'atari' Episodes

In The Beginning... There Was Pong


Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Today we’re going to look at Pong. In the beginning there was Pong. And it was glorious! Just think of the bell bottoms at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California on November 29th 1972. The first Pong they built was just a $75 black and white tv from a Walgreens and some cheap parts. The cabinet wasn’t even that fancy. And after that night, the gaming industry was born. It started with people starting to show up and play the game. They ended up waiting for the joint to open, not drinking, and just gaming the whole time. The bartender had never seen anything like it. I mean, just a dot being knocked around a screen. But it was social. You had to have two players. There was no machine learning to play the other side yet. Pretty much the same thing as real ping pong. And so Pong was released by Atari in 1972. It reminded me of air hockey the first time I saw it. You bounced a ball off a wall and tried to get it past the opponent using paddles. It never gets old. Ever. That’s probably why of all the Atari games at the arcade, more quarters got put into it than any. The machines were sold for three times the cost to produce them; unheard of at the time. The game got popular, that within a year, the company had sold 2,500 , which they tripled in 1974. I wasn’t born yet. But I remember my dad telling me that they didn’t have a color tv yet in 72. They’d manufactured the games in an old skate rink. And they were cheap because with the game needing so few resources they pulled it off without a CPU. But what about the code? It was written by Al Alcorn as a training exercise that Nolan Bushnell gave him after he was hired at Atari. He was a pretty good hire. It was supposed to be so easy a kid could play it. I mean, it was so easy a kid could play it. Bushnell would go down as the co-creator of Pong. Although maybe Ralph Baer should have as well, given that Bushnell tested his table tennis game at a trade show the same year he had Alcorn write Pong. Baer had gotten the idea of building video games while working on military systems at a few different electronics companies in the 50s and even patented a device called the Brown Box in 1973, which was filed in 1971 prior to licensing it to Magnavox to become the Odyssey. Tennis for Two had been made available in 1958. Spacewar! had popped up in 1962 , thanks to MIT’s Steven “Slug” Russel’s being teased until he finished it. It was initially written on the TX-0 and was ported to the PDP, slowly making its way across the world as the PDP was shipping. Alan Kotok had whipped up some sweet controllers, but it could be played with just the keyboard as well. No revolution seemed in sight yet as it was really just shipping to academic institutions. And to very large companies. The video game revolution was itching to get out. People were obsessed with space at the time. Space was all over science fiction, there was a space race being won by the United States, and so Spacewar gave way to Computer Space, the first arcade game to ship, in 1971, modeled after Spacewar!. But as an early coin operated video game it was a bit too complicated. As was Galaxy Game, whipped up in 1971 by Bushnell and cofounder Ted Dabney, who’s worked together at Ampex. They initially called their company Syzygy Engineering but as can happen, there was a conflict on that trademark and they changed the name to Atari. Atari had programmed Galaxy Game, but it was built and distributed by Nutting Associates. It was complex and needed a fair amount of instructions to get used to it. Pong on the other hand needed no instructions. A dot bounced from you to a friend and you tried to get it past the other player. Air hockey. Ping pong. Ice hockey. Football. It just kinda’ made sense. You bounced the dot off a paddle. The center of each returned your dot at a regular 90 degree angle and the further out you got, the smaller that angle. The ball got faster the longer the game went on. I mean, you wanna’ make more quarters, right?!?! Actually that was a bug, but one you like. They added sound effects. They spent three months. It was glorious and while Al Alcorn has done plenty of great stuff in his time in the industry I doubt many have been filled with the raw creativity he got to display during those