Friday, October 2, 2020

Atari Community Awareness Program


Community Awareness Program
Atari, 1982

This "ad" is part of the Atari Community Awareness Program. Introduced in March of 1982, the Atari Community Awareness Program was created to inform communities about the coin operated video game industry. It was made available to all Atari distributors. The program materials included a 17-minute video by Jack Morton titled "Video Games: A Public Perspective".

  

Video Transcription

Speaker 1 (00:19):

Video game. I don't think they're good for children. I think they're pretty neat. That's what I do in my spare time. I don't like the idea of them staying there and pumping money into them. [inaudible] industry's doing real well now. Well, the children are doing that on my children, my grandchildren.

Speaker 2 (00:43):

Well, I guess it's our lens is keeping them off the street just someplace that they can supervise somebody.

Speaker 1 (00:49):

I had a concern of that. I really wasn't sure what type of a draw this was going to have, not only on the other children in the community, but my own would they start going in, uh, playing games there, instead of doing things like reading, which I want them to do their homework after school, they'd get involved, uh, playing with a lot of these games that that has not happened.

Speaker 2 (01:12):

The problem is, and, and maybe societies have never, haven't dealt with this properly, but what do you do with youth when they congregate? Are we saying that there are no benefits to have young people together? What kinds of alternatives are we providing for our youth today? And are we not going to possibly take just one more thing away from them? Suddenly coin video games are turning up all over the country in supermarkets, barbershops doctor's offices, bookstores, even in the jury room after municipal courthouse in San Jose, California. Well, naturally we have some questions. What are these games come from? What effect do they have on the players? And what happens when they appear in our communities? They got some answers. Let's go to the source. This is Sunnyvale. The heart of California is famous. Silicon Valley coined video games were born here in Sunnyvale, less than a decade ago when a small company called Atari introduced a game called pong.

Speaker 2 (02:12):

Don Osborne is currently vice-president of Atari's coin. Video games. Division is a microprocessor is a computer. And this, this computer technology that has been developed, uh, in conjunction with the video screen, that really, really makes it special and very different. This is what gives intelligence to the product. And this is what we think young people are responding to. They have now a recreation form and an entertainment form that is allowing them in an interactive way to deal with an intelligent kind of thing. And once you essentially have is you have, you have a cadre of, of very bright, young, excited, enthusiastic engineers who are programming the memories of these video games, uh, and, and feeding intelligence into these video games to challenge players.

Speaker 3 (03:00):

It has to be easy enough for the person who's never played a video game before to walk up and play it and play it for a sufficient length of time. And he doesn't feel like he's had his quarter steal stolen right out of his hand. Um, but it has to be challenging enough that the, that the expert player can come up and play it and be challenged by it and not be bored by it. I'm really interested in the bizarre quality of life on earth, but not necessarily the every day business I'm really like centipedes is, is sort of an, it came out sort of, because I don't like spiders. That's, that's a lot of how that happened. And, and the spider in that is very cartoonish and, and mischievous and just irritating really. And I like, I liked having my way over a spider.

Speaker 4 (03:45):

Well, that's what the game makers are aiming for color sound excitement. But what really happens when a player puts a quarter into a machine, gives you a feeling of power. You can destroy all these crazy things. That's a way to spend an evening with the family. And, uh, you know, the cost is minimal. He worked hard at it. He tried different tactics and stuff. This is fun challenge. It always changes. It's always something different. And I go crazy when I get on PAC, man, you'd think I was 10 years old. Again,

Speaker 2 (04:20):

The university of Connecticut in Stanford psychologist, Jerry C holster is interested in the broader implications of video games. I suspect it's going to take a concerted effort on the part of the kids, the parents, the game owners, the arcade owners, and, uh, perhaps even the manufacturers, uh, sort of an education and educational push. It seems to me that the control of all of the problems that have been cited against games lies in the hands of the people who play them lies in the hands of the people who offer them the arcade owners. And certainly in the hands of the people who produced them. The impression that I get from reading a lot of the, uh, anti video game literature, is that the parents feel that these forces are out of their control totally out of their control. Uh, it's almost as if these, uh, these games are going to steal their children from them and make them into robots or something like that.

Speaker 2 (05:22):

Uh, but it lies in the control of the people who are involved in them. Since video games first began making their appearance in local communities. The same questions have been asked so many times that we now begin to see a pattern emerge of how the issue arises and how it's settled by local communities. This is Westchester County, about 25 miles up the Hudson river from New York city. The issue came up first here in the village of Irvington, and then spread quickly to other communities. Now it's taken the form of a proposed video game ordinance. Some thoughts about all of this from the town, the supervisor, Charles, the Giacomo, who's the highest elected official in the area in Westchester County. Right now there's probably seven or eight communities, towns and villages that have restrictive ordinances with regards to video games and arcades and the towns and villages that do not have them.

Speaker 2 (06:14):

Uh, they're getting pressure now from various groups that they Institute these types of ordinances. To me, it makes absolutely no sense at all, because I know there are very young people that use these games and the middle aged people and older people that use it. And I think that young people shouldn't be allowed to use it because it helps them with the reflexes and eye coordination. And I think it's a valuable tool for all of us. And it's, it's a great way, I think, to get a lot of pleasure out of this type of time. And I don't think that it should be restricted. There's nothing wrong with the video games per se. How do I to see, uh, more, more concern on the part of the, uh, places that have the machines in terms of not operating the perhaps during school hours, if there is proper supervision and concern on the part of the, uh, people that own the establishment, it seems to, uh, alleviate the problems, just like many families, the horizons of Westchester County, New York, and had to take a close look at the coin video game issue. I think parents also have a role to know where their kids are to see, uh, what they're doing to see who they're with. So I think that, uh, parental, uh, aspect of that also has to be taken into account.

