic: Atari and Sega Extravaganza: Atari 400/400/xl/xe, Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear storage space win!

Well, not exactly from my attic, but from my garage this time, and not exactly from there, but from my brother...oh, just forget where it came from and bask in it's glory...

Last weekend, my brother brought over two boxes of retro stuff that had been collecting dust in his storage space. He is just as much of a retro game / Atari nerd as I am, but he gave the boxes to me for safe keeping and enjoyment.

Today I will go through the first box and next time the second. This box contains Atari 8-bit computer software (14 titles)/hardware(2 pieces), the original Atari Lynx we purchased in the early early 90's, his Game Gear, and healthy selection of software (Lynx 36, Game Gear 9 games )  from  each.   The second box contains over 100 80's magazines for Atari computers, some with cover disks.

Atari 8bit, Game Gear Lynx

Atari 8bit, Game Gear Lynx

The Atari 8-Bit Computer Stuff:
- Atari 1050 Disk Drive (Atari Museum Page)
- Atari 1030 1200 Baud Modem (Atari Museum Page)
1. Atari XL (Silver) Ms Pacman Cartridge (Atari Mania Page)
2. Parker Brothers Popeye Cartridge (Atari Mania Page)
3. Parker Brothers Frogger Cartridge (Atari Mania Page)
4. Atari XL (Silver) Centipede Cartridge (Atari Mania Page)
5. DataSoft Pacific Coast Highway Cassette  in box (Atari Mania Page)
6. Sierra Official Frogger Cassette in box (Atari Mania Page) (John Harris Version)
7. Synapse Chicken Cartridge in box (Atari Mania Page)
8. Gentry Sea Bandit Disk and Cassette in box (Atari Mania Page)
9. Cosmi Aztec Challenge Cassette in box - Includes Vic 20 and Ti 99/4A versions also (Atari Mania Page)
10. DataSoft Pooyan Disk and Cassette versions in box (Atari Mania Page)
11. Cosmi Meltdown Cassette in box (Atari Mania Page)
12. Origin Untima 4 - Box, instructions, cloth map, etc. No Disks =( (Atari Mania Page)
13. Atari 400/800 States and Capitals Cassette in box (Atari Mania Page)
14. Atari 400/800 Energy Czar Cassette in Box (Atari Mania Page)

The Atari Lynx Stuff:
- Original Atari Lynx (PAG0201) Handheld 16-bit color game system in Box (AtariAge Page)
1. Tournament Cyberball (Atari Age Page)
2. Xybots (Atari Age Page)
3. Ninja Gaiden (Atari Age Page)
4. Klax (Atari Age Page)
5. Hydra (Atari Age Page)
6. Ishido Way of the Stones (Atari Age Page)
7. Batman Returns (Atari Age Page)
8. Viking Child (Atari Age Page)
9. Jimmy Connors Tennis (Atari Age Page)
10. Pinball Jam (Atari Age Page)
11. Pit Fighter (Atari Age Page)
12. Awesome Golf (Atari Age Page)
13. Turbo Sub (Atari Age Page)
14. Hockey (Atari Age Page)
15. Rampart (Atari Age Page)
16. Qix (Atari Age Page)
17. Super Skweek (Atari Age Page)
18. Gauntlet The Third Encounter - (Atari Age Page) (Curved Tip Cart)
19. NFL Football (Atari Age Page)
20. Warbirds (Atari Age Page)
21. Chips Challenge (Atari Age Page) (Flat Tip Cart)
22. Zarlor Mercenary - Probably my favorite Lynx Game of all time. (Atari Age Page)
23. European Soccer Challenge (Atari Age Page)  (Ranked as very rare)
24. Todd's Adventures in Slime World (Atari Age Page)
25. Crystal Mines II (Atari Age Page)
26. Kung Food (Atari Age Page)
27. Stun Runner (Atari Age Page)
28. Dirty Larry Renegade Cop (Atari Age Page)
29. Checkered Flag (Atari Age Page)
30. Basketbrawl (Atari Age Page)
31. Steel Talons (Atari Age Page)
32. Switchblade II (Atari Age Page)
33. Gates of Zendocon (Atari Age Page)  (Curved Cart Edge)
34. Rygar - The game I played the most. Damn awesome. (Atari Age Page)
35. Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure  (Atari Age Page)  - Not pictured, found in instruction pile.
36. California Games (Atari Age Page) - Not pictured, found in instruction pile.

The Sega Game Gear Stuff:

Sega Game gear Hand Held Color Console (Sega Retro Page) - essentailly and 8-bit Sega Master System with a better color palette and Stereo sound.
1. Disney Aladdin (Sega Retro Page)
2. Legend of Illusion  Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Retro Page)
3. Sonic Spinball (Sega Retro Page)
4.  NBA Jam (Sega Retro Page)
5. Disney Lion King (Sega Retro Page)
6. Star Wars (Sega Retro Page)
7. Poker Face Paul's Solitaire (Sega Retro Page)
8. Gear Works (Sega Retro Page)
9. Super Columns (Sega Retro Page)

That's it for this time.  It will be fun to try out all these games and see what still works. None of it is for sale. Sorry.

12Jul/152

Atari Bonanza – Old Stuff From My Attic. 2600 5200 7800 800 XL XE Jaguar ST

Atari Bonanza - Old Stuff From My Attic. 2600, 5200, 7800, 800 XL XE, Jaguar, ST

I decided to do an entire Atari excavation today.  I went through every box of Atari games and hardware (I might have missed an ST box and if I find it, I'll add it later) I have to come up with a definitive list of what I own.  I am not actually much of a collector, and much of my original 80's collection (aside from the Atari ST and the '93 Jaguar) have been purchased or given to me from 95 and beyond.  But this stuff has been collecting dust, and to get a good idea, and have some pictures for insurance purposes, I decided to take up all of a Sunday morning, sifting through boxes of stuff and organizing it before the cats ran over and messed it up.

First, here is an over-all pic of what I found and laid out on the area rug (it took more than the large area to hold all the original ST software).  Aside from the Lynx (which my brother Steve has), this represents a version of every game and computer system (not the stand alone systems like Pong and Super Pong Doubles, etc) that Atari put out on the mass market in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

 

10000 Foot View Atari Collection

10000 Foot View Atari Collection

This collection starts in the upper left -
Atari 130XE + SIO2 SD (use any disk image from the internet) + game carts (details further down)

Atari 2600 Carts + Manuals, Catalogs and Atari Force Comic Book (#3).

Atari 7800 + carts (some new in box) + Atari 2600 Wood Grain 4 switcher

A whole Bunch of 2600/800, XL, XE/7800/ST Controllers.

Next Row from Left to right:

Atari 5200 + a whole bunch of non working controllers, + games and an awesome Wico controller

Atari 1040 ST with a large piles of data / public domain , some awesome creative software and a Jaguar hidden to the right

Bottom:

Many many many Purchased Atari ST games and productivity applications, including the original Dungeon Master with Manual FTL sticker and collectible coin.

Detailed pics: 

The Atari 130XE - Compatible with the Ataro 400/800/1200XL/800XL/600XL/800XE/65XE and XE Game System.

 

Atari 130 XE

Atari 130 XE

  1. Atari 130 XE computer with SIO2SD . This allows any disk image to be downloaded from the internet and played on the system.

  2. 130  XE manual

  3. Original Atari Basic Learning Guide

4.12 Game  Carts: Millipede in box, Demon Attack in Box (needs translator to OS B disk to use), River Raid, Miner 2049er, Food Fight, Donkey Kong, Load Runner, Super Cobra, Dig Dug, Pac Man, Qix, Star Raiders.

  1. Atari Joystick, Power Supply and Modern AV Cable.
    The Atari 5200
Atari 5200

Atari 5200

  1. 5200 4 port joystick model.

