Posted on May 20, 2007
Atari Timeline: 1975
1975: Atari releases Compugraph Foto Machine
Atari, Inc. introduces the COMPUGRAPH FOTO, a coin-operated machine that printed life-sized pictures on computer paper for customers. .The machined weighed-in at an astronomical 950 pounds! It contained a combination of an impact line printer, a computer, and a closed-circuit TV. Advertised as Durastress’
1975: January 31: Atari/Kee Games Introduces Pursuit coin-op
It’s Plane Fun!
Pursuit was a one player WWI flying game where you shoot-down enemies in your crosshairs. Controls were an analog joystick with a single button for firing at enemies. Extended Play option for operators. Advertised by Kee Games but distributed by Atari, as Kee and Atari were now not hiding the fact that they were the same company. Hardware was a discreet logic design. Advertised as Durastress ‘ and marketed with Atari’s Innovative Leisure ‘ slogan. Production release 12-17-74 but ships in January of 1975 according to the (January 31, 1975 US Trademark First Use In Commerce date)
1975 March 11: Atari’s Hi Way coin-op goes into production release
‘Hi Way ‘ All It Needs Is Wheels’
Atari’s first sit-down griving game. Horizontal scrolling driving game in a unique sit-down, cockpit-like cabinet. Dodge cars and negotiate turns down the road. Hardware was a discreet logic design. Advertised as Durastress ‘ and marketed with Atari’s Innovative Leisure ‘ slogan. The cabinet was patented Oct. 20, 1975: (U.S. Patent # D243,626 , ). In Europe, the game was named Highway from Atari France, released in a standard cabinet. Production release March 11, 1975 (from Service manual)
1975: April 14: Atari/Kee Introduce Indy 800
New 8 Player version of the greatest money-maker ever!
Indy 800 was an 8 player racing game with a full-color screen. Resembles Gran Trak 10, but for 8 players at once. Option control module would allow an official ‘starter’ to facilitate tournaments. Included a mirrored canopy to allow spectators to view the racing action. Each driver has their own horn as well. Took up 16 square feet of space! Hardware was a discreet logic design. Advertised as Durastress ‘ and marketed with Atari’s Innovative Leisure ‘ slogan. This was one of the first games with a color monitor. The game cabinet was patented Oct. 20, 1975 (U.S. Patent #D243,625 ,). Production release was March 1975.
1975 May: Atari/Kee Introduce Tank 2, Tank Cocktail, Tank III
Tank was such a hit, that the newly reformed Atari/Kee released several more versions of the game throughout 1975 including Tank 2, Tank III, and a cocktail table version of the original Tank. Tank 2 added land mines represented by ‘x’s’. All the games still featured discreet logic hardware, with ROM to represent the tanks and other objects. The advertising for all of these games said that game was released by Kee games, but now added ‘A Wholly Owned Subsidiary Of Atari’. All were advertised as Durastress ‘ and utilized the Innovative Leisure ‘, slogan.
1975 May: 1974-1975 Fiscal Year
Atari, Inc.’s sales reach almost $40 million.
1975: June 6: Atari Introduces Anti-Aircraft coin-op Put Anti-Aircraft In Your Battle Plans!
Anti-Aircraft was a one or two player game that would one day formed the basis of the Atari 2600 cartridge Air Sea Battle. Players use a gun that can rotate to 3 positions, and attempt to shoot-down aircraft that fly over-head. An undocumented switch can turn the planes into UFOs . The hardware used was discreet logic printed circuit boards, with ROM for the planes and guns. Atari continued to tout it’s solid state manufacturing with Durastress’. And the game was marketed with Atari’s slogan: Innovative Leisure’. The game is also known as Anti-AirCraft II . The final engineering sign-off for the game was June 1975.
1975: July: Atari Introduces Goal/4 Coin-op
‘Start playing with the future’
Goal 4 was a one to four player Pong style game built into a cocktail table (one of the first for Atari) that allowed up to 2 people per team people to sit down, rest their drinks on the game, battle-it-out with Foosball-style play. On September 17, 1975: Atari Inc. filed U.S. Patent For Goal 4/Breakout Sit-Down Game Cabinet Ornamental Design. Marketed as utilizing Durastress’ with Atari’s Innovative Leisure’ slogan. The game utilized discreet logic printed circuit boards.