Speaker 3 (07:26):

I really like to see the games in these places, because I think that our kids have so little to do, especially in the suburbs. We are, our kids have nothing. They have no place to go. You have to drive your kids everywhere. Um, everything costs money, the movies are going up, roller skating is going up, bowling is going up. So, um, it's kinda nice to have a place where they can go and play, uh, you know, some games and only spend a couple of dollars. I don't want to see any more restrictions than just what's moderate and just, what's a good

Speaker 2 (08:04):

Was mid arcades account for part of the video game marketplace. But the fact is at least 80% of all the machines in the country are in places like this. Benny September is pizza parlor, route nine, a Croton on Hudson, New York

Speaker 5 (08:20):

Kids that do come here. They know it's well supervised. They know they can't hang out here and they know that they're not going to bother any other kids here. They know they're not gonna take anybody for their money. I have such a good relationship with them. They, um, if they're short for a slice, no problem. I do sponsor four or five, uh, softball teams. I take care of soccer teams. I take care of the towel money that I do make from the machines adds to whatever I have to make here to stay here in business. I would resent them taken away from me. And I think it would cause me to not want to do anything with the towel

Speaker 2 (08:53):

As a trustee in a town, Chicago,

Speaker 4 (08:56):

David Rubin confronted coin video games as a parent and as a town official

Speaker 1 (09:01):

My feeling, uh, if, if I were to make suggestions to other communities would be that I think there is a certain amount of airing of the whole issue that has gotta be done when it first occurs. I think that tends to diffuse some of the emotions that probably will arise. Uh, when the first game shop operator decides he wants to come into the community. Uh, you obviously, you've got to sort of police the hours that this thing is open, closed them at reasonable time so that the children aren't hanging around, that they don't have someplace to go late in the evening. But short of that, I think it really comes down to how well the parents, uh, discipline their children and how they use their time. And I think there is a place for these types of games, uh, in the life of a child.

Speaker 4 (09:50):

I am Sergeant Sweeney. I'm a Sergeant in the 24 police district in the city of Chicago prior to the 24th district coming into the Rogers park community here in Chicago, they had a problem with gangs. Couple of kids got injured, one got killed, but during that same week, we had our first game room open up. Since that time we haven't had another game war. Recently, the city fathers in the city of Chicago, uh, felt that it was a necessity to make it a law that you have to be under the, uh, you have to be 18 years of age in order to even enter into a game room. Uh, it would mean that, uh, the kids would be back on the street. Gangs would be out there recruiting again, and it would be just too much of a problem on the headache. So I went down to the city console and I gave testimony as to, uh, what the police department side of side of the deal. It wasn't a city fathers decided not to enact the law after I gave my testimony. And after they heard other testimony as to our side of it, as far as the police department has been,

Speaker 6 (10:58):

We play the games here, or we go to any game, you know, it's keeping us off the streets and it's not like starting any trouble or anything we're learning

Speaker 4 (11:09):

At the time. Largely because my kids had been spending a lot of time playing arcade games. And I was trying to play them that people develop incredible levels of expertise in playing the games here on campus at the university of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana professor Emmanuel dancin heads up the psychology department and a research project to determine whether or not video games can be successfully used in training to develop and maintain specific skills. We're interested in analyzing the game into its component scales and find out if there are different scales, each of which is separately trainable, it looks like we can analyze the game into its component scale. The next phase would be to find out if your train scales in one game, if you can transfer the, uh, the scale that you have developed into another situation. If so, then the games can be calm, uh, rudimentary training devices. You can talk about pilot training, uh, tank gunnery trainers, uh, controllers of, uh, nuclear power plants, any kind of situation in which a human has to interact with a very, very complex machine and control it. Dr. Harold Ableson is a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of technology in Cambridge. He uses video games in his project logo.

Speaker 7 (12:32):

The logo project is a project that's been going on at MIT since about 1969. And what we've been trying to do is find effective ways to put computer power in the hands of, of children and all sorts of people. We found that computers can be a wonderful way to get people, to explore physics by making games and having things move on the screen and understanding that, and a logo is in some sense, a vision of how computers can be used to make education much more creative and take some of the real creativity that comes with, uh, working with a computer medium and putting that at the service of education

Speaker 4 (13:15):

As a school psychologist and special consultant to a long Island, New York school district, Peter Favaro explores the potential of video games to increase understanding between parents and children.

Speaker 1 (13:26):

And I've developed a manual which teaches parents how to use the games, to gain access into kind of the experiencial world of the child. I teach parents techniques of what they can do with children to find out what children are thinking to find out what's going on in their fantasies to find out what their child's issues are. Games can be used if used correctly, to facilitate communication between parents and children. It's a vehicle around which cooperative interactions can occur

Speaker 4 (14:01):

For the most part, likes the values that he's going to receive her, those things. And I want to teach him and him coming to a game room, uh, is not intrinsically bad. It's not going to harm him to play a game. Personally, I don't feel like it's the responsibility of, uh, uh, of government to legislate what my kids can do and what they can do. Being Christian people. We don't want to go to the place that would give us a bad reputation or otherwise we'd rather come to a place it's a family operation and run plainly. At last count. There were almost 10,000 coin video game operators across the USA here in Atlanta, Georgia operator is Steve Gutierrez helping to make a good name for Korean video games. We're out actively seeking church groups, communities, and families. We try to make ourselves unique in the fact that we recognize that profits could exist in an operation like this.

