It’s June and that means it’s Atari month
Why Atari month? #AtariMonth is to celebrate the founding of the video games company. Founded on 27th June 1972 Atari is the creation of Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. The name Atari (当たり, あたり, or アタリ) supposedly originates from the Japanese for hit/strike or impact and is “used in Go for a situation where a stone or chain of stones has only one liberty, and may be captured on the next move if not given one or more additional liberties”*
Atari was a pioneer in arcade, video games consoles and home computers, releasing games such as Pong, Pac-man and Space Invaders into the home market. During the late ’70s/early ’80s Atari was everywhere. People you wouldn’t imagine playing video games had the Atari VCS or one of their 8bit computers. It was a video game revolution.
Atari on a personal level
I’m writing this to mark Atari Month. Atari holds significance for me because my first venture into the video game world came in the form of the Atari VCS. It was 1980, my sister’s then boyfriend had borrowed a VCS and a Space Invaders cart from a friend. They let me have a go and it almost blew my tiny four year old mind. There were pictures on the TV and I could tell them what to do by way of this little black stick on a box.
I was too young for video games console of my own back then, as deemed by my parents. It would be a few years before my next journey into the world of Atari. The next time I got an Atari fix was when I was eight and I went to visit my cousin. He fired up Spider-man on his 2600 Junior. Having enjoyed playing it for most of the day it stuck with me until I finally got my own Atari later on. It was one of the first games I would get my parents to buy for me.
I’ve owned other Atari systems, a Heavy Sixer, a Light Sixer, every variation of the “Junior” models, the 7800, XEGS, Jaguar and the ST. To compliment them I’ve bought 100s of games over the years. Some of my favourite mainstay games are either from Atari or from one of their consoles. Spider-man, Star Raiders II, Alien Vs Predator, Battlezone and Asteroids, to name but a few. The vast majority of games available, varied genres, many cartridges having differing versions of the game, all made for a really fun system.
A vast majority of my collection was Atari based at one point. Not just in the form of gaming but also in merchandise. Tee shirts, caps, even a set of boxed wireless controllers.
Atari will always have special meaning for me. The Sinclair Spectrum may have directed me on my career path but it was Atari who saw me off into the world of gaming and has been by my side ever since. Whenever I hold one of my gaming days both the Atari 2600 and 7800 feature heavily in friends gaming choices. Whether that’s due to the playability of the games, the variety, or simply a sense of nostalgia, I’m not sure but the Atari name still carries with it the reputation of entertainment even after 40+ years.