  2. 6 5200 original joysticks in various states of disrepair.

  3. Wico 5200 stick

  4. A stack of game specific controller inserts.

  5. A stack of 5200 manuals and a stack of catalogs

  6. 33 Games carts: Jungle Hunt, Counter Measure, Soccer, Moon Patrol, Pengo, Missile Command, Galaxian, Football, Centipede, Pole Position, Baseball, Super Breakout, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Qix, Star Raiders, Joust, Choplifter, Kangaroo, Star Wars, Qbert, Gyruss, Montezuma's Revenge,  Frogger, Congo Bongo, Zaxxon, Kaboom,  Dig Dug  In Box, Tennis In Box,  Pac-man in box,  Pole Position In Box, Wizard of Wor.

The Atari VCS 2600

The Atari VCS 2600

  1. A stack of 2600 game catalogs
    2.. A stack of 2600 game instructions
  2. The Atari Force #3 Comic Book
  3. 73 Game Carts: Strawberry Shortcake in Box, Phoenix in box, Mario Bros, Centipede,  Real Sports Volleyball, Real Sports Football, Pole Position, Moon Patrol, Real Sports Baseball, Real Sports Tennis, Ms. Pac Man, Vanguard, Kangaroo,  Pac Man (3 copies), War Lords (3 copies), Casino (2 copies), Breakout (text cart version), Super Breakout, Video Olympics, Football, Pele's Soccer, Street Racer, Defender (2 copies), Asteroids (2 copies),  Video Pinball (2 copies),  Space Invaders, Surround, Haunted House, Basketball, Bowling, Home Run, Combat (2 copies), Indy 500, Star Raiders, Adventure, Yars Revenge, Maze Craze, Human Cannon Ball, Sears Tele-Games Golf, Sears Tele-Games Pinball, Donkey Kong, Venture, Zaxxon, Donkey Kong (Signed by Gary Kitchen), Atlantis, Riddle of the Sphinx, Trick Shot, Demon Attack, Frogger (2 copies), Super Cobra, Stars Wars Empire Strikes Back, Qbert, Spider Fighter (2 copies), River Raid, Gran Prix (signed by David Crane), Pit Fall (signed by David Crane),  Enduro,  Decathlon, Robot Tank, Sea Quest, Keystone Kapers, Megamania.

The Atari 7800

 The Atari 7800

The Atari 7800

  1. Atari 7800 Console and 2600 Console
  2. 7800 controller sticks, 2600 controller sticks, paddles, Indy 500 racing controllers, Genesis Pad (will work with 2600,/7800/8-bits/ST), Master System Stick - works with  (will work with 2600,/7800/8-bits/ST, Star Raiders Controller, 2 Spectravision Joy Sticks.
  3. 17 Game Carts - Donkey Kong in box, Donkey Kong Jr in box, Dark Chambers in box, Choplifter in Box, Tower Toppler in Box, Baseball in box, Ms Pac Man in Box, Centipede in box, One On One in box,  Touchdown Football, Galaga, Robotron, Desert Falcon, Food Fight, Xevious, Asteroids, Pete Rose Baseball.

Atari Jaguar

Atari Jaguar

Atari Jaguar

  1. Original Jaguar + single pack in controller
  2. 8 Game Carts - Wolf 3d, Tempest 2000, Kasumi Ninja, Checkered Flag, Attack of the Mutant Penguins, Zool 2, Super Burnout (all in box), pack-in Cyber morph.

The Atari 1040 ST

This is the system that Steve and I spent the most time on in our youth - college.  The stacks of disks have many more Degas, Animation, and game projects than pirate games.  This was an incredible machine to grow up with (literally from 16 until 20, the most formative years of pre-adulthood).

Atari 1040 ST

Atari 1040 ST

  1. Atari 1040 STFM that has seen better days, Missing some keys.  I would like to purchase another is anyone has one they would like to sell.
  2. ST Color Monitor, 2 ST Mouse Controllers, ST 12oo Baud Modem, Video Sync Controller.
  3. 3 stacks of disks including a lot of college work, games created, art and animation for our films.
  4. Stacks of ST User, ST Action, ST Format and a couple START discs,
  5. STOS Game creator, Compiler, and Sampler with many game demo disks, full docs and manuals, etc.
  6. Cyberpaint and Art/Film Director software - one of the first key frame animation programs. It synced to the TV so we could create animations for our student films, etc. Awesome for its time.
  7. No Box, but full Version of Dungeon Master with FTL Sticker and and collectors coin.
  8. Boxed edition of Beyond Zork
  9. Boxed edition of the original Sid Meyer Pirates game

The rest of the discs and software (how many did you have):

More ST Discs 1

More ST Discs 1

Atari Algebra and Physics, Cybernoid, Galaxy Force, Artura, Deflecktor, Baal, Stunt Car Racer, Computes Atari Disk, Fighter Bomber, Silkworm, St Express, Joe Blade, Tracker, Speed Ball, Anco Player Manager, Corporation, Zynaps, Defenders of Earth,  Atari ST Language Disk (Basic + a Unix like CPM Shell), Darius +, Indian Jones, Axel's Magic Hammer, Super Cars, Skidz, Switch Blade, Dragon Breath, Power Drift, Ikari Warriors, Captain Blood.

More ST Discs 2

More ST Discs 2

Starting about the middle of the pic:

Menace, Super Hang-on, Eye of Horus, Enduro Racer, Crazy Cars, Barbarian, GODS, Batman the Caped Crusader, Blood Money, Buggy Boy, Micro League Baseball,  Afterburner,  Rick Dangerous,  Anco Kick Off 2, Neochrome, Beyond the Ice Palace, Battle Ships, Sidewinder,  Andes Attack (send money directly to Jeff Minter to get this one. Best action game on the ST!!!),  Street Fighter.

 

More ST Discs 3

More ST Discs 3

Starting about the middle of the Pic:

Blastaball, Butcher Hill, Outrun, Golden Path,  Zynaps, 1943, Double Dragon 2, Netherworld,  California Games, Star Quake,

Also, there are tons of Public Domain games and apps, since those are legit, I'll list them here These are from legitimate purchased Shareware disks from ST Express, and the PDC Library in Lynnwood Wa), and Bre Software Fresno CA
Sozobon C Compiler, Kong, Nitro, Galaxian, IBS Pegasus 2, ST Writer 3.0 + ST Spell, DDST, Werner, Dungeon Adventure, Lamatron from the ST Action Cover Disk, MJ C Compiler, Floyd The Droid, Lander, Matching Game, Bnoid, Galactic War, Fire Squad, Phantom House, Berzerk, Action Dungeon, Hero, World, Inspector Clewso, Pick Pocket, Super Simon, ST Breakanoid, Werty Hoiuse of horrors, Bubble, Worm War, Mouse Plaything.

We also have a stack of manuals.  Here I will list the game disks that are missing. Steve Fulton probably has these or they got lost in the shuffle some place (or they are in another box some place):

Better Dead Than Alien, Miracle Warriors, 007 Licensed to KIll, Super Wonder Boy. Xenon 2 Mega Blast, Blood Wych, Their Finest Hour (with decoder information), Tetris, Tau Ceti, Rampage, Gauntlet II, Operation Wolf, Oids, Bad Company,  Antic Flash, Techno Cop, St Star Raiders, North and South, International Soccer, Sim City (+ decoder card), War in Middle Earth, Road War Europa, Populous, Microprose Soccer,  Screaming Wings, Sorcerer Lord, R-Type, Xenon, Arkanoid Revenge of  Doh, Dragonscape, Exolon, Robocop, Phantasie III...

And there were many many more that we purchased.