Speaker 4 (14:52):

We try to appeal to the community as an example. We want that mother to bring her child here while she's shopping. We want her to feel free to drop that child off and to feel free when she comes back to walking herself. And then she won't be harassed by teenagers who were on an unruly. This type of operation does not allow that type of thing to happen. It is well lit. It is well supervised. We're looking to do a way with the reputation that the old arcade or game room around the corner or pool hall once had. This is something we've done voluntarily. We would hope that this could be done voluntarily all over the country. It's very important that we govern our own

Speaker 2 (15:36):

Industry as a manufacturer. Uh, we're going to communities, we're working with different agencies and we're sitting down with people across the table and we're rolling up our sleeves. And we're saying, what are the alternatives that we can, uh, together forge, uh, uh, into some sort of an agreement, some sort of compromise position to really allow us to not only co-exist in the community together, but for our industry to have a real positive, uh, beneficial effect in the community. We want to do that

Speaker 3 (16:07):

Right now. We're looking at working with a tare and other game operators to set up some pilot programs at some of our community centers. We've got a special youth month program coming up in San Jose, where we're focusing positive attention on young people in San Jose. And as part of this with Atari, we're looking at setting up these games in our community centers at different geographic places throughout the city

Speaker 2 (16:27):

Here in San Jose, California youth commissioner, Neil Christie gave his support to the local kids in confronting coin video game opposition. Before it started

Speaker 3 (16:37):

The city council directed their administration to come up with a set of guidelines and the things they're looking at, or how much supervision should be in a game room, what type of hours should there be? So they don't conflict with school schedules where young people are maybe cutting school. And so they directed the city administration, the police department in the San Jose youth commission, which is the youth leadership group in the city of San Jose to gently come up with a set of guidelines that would go back to city council. We need preventative type of programs. Let's get them into something positive instead of having to deal with them in the juvenile justice system. And I think by putting this type of program together, which is incorporating the business community, as well as the government and working with young people together, I think is going to be served the prototype program for the future, instead of having more juvenile jails and things like that, these are the types of things we have to do. And hopefully a lot of the other communities are going to look at that in that positive vein instead of the negative vein of what's the problem with it, instead of saying, how can we use these to best serve both young people in our city and communities

Speaker 2 (17:41):

We've traveled around the country and seeing how coin video games represent a computer age challenge in human relationships that says as youth itself. And we've also seen how parents, businessman elected officials and the players themselves are programming a response that we can live with and play with

Speaker 6 (18:22):

[inaudible].

The "Video Games: A Public Perspective" video can be found on here and here

The Atari Community Awareness Program was reviewed beginning on page 62 in the June 15th, 1982 issue of Play Meter magazine. Play Meter was an American trade magazine focusing on the coin-op and arcade industry. It was published between December 1974 and June 2018. 

Recently, a copy of the Atari Community Awareness Program brochure was listed on eBay, which is how I became aware of this material, even though it had been archived previously.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Accessory Shop

 

This The Accessory Shop ad is from page 47 of issue #48 of New Atari User magazine.

New Atari User magazine was a British publication that started out as Page 6, then became Page 6 Atari User, then finally, New Atari User. It was published between 1982 and 1998, and covered both the Atari 8-bit and the Atari ST lines of computers.

The ad states: 

"Books for the Atari 8-bit computers are now becoming very difficult to obtain with almost all the Compute! titles now out of print so we are very pleased to have been able to secure a supply of some of the early British books covering the XL/XE range. Don't be put off by the low prices, we are only passing along the enormous savings we have been able to obtain. All these books are brand new and most are shrink wrapped so you will find them of top quality. If you are interested in programming with your Atari almost all of these books will help in some way and at these prices you can afford to experiment!"

The bargain books listed in the ad include:

How many of these books have you read?

I'd like to read Atari Adventures: A Guide to Playing and Writing Adventures by Tony Bridge, but I haven't come across a copy of it as of yet, as it doesn't appear to be in any of the usual online archives such as atarimania, or archive.org. It is available for purchase on a few used books sites, but it is priced quite high.

I do have three of the The Accessory Shop ad books on my bookshelf, Writing Strategy Games On Your Atari Computer - Techniques For Intelligent Games, Atari Games & Recreation, and Inside Atari BASIC.


Of the three books, Writing Strategy Games On Your Atari Computer - Techniques For Intelligent Games by John White, is the most interesting.

While White's book doesn't try to teach programming, per se, there are many programming examples throughout the 130+ page book. He does attempt to teach techniques and algorithms for array/grid-based strategy games, such as Noughts and Crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe), Chess, Warp Trog, etc., in Atari BASIC. 

Chapter 8 / Book Openings
Writing Strategy Games On Your Atari Computer
John White / Sunshine Books (1983)

Chapter 8 / Book Openings
Writing Strategy Games On Your Atari Computer
John White / Sunshine Books (1983)

White does cover topics such as setting up the game board, evaluating moves, searching techniques, programming the computer player, etc. There are a few complete examples such as Noughts and Crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe) and Warp Trog, and many more programs that contain enough code to get you thinking.

