Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
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Bronx, New York, United States of America
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December 13
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Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact nickleshi@aol.com for more info.

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Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 22, 2013 4:49PM

Atari Declares Bankruptcy

Rate: 12 Flag
The video game pioneer company Atari has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Some younger gamers today might be surprised that Atari is still around in any capacity, since its glory days are long gone, but today's home video game industry owes a lot to what Atari accomplished.  It was a big player in the golden age of arcade games and it introduced the home video game console to mainstream audiences.

Some consumers might naively laugh at the poor graphics of yesteryear's games, but Asteroids, Pacman, Frogger, Missile Command, Space Invaders, Pitfall, and others all revolutionized how games were played and set the foundation for future gaming systems. 

Atari has tried to stay alive for years, going through a number of rebranding efforts, testing new consoles and portable devices, and most importantly having different corporate owners. It was a property of Hasbro for a while and is currently owned by a French software publisher, formerly named Infogrames, now called Atari, SA. 

Does this bankruptcy move signal the death of a once venerable company, or is it a last ditch financial tactic for the brand to stay alive and find life elsewhere?  Video games are still a major force in entertainment, so I hope there is more to Atari's story still to be written.

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Nice post Nick,

I worked for Atari in Sunnyvale, CA many years ago for a couple of years. It was right after Nolan Bushnell sold his company to Warner Communications. Nolan went on to found Chuck E. Cheese and other enterprises.

Atari was the first major video game manufacturer in the world. Back then, we felt our products were invincible. Other companies like the Japanese startup, Nintendo, couldn’t hold a torch to the fast-action animation available in Atari’s “Asteroids” and “Missile Command.” This was also the time that Atari introduced its PC line. I still have my Atari 800 in my closet (could be worth something as an antique).

Anyway, thanks for the post. I actually thought they went under years ago.
Who could forget E.T for the Atari 2600!!! :D
Tinker,

Unfortunately, it was the E.T. video game cartridge that was a major part of the “Fall of Atari.” Up until the autumn of 1982, every game cartridge produced by Atari was completely sold out. In fact, Atari was operating under a situation of “supply constraint.” The Atari cartridge manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico couldn’t keep up with the demand.

In the fall of 1982, Atari senior management decided that they would “Blow all other competitors (the few that were there at the time) out of the water” by introducing the E.T. video game cartridge just before the Christmas season.

Steven Spielberg’s film was extremely popular. $Millions were paid to Spielberg for the video game rights. Having worked there at the time, I had the good fortune of meeting Steven during the spectacular “Kick-Off” celebrations.

Unfortunately, the E.T. video game cartridge failed. Not so much because of the quality of the animation, but because of the software engineering and distribution glitches that took place in the rush to get the cartridge to market.

As they say, the rest is history.
at least chuck e cheese lives on eh?
by the way pacman was not originally built by atari, although atari licensed it. was it namco? as I recall...
bought my 1st computer at about age 12 with paper route money. atari 800. the tape drives always failed, so my works of art would be lost. @#$%&. viva la atari. they were one of the 1st home computers to emphasize graphics and sound using specialized chips requiring specialized programming. awesome! I recall wondering if screen resolutions would get to be very high some day, ala moores law for chips. here we are with HD, back in the day we were lucky to get something like 320x200 with a few colors. 48k ram. those were the days.... not coincidentally it came out around the time of "tron" v1.... thanks for takin me back.
oh and the old games will live on forever in emulators like MAME. early works of art.
uzn,

You’re right, PacMan was originally licensed from Namco (for pennies). You’re also right that the Atari Computer Division was the first to emphasize graphics and sound in personal computers.

Do you still have your Atari 800?
I could never help ET phone home :-(
started playing with the original 'pong'.......64 and still play today.....great alternative to the "real world"....good post
Thanks all for reading and posting. And wow, an "Editor's Pick." Feels like the good ol' days!
yeah SR the atari computers were basically optimized to be game systems-- very much ahead of their time in this age of the xbox, ps3, nintendo wii.. there were some business-oriented reviews at the time that laughed at them for this reason, but the zillion dollar game industry (now exceeding box office receipts, and inconceivable at that time) is certainly having the last laugh.

sold the atari 800 in late 90s or so on ebay for only about $100 at the time!! it cost around $800 new. also, the prices had dropped substantially to almost half that in only a year or so after its introduction...
Maybe there is hope for my grand children, they play way to many games inside and nothing outside.
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I owned several Atari computers. They were all I could afford. I marveled at the ability to type something that didn't waste paper. In fact, I found a primitive write-it-yourself word processor program from an Atari computer magazine, and sent in a modified version of the program to add features like bold and italic text. The submission was rejected; one of my first lessons in the truth that writers would soon no longer be paid for creating anything, even bits of 6502 machine code.

Believe it or not, my old Atari 800 was stolen by thieves who broke into my house and held me at knifepoint. They stole my car and color TV as well, but stealing my only computer was a personal humiliation. They probably thought they could pawn it for more drugs or whores. For what it was worth in cash, they probably couldn't purchase a pleasant smile from a whore.

I wound up my time in "home computer land" by buying the Atari 130XE - a slicker, smaller version of the 800 - and putting in extra memory chips to create a virtual disk drive. A couple of years afterwards, I managed to get a small, cheap, black-and-white Macintosh, and the Atari basically wandered away.

Games weren't the most important part of my life, although I did play a few. Writing was the biggest joy. For a couple of local bulletin board systems, I contributed columns about the upcoming week in unusual TV shows and upcoming live concerts. Yes, they were kept up weekly, and for about two years.

I actually had delusions that putting together words, sentences and paragraphs in carefully crafted ways could change the world. That people might appreciate what I wrote, with both money and thanks. That writing and thought mattered. Well, we all grow up. Or some of us do; there are a lot of people on Open Salon and Real Salon who remain as stupid and blind as I used to be.
Neutron, I still have hope that writing (and reading and replying and engaging in dialogue) still matter. :)
Sadly, Mr. Leshi, they don't. Writing without readers is, well, masturbation. And there are no readers. With a ten percent literacy rate in America, as opposed to the 60 percent in the 70's, it's unlikely anything you or I or anyone else writes will be noticed, let alone understood. And therefore, won't even be appreciated, let alone paid for.
Ahh, are you referring to writing as a profession? Getting paid for your writing, people buying books, the profitability of the publishing business etc. is one way to look at it. But from my own personal anecdotal evidence alone, people are reading and writing for pleasure more than ever before.

Literacy dropped during the proliferation of the visual and aural media of radio, movies, and television, when the written word was superceded by the image.

Now, with the emergence of so-called "New Media," I support the notion that we're witnessing the emergence of a "New Literacy." This is of course different from the biases of the print culture, for good and bad. Those pros and cons are really based on cultural determination. The question becomes: better in what sense, for whose purposes, and as various contemporary critics would immediately ask, for whose economic benefit?