Originally we had well over 200 2600 and 7800 games (including an original Super Charger) as well has 100's of purchased 400/800/XL/XE games also.  One of the big disappointments was selling out Atari 800 setup to a guy named Manny from Wilmington (are you out there some place?) If anyone has a bunch of old Atari disks with the names Steve and Jeff on some them and basic games we made like The Price Is Right, multiple funny sentence generators, and a slew of Pinball games made with Pinball construction set (along with the books listed, and many purchased games), please drop me an email at jeff@8bitrocket.com. For some reason we sold all of our own games that we coded and everything else, including an original Your Atari Computer Book, Mapping the Atari, and Doctor C Wacko books, magazines, and much more. It was to get an Atari ST, but still, I wish we had not done it.

I'm always looking to expand my collection of all Atari stuff for cheap prices. Nothing I have is for sale.  So much has been lost over the years that I would never part with anything I have.

Besides these, I have every Atari collection for multiple game consoles as well as a Flash Back 3 and 4 and a couple of the original Jaxx 10 game NES re-programmed VCS sticks.  I would have included the Flashback 1 or 2 if I had them because those were made with the love and care that Atari peripherals deserved by Legacy Engineering and put out by the last real vestiges of Atari.

Our new Podcast: 
The 8bitrocket Option Select Start Podcast will be based on this collections, Steve Fulton's collection, our recollections, new purchases, interviews (anyone who wants to be interviewed, send an email to jeff@8bitrocket.com), and our 6502 and 68000 game development projects as we apply what we have learned in modern game development to machine language new games for Atari and other retro systems.

28Dec/145

The Dead Lexicon Of Classic Video Games (Ver. 1.1)

by fultonbot-Version 1.1

At the beginning of of the video game era, gaming nomenclature was yet to be coined.   This is our first look into the fascinating world of  "The Dead Lexicon Of Classic Video Games.

The editors and writers of magazines like Electronic Games created much of the nomenclature of modern video games.  Terms like "easter-egg" "playfield" and "shoot-em-up" were all coined within the pages of the first ever video and computer game columns and magazines.  However, many of the terms they created did not stand the test of time.   Some were used regularly, but have lost their meaning (see "burn-in" as technology has changed).  With this list we are trying to note as many of these lost phrases as possible.

For most of the entries below, we have identified a source.  This is not necessarily the first use, or the source of the definition, however, it was provided to give some contextual reference to where and when these terms were used.

Action Button: "The Stud on a home arcade hand controller.  In action games it is frequently used to initiate firing" (E.G. Jul. 82)

Arcade Ace: Name given to a start coin-op video game player. (E.G. Oct. 82)

Arcaders : A participant in the hobby of electronic gaming.  Used before the word "gamers" was popularized. (E.G. Winter '81, P. 6, E.G. Jun. 82)

Arcading: Refers to the past-times pf playing video games. (E.G. winter '81)

Arcade Quality: A term frequently used to describe home video game graphics in terms of their arcade counterparts. (E.G. Nov. '82, ColeccoVision advertisements, pg. 2)

A-B Switch: See Difficulty Switch.

Arkies: Awards given by Electronic Games Magazine for the best games of the year (Multiple issues of E.G. including Dec. '82)

Atari System X:  Code name (in the press)  for the Atari 5200 console.  (E.G. Sep. 82)

Augmented Text Adventures: Text adventures with minimal sound and graphics.  (E.G. Mar. 82).

Auxiliary Storage: Another name for disk drive ans cassette recorders used to store files for a computer (E.G. Mar. 1982)

Ball And Paddle Contest: Name given to Pong and  Breakout style games. (Arcade Alley, Aug. 81)

Bank Switching: The use of  separately addressable areas of memory so game system could access more data on a cartridge. (E.G. Jul 84)

Big Shake-Out:  Another name for the golden age video game "Crash" (E.G.  Mar, 1984)

Bird's Eye View : Another name for a top-down scrolling game. (E.G. Oct. 82)

Burn-In: Early hard-wired video game systems did not not rotate their on-screen colors, resulting in images permanently ghosted on a TV screen.  Atari solved this problem with the VCS using color-cycling routines.

Climbing Games:   Original name for "platform" games. (E.G. Jan. 83)

Coin-Op :  Short-hand for Coin operated games (E.G. Winter 81)

Coinoppers: A term used to describe people who played arcade games.

Computer Gaming Age, The: Roughly 1984-1987:  Refers specifically to the "home computer age" that overtook golden age video game consoles: Specifically the Commodore 64, Apple IIe and Atari 8-bit computers.

Contest: Synonym for "game", usually used with arcade or action games. (E.G. Oct. '82)

Control Disc: Flat, disc style replacement for a joystick.  Used on the Mattel Intellivision. (arcade Alley Jul. 80)

Controller Overlays : plastic cards for keypad controllers to guide players to the button assignments for a particular game.  Used with Intellivision, Atari 5200, and ColecoVision consoles (see Screen Overlay) (E.G. Oct. 1982)

Control Units: Another term for controllers.  (E.G. Winter '81 p. 11)

Conversion Kit:  A kit that allows an owner of a coin-operated game to turn it into a different game. (E.G. Aug. '83)

Dexterity Games: A reference to action-oriented and arcade games. (E.G. winter '81)

Difficulty Switch: A toggle switch on a console to set the difficulty per player of any single game. (Also: A-B Switch)

Electronic Gaming/Games: Term used to describe the hobby of playing  home video games, computer games, arcade games and hand-held electronic games. (E.G. Winter '81, P. 6)

Electronic Gamesmanship: A term used to describe the professional field of video games (E.G. winter '81, p. 6)

Electronic Amusement Center: Name given to upscale arcades that tried to clean the image  of of the "pinball parlors" of old. (E.G. Mar. 82)

First Law Of Coin-Ops: "Easy To Play, Difficult To Master" (E.G. Sep. 82)

Flipper Games: Another name for pinball machines.  (E.G. Dec. '82)

Frank Laney Jr.: Pen Name of Arnie Katz, co-editor of Arcade Alley and Electronic Games Magazine. Name was used so that Katz's work with video games did not interfere with his other journalism.  He dropped the name in 1982.  (Arcade Alley, Nov. '79)

Free In-Pack Cartridge : Free game that comes with console (alternative to "pack-in") (E.G. nov. '82)

Game Library: A term referring to an arcader's game collection or the collection of game available for a particular console. (Arcade Alley Nov. 81)

Gobble Game: A Pac-Man inspired game or clone. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Gobble Gaming: The act of playing Pac-Man and Pac-Man like games. (E.G. Jul. '83)

Gobbler: Slang for Pac-Man (E.G. Mar. 82)

Gobblins : Slang term for the ghosts in Pac-Man. (E.G. Sep. 82)

Gourmet Stick/Controllers: Name given to expensive, premium joystick controllers (i. Wico Joysticks) (E.G. Dec. '84,E.G. Jan. '83)

Hard-Wired Systems:  Early  video game systems with embedded games and controllers permanently connected with wires. (E.G. Winter '81)

Head-To-Head (Contest): A game requiring two or more player game. (Arcade Alley, Jul. 80)

Home Arcades: Another name for video game consoles (Arcade Alley, Jan. '80)

Home (Electronic) Version:  A name given to the translation of an arcade game to a console. (E.G. Winter '81, p. 15) (Video Magazine Arcade Alley Jan '80)

Hi-Res Graphics:  A term used to described graphics that looked better than "low-res" graphics, but the actual technical details were fuzzy.  Could have been more pixels, more colors, or both. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Illustrated Text Adventures: Text adventures with static images. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Invasion Game : A single screen game where invaders attacked and the player had to shoot them all (i.e Space Invaders, Galaga, Demon Attack). (EG Jan .83, pg, 22)

Interactive Programs: Any program that the user made choices or modified using input devices.  As opposed to "Batch" programs that ran on timed intervals and did not require user interaction. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Joystickers: Name given to people who plays console games (E.G. Aug. '83)

Knockoffs : A term used to describe games that copied the play style (and sometimes the graphics) of other games to cash in on their success. ( E.G. Oct '82, E.F. Jan. 83)

Lady Arcaders: Term refering to women video game players. (E.G. May. 82)

Master Component : A term used to describe a video game console in the context of an add-on peripheral (i.e a keyboard) (E.G. winter '81, p. 36)

Maze Game: Any game that uses an on-screen play field of winding passages that for mazes of maze-like elements.  (Arcade Alley Jun 81).

