Film Review: Easy To Learn, Hard to Master – The Fate Of Atari

The story of Atari has been told many times, from books like Atari Inc: Business Is Fun to umpteen documentaries, but none tell the full and complete story as well as Easy to Learn, Hard To Master: The Fate Of Atari.

Narrated by revered Commodore Engineer, Bil Heard, this documentary delves deep into the Atari history like no other film before it. From Atari’s humble beginnings as Syzygy and the breakthrough of Pong, to the Atari VCS/2600 home console, its subsequent sale to Time Warner and downward spiral to oblivion in the early 80s.

The story is weaved perfectly with many points of view, including former Atari Inc. President, Ray Kassar, who had never told his side of the story prior to this documentary. This is quite important, as stories about Atari had always been told from their former engineers (like Al Alcorn) and co-founder, Nolan Bushnell, so it was refreshing to get management perspective from Ray and Manny Gerard. This is even more poignant as Ray Kassar passed away in December 2017 – making his story even more important when it comes to Atari’s history. Another poignant interview was with old foe, Ralph Baer (Died on December 6 2014), himself a great inventor and the grandfather of video games and the concept of home gaming consoles.

Other notable interviewees include Joe Decuir, Howard Warshaw, Ed Rotberg, Dannis Kable, Dave Rolfe, Eugene Jarvis, Steve Russell, former Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa and former Atarian and Activision co-founder, David Crane, to name just a few. If you don’t know the story of Atari or you would like the definitive history on Atari, then we highly recommend Easy To Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari.

Title: Easy To Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari
Director: Tomaso Walliser & Davide E. Agosta
Production: Junk Food Films

Review: Atari Retro Handheld

Let’s get one thing straight, this Atari Retro Handheld is not a Flashback portable console by ATGames! There, hopefully we have clarified this point for you all.

This cool Atari Retro Handheld is by powered by Blaze. With its iconic Atari faux wood veneer and Vader lines along its front, this portable system design screams late 70s kitsch. It is like having an Atari VCS woody in your pocket – almost! We say almost, cause you can’t really grab your old Atari 2600 carts and slam them in this handheld, but you can play one of 50 classic titles, including Asteroids, Adventure, Breakout, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Millipede, Sword Quest, Yar’s Revenge  and our absolute fave Atari 2600 game of all time, Missile Command – check out the full list of games below.

  1. 3D Tic-Tac-Toe (31 in 1)
  2. Adventure
  3. Air-Sea Battle
  4. Asteroids ®
  5. Black Jack
  6. Bowling
  7. Breakout ®
  8. Canyon Bomber ®
  9. Casino
  10. Centipede ®
  11. Circus Atari ®
  12. Crystal Castles ®
  13. Demons to Diamonds ™
  14. Desert Falcon ®
  15. Dodge ’em
  16. Double Dunk
  17. Fun With Numbers
  18. Golf
  19. Gravitar ®
  20. Haunted House ®
  21. Home Run
  22. Human Cannonball ™
  23. Maze Craze
  24. Millipede ®
  25. Miniature Golf ®
  26. Missile Command ®
  27. Night Driver ™
  28. Off the Wall
  29. Pong – Video Olympics
  30. Quadrun ™
  31. Radar Lock ™
  32. Realsports Football ®
  33. Realsports Tennis ®
  34. Realsports Volleyball ®
  35. Sprintmaster
  36. Steeplechase
  37. Stellar Track ™
  38. Street Racer
  39. Submarine Commander
  40. Super Baseball
  41. Super Breakout ®
  42. Super Football
  43. Swordquest: Earthworld ™
  44. Swordquest: Fireworld ™
  45. Swordquest: Waterworld ™
  46. Tempest ®
  47. Video Checkers
  48. Video Chess
  49. Video Pinball
  50. Yar’s Revenge ®

The Retro Handheld sports a 2.4″ screen, which surprisingly suits most of the games, however, there were a few that felt cramped on the tiny screen. The unit does come with a composite A/V out interface, so you can plug it into a TV (preferably a CRT) for some big screen action. Emulation was pretty much spot on, with the games playing like their cart counterparts. To round out its retro-ness, batteries, yes, batteries the AAA kind, are required to power this little Atari – relax, this isn’t like the original Atari Lynx, you’ll definitely get a considerable amount of playing hours out of 3 x AAA Duracell batteries.