months. It was a runaway success. There were clones of Pong. Coleco released Telestar and Nintendo came out with Color TV Game 6. In fact, General Instruments just straight up cloned the chip. Something else happened in 1972. The Magnavox Odyssey shipped and was the first console with interchangeable dice. After Pong, Atari had pumped out Gotcha, Rebound, and Space Race. They were finding success in the market. Then Sears called. They wanted to sell Pong in the home. Atari agreed. They actually outsold the Odyssey when they finally made the single-game console. Magnavox sued, claiming the concept had been stolen. They settled for $700k. Why would they settle? Well, they could actual prove that they’d written the game first and make a connection for where Atari got the idea from them. The good, the bad, and the ugly of intellectual property is that the laws exist for a reason. Baer beat Atari to the punch, but he’d go on to co-develop Simon says. All of his prototypes now live at the Smithsonian. But back to Pong. The home version of pong was released in 1974 and started showing up in homes in 1975, especially after the Christmas buying season in 1975. It was a hit, well on its way to becoming iconic. Two years later, Atari released the iconic Atari 2600, which had initially been called the VCS. This thing was $200 and came with a couple of joysticks, a couple of paddles, and a game called Combat. Suddenly games were showing up in homes all over the world. They needed more money to make money and Bushnell sold the company. Apple would become one of the fastest growing companies in US History with their release of the Apple II, making Steve Jobs a quarter of a billion dollars in 1970s money. But Atari ended up selling of units and becoming THE fastest growing company in US history at the time. There were sequels to Pong but by the time Breakout and other games came along, you really didn’t need them. I mean, pin-pong? Pong Doubles was fine but , Super Pong, Ultra Pong, and Quadrapong, never should have happened. That’s cool though. Other games definitely needed to happen. Pac Man became popular and given it wasn’t just a dot but a dot with a slice taken out for a mouth, it ended up on the cover of Time in 1982. A lot of other companies were trying to build stuff, but Atari seemed to rule the world. These things have a pretty limited life-span. The video game crash of 1983 caused Atari to lose half a billion dollars. The stock price fell. At an important time in computers and gaming, they took too long to release the next model, the 5200. It was a disaster. Then the Nintendo arrived in some parts of the world in 1983 and took the US by storm in 1985. Atari went into a long decline that was an almost unstoppable downward spiral in a way. That was sad to watch. I’m sure it was sadder to be a part of. it was even sadder when I studied corporate mergers in college. I’m sure that was even sadder to be a part of as well. Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, the founders of Atari, wanted a hit coin operated game. They got it. But they got way more than they bargained for. They were able to parlay Pong into a short lived empire. Here’s the thing. Pong wasn’t the best game ever made. It wasn’t an original Bushnell idea. It wasn’t even IP they could keep anyone else from cloning. But It was the first successful video game and helped fund the development of the VCS, or 2600, that would bring home video game consoles into the mainstream, including my house. And the video game industry would later eclipse the movie industry. But the most important thing pong did was to show regular humans that microchips were for more than… computing. Ironically the game didn’t even need real microchips. The developers would all go on to do fun things. Bushnell founded Chuck E. Cheese with some of his cresis-mode cash. Once it was clear that the Atari consoles were done you could get iterations of Pong for the Sega Genesis, the Playstation, and even the Nintendo DS. It’s floated around the computer world in various forms for a long, long time. The game is simple. The game is loved. Every time I see it I can’t help but think about bell bottoms. It launched industries. And we’re lucky to have had it. Just like I’m lucky to have had you as a listener today. Thank you so much for choosing to spend some time with us. We’re so lucky to have you.

