Tag Archives: Atari 2600
In the early 1980s, video games were simple in concept, much like the “game apps” on phones nowadays. At heart, they were demonstrations of your skills with a joystick, paddle, or “track-ball” controller, performing one or more challenges. Eating all the dots, or climbing a scaffold to defeat a giant ape, to cite a couple of well-known examples. Navigating a maze while being pursued by killer robots. Killing a centipede, segment by segment. Swinging on vines over bottomless pits.
Or, flying planes into buildings. For fun!
Yea, I say unto you, I was in the right place at the right time for two major moments in American history. You must believe that what I’m about to tell you is the truth; it will seem like so much legend and myth.
The first: I was gifted a copy of E.T. (the game) for the Atari 2600, on Christmas, but that is a tale for another article.
The second, and more significant: I talked my father into buying me Pac-Man for the Atari 2600, one of the most notoriously disappointing games of all time. Second only to E.T.,of course.
Everything used to be way better. I found evidence.
It was at a yard sale for two dollars, and it’s actual proof, unlike my hazy memories. A motherfucking forty-year-old issue of Playboy.
Long ago, in the Before Times, I was dating a woman with a very young daughter. I had not yet gelled as an artistic entity, and was in the process of learning that I’m really not cut out to be a father, even a surrogate one. This became apparent on two occasions. Both were attempts on my part to make a connection with a kid. Both failed hilariously.
The first was the purchase of a “children’s book”. I spent hours at Books-A-Million (down the block from Media Play) hunting for just the right one. It had to be colorful, clever, and not condescending. I refused to buy anything “kiddie”, on principle. It had to be something that enticed, thrilled, and sparked the imagination, like the books I read in my grade school library.
3-D movies employ greatly improved technology today. Previously, they used the same glasses as 3-D comic books did; cardboard with acetate lenses in red and blue.
3-D comics were unreadable without these glasses. I still have two issues: Gumby 3-D and Transformers in 3-D #3, both from Blackthorne Publishing.
The first brand feud I can remember is Atari vs. Intellivision.
Some kids had an Atari 2600 game console; some kids had an Intellivision. (Some kids had an Odyssey 2 or a Vectrex, but not for very long.) Atari kids hated Intellivision kids, and vice versa. The TV commercials for both brands stoked this hatred; George Plimpton appeared in an ad for Intellivision, which he explained meant “Intelligent Television”. Ergo, kids who played Atari were stupid. Continue reading
Answering machines were a form of technology in use before telecommunication was monopolized. At first, they were huge, then they used micro-cassettes, then regular cassettes, then a computer chip, then they went in the garbage. Telephones were not generally mobile prior to the year 2000. The average home had a room where the phone and answering machine resided.
The answering machine was the predecessor to the ringtone, in terms of personal expression through phones. There was even a default recording of a robot intoning “please leave a message after the beep”, which is how you knew your dad or grandpa wasn’t at home. Older relatives were confounded by the damn things, and would require the aid of sons or nephews, just as with smartphones today. A family would retain an answering machine until the tape wore out, meaning that for much of the 1980s, there was a phantasmagoria of wood-paneled plastic boxes, varying in quality. “Wireless” meant “unreliable”, which meant that the telephone station generally resembled an improvised bomb, to 21st century eyeballs. Continue reading