Me Too Game:  A game that is very similar to another already existing game. (E.G. Jul. '83)

Microcomputer: Usually referred to an 8-bit home computer, but the IBM PC was sometimes referred to by this moniker as well.  In reality, it was any computer that was smaller than a mini-computer and usually could fit on a desk.

Modular System: Coined by Mattel for the Intellivision.  The system was designed to add easily add additional components (i.e. computer keyboard, voice synthesizer). (E.G. Winter '81)

Multi-Playfield Invasion Game : Used to describe a scrolling shooter like (i.e Defender). (EG Jan .83, pg, 23)

Multiplexer: A device that allowed a computer or game system to access multiple ROM cartridges and select one to use. (EG. Jul. 84).

Multi-Screen Adventures: A term used to describe the advent of complex video games that went beyond a single screen.  (examples: Adventure, Pitfall!, Smurf Rescue)  (E.G. May 1983)

Overlays : this plastic card used for augmenting games.  Used for screens and cotnrollers.    (see Screen Overlay, Controller Overlay) (E.G. Oct. 1982)

Packy: A nick-name for Pac-Man

Pinball Parlor: Name for arcades in the age of pinball and electro mechanical games.  Usually connoted dens of danger,  teengers, smoking, drugs, etc.

Play-Action: A noun that represented the intersection on-screen elements with user interaction in a video game. (E.G. Jan. '83)

Pong Variant: Any game that used some combination of balls and paddles. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Pre-Programmed/Prepared Game Software: Games that could be commercially bought for and used by a home computer as aopposed to wriring your own software.  (Arcade alley, Jul 81, Aug. 81)

Programmable Game System/Machine: Name given to to the first generation of game systems that would accept cartridges instead only playing built-in games.  (E.G. Winter '81 p. 16)

Programmable Videogame Rights:  Used to describe a licenses acquired by a video game publisher to create a translation of a game for a home console.  (E.G. Winter '81, p.32)

Programmability : Used to describe the most important attribute of console video game system, the ability to use swappable cartridges (E.G. winter '81, p. 31)

Quadrascan : Atari's trademarked name for their vector monitor, used as an adjective. Named because Atari's technology broke the vector screen into 4 parts for faster processing (E.G. Winter '81, p. 14, E.G. Mar. 82)

Quarter Snatcher: Slang term for an arcade coin-op video game. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Rack: A synonym for "level", stems from it's use in the game of Pool. (See also: "Scenario")  (E.G. Oct. '82)

Rasterscan: Term used to describe the the way a standard television monitor creates a pixel-based display. (Arcade alley, Dec. 81)

Resident (Game): A game included in the ROM of console that plays by default if no other game cartridge is inserted. (E.G. Nov. 82, In reference to MineStorm for Vectrex, p. 26)

R.F. Modulator:  A device attached to the antenna input of a TV to display the output of a video game system.   Converts signals from a video game system into a format that can be used by television (E.G. Winter '81)

Roller Controller: Another name for a Trac-Ball style controller.  Specifically introduced by Coleco for ColecoVision (E.G. May '83)

Rollover: When  the score of a video game returned to zero because the memory allocated for the score reached it's maximum value.

ROM Cartridge: Another name for a game cartridge.   Contained a game program burned into Read-Only-Memory tha twas read by game console (Arcade Alley, Sep. 81)

Scenario: Early name for what would become "level". See also "Rack" (E.g. Aug. '83)

Screen Overlays: Clear plastic screen placed over a video game screen to add color, design and static images to game play experience. (Use in with Vectrex console)  (E.G. Oct. 82)

Scrolling Shoot-Out: Name given to games like "Defender" of which it was (possibly) the first in the genre. (E.G. Oct. '82)

Senior Game System:  Name given the the Atari 5200 and Colecovision in 1982. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Sequence Game : A memory game (i.e Simon) (E,G. Winter '81 p. 19)

Shoot 'Em Up: A game genre where the object was to shoot at as many targets as possible before your player (or players) was (were) destroyed.

Solitaire Videogame/Game : Used to describe a single player game.   The lack of single player or "solitaire" games is what hampered many game systems in the early 80's.  Readers complained that the Intellivision and Odyssey were difficult to play alone.  The Atari VCS on the other hand, had a line-up of games that could be played "solitaire" or by multiple people.  (EG Jan. 83, p. 24. E.G. Mar, 82)

Stand-Alone : A term used to describe a table-top video game system that with neither hand-held nor a console (i.e. Vectrex, Cosmos) (E.G. winter '81, p. 15)

Stand Alone Programmable: A Stand alone video game system with swappable games. (see Stand Alone) (E.G. Winter '81 p. 16)

Standard Programmables: See Programmable Game System

Standard Videogame System: Name given to a videogame system with less than 4K of memory and low resolution graphics. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Table-Top Game System: Name given to a stand-alone game system that is too big to hold (E.G. Vectrex) (E.G. Jul. 84)

"The Play's The Thing": Arcade Alley and Electronic Game's informal motto for game design.  They believed that when all was said and done, the way a game played was the most important aspect. Cribbed from Hamlet. (Arcade Alley Sep. 81, E.G. Sep. '82)

Third Wave Videogaming:  A term used to to describe the act of playing games on a  3rd generation of video game consoles such as the ColecoVision and Atari 5200. (E.G. Jan. 83)

Three Quarter Overview: Another name for isometric view

Translation: A version of game created for another system other than the original.  Sometimes with a different name or look, but not a "knock-off" (See: The Incredible Wizard re: Wizard Of Wor in Sep. 82 issue of E.G. page 88).

Trek-Type : Term used to describe strategic/tactical space-battle simulation games (E.G. Star Raider, Star Masters).  Named after the mainframe games "Trek" and "Star Trek") (E.G. Oct. '82)

Turnover: see Rollover.

Vanity Board: Printed national high score chart chart for coin-op video games. (E.G. Dec. 82)

Variations:  Different versions of a game on a single cartridge that changed up the variables and offered different styles of play and increasing difficulty.   Mostly used in early Atari VCS games played in short play sessions.   Variations fell out of favor when the the concept of game "levels" was created. Levels allowed  players play much longer in a single session  of game as the difficulty and options increased dynamically.    (Arcade Alley Jan. 81)

Vector Monitor: Display system that displayed graphics as lines drawn between two points as opposed to the bit-mapped pixels of a rasterscan display.  (E.G. Mar. 82)

Vectorbeam: Vector-based monitor system developed by Cinemtronics. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Videogame: Used interchangeably with "video game" (EG. Jan, 83, p 24)

Videogaming Era: Roughly 1977-1983.  When golden age video games were at the height of their popularity. Followed by The Computer Age. (E.G. Oct. 84)

Wrap-Around: A technique in ag me that allowed a player to exit on side of the screen and appear on the opposite side. (EG. Jul. 84)

 

 

 

27Dec/141

Top-10 Classic Video Game Magazine Christmas Ads, Covers, & Content

By Steve Fulton

Some of these are good, some are terrible, but all of them are memorable.   Here is a run down my favorite Christmas content from classic gaming and computer magazines like Electronic Games, Joystik, Electronic Fun and Atari Connection.