You can find the Atari BASIC source code from the book on this Atari 8-bit disk image. Some of the more interesting examples are:
  • C5P6.BAS - While most of the programs in the book use keyboard entry, this example moves a cursor around a game board using the joystick.
  • C6P4.BAS - Hexapawn, a simple game on a 3 by 3 game board.
  • C7P1.BAS - Noughts and Crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe).
  • C7P2.BAS - Race!, a simulation of the game Ludo.
  • C8P1.BAS - Chess Book Openings.
  • C13P1.BAS - Warp Trog strategy game.
*If you find any bugs in these program, please let me know and I'll update the code.

Chapter 13 / Warp Trog
Writing Strategy Games On Your Atari Computer
John White / Sunshine Books (1983)

John White authored many other works on chess, games, and programming, including:
If you are interested in strategy games, there is a lot of interesting content in White's book and articles worth reading. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

New Learning Experience



This New Learning Experience ad appeared on page 11 of issue 11 of ANALOG Computing magazine. This is the classic Adventure In The 5th Dimension issue of ANALOG Computing magazine.

This ad was for a series of Jewish/Hebrew-related software titles from the Davka Corporation for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers.

Davka Corporation seems to have published a couple of dozen software titles for the Atari 8-bit. Though many of them have never been archived.

The software titles in this ad include:

Jewish I.Q. Baseball? I've heard of the All-Time Jewish Major League Baseball Team, including that cheating Ryan BraunThe Hebrew Hammer, but never Jewish I.Q. Baseball. (Actually, of course I've heard of it, as I remember seeing this ad as a kid!)

The Davka Corporation itself was/is a software company based in Chicago, Illinois. It published software related to Israel, the BibleJewish history and the Hebrew language for the Atari 8-bit home computer as well as for the Apple II, Windows, and the Mac. The company still seems to be in business today and has an active website where it sells Davkawriter, a Hebrew/English word processor.

As I don't identify as Jewish, nor do I speak/read Hebrew, the software titles in this ad didn't particularly interest me as a kid. Heck, if my Catholic parents saw me learning Hebrew, they might of had me excommunicated!




As an adult, thanks to my friend, Mr. The Modern Atari 8bit Computer himself, Nir Dary, I have a Hebrew Atari 600XL computer in my retro computer collection, and the Jewish/Hebrew software from this company is perfect for running on it, if I ever decided to exhibit it at a Vintage Computer Festival East.




This PAL-based Atari 600XL has a ROM that supports the Hebrew character set and right-to-left display orientation as well as Hebrew key caps (engraved, not stickers). As the 600XL is PAL-based and has a built-in monitor jack (which NTSC-based, North American released 600XLs didn't have), I use it with a small, lightweight Insignia NS-19D310NA19 LED 19 inch TV from Best Buy, which has an undocumented feature of supporting the PAL television format.

If you want to make your own Hebrew-compatible Atari 8-bit, you can find some useful ROMs on Nir's web site. Custom key caps might be a little harder to come by. You could likely have a custom set of stickers made for the keyboard. A company called DataCal has been known to make custom keyboard stickers.

Recently, I was trolling on eBay, as you do, and low and behold, what pops up on my radar? The floppy disk portion of Davka Corporation's Hebrew Reading software package that is mentioned in this ad. There is likely a box, a manual, and an audio cassette tape (the first disk has a place where you listen to an introduction from cassette) included in the original packaging, but this auction (actually two separate auctions for the two disks) didn't include them. Better yet, this is software that hadn't yet been archived for the (Atari, Retro Computer, Jewish, Hebrew, take your pick) community. And now it has been archived!



I received two disks. One disk is a flippy disk with Hebrew Reading Units 1 through 6 on one side, and Hebrew Reading Units 7 through 12 on the other side. The second disk has Hebrew Reading Units 13 and 14 on the front side. The back side appears to be unformatted.

Here are scans of the three relevant floppy disk sides:

 


Here are some screen shots from the three disk images after I Kryofluxed them. I loaded the disk images into Altirra 3.20 in Atari 400/800 mode with Atari BASIC rev. C inserted.

From Hebrew Reading Units 1 through 6 Disk Image


From Hebrew Reading Units 1 through 6 Disk Image


From Hebrew Reading Units 7 through 12 Disk Image


From Hebrew Reading Units 13 through 14 Disk Image


Without looking to closely at the code, the program is either using a custom character set or possibly Atari's Player Missile Graphics (sprite) engine to not only display characters in Hebrew, but it displays them by forming them from right-to-left on the screen. It is a neat effect.


From Hebrew Reading Units 13 through 14 Disk Image


If you have ever had an interest in reading Hebrew, give this program a try!


Now, who's up for a rousing Game of Jericho?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech - Computers, Consoles, & Games

The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech - Computers, Consoles, & Games
By Peter Leigh

The Nostalgia Nerd's Retro Tech: Computer, Consoles & Games, a November 2018 released book by author Peter Leigh, covers about 50 gaming consoles and home computers from the early to mid 70s through to the early 2000s. Except for a brief blurb at the end of the book, it purposely leaves out handheld gaming and PC gaming, possibly as subjects for future books. In addition to the hardware, three “Must See, Must Play, and Must Avoid ” games for each platform are briefly covered as well. In addition to hardware popular with North American consumers, the author, based in the UK, covers systems that were popular in the UK and Europe as well, so I was able to learn about systems and games that I wasn’t as familiar with.