We were a bit iffy when we first saw the controls, especially the funny looking d-pad nub. Once we started playing, the d-pad and the buttons felt good under the thumbs and were responsive. However, there was one game that was totally unplayable using the nub – not looking at you Pong! Apart from that little niggle, gamers will feel right at home with the controls. Oh yeah, one nifty feature is when changing games, you simply hit the Start and Select buttons at the same time and viola, you exit the current game and go back to the menu to select a new one – this was cool, as we didn’t want to turn off the unit every time we wanted to play a new game.

There will be some that will scoff at this little handheld and others that will absolutely love it for what it is – a portable little Atari that looks like your old Atari 2600 woody and plays your favourite games. We definitely love playing on it (bar the unplayable Pong!), even though we are not big fans of the current Atari SA company. If you can get past this, then this is a little winner.

If you are keen on one of these Atari Retro Handhelds, grab one from FunstockRetro right now! They will even throw in a limited edition Atari Centipede Gold Coin for free – but you better hurry, as this sale ends soon!

Disclosure: The Atari Retro Handheld was kindly supplied by FunstockRetro for this review.

 

An Atari 2600 Transforms Into The Lynx 2600

Retro Revolutions‘ resident console modder, Jarred Green has mashed the venerable Atari VCS / 2600 (4-switch) console with Atari’s powerful colour handheld, the Lynx, to create one drool-worthy and awesome system – the Atari Lynx 2600! Having an eye for detail, Jarred doesn’t do things by halves – he complimented his unique console creation with an equally awesome custom packaging (by Logan Hunt from NeonVision Design) that wouldn’t look out of place on the shelves at your local video games retailer!

So how does the Atari Lynx 2600 hold up? Is it durable? Does it play well? Do the Lynx handheld games translate well to console / TV mode? Well, what a better way to have answered these questions than by having the Atari Lynx 2600 available for play (Ed: you mean punishment!) during one of the biggest gaming events in the southern hemisphere, PAX Aus 2018!

The Atari Lynx 2600 was an absolute winner and a head-turner at PAX Aus 2018

Over the course of the three day PAX Aus event, the Atari Lynx 2600 was never left unattended, with gamers playing a swag of Lynx games, including California Games, with their reactions always being the same – huge smiles and just wowing at Jarred’s creation. The amount of positive feedback was actually quite overwhelming. Jarred was always on hand to answer questions from eager gamers, from how he made the console to being asked if he could create one or do a production run for them to buy one! Actually, you can lump us in that category – we want one too!

Retro Revolutions doesn’t do things by halves! The Atari Lynx 2600 comes in its own unique retail packaging!

For the technically minded, the Atari Lynx 2600 sports some very impressive specifications that take advantage of current technologies, including output via HDMI. As we mentioned earlier, Jarred’s eye for detail extends from the aesthetics (like the airbrushed logos and the 3D printed cartridge adaptor for the Lynx carts – by Extreme Consoles), customs ports (for VGA and HDMI out) and custom paint detailing, to the innards with McWill’s LCD mod (with VGA output), the VGA to HDMI scaler (for compatibility with current displays) and of course the mapping and wiring of the Lynx controls to the DB9 joystick ports. Oh yeah, the one-button Atari joystick didn’t cut the mustard, so Jarred used a NES control-pad (also custom painted to compliment the colour scheme of the console) to implement the Lynx’s two button control system – he really did think of everything.

We can’t compliment Jarred enough, cause this is one super impressive mod that not only knocked our socks off, but it knocked the socks off thousands of PAX Aus attendees that got to play it – you can’t get a better endorsement than that! And yes, the Atari Lynx 2600 survived PAX Aus!

The Atari Lynx 2600 creator – Retro Revolutions’ Jarred Green

So what’s Jarred’s next creation? He tells us that he will have something just as unique and just as jaw-droppingly awesome as the Atari Lynx 2600. Perhaps we will see it at PAX Aus 2019? We honestly can’t wait!

You can follow Jarred’s awesome mod projects via his Retro Revolutions social platforms on Twitter and YouTube.

Watch the vid to see how the Atari Lynx 2600 evolved from idea to console!

source: Jarred Green, aka: Retro Revolutions 

The one off Atari Lynx 2600 is carefully packed and ready to be unleashed at PAX Aus 2018

The only place on the planet where the Atari Lynx 2600 could be played – in the Classic Gaming Area at PAX Aus!

The feature rich Atari Lynx 2600 – even the unique box takes centre stage!

Initial test is a success! Of course we were going to play our fave Lynx game first!

Getting in control!

Ready for PAX Aus 2018 action!