#10 Subscription Pleas

dec84_ef_subscription_addec983_joystik_subadegsubscription_egnov82

 

Every magazine contains advertisements trying to get readers to subscribe.  However, these classic video game magazine ads for subscriptions are interesting for one reason: timing.  The Electronic Fun advertisement (first  one above)  came in the December 1983 issue.   I asked for, and received, a  year-long subscription for Xmas 1983.   Too bad the magazine only lasted another 5 months. After that, I was treated to 8 issues of "Video Review" as a substitute for my beloved Electronic Fun published by the same company.  For this video game obsessed kid, it  was no substitute at all.

The second advertisement is for Joystik.   Joystik was not bad, but it was never really one of my favorites magazine.   It was glossy and colorful, but it never felt authentic.    However, it would have been the worst magazine ever if I had followed this advertisement to subscribe, as the ad appeared in the last issue of the magazine ever published.

The last ad, for Electronic Games. I sent away for this one  and was happy with the result, as it stayed in publication for another 2 and 1/2 years.

#9 Atari Checklist

atari_ad_egdec83

This ad appeared in several magazines in December 1983.  For Christmas that year,  any kids who still had an Atari 2600 should have been begging for any of these games. Ms. Pac-Man alone was worth having an Atari 2600, but Vanguard and Moon Patrol were good too as was Jungle Hunt and Phoenix.      It just proves that Atari, even after the disaster that was 1982, still pushed to make great games for their console, even through their last Christmas season as an intact company.  On the other hand, by the end of 1983 Atari knew that had an absolute dog on their hands with the 5200.  The games were good, but system itself was not selling for a variety of reasons (terrible controllers, no built-in backwards compatibility, etc.). It might seem disingenuous to push the 5200, but what else were they supposed to do?    If the system caught-fire over the holiday season of 1983, things could have turned out very different for the world's first video game company.   They certainly had a great line-up of games.

 

#8 Atari Gift Collections

 

atari_gift_colelction_winter_81_atari_connection  atari_connection_winter82_gifts atari_connection_winter82_giftsformom

Atari Connection was a little known magazine produced by Atari Inc. in their heyday to support their line of computers.  The best thing about the "winter" issues of the magazine were  the Atari "holiday gifts" they sold direct to consumers.   Buttons, t-shirts, money-clips, letter openers, hats, and all manner of other consumers items that could have the Atari logo slapped on could be had for Atari fans lucky enough to know where to get them.    My favorite "gift" collection however is the totally sexist "Gifts For Mom" software  that includes "Recipe Search And Save" as it's main offering.  If I have one pet peeve about the early days of home computing, it is the fact that "Recipe Management" was a real and serious selling point that companies came-up to try to sell computers to families.  Kids could "learn" with educational software, dad could play Star Raiders, and mom's could manage their recipes with a computer.  Have fun mom. It was all laid-out like the 50's all over again.   I'm convinced that this kind of marketing is the reason women did not feel necessarily welcome to home computers in the 80's:  they offered nothing but the same crap they were already dealing with.   Dads played games, kids got new learning tools, and mom got to continue doing her "work", but now with an electronic brain to make her more efficient so she could do more.  Yea mom!

#7 Find The Bug

atari_connection_winter82_findthebug

 

The pages of Atari Connection were not only filled with advertisements for Atari trinkets and sexist software pitches, it also made an attempt to teach BASIC programming.  The Winter 1982 issue contained this cool "Santa" themed "find the bug" puzzle.   I truly believe that hobbyist computer and video game magazines lost something special when they stopped printing program listings for users to read and type into their machines.   Even the video game magazine Electronic Fun printed user-made program listings for readers to type in and enjoy. We would probably live in ubiquitous STEM world where every kid could write their own software programs if if video and computer game magazines had simply continued this tradition into the modern age.

#6 Computer Game Ads

astrochase_jan83eg datamost_dec84eg synapse_xmas_jan83eg

Computer game ads, for many ears, were like the "punk rock" of golden age of gaming.  At the time, computer game companies were mostly D.I.Y. operations started by married couples. business partners, or single individuals who had a passion for making games for the first era of home computers.   They created a market out of the ether to serve an audience growing tired of the same-old video games (see The Atari Checklist above) and wanted more and different experiences.   Their advertisements were not always the most professional, but they had a flair for eye-catching visuals visuals that felt both "home-grown" and "cool" in the back pages of video game computer game magazines.   In many ways, I really miss theses types of multi-game advertisements, meant to showcase popular games, but also let players know about 2nd tier titles that had not been so popular.    Back then, seeing all these game images and box shots sparked my imagination.  I wanted to play all these games, and discover the particular angle an view point each author/programmer/design brought to their particular piece of work.  It was an era lost for many many years, but thankfully, has returned with the advent of Steam, where finding good and interesting indie computer games is just a few clicks away.

#5 Electronic Games : You Can Be a Game Designer

 

EG_cover_dec82 gamedesigner

 

The first "Christmas Issue" of Electronic Games also had the most iconic "holiday" cover of any classic era video game magazine.   However, the most memorable part of this magazine was not the cover, or the gift guides inside, but the story "You Can Be A Game Designer".  I was twelve years old when I read this story, and it was one of the first times I realized that I wanted to make games for a living.  It was a long road to get there, but in retrospect,  this story, in the 1982 Xmas issue of Electronic Games was one of the best presents I ever received.

 

#4 Wizard Video Games

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Wizard's "violent" and "adult" Atari 2600 games were truly awful.   However, the fact that they made a special "Christmas" advertisement in 1982 from Electronic Games to try to sell them is pretty special in my opinion, especially considering the fate of the games advertised.   "Flesh Gordon": was never released, and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was a buggy mess.   However, they gained press because they were banned at many stores, and saw a few protests by concerned citizens.   No kid wanted these games.   We wanted "Pitfall!" and "River Raid" for Xmas 1982.    However, it's still an interesting footnote in video game history to see a full-page Christmas advertisement for adult content in the industry's  best publication.

 

#3 Electronic Fun's  "Phantom" E.T. Cover

 

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Electronic Fun was an upstart video game magazine that was inspired by the  format and content style from Electronic Games.   Bill Kunkel dismissed it many times, and on the surface, it was a flattering copy of the first video game magazine.  However, after the first few issues, Electronic Fun grew into it's own, competent publication.   I never learned the names of people involved, like I did with EG, but  EF brought some very interesting concepts to the video game periodical table.  They used a " number of joysticks" rating system for reviews, featured some very in-depth interviews with game programmers and designers, and even featured short BASIC games for people with computers to type in and play.

However, they also appeared the partake in some editorial shenanigans. This cover was from their 2nd issue, and it says a lot about the industry at the time.   There is E.T. on the front cover playing what appears to be a "Santa" themed video game.   However, the most interesting part of the magazine is what is not inside.  There is almost no mention of the E.T. game for the Atari 2600 (or the 8-bit computer version) in the magazine at all.  The cover and the words "E.T/ Ready for Xmas" appears to be an endorsement for a video game the magazine had not even seen yet.     Did Atari buy the cover?  Was this an advertisement masquerading as editorial?   I do not know the answer.  It could have been completely on the up and up, but there have been hints otherwise.

The "real" concept of "Ethics In Game Journalism" has been around since 1982 (by "real" I mean large companies and organizations  colluding in big way that hurts consumers, not indie gamers trying to get nominal  press for their games-as-art style creations.  Both are an issue, but one is much more impactful than the other one.),   Electronic  Games actually went ahead and covered the situation in their March 1983 issue with Arnie Katz's "Switch On" editorial named "Setting Some Standards" (you can see it above)  Magazines at the time had 3-month lead-time, so this editorial was probably written at just about the same time this "Phantom E.T." cover hit the news stand.  The 4th item on the list appears to confront this situation directly:

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Arnie Katz described their main competitor , Electronic Fun this way " they had some writers reviewing games at times from photos of the screen shot. I remember a review (from one of their writers) about Kaboom! It was a review of Kaboom!, but he had never played it, apparently -- just seen a picture. He described it as "flaming bowling pins." I mean, there was some not very well done stuff in that magazine".