I didn’t always agree with the author’s “Must See, Must Play, and Must Avoid” choices, who doesn’t like K-Razy Shoot-Out? But I wholeheartedly agree with others, like Ultima IV on the Apple II platform. It's all subjective, and like the Apple/Atari/Commodore wars of the early 1980s,  it's all part of the fun.

Ultima IV

Other than the few editing mistakes (see page 70 for an  example), and a few errors (page 127, Ballblazer was originally released for the Atari 8-bit computers, not the Atari 5200), my one complaint, is that the text can be rather small in some places (Must See, Must Play, and Must Avoid), which is unfortunate, as there seems to be plenty of surrounding white space that could have been filled with a large font size.

If you are a fan of retro gaming consoles, retro computers, and retro video games, you should enjoy this book. The hardcover edition has full color graphics on a kind of thick, flat, cardstock type paper. It has 224 pages full of retro goodness. As of this writing, the hardcover edition costs about 14 USD on Amazon, which makes it a bargain.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Untold Story Of Atari’s Missile Command


Here is my review of the Advance Reader’s Edition (pre-release) of the forthcoming book 8-Bit Apocalypse: The Untold Story Of Atari’s Missile Command by Alex Rubens.

The book can be broken down into about three sections. The first eighty pages or so include background information on the state of economy in the early 1980s, the Cold War (the author’s view of it anyway), the political environment, and a brief history of Atari including the Nolan Bushnell years and the Ray Kassar years. Other books cover the history of Atari better, and in more detail. It is not really the main point of this book. The included background information gives you context leading up to the stewing cauldron in 1980 in which Missile Command was born. 


The next eighty pages or so cover the development of the Missile Command arcade video game, from where the initial idea came from, to David Theurer, Rich Adams and team designing and developing it. This is really the meat of this book. It covers the direction the development took, why certain decisions were made, and how the development affected Theurer, his health and his personal life. Rob Fulop’s Atari 2600 version of Missile Command and some of Theurer’s other work, such as Tempest, are also covered.

The last third of the book covers other tangential Missile Command related subjects, such as its effect on popular culture (opening credits of FX’s The Americans anyone), conspiracy theories, competitive gaming and a “Where Are They Now” Epilogue.
       
I would have liked to have seen some more technical information on the arcade video game development itself: development tools, hardware, snippets of source code, etc., but as Rubens’ states at the beginning of Chapter 5, “This isn’t a technical manual for Missile Command. I’m not going to pretend to know how the circuit boards work or how Dave Theurer and Rich Adam accomplished any of the programming feats…” It does, however, discuss the original prototype cabinet with its amazing (and distracting) electronic display imagery.


The Advanced Reader’s Edition has numerous typos which I expect the author and publisher will fix before the final release. I’ve certainly reported the issues that I found. These typos in no way took away from the narrative since I understood that it was a pre-release version of the book. I’ll likely pick up the hardcover edition when it is published so that I can have a cleaned up version which will also include twenty full color images. George Opperman amazing artwork for Missile Command was so classic Atari, that it made the front cover of Tim Lapetino’s book Art Of Atari. I’m looking forward to seeing which images Rubens' decided to include in his book.


While I enjoyed this book, there are a few instances where the author makes “factual” statements that I don’t necessarily agree with. I will not mention which, as they might be revised by the time the book is officially published. There are also times where the author repeats the same point over and over. Yes, employees used drugs at Atari, and yes, software developers have deadlines, got it. Overall, not a bad effort by first time author Alex Rubens. If you are a Missile Command fan, a David Theurer fan or an Atari fan in general, I think you will enjoy the book as well.

The 256 page hardcover edition of 8-Bit Apocalypse: The Untold Story Of Atari’s Missile Command will be published on October 16, 2018 and has a list price of $26.95.

For more information, see the book's website.  You can also follow author Alex Rubens on Twitter.

THE END

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ATARI Home Computer Merchandising Aids



This form is a 1982 ATARI Home Computers Merchandising Aids Dealer Administrative Order Form which lists various in-store merchandising aids available from Atari.

On September 17, 2017, the weekend after hosting ATARI PARTY EAST 2017, I was out picking with my wife, as you do, when I came across a huge collection of ATARI 8-bit related items at a local flea market. There was some hardware, a bunch of software and a large box full of ATARI dealer related items. I purchased some of the items that I had not seen before, such as the 5 1/4 floppy diskette-based ATARI 800 In-Store Demonstration Program, which I have already written about, and the ATARI 400 In-Store Demonstration Video VHS Tape, which has now been transfer to digital format and made available to the community. I've scanned much of the other paper materials and made it available in my library on archive.org.


ATARI made a ton of marketing material, including the In-Store Demonstration Programs, the In-Store Demonstration Video Tapes, the Computers For People book, television commercials, printed ads and much, much more. All of these items were available for purchase by dealers or they could use their CO-OP Merchandising allowance in lieu of payment.

The purpose of the ATARI Cooperative Advertising Program was to increase retailers' sales of ATARI Home Computers. It was designed to fit each retailer's specific advertising needs for ATARI Home Computer products. Reimbursement for ATARI Home Computer advertising required adhering to the following rules:

  • 5% accrual based on net cost of purchases to retailers for purchases directly from ATARI.
  • 4% accrual based on net cost of purchases to retailers for purchases through distributors.
  • 100% of actual net cost of advertising up to accrual limit.
  • Available to all retailers (even through distributors).  

