During the beginnings of the Atari Historical Society's
presence on the web, Curt Vendel was still frequenting the Bulletin Board
systems tracking down information and history and answering questions to
those who were interested in learning more about Atari.
Curt was also an active member of the CompuServe SIG Atari group and his
email account 75212,2071 has long since been shutdown to move to AOL, then
to AT&T and now Hughes Satellite Services DirecPC.
There's an powerful craze that has taken over the whole world
in one way or
another, its being referred to as "Retro". Everything from bell bottom pants
to the Brady Bunch movies to disco music to even computers and video games.
Computers and Video games??? Who wants some tired old 8 bit antiques from
the past? A lot of people!!! From collectors to video game buffs everyone
is suddenly looking to the past. Old Arcade games are becoming more and more
popular. Why with all these incredible 32 and 64 bit systems with graphics
that come as close to cartoons are people suddenly looking to play those old
blocky and bitty looking relics? The answer is, game play. It seems these
days that game designers are so busy making their video games look so
incredible, the game play just isn't the same as the good old day. In the
past during the 70's and the 80's game play was everything. Graphics weren't
all that great, so it was important that the game was extremely challenging and
entertaining in its game play.
Activision and Microsoft have already jumped onto the Retro bandwagon
their 2600 game paks and Return the Arcade. Williams released its Williams
Arcade which not only features classic video games, but also has interviews
with the designers as well. The interesting part about these games is that
they're not cheap imitations, but the actual emulated chip sets running the
actual ROM software, so every single hidden clue, quirky patterns and hidden
surprises are all there in tact and waiting to be rediscovered. Many other
classic arcade hits are on the way soon, the web is buzzing with talk of
emulators for everything from Asteroids to 5200 and 800XL emulators.
Another interesting phenomenon is taking place. Years
ago when Atari first
released the Atari 2600 "Video Computer System" I was hooked. Mesmerized by
this incredible machine, I had to have one. I first played Combat, then
Adventure and it was incredible, the game almost seemed alive, and intelligent.
I caught the "Atari Bug". I had to have one, even the word Atari had some
kind of magically alluring power to it. When Atari announced the Atari
400/800 computers "Innovative Leisure". I had to have one. I received every
magazine at the time and collected any article that had anything to do with
Atari's. My grandparents saw how drawn I was to this technology and purchase
literally anything Atari for me, but there was more...
I began to look deeper and notice things, comments about "other"
come, but it never materialized, where was it??? There were pictures and
specifications and pre-release reviews by people who had the honor of seeing
and using these new machines. Articles about new computers with built in
modems and speech synthesizers and disk drives. Keyboards to turn a 2600 into
a computer, articles about a video game called the 7800 with a keyboard and a
port for disk drives, talk about an Atari with multiple CPU chips for Atari
DOS, CP/M and even MS-DOS. A box that could have cards plugged into it like
and Apple ][E and an IBM PC. Where were they, I had to have them, I must have
Welcome to the vaporware craze. Dozens of individuals
like myself spend
countless hours on the phone hunting down anyone with any kind knowledge or
contacts to these once unreachable prototypes. Many different systems are
out there. Everything from the Flagship 1450XLD's to the 1090 5 slot
expansion chassis to the General Computer Corp 7800 keyboard attachment for the
7800 Pro System. Other extremely rare prototype exist like the pre-2600
prototypes (only 2 are know to exist with markings such as CX-2000). Atari
5100 (5200jr.), Atari 800XE's, Atari 800XL-F (a 1200XL with a top cartridge
slot), the short release Atari 815 dual drive system. Many prototypes exist
and if your willing to do the digging you can track these rare items down and
become the proud caretaker of a piece of history. Owning even one small
piece of unreleased hardware, software or even paperwork is an honor and a
privilege and help to feed a never ending "Atari Fever" which has infected so
many of us.
With the demise of what was Atari Corp into what is now JTS, one
what is in store for us Atari Fanatics for the future. The future doesn't
look too promising as far as new hardware and software. It is true a few
items will find their way to us here and there, but this unfortunately wont
last too long and is hurts me deeply to see this happen, to see a legacy so
magically and majestic and Atari fade away. There is hope though, the
products of the past will help to entertain and entice us for many, many years
and who knows, perhaps someone out there with the money and spirit will
purchase the rights to the name Atari and just as the Phoenix, Atari will rise
once again from the ashes and take flight and bring our own hopes back up to
look for new wonders to find their way to us. Who knows, perhaps it will also
bring to us new never released prototypes to hunt down and own as well. Happy
hunting and keep the name, keep the legend of Atari strong.