Electronic Fun was run by magazine industry professionals who were not necessarily fans of video games.  Randi Hacker, the Senior Editor has admitted as much, as has Dan Gutman, the Managing Editor who told 2600 Connection that he wrote for  Electronic Fun " for career reasons rather than for the love of it" .  This was in contrast to the creators of Electronic Games, who truly loved the field of video games and wanted to see the medium proper and grow.  No wonder they were not big fans of Electronic Fun magazine.

I still have no real clue why this E.T. cover appeared on a magazine with no coverage of the game inside.  Imagine the "******gate"  if that happened now!

#2 Twelve  Days Of Gamesmas

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EGstaff_jan85I loved Arnie Katz's articles and editorials in Electronic Games Magazine.   They were always heart-felt, and never fan-boyish.   He covered many of the same issues that plague gaming now, and foresaw many of the problems and issues that still exist today.  Bill Kunkel, on the other hand,  was the fan-boy who loved gaming for games-sake. (I loved his stuff too).  Joyce Worley was the news editor and stamped the whole opoeration with a sense of professionalism.  The January 1985 issue (published December 1984)  of Electronic Games was the last Christmas issue of the magazine.    It was also either one of the final issues, or  the final issue that any of the original creators of the magazine had control over the content.     Any gamer who read this in 1984 would have understood most of the references, but 30 years later, you'd be hard-pressed to find any gamer who could name some of them much less all of them.   Here is a quick list to help you decipher what it all means.

  • Twleve Kings A Questing: (Sierra's King's Quest) (
  • Eleven Froggers Hopping (Frogger)
  • Ten text adventures (Infocom games. You know, kinda like Depression Quest. We liked those back then.  We still like 'em now)
  • Nine Runner's Loding (Lode Runner)
  • Eight Jacks Attacking (The Commodre 64 game Jack Attack?  Maybe the most obscure reference possible.)
  • Six Games A-booting (games took a long time to load from 90K disk drive.  Even longer from cassette tape)
  • Five Gourmet Sticks (he's referring to joysticks. Expensive, quality joysticks, probably from Wico)
  • Four monitors (It was cool back then to have a dedicated monitor instead of having to play computer games on your TV)
  • Three disk Files (no computer files, but those plastic disk boxes that held 5 1/2 inch floppy disks)
  • Two Stand-Alones (Dedicated table top game consoles.  The best at the time was the Vectrex)
  • And A Lifetime sub to E.G. (Another subscription plea.  This time for magazine that only had 2 more issues)

I'm not sure if Katz knew it at the time, but this parody of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas", while it hasn't aged particularly well, certainly earns its' place a piece of bona-fide video game history, as it sets this issue of the magazine  in a definitely place in time that has been buried and forgotten.   And that's too bad, because it was an important time, and Katz, Kunkel and Worley chronicled the whole era.  Excuse me if I get a bit teary-eyed when I look at picture to right, as it shows the staff of the first great video game magazine.    When I was a kid, these were the people that led me through the darkness, and told me about everything video games were and could be. The gentleman in the middle, holding the "gourmet stick" is Arnie Katz.  The guy lying on the floor in Bill Kunkel (RIP).  Joyce Worley is the woman on the far right in the back.    At the end of 1984, this was the final goodbye from the first era of video games.  Everyone else had left the building, literally, and figuratively.

It is an era forgotten by most, and dismissed by many.

A time buried away under the sands of time and Alamogordo.

A time I will never forget.

#1 Atari Christmas Morning

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Finally, I just love the cover of this magazine.  It's an Atari Christmas morning, and it reminds me distinctly of the early hours on Xmas 1983, when my brother and I received our first computer, and Atari 800.   It's difficult to describe that morning in words, although I've tried,  because it meant so much then, and the meaning has only increased over the years.  It was the single most important life-changing event of my young life.

Over the years, it has affected my brother and I in couple ways.  First, we tried to recreate the feeling of that morning on numerous times by buying each other computer and video game products , but it never works.  Whether it was with an Atari 7800 in 1986,  a Sega Master system in 1989, a slew of Atari ST computer games in 1990,  A CD-ROM drive in 1992, a flood on Atari Lynx Games in 1993, etc., it was ever been the same.     It just goes to show that "magic" has a way of existing in it's own space and time,  and sometimes you need to simply experience it, and try to remember it, because it's unpredictable, and no easy to conjure on your own.

The other thing it has done, at least for me, is to try to get me to give that same feeling to my own kids.  Although I've tried many times, this Christmas was the first time any of my children expressed emotions close to mine from that Christmas 31 years ago.  My middle daughter asked for a sewing machine this year, and I my wife and I decided to not cheap-out, and get her a decent machine, and everything she needed to get going.   Neither if us are into sewing, and neither are her sisters.  It's her thing.  Just like computers were for me and borther back in 1983.  Yesterday in the car, as we drove to get hamburgers she said  this to me:  "daddy, that as the best Christmas ever."

Mission, finally, accomplished.

 

 

23Dec/141

1981 : Atari VCS Christmas

 In the fall of 1981, just after starting junior high school, my brother Jeff and I tried to convince our parents that we 'needed' an Atari VCS for Christmas. Our parents had never been very electronics or modern convenience friendly, so it was quite a tough sell.  Other than a color TV (Zenith console circa 1972), there was nothing in our house that would signify to, say a time traveler from the year 2181, that technology had progressed much since the end of World War II.  My mom washed the dishes by hand, threw her food garbage in a compost trash can, opened cans with two hands, a tool, and a twisting motion, popped popcorn on the stove in covered pot, 'processed' food with a knife and a cutting board, made coffee with a pan and a strainer on the stove, and heated all meals in a vintage O'Keefe And Merit built-in oven using gas only (never waves of any kind, micro, or otherwise).  Likewise My dad mowed the lawn with a push mower, paid for all purchases with cash (never credit), listened to A.M. radio exclusively, and refused any kind of telephonic upgrade beyond the, a single, flesh colored, wired, rotary telephone in  the living room.  For our entertainment our house received channels (2-13 and 28) and had a stereo system that could play a phonograph records only (no supports for tapes). 

The very idea that a video game system could invade this environment was beyond unthinkable: it was ludicrous. Our parents did not waste money on non-essentials or 'fad' products, and if they were going to make any kind of purchase they needed concrete proof that it would not be a wasted effort.   Even then, there were no guarantees.   Ever since we had played the Atari at our friend Carrie Lenihan's house in 1978, we had hinted that a VCS would be the ultimate gift.  Several Christmases went by though, and there had been no movement in that direction at all.  At one point, a  Radio Shack TV Scoreboard Pong System made it's way into our house by way of 75% clearance, but  it did not fit the bill and was quickly forgotten.

The problem was, things in the video game world were heating up considerably, and after 1981, there would be no turning back.  The past summer, while doing the laundry at a local laundromat, we convinced my mom to take us the adjacent HW Computers store to look around.   The store was an Atari dealer, so they had racks of Atari 8-bit computers games and stacks of Atari computer equipment.  They also sold Atari VCS games.    While we were prepared to see the same old stuff like Combat! , Adventure and Circus Atari, we were not prepared for the newest game in the case: Space Invaders.  I had suspected that Atari would start releasing popular coin-op games on their system, but the proof was right there in the store.  However, what we saw next sealed the deal.   Right next to Space Invaders was the box for Atari coin-op game Missile Command, and next to that a "coming soon" flyer for Asteroids.   Asteroids, to us at the time, was the best game ever made.  We spent countless quarters playing it.  To have it in our own home would be amazing.   All of a sudden, having an Atari VCS went from "nice to have" to "the most important thing in the world to an eleven year old ."  That said,  getting one would take careful planning and a coordinated effort.   My twin brother and I had never wanted anything that badly though, so we had to try everything we could think of.