The ATARI Home Computers Merchandising Aids Dealer Administrative Order Form that I have, which you can see at the top of this post, lists in part:

  • CX302 ATARI 400 Demonstration Video Tape --- VHS
  • CX303 ATARI 400 Demonstration Video Tape --- Beta

As you can see in the photograph below, my tape is labeled ATARI 400 - THE BASIC COMPUTER In-Store Demonstration Tape Model No. CX303, but it is, clearly, a VHS tape. So there is some misinformation in either the order form or the tape label. The VHS version should be labeled CX302 as per the order form.

ATARI 400 - The BASIC Computer
In-Store Demonstration VHS Tape
Model No. CX303

Also according to the order form, in 1982, either of the ATARI Demonstration Video Tapes cost $23.00 or about $60.00 in today's (2017) money. 

Much like Anorak's Invitation, the video itself begins with the sound of trumpets and is just about five minutes long. The same video repeats over and over again on the VHS tape ... put it in, press PLAY, let it play over and over for a few hours, rewind, repeat. The video covers the ATARI 400 Home Computer, the ATARI Educator kit, the ATARI Communicator kit, the Programmer kit and the Entertainer kit.

Screen Capture From
ATARI 400 In-Store Demonstration VHS Tape

The ATARI 400 Demonstration Video Tapes were meant to be played in the ATARI Home Computers Point Of Purchase M Series Merchandising Displayers. The POP-M Series Displayer had a base which could hold a video tape player.

ATARI HOME COMPUTERS
Point Of Purchase
Merchandising Displayer
POP-M Series

The point of purchase merchandising displayer was 25 inches wide, 56 inches high and approximately 26 inches deep. It had a wood base, silver, charcoal and black in color, with key-lock front access door, and an acrylic brochure dispenser. The displayer was designed so that the top portion could be removed and placed directly on a counter top doing away with the base. According to the marketing material, a key-lock acrylic cover was also available for an additional cost. 

"ATARI, we took a big idea and made it simple. ATARI, computers for people."

A big thank you to “Amiga” Bill Winters (https://twitter.com/TheGuruMeditate) for transferring the VHS tape to digital format for me ... and for the Atari 8-bit community!

Enjoy.

Bill (https://twitter.com/BillLange1968)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Atari Bean Counter


Small Business Accounting Ad
Creative Computing
September 1980

This Atari Bean Counter ad, which mentions the Atari Accountant software, is from pages 8 and 9 of the September 1980 issue of Creative Computing magazine.

Atari first introduced the fabled Atari Accountant software at the June 1980 Summer Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago. From the article Random Ramblings - The Consumer Electronics Show by David H. Ahl, in the September 1980 issue of Creative Computing, the Atari section on page 30 states that
Atari introduced a new piece of software, the Atari Accountant and three new peripherals ... The Atari Accountant was "created to give the small businessman the benefit of computerization without special training or the time required to learn computer programming." It seems to be aimed at the businessman who does his own bookkeeping or who has a part time bookkeeper. The Atari Accountant consists of a general ledger master module, with accounts receivable and payable available as independent add-on modules. Atari promises an inventory control and order entry module at a later date ... We'll reserve judgement on this system until we see it in operation ... 
The Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive was also introduced at the June 1980 Summer Consumer Electronic Show. From the same September 1980 Creative Computing article mentioned above:
The Atari 815 is a dual disk drive with double density on 40 tracks per diskette. Using this storage system each diskette stores over 163,000 bits of data. The dual drive has a built-in microprocessor for control and includes DOS/FMS (double density disk operating system/file management system). List price for the 815 is $1499.95.

Business Software Collection
BPI Systems, Inc.

Atari again showed the Atari Accountant series at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, held January 9-12, 1981 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In an article by Jean Yeates that starts on the front page and continues on page 29 of the March 2, 1981 issue of InfoWorld covering the CES event, it states:
Business Applications for Atari
Atari has purchased, adapted and enhanced the BPI, Inc., accounting system (formerly available on the Apple II computer) to the Atari 800, and named it the “Atari Accountant.” Arthur Young and Company, a large CPA firm, has written a primer and manual on accounting specifically for the “Atari Accountant,” which has three packages: General Ledger, Accounts Receivable and Inventory Control. Atari’s new “user hotline” provides immediate response to questions about the system.
It's not clear (to me) if Atari purchased the rights to BPI Systems, Inc.’s accounting software and made the required changes in-house or if Atari just paid BPI to develop a version for the Atari 8-bit computers. Clearly, Atari paid Arthur Young and Company to write the documentation (and as we will see later, test the software).

Top Ten Most Popular Business Programs, 1981
Softalk Magazine
April 1982

The Atari Accountant software is based on BPI’s General Ledger and Accounts Receivable packages by John Moss and Ken Debower. According to a reader’s poll on page 164 of the April 1982 issue of Softalk magazine, the two Apple II software packages were listed in the top ten most popular business software programs of 1981.

Accounting Software for the Apple II
BPI Systems, Inc.

At the time, Austin, Texas based BPI Systems, Inc., had the United States’ largest installed customer base of microcomputer business accounting software. There were versions of the BPI accounting software available for the Apple II, the Apple III and later the IBM PC and compatibles. There is a review of a later version of the BPI General Accounting package on page 43 of the March 25th, 1985 issue of InfoWorld.

