Re: [stella] Activision keynote speech

Subject: Re: [stella] Activision keynote speech
From: "Glenn Saunders" <cybpunks@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 11:15:53 -0700

Do other people on the list have the same strange feeling of
demystification that I do when hearing how many of these products were

Not so much demystification when you consider that the 2600 was created by a very small team of people when Atari was still a very small company that became subsidized by Warner Communications. Consider the bang for the buck of that almost garage-like development process in comparison to, let's say, the approach Sony took in developing and launching the Playstation.

Everything today is very carefully calculated via committee, and executed by virtue of a thick org chart of personnel who are merely doing what they are told.

They really were pioneers in every respect. That's not something I really understood back when the 2600 was flying off store shelves in 1980.

Back in Atari's day every individual made a huge impact on the final product.

Really, there isn't a lot of difference between what a homebrewer does today and how it was done back then. Some of the hardware projects, in fact, were almost like glorified hardware hacking projects taken on by individuals, because they felt like it.

Not until the 5200 did the R&D guys become shackled by the marketing/management types.

I have worked for a few computer companies in the internet sector, two startups and my current job which is post-IPO but still feels "immature" and none of these companies really fired on all cyllinders the way Atari did at that time. Atari's R&D labs were extremely well-run and staffed with very bright people who worked well together. A lot of them were young, but they weren't scatterbrained. They understood the value of methodology. All you have to do is read through the production notes on the Stella v2 CD to see what I mean. Jay, Joe, and Larry Wagner had things very well documented and organized. There was never a technical problem they weren't able to overcome and there never seemed to be any sort of panic that they might be in over their head, trying to accomplish something beyond their abilities. They just plugged away at it and delivered on schedule. That's surprisingly rare.

I think that this all just gives me a greater understanding of why I fell in love with Atari as a kid.

I always had a sense that Atari understood what kids wanted on every level. It was everything down to the look and feel of the consoles and the cartridges and the manuals and catalogs. When I took a look at other systems I never got a sense that the parent companies were really "into it" to the core.

Nolan's Atari clearly had an overarching agenda for changing the landscape of society through computing. There really was a kind of Utopian or humanistic vibe to Atari which was an undercurrent through their products. The original 2600 box featured adults and kids, male and female, all playing together. That may not have been what 2600 gaming turned out to be in the majority of cases, but that's what Atari thought could happen in an ideal world, that the Atari would be the "digital hub" in the family household that Steve Jobs keeps talking about now with his Macs. This is in contrast to the ad slogans of today's game companies which are marketed clearly to 'hardcore' gamers (i.e. young males) in a very obnoxious way ("Sega!", "Get Into It").

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

- Archives (includes files) at Unsub & more at

Current Thread