After some discussions in our room, we decided that our  for attack was to prove to our parents that a video game system was a genuine product any kid would be required to have under the Christmas Tree.  While this would not guarantee a purchase, it would set the ground work of legitimacy, which for my parents, was very important.     

The first part of this ad-hoc plan, was to let our parents know how much we wanted an Atari by pointing it out to them in every store we could find.    It was a simple plan, based on the theory that if you repeated the same actions over and over again, they might get the point.  A few rounds of Combat in the TV section at Fed Mart on every visit,  begging to descend the stairs the basement Toy section of Sears to look at the Sears Tele-Game  behind the glass case,    making a bee-line into every electronics, toy, and music store in the mall just to get glimpse of Atari's wood paneled wonder and the stack of games that were available.  We made it a point to salivate over the machine in any and every store we visited that had one.  We were obnoxious and relentless.

Our second front in the battle for an Atari VCS  was through Electronic Games magazine.   Electronic Games , the first ever magazine dedicated to video games, published its first issue in November of 1981, at almost the perfect time for our plan.  Jeff and I found it on the news stand at Luck'ys super market, convinced our mom to let us buy it (she didn't want us to waste our money), and devoured every page over an entire weekend.  When we came-up for air on Sunday night, we both knew we had found a new angle.   Electronic Games  Magazine was the first legitimate, tangible concrete proof  that video games were not  just a passing fad.  Would a passing 'fad' have a dedicated magazine?   My dad loved magazines.  He himself subscribed to  enthusiast magazines dedicated to his own hobbies  (Dirt Bike. Shotgun News, Prevention).  This was "our" hobby.  He had to see that, right?   We showed him the magazine, and he seemed to agree.  It was not altogether remarkable reaction, but it was a solid start.

Our third front in this battle for an Atari VCS was the most complicated, but also the most important.   We needed  to appeal to their  innate sense of frugality, installed in them (in my opinion) by living through the Great Depression.  The Atari VCS was expensive.  At $139.99 (list price) in 1981, it was just about the same price as an Xbox One in 2014.  No one gift for any occasion (birthday, Christmas, anniversary, etc.) had every cost as much.  It would be an uphill battle.    My dad was  a very cost-conscious man (with everything but his own hobbies).  He loved the idea that his job at Hughes Aircraft afforded him all sorts of discounts on items for which 'regular' people had to pay full-price.  For instance, all of our movie tickets came from Hughes Employee Association.  However, the tickets had so many restrictions that we didn't see any movies until they were 1 or 2 months into their run.  Sure, this rendered my brother and I socially retarded because we couldn't join any pop-culture playground movie discussions, but hey, we saved $.25 per ticket.   Likewise, we only went to Disneyland on the 'Open From 7:00 PM-1:00 AM Hughes Aircraft 'Special Event' nights,  and we did most our Christmas shopping at Gemco and Fedco, 'club' stores that allowed-in only union workers, government employees and government contractors (read: Hughes Aircraft employees).   It was on one of our trips to Gemco,  that we showed our dad the Atari VCS, and demonstrated the Combat! cartridge.  He was intrigued, but when he saw the price tag ($129.99), he almost had a heart attack.  There was no way he was going to spend so much money on any kind of toy.   It was a huge step backwards.

At just about the same time, Toy R' Us was running a TV commercial in which they advertised the Atari VCS for a "discount" of  $139.84, roughly a $.15 cent off the list-price.  Our dad hated Toys R' Us with a passion because they almost never had discounts.  Jeff and I made sure to show him this commercial whenever it was on.  Even though the Atari VCS cost a relative fortune (for the time) at Gemco, it was nearly $10 less than the hated Toys R. Us and their fake $.15 cent insult of a discount.  My dad dad's innate ability to find bargains was ignited.   He knew his boys wanted one of those machines, and he knew how to get it at a discount.   At that very moment, I believe I heard a distinct clicking sound:  as if the frozen gears of our own little video game universe began to turn, ever so slightly.

The next line of attack on this front was the 1981 Sears Christmas Wish Book.   Every year since we were very little, my mom would break out the Wish Book and have us circle the stuff we wanted for Christmas.  For the past few years we had almost exclusively circled sports equipment, Legos, and Star Wars toys.  However, for Christmas 1981 Jeff and I pointedly circled the Sears Tele-Game (their officially branded version of the Atari VCS).  We really did not want a Sears Tele-Game.  No kid in their right-mind wanted one.  A Tele-Game was up there with Tough Skins and Hydrox cookies, Shasta Cola and Kinney Shoes as the least favored name brand substitutes in existence.   However, that would not matter.  Even though we circled stuff in the Wish Book, our parents hardly ever bought anything from it, they just used it as a guide.  Furthermore, if there was any store my dad hated more than Toys R Us, it was Sears.  He would complain constantly about their poor quality products, and what he called 'built-in depreciation' that forced people to use Sears' product service centers prematurely.  All of this was probably little more than urban legend, but it served our purpose so we used it to our advantage.  We strategically placed the Wish Book in an area my dad could find it (on the kitchen table), and left it open to the Tele Game page for a few days. Our hope was that our dad would notice the Tele-Game and ask us about it.  However, this did not happen.  He hated Sears too much to give the Wish Book the necessary attention required to establish any sort of hatred towards a  cheap imitation product.

We had to step-up our attack to another level.

There are some significant areas of life that make being a twin completely lame: it's very difficult establish your own identity, many of your birthday and Christmas presents are for 'both of you', you are never sure people are interested in you as a person or just because you seemingly have a doppelganger walking around with you, and you can easily become socially inept because you have a built-in buddy and you never have to learn to make friends on your own.  However all of these things are trumped in those rare moments when you mind-meld into an unstoppable single-headed force. Rare as they are, it's those times that make being a twin one of the coolest things in the world.  At that moment in 1981, we had  to harness that power if we were to be successful in our VCS quest.

"Hey. Jeff.", I said one morning in early December as I walked into the kitchen, looking at the strategically located Sears' Wish Book conveniently located next to our dad who was eating homemade corn and blueberry pancakes for breakfast, "What. Is. That. In. the. Sears'. Wishbook?" 

Without missing a beat, Jeff replied  "Hey. Steve. It's. An. Atari. 2600. Video. Game. System. The. Same. One. We. Showed. Dad. At. Gemco, Remember?"

As the first portion of our act completed, we both noticed no discernible reaction from our father.  We had to step it up a bit.

"Sears', I replied, 'Don't. They. Have 'Built-In. Depreciation?"  

My Dad's ears perked up.  We had hit a nerve.  

"Yes," Jeff replied, "Look. Closer.  It's. Not. Actually. An. Atari. It. Is. A, Cheap, Sears' Rip-Off!"  (Even though this was not technically true, my dad had no idea).

With that, my dad picked up the Wish Book and looked at the page.  'Damned Sears!' he blurted out between bites of corn cake "Thank God for Gemco."

Then he put down the catalog returned to eating. 

Mission.  Accomplished.

With most of the groundwork laid, Jeff and I continued our push into December.  We continued to point out the Atari VCS at every store that had one, we circled it in newspaper ads, got 'overly' excited when one came on the TV and parents were in the room.   As school let-out for Winter break, Jeff and I both felt an Atari might be within our grasp, but the 'not knowing' was killing us.   Not able to contain our desire to know 'the truth', we decided to ask our older sister Mari if she knew anything. 