Front Cover
The Atari Accountant Sales Brochure

C016902 REV. 2

In 1981, Atari created a six page sales brochure covering the Atari Accountant. The sales brochure give a copious amount of information on the promised small business software packages, including sample screen shots.

The Atari Accountant
Accounting Software for the Atari 8-bit
(Recreated from
C016902 REV. 2 for Better Resolution)

The Atari Accountant was also mentioned as a new product on pages 4 and 5 of Atari Connection magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2, in June 1981:
The Atari Accountant 
Computerized accounting for small business is finally here. The Atari Accountant brings the price of computerized accounting within reach of most small businesses. You don’t have to be a computer professional or accountant to operate the Atari Accountant. Its operation is simple and straightforward.
The Atari Accountant is comprised of three packages: General Accounting System, Accounts Receivable System and Inventory Control System. Each operates by itself or in conjunction with the other packages. You can start with one package and add others as your needs dictate. The General Accounting System is now available at your local dealer. The other two packages will be available soon. 
General Accounting System 
The General Accounting System can be customized to your needs. With this program, you can process up to 750 general ledger accounts and up to 2,5000 journal entries per month. Financial statements and reports are generated automatically. Statements and reports range from balance sheets and profit and loss statements to subsidiary ledgers for accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll. In addition, updating your records is faster with this system than many other personal computer accounting programs on the market. 
The Atari Accountant will dramatically reduce manual bookkeeping, thus increasing the accuracy and timelines of journals and reports. Developed with assistance from and tested by Arthur Young & Company, a large accounting firm, the Atari Accountant will produce financial statements which summarize accounting data entered into the system. It will provide you with the financial information you need to make intelligent decisions concerning your business.
To use the Atari Accountant - General Accounting System software package in 1981, at a minimum, you would have needed an Atari 800 with 48K RAM, an Atari BASIC Cartridge, a mythical Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive, a hard to acquire Atari 850 Interface Module, an Atari 825 80-Column Printer and the Atari General Accounting System software. You would also need a supply of blank Atari CX8202 certified double-density 5 ¼ floppy diskettes or compatible.

The Atari Accountant In Action
Part I

In an announcement on page 158 of the June 1981 issue of Compute! Magazine, it states:
… The previously introduced Atari Accountant software package for small business or professional use has been priced at $1,499.85. Each of its three components, which are available separately, is priced at $499.95. They include systems for accounts and inventory control … All prices mentioned are manufacturer's suggested retail prices in the U.S. only.
Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive

The Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive was also mentioned as a new product on page 5 of the same Atari Connection, Vol. 1, No. 2, in June 1981:
More Memory Than Ever 
Atari announces its new Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive. This new Dual Disk Drive provides over 356K bytes of double density data storage on two 5 1/4 inch diskettes. It comes with full operating instructions and a diskette containing the disk operating system programs and File Management System. If one Dual Disk Drive is not adequate for your needs, your Atari 800 Personal Computer can control up to four Dual Disk Drives for a total of 1424 bytes of storage!
Imagine, four Atari 815 Dual Disk Drives at the suggested retail price of $1,499.95 each in 1981 dollars. $5,999.80 in 1981 dollars is equivalent to $16,156.95 in 2017. That's a lot of cannolis.

Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive and Atari Accountant Software Ad
Compute! Magazine
September 1981
Page 149

The Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive was an absolute beast. It wasn’t just two Atari 810 single-sided, single-density, 90K capacity, 5 ¼ inch drive mechanisms in one case, it was two single-sided, double-density, 180K capacity drive mechanisms. It required Atari CX8202 certified double-density 5 ¼ floppy diskettes and the Atari DOS 2.0D disk operating system. 

2020-03-04 Update: Kevin Savetz scanned the rare Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive manual and uploaded it to archive.org.

According to the Atari 8-bit FAQ maintained by Michael Currant, rumor has it that Atari didn’t want to release the Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive due to serious quality issues. Atari hand-built enough of these units to satisfy pre-orders and then promptly killed the product. Many of the units that they did sell were returned due to the quality and reliability issues.

Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive and
Atari General Accounting System
Photograph courtesy of Curt Vendel 

The Atari Accountant series necessitated the need for higher capacity storage on the Atari 8-bit computers. With the Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive dead on arrival, the Atari Accountant series was simply no longer a viable product in its current form as it required the higher capacity 180K double-density diskettes. By this time, Atari probably realized that its 8-bit computers were mostly being used as personal home computers and game machines rather than serious small to medium sized business computers. Atari’s reputation as a game company and its lack of quality, affordable, high capacity storage devices certainly didn’t help.

From page 66 of InfoWorld's Essential Guide To Atari Computers by Scott Mace and the editors of InfoWorld:
Before converting your general-ledger books over to your Atari, be aware that your Atari computer is not optimized for accounting programs. The computer's image as a game and education machine for the home means that Ataris have not invaded offices in the way Apple and IBM computers have. Accounting is generally an office function, and if you accumulate any moderately large records, you'll quickly reach the capacity of both the Ataris' RAM and their disk drives. Also, hard disks are not readily available for the Ataris, and most businesses need the speed and storage capacity of hard disks to store their records.     
And from the December 1982 article Whither Atari? beginning on page 4 of Analog Computing issue #9:
The Atari computer has been on the market just over three years ... For the first year or so, Atari's marketing direction was unclear. All we knew was that Ataris were "Computers for People." With the scrapping of the double density dual disk drive, Atari Personal Computers became Atari Home Computers. The home market became established as Atari's target. The Atari Corporation had apparently decided to focus on the home and educational markets and leave the business market to IBM, Apple, and others ... 
The October 19, 1981 issue of InfoWorld briefly states on page 37 that “A new home accounting system for the Atari 800 will replace the Atari Accountant. The new system is designed expressly for the home market and will be ready for delivery in the first quarter of 1982…

The Atari Bookkeeper Kit

The unnamed new system mentioned above might be referring to what eventually became the Atari Bookkeeper kit. 

