Task: Read Atari News from the 1970s and 1980s
Needed: Web browser
Time: 30-60 minutes
A number of good books have been written about the history of Atari (e.g. Racing the Beam and Breakout). It is a fascinating story of innovation, success, and failure. On of the things I enjoy doing is going back and reading news articles about Atari from the 1970s and 1980s. These are a nice window back in time and provide some context from a media perspective. I have decided to list some of these here. I put the focus on the New York Times since they provide easy access to their archives. I provide below the articles I could find in chronological order by year. These cover both the video game industry and news about the Atari 8-bit home computer. This is by no means an exhaustive list but should give you some idea of how Atari was presented in the media during that time period.
The space age pinball machine – a nice take on the very early days of Atari coin-op. Nice quotes from Nolan Bushnell.
Electronic video games bringing a different way to relax – mentions Atari Pong for Christmas.
Warner signs pact to purchase Atari – the infamous transfer of Atari to Warner for $28M.
Adult’s electronic toys: Gamble with high stakes – “We take fun seriously” ~ Atari.
When computers come home – a nice piece on the coming wave of home computers. This was just the year before Atari released the 400 and 800.
Bang! Boing! Ping! It’s King Pong – a piece featuring Nolan Bushnell talking about the popularity of video games and the Atari VCS.
Business people – mention of the Atari 400 and 800 being released.
Atari cuts prices, discloses products – Announcement of lower prices for Atari computers and memory.
For a video game, number was up – neat story about a boy trying to save money to buy an Atari game.
Next, a computer on every desk – great take on the state of the home computer landscape in 1981.
Video games star war – nice snapshot of where video games were in 1981.
The videogames: How they rate – a nice comparison of the different video game systems available in 1981.
Christmas is a video game – Video games for Christmas in 1981.
A home computer as stocking stuffer – Computer for Christmas in 1981.
The Atari-Intellivision TV battle – the battle that later led Atari to release the 5200.
Atari swells Warner profit – profits were good…then came 1983
8-year old’s birthday party in a computer center – a party with 20 Atari 800 computers! What could be better?
The video game sales war – if they only knew what was coming in 1983!
The home computer arrives – nice take on the hot home computer market in 1982.
Atari gets “E.T.” rights – muhahaha.
A squeeze in video games – oh so close to 1983!
E.T. starring in sales of toys – just wait…
A new computer is offered by Atari – the announcement of the 1200XL.
Coleco’s new video challenge – mentions the new Atari 5200 as competition for Colecovision.
The game turns serious at Atari – trouble at Warner?
Warner’s profit falls by 56.5% – the crash as told by Warner.
Warner, citing Atari, posts $18.9 million loss – oh sure, blame Atari!
Atari parts are dumped – the now infamous Alamogordo dump story.
Home computer steal the show – The 1983 summer CES where Atari announced the 600XL and 800XL computers although they aren’t mentioned by name in this piece.
Under 1983 Christmas tree, expect the home computer – computers were hot for Christmas 1983!
Atari video game unit introduced – the 7800.
Sigh of relief on video games – the year after the video game crash.
Warner sells Atari to Tramiel – Nooooooo!
Atari plans range of computers – a prelude to the XE and ST series.
Atari takes on Apple’s Macintosh – more details on the XE and ST computer lines.
Atari is shipping the 520 ST computer – the beginning of the end of the Atari 8-bit computers.
These are really fun to read through. I tried to capture the flow of Atari news with a focus on the hardware and games rather than the many corporate and leadership transitions. I think it tells the story well. 1981 and 1982 were definitely the hot years for Atari news and general excitement about video games and computers. You can perform your own search of The New York Times to see what I left out. Happy browsing!