Mari was always kind of an enigma to Jeff and me.  She watched us when we were little, but as she got older it was tough for Jeff and me to relate to her.  She started staying out very late on school nights, and was into the very first punk rock scene in L.A.  This meant she hung out with all sorts of odd, fascinating and sometimes downright scary characters.   We wanted to know what our sister was about, but it was difficult to get her attention away from the gritty 'scene' and back to her plain old geeky twin brothers.

However, Mari was also the most responsible young adult we knew.  She was paying her own way through Design School, had her own car, and appeared to have intimate knowledge of the inner working of the Fulton family.    If anyone knew anything about an Atari VCS secretly coming into the house via our parents, it would have been Mari.  As well, on the occasions we did spend time with Mari, she sometimes took Jeff and I to the Castle Golf and Aladdin's Castle arcades to play Breakout and Asteroids, or played other games with us at Safeway and Pizza Hut, so she knew how much we liked video games, and probably had some idea about how much we wanted an Atari VCS.

  

Jeff and I cornered Mari just outside her room (a mother-in-law attachment to the garage) a few days before Christmas, and begged her for information.  However, what she told us was not what we wanted to hear.

"I have no idea if mom and dad bought you and VCS for us for Christmas" she said, "but it's time you guys faced the cold hard reality of mom and dad."

"What's that?" I asked her.

" You don't think mom and dad have heard your hints?  Don't you think they WANT to get you an Atari?  The truth is, an Atari is expensive, and mom and dad just don't have it this year.  Maybe if dad works some overtime, they can get you one next year.  Maybe, maybe not. "

My brother rand I just looked at her and she continued.

"I have to pay my way through school, and buy everything that I need.  Appreciate what you get, save your money, and maybe you can get one on your own.  That's what I'd do."

With that, she went back into her room, shut the door, and turned up The Clash on her stereo.

Mari's words (and 'Clampdown') rang in my ears all day.

I went through many phases of emotion that day, but by the end I realized that Mari had to be right.  The truth was always there, but Jeff and I just did not want to see it.  There was a good reason why my mom did not want us to waste our money on video game magazines, a good reason why our parents were so frugal, always looked for bargains, were careful where they shopped, and did not buy modern appliances. 

They could not afford them.   Period.  

 A shattering feeling of complete disillusionment hit me at that moment.  For the first time I realized that merely 'asking' for something did not mean I would always 'get' it.  Simply put, I realized for the first time that I, was not in control of everything.   No manner of hints and cajoling could change the fact that, if the money wasn't there, it was not there.

Christmas morning was always a rare, happy blur in the Fulton household.  For all the time our family spent ignoring and fighting each other during the other 364 days of year, we would try to make it up on Christmas.    Christmas morning was one of the only times you would see the following in our house:  people hugging, people thanking each other, people saying 'I thought of you when'', my mom and dad smiling at each other, my sisters getting along, people asking my mom if she needed help with anything, and our entire family in the room together at the same time.  We might not have had much money, but collectively as a family we seemed to saved it all so we could wrap-up tons of stuff for each other for Christmas.    Present were usually  inexpensive: model kits, art supplies, books, household items, etc.   More emphasis was placed  on the thought than the value, and "surprises" were of utmost importance.    It was our only real happy "family" time of the year, so we wanted it to last as long as possible.   Our present opening lasted hours, with each person watching everyone else open their presents, 'ooing' and 'awing' over them, and then moving onto the next present.  We would break for breakfast, and sometimes even for lunch before all the present opening was complete.  None of us ever stated it, but I'm pretty sure the reason it lasted so long was because no one wanted it to end.  As soon as the last present dropped, we all would retire to our various rooms, and pretty much ignore each other  (save for Birthdays, Easter  4th Of July, and Thanksgiving) for another  year.

I do not remember much from Christmas 1981, except for the last two presents that Jeff and I opened.  It was late morning,  The Christmas tree lights had long-since gone from lighting-up a darkened room to blinking ineffectively against the day light.  It had been a good year, and even though there had not been an Atari VCS yet, I recall being satisfied with what our parents had given us.  Mari's words, while difficult for my 11 year old mind to completely understand, had broken through.   I had moved from disillusionment to mere disappointment.  Jeff and I talked it over, and we decided that we would save any Christmas money we received (usually from relatives) until our birthday (in January) and see if we could afford an Atari VCS by then.  It was a thin plan, but it gave us the illusion that we could control our own destiny, which was a comforting feeling.

So when the wrapped box the size of an Atari VCS was taken from its' hiding place behind the tree and was handed to Jeff and I to rip open, it came as an utter and complete surprise.  As the wrapping came flying off, there it was in our hands, a real 'Atari Video Computer System' complete with Combat! cartridge, two joysticks, two paddles, TV switch-box and AC adapter.

 Surprise.

Jeff and I were completely stunned.  

Before we could even fathom how it had actually happened, Mari handed us the present she had bought for us.  We opened it up to reveal the Breakout cartridge for the VCS.  Mari was in on the plan all along.    She had done a bit of convincing on her own to get my dad to buy the Atari VCS for us, and was instrumental in the process of getting it for us on Christmas morning 1981.   My dad did his part by working some extra overtime at Hughes so he could afford the purchase.   It was a rare moment when our family actually seemed to "work" the way I thought family should work.  The fact that I was lucky enough to end up with an Atari VCS as the result is something I will never forget.    

By the way, as it turned out, our Mom had not only 'got' our hints, but was concerned that we would not be sufficiently surprised on Christmas morning if they did indeed get us a VCS. She turned to Mari and had her try to throw us off the track.   In the end, all of our twin scheming almost worked too well, and could have back-fired completely if my mom had decided that there would be no surprise.

For sake of this story I'd like to pretend that we had an idyllic Christmas day playing the Atari VCS, and enjoying family time over Combat! And Breakout, but I can't.  In reality the VCS didn't work out of the box (the TV connection was broken), so we had to take it back to Gemco (of course) the next day to get a replacement.   Since we were already out of the house, we spent our Christmas money on Asteroids, Activision Tennis and Activision Laser Blast, cartridges then took the haul home and played the Atari VCS all-day and into the night on December 26th and all the way through Sunday January 3rd, the day before went back to School It probably seemed like a complete waste of time to anyone from the outside, but to Jeff and I, it was pure bliss.  

Mari played along with us most of the time too, which was cool, because we never really had anything at home prior that we all liked to do together.   The Atari VCS helped created actual "family time" among siblings that never really existed in our house before that day.    In the years that followed, Jeff and I and Mari formed camaraderie over video and computer games that has lasted until this Christmas.    Even though she was 9 years older and wiser than us, the medium of the video game leveled the playing field so we could compete on equal footing, and  helped create a an intangible sense of understanding between us that, while  wavering in the ensuing decades, has never broken.      Every year since, we have purchased each other at least one game for Christmas, and even though we don't have as much time to play them with each other as we used to, we are always with each other in spirit.   This year I bought Mari (a female gamer at age 53) two PS2 games (Star Ocean and Kingdom Hearts 2).  Jeff bought her some computer games, and Jeff and I bought each other the the recently released AtGames ColecoVision and Intellivision plug and play consoles.   Our love of video games will never die.

On the other hand, our parents and our other sister Carol never really warmed-up to the Atari VCS like we hoped they would. I think my mom played Asteroids once, and my dad might have tried Combat! a couple times.  Our sister Carol, 16 at the time, probably just said 'ewww, geeks' and ran away from it.  I don't think they have ever understood what we liked about video games or what the VCS meant to us, and to be honest, I'm not sure I could really explain it to them if I tried.  

All I know is this:  My brother and I  received an Atari VCS for Christmas in 1981, and it turned out to be one of the best Christmas surprises ever.  

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