In the New Products section on page 167 of the November, 1981 issue of Compute! Magazine, it mentions, in part, that  
A new home accounting system for the Atari 800 Home Computer will replace the Atari Accountant, a small business accounting system, which will not now be offered for sale.
The new system will be lower priced and easier to use than the current system, since it will be designed expressly for the home market. It will be ready for delivery in the first calendar quarter of 1982. The Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive, which was required for use of the professional accounting package, will not be offered for sale. 
“The major thrust of our marketing efforts is toward use of our products in the home. We feel that our resources are better spent developing products aimed specifically at this market and segments that support this market, such as institutional education. It makes the most sense to convert the existing accounting package for home use,” Roger H. Badertscher, president of Atari’s Computer Division, said.
The new system will work with the Atari 810 Disk Drive, which is priced at $599.95. The dual disk drive was priced at $1,499.95, and offered “more capacity and a higher price than we feel is necessary for most home applications,” Badertscher added.
Considering the lead time required for publishing Compute! and InfoWorld, Atari must have cancelled the Atari Accountant series by at least October 1st, 1981. With purchasing the rights from BPI Systems, development costs of porting the software to the non-standard Atari BASIC format, Arthur Young and Company involvement, product documentation, product packaging and product marketing as well as the development of the Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive, Atari must have taken a bit of a financial hit on this product line! And this was happening at the same time as the Atari Personal Financial Management System debacle.

The Atari Accountant
Screenshot from the Atari 800 In Store Demonstration Program

Even after Atari killed off The Atari Accountant series in the fall of 1981, it was still being advertised in the disk-based version of the Atari 800 In Store Demonstration Program that was being sold to Atari dealers in 1982. 

Taking into account that the Atari Connection magazine stated in June, 1981, that “...the General Accounting System is now available at your local dealer. The other two packages will be available soon…”,  the Atari 815 and Atari Accountant ads beginning to appear in September, 1981, and it being known that at least a few copies of the General Accounting System are in collector’s hands in the United States, I suspect that at least a few copies of pre-ordered General Accounting System and 815 Dual Disk Drives were released into end-user's hands. There were literally no other released software packages in the Atari catalog at the time (or since) that required the Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive except for possibly the Atari 815 Master Diskette (CX8201), which shipped with the drive, and the Atari Word Processor (Atari 815 version) (CX408), if that itself was even released.  

The Atari Accountant In Action
Part II

I asked Curt Vendel, noted Atari historian, curator of the virtual Atari History Museum and co-author of the book Atari Inc. - Business Is Fun, how he acquired the copy of the General Accounting System that is prominently displayed in the atariwiki article on the Atari Accountant series and he said that “I acquired it in the 1990s, during my regular trips out to California … dumpster diving behind various Atari buildings … if I recall, I found it along with some Atari Word Processor binders in a cardboard box behind 390 W Caribbean Drive in Sunnyvale which was one of Atari’s warehouses.”          

With the limited release and failure of the Atari 815 Dual Disk Drives, any potentially released copies of the General Accounting System accounting software were probably returned to Atari and destroyed. Without the hardware to run it, it would have been a very expense paperweight. 

This accounting product was killed off before I even bought my first Atari home computer, an Atari 400, in March, 1982. Luckily, I didn’t need the Atari Accountant series to manage my newspaper route empire. I had the Newspaper Route Management Program by John R. Powers, III published by the Atari Program Exchange for that!

Atari General Accounting System
Photograph courtesy of Curt Vendel 

As of this writing, a few copies of The Atari Accountant General Accounting System (CX401) software and packaging are known to exist in private hands. Unfortunately, neither the multiple double-density floppy diskettes containing the software nor the extensive documentation Atari created for this package are known to have been archived and made available to the Atari 8-bit community. Considering these floppies are almost 40 years old, they might not even be readable any longer. 

Disk Operating System II Version 2.0D
For the Atari 815 Dual Disk Drive
Running Under Altirra 2.90 Emulation

KryoFlux, the forensic floppy controller, should be able to make archival backup copies of the original General Accounting System double-density floppy diskettes. The backup copies could than be used to make disk images. Version 2.90 of Altirra, the Atari 8-bit emulator, can read/boot the Atari Disk Operating System II version 2.0D disk image found on the Atarimania website, so it should be able to read the General Accounting System software if double-density disk images are created. If so, then Atari BASIC source listings could be generated as well.   

For more general information on the BPI Systems, Inc.’s family of accounting software, look for a copy of the book Practical Guide To The BPI Accounting System by Dale N. Flanagan published by Tab Books, 1986.

2019-03-10 Update

In the last few months, with the help of Atari enthusiasts around the world, The Atari Accounting General Accounting System software and documentation has been made available for the first time, and a few articles and blogs have been written about the release.