1975 September 25: Atari introduces Shark Jaws (through Horror Games)
Shark Jaws is closing in fast’on big profits’so don’t fall behind
Shark Jaws was a one player game designed to capitalize on the movie Jaws. Legend has it that Atari tried to secure the rights to the movie Jaws, but failed. Instead of jeopardizing Atari, he created ‘Horror Games’ specifically for this game, and released the it anyway. The game was very simple, consisting of a swimmer, fish, and shark. The swimmer had to catch the fish, without been eaten by the shark. The game was black and white, but used a color overlay on the screen. The game was solid-state utilized discreet logic, with ROM chips to create the shark, fish and swimmer graphics. The promotional materials touted both Durastress ‘ and the Innovative Leisure’ slogan.
1975 October 2: Atari Introduces Steeplechase
Be a Sprint Winner, Order Steeplechase now!
Steeplechase was a horse racing game for 1-6 players. The player controls the jumping of the horse, as it moved steadily along the track. Colored overlays for each lane (no color screen) . Hardware was a discreet logic design. Advertised as Durastress ‘ and marketed with Atari’s Innovative Leisure ‘ slogan. 1975 October 15: Atari Introduces Crash And Score
Crash And Score was aOne or two player game that required players to run over as many randomly placed, numbered pylons as possible in the time allotted. Players could choose to play with or without barriers. The Atari service manual described the game like this: Atari’s Crash n’ Score is a video action game in which one or two players drive race cars on a rectangular playfield and earn score points by driving through lighted score flags. During play a player has to maneuver his car around certain obstacles and has to avoid the opponent car. A modified version of the game was released in Europe under the name Stock Car. Hardware was a discreet logic design. Advertised as Durastress ‘ and marketed with Atari’s Innovative Leisure ‘ slogan. 1975 October 15: Atari Introduces Jet Fighter
Start Playing With The Future
Jet Fighter was a A two player game game that inspired one of the most popular modes of the Atari 2600 Combat! cartridge. Like the Jet Fighter variation of Atari 2600 Combat! The Atari service manual for the game described it like this: Atari’s Jet Fighter is a video action game in which players pilot two airplanes across the sky in a fast-moving duel.
The hardware was a discreet logic design. Advertised as Durastress ‘ and marketed with Atari’s Innovative Leisure ‘ slogan. On October 20, 1975: Atari Inc filed a U.S. Patent For Jet Fighter Game Cabinet Ornamental Design. Second production release: September 30, 1975
1975 Second Half: Atari Buys Grass Valley Think Tank, Starts Pinball Division,
Atari started its’ own pinball division with the idea to make solid-state pinball games with pure electronic components. Gone would be the mechanical scoring and electro-mechanical parts that were part of so elegant, yet so expensive to maintain classic pinball machines. However, this type of innovation would require more solid engineering people than Atari possessed. . Atari decided to expand it’s in-house engineering team by buying the ‘Grass Valley” think tank that they had been contracting with since 1973 incorporated it into their own R&D operation. They started their pinball division with five people in 1975, but would not see any pinball game releases until November 1976 with Atarians.
1975 December: Home Pong Debuts
As 1975 came to a close, so did Atari’s sole reliance on it’s coin-operated games division. Christmas 1975 thrust Atari into consumer product with the C-100 Pong console.
The seeds of this console were sewn as far back as 1973. Two Atari engineers, Harold Lee and Bob Brown discussed the idea of creating a stand-alone version of pong on a single micro-chip. The idea was radical for Atari, which was then creating it’s coin-op with discreet logic chips on printed circuits boards. The two sold Al Alcorn and Nolan Bushnell on the idea, and set-out to start creating the console.
By the fall of 1974, Al Alcorn had joined Harold Lee and Bob Brown, working on the home version of Pong, now code named ‘Darlene’. The cost of microchips had come down to a level that would make the project economically viable Bushnell decided it was time to make the jump to the home market even though most of his advisors told him to stay focused on coin-ops.
Atari attempted to sell home pong, but almost all traditional retailers refused. The only interested party was Tom Quinn, the sporting goods buyer for Sears. He ordered 50,000 units and then increases the order to 150,000 by Christmas.
Still in financial jeopardy, Bushnell enlisted the aid of Donald Valentine to help secure venture capital for Atari. Valentine came through with $600,000 in the summer of 1975, and another $300,000 in December, which his enough to help get home pong manufactured.
Home Pong became a surprise hit for Atari. The Sears deal infused them with some much needed cash, generating $40 million in gross sales and $3 million in profit. The success of home pong make Atari the first company to manufacture games for both the arcade and home. This would have huge repercussions on the future of Atari and their games as they moved into 1976.
Flyer used courtesy of Dan Hower, www.arcadeflyers.com
Production release date from Service Manual
US Trademark Database