The players are starting to chase some high scores

 

Ted Dabney: The Passing of Atari’s Silent Co-Founder

Last week news broke that Atari’s Co-Founder, Ted Dabney had passed at age 81. We wouldn’t usually post this type of news on here as it has already been covered enough by the bigger online media outlets. However, we didn’t want Ted’s passing to go unnoticed by our readers, as Ted’s importance to the video gaming industry is equal to his contemporaries, like Nolan Bushnell.

Ted Dabney co-founded the tiny electronics company called Syzygy Engineering in 1971 (renamed Atari in 1972) with his more famous business partner Nolan Bushnell. Ted and Nolan had previously partnered to program Computer Space, the first coin-operated video game ever brought to market. Computer Space was produced at the Northern California trivia game maker Nutting Associates, named after its owner Bill Nutting.

image source: RePlay Magazine

At Atari, Ted played his part, along with designer Al Alcorn (and Bushnell, of course) in the design and production of Pong, the first “hit” TV game which ushered in the age of video gaming. If you have read Curt Vendel and Marty Goldberg’s Atari Inc: Business is Fun, you’d know the background to Ted leaving Atari (Ed: It wasn’t pretty nor fair to Ted). But Ted being Ted, he never harboured any ill will towards Atari and went on to work at electronics firms outside the coin-op business. Ted preferred a simple life to the limelight that Atari should have afforded him.

According to the Huffington Post, Ted died of the esophageal cancer he’d been fighting. He and wife Carolyn had spent part of his remaining years operating a grocery store up in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

May his legacy live on! Rest In Peace Ted Dabney.

 

Thrill Of The Chase: Retro Games Hunting In Brisbane

The Thrill Of The Chase feels great doesn’t it? That buzz you get never gets old!

A little while ago, we went retro games and vintage hunting in Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, aka: BrisVegas! So what did we find? Well, we found the Woolloongabba Antique Centre & Cafe before it moved and became the Camp Hill Antique Centre.

Luckily Ms Ausretrogamer was on the case (she found this place!), as she dug up and found a heap of gems I would have missed. Rather banging on about it all, we’ll let the photos do the talking. Enjoy!

If you intend on using any of the photos within this feature, please credit them back to this article – thank you.

 

WIN: Atari Flashback 7 Classic Gaming Consoles

Attention peeps: We are giving away 2 x ATARI FLASHBACK® 7 CLASSIC GAMING CONSOLES!

Yep, you read that right, our good friends at Five Star Games have provided us two brand new Atari Flashback® 7 classic gaming consoles to giveaway to our awesome audience!

For your chance to win, head over to our Facebook giveaway and post your most retro gaming related photo in the comments section!

So what are you waiting for, go and snap your most retro gaming related pic and enter the giveaway for your chance to snag a cool console!

If you don’t know what the Atari Flashback® 7 classic game console is, then here is what you need to know:

The console features 101 built-in Atari 2600 games. These games include Frogger and Space Invaders, along with all-time Atari 2600 classics like Asteroids®, Centipede™Jungle Hunt, Missile Command®, and Pong, among many more. The console includes two wireless controllers, styled like the Atari 2600 originals, and two legacy (DB9) controller ports for optional wired joysticks or paddles for that nostalgic hit!

image source: Five Star Games

 

Atari VCS: Happy Anniversary!

Atari_VCS_TitleImagine it is September 11, 1977. If you were living in North America, you may have been lucky enough to receive the console that would transform the video games market forever – the Atari VCS (Video Computer System, later rebadged as the Atari 2600).

On this day (September 11) all those years ago, Atari made history by releasing their Atari VCS console, the first commercially successful home video gaming system. The video games market exploded with the VCS, and then imploded in the early 80s, but we won’t speak of the implosion here. Today is a day we celebrate the Atari VCS, that beautiful wood-veneer machine that brought many a joy at home, with families huddling around their TV in the lounge room to play Space Invaders and Pitfall.

I remember my first memory of the Atari VCS as if it were yesterday. My dad and I were walking along the local shopping strip when I stopped at the electronic retailer’s window TV display to be mesmirised by a little triangle shooting dots at flying rocks. The game was of course Asteroids, and I fell in love with the Atari VCS right then and there. I begged my dad to buy the console, but at $300AUD, the answer was always going to be no. Luckily for me, I had cousins that got the Atari VCS, so I liked visiting them even more than I used to. Ah, to be young again and enjoy the wonders of simple games. What were your first memories of the Atari VCS? – engage with us on Twitter or Facebook!

Well, with 30 million units sold worldwide and a long lifespan (games were being released for the VCS/2600 till 1992!), the Atari VCS built the foundation that latter consoles would stand on and make history for themselves. Happy anniversary, Atari VCS/2600!

Atari_playing

image sources: gamester81 and blacknerdproblems