The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Curt Vendel & Dennis Harkins



On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast: an interview with Curt Vendel, Atari historian and co-author of “Atari, Inc: Business Is Fun” … and  an interview with Dennis Harkins, author of the APX program Message Display Program … and how a pack of bubble gum led to life with an Atari and a career in computers.


Links mentioned in this episode:


Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”


New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge


What We’ve Been Up To

"Compute's Atari Collection Volume 1"

"CoCo: The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer" by Boisy G Pitre and Bill Loguidice

“Sophistication and Simplicity, The Life and Times of the Apple II Computer” by Steven Weyhrich



Vintage Computer Festival Southeast (VCFSE) 2.0

Intellivisionaries Podcast

Movie Musical Madness

Kevin's black metal 850 interface

"A Mind Forever Voyaging - a history of storytelling in video games"

Atari User Magazine

Kevin's Atari 400/800 Posters



VCF East 9.1

Atari Gamer Magazine

Atari Gamer Promotion on YouTube

30th Anniversary Edition of Boulder Dash

TapStar Interactive

Terry Stewart (Tez) HD remake  of Atari 400 Video on YouTube

Band Of Outsiders Atari Clothing Article

Band of Outsiders Website

Atari 800 mentioned on Colbert Report Video

Atari 800 on Colbert Report Discussion on AtariAge

Google and YouTube Atari Easter Eggs

Learning Curve programming articles

Learning Curve Discussion on AtariAge

Nolan Bushnell interview

NOMAM 2014 programming contest for 10 line games

Bill Kendrick - Paddleship Entry for NOMAM

Archive.org Computer Magazines

Archive.org Computer Newsletters

Archive.org Game Magazines

Archive.org Manuals

Archive.org The Business Case: Applications and Programs for the Home Office




Atari Encyclopedia

History of Atari Computers from CIO Magazine

Bits of the Past store


Interview - Curt Vendel

Atari Museum

Atari History Book Website

“Atari Inc.: Business is Fun (Volume I)” by Curt Vendel, Marty Goldberg at Amazon


Interview - Dennis Harkins

Unedited Dennis Harkins Interview



Taste My Beeper 1-bit GTIA Music

Mash-up of the Beastie Boys and the music from Ballblazer


The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Chris Crawford



In this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast, an interview with Chris Crawford, author of Eastern Front 1941; we rescue Atari hardware and TI 99/4a hardware; we find a new source for reliable Atari power supplies; and we take a look at an Atari emulator that works in your web browser.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

Atlanta Historical Computing Society

Vintage Computer Festival MW 8.0

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge

Atari vintage commercial at YouTube

Phoenix Art Museum - Art of Video Games Exhibit

Commodore Computer Club

New book projects announced

Chris Crawford Eastern Front Source Code and More

Follow-up to Atari Bankruptcy Saga

JSMESS Atari Emulation in a Browser

4MB Flash MegaCart Web Site

4MB Flash MegaCart Discussion on AtariAge

Atari Party 2013 Pictures

More Atari Party 2013 Pictures

Atari Computer USB Power Adapter Cable on eBay

Atari Computer Replacement Power Supply on eBay

Atari Computer Power Supply Discussion on AtariAge

GTIABlast! Demo Site

GTIABlast! GTIA Mode 10 Video on YouTube

GTIABlast! GTIA Mode 11 Video on YouTube

Atari Software Competition 2013 Web site

Atari Software Competition 2013 Discussion on AtariAge

Atari Box Art Article on The Verge

Atari User Magazine Site

Atari User Magazine at Magcloud

Atari User Magazine at Lulu

Starring the Computer

B&C ComputerVision

Atari Legacy Group on LinkedIn

Full Chris Crawford Interview






The Atari 8-bit Podcast - JD Casten & Steve Wilds



On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast: an interview with JD Casten, Antic magazine’s prolific game author, an interview with Steve Wilds, editor of Atari User Magazine … and lots of retrogaming news and reviews.


Links mentioned in this episode:


Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge


What We’ve Been Up To


Turbo-BASIC XL at Page6.org

Turbo-BASIC XL Expanded Documentation

More Turbo-BASIC XL Information


Retro Gamer Magazine

Vintage Computer Festival Southeast (VCFSE) 2.0



VCF East 9.1

Seattle Retro Gaming Expo

Classic Gaming Expo

Portland Retro Gaming Expo

Retro Gamer Magazine picks top 10 Atari 8-bit games

Floppy Bird Article

Floppy Bird Download

Stampede Article

Stampede Download

Perplexity Article

Perplexity Download

Retro Gaming Magazine

Nolan Bushnell Article on using Games to Teach

Atari Dump Dig Update

Tablet-Friendly Revamp for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

“Vintage Game Consoles: An Inside Look at Apple, Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, and the Greatest Gaming Platforms of All Time” by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton

TitanFall Arcade

Discussion on AtariAge about Buying Atari

Archive.org BusinessCase


Software of the Month

Synapse Software Syn Business Application Series


Hardware of the Month

Atari XE Game System (XEGS)


Website of the Month

Atari Museum

Facebook Page for Atari Museum


Interview - JD Casten

JD Casten Website


Interview - Steve Wilds

Atari User Magazine


The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Gray Chang & Jonathan Halliday


On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit PODCAST: We delve into the SIDE2 compact flash interface, look at arcade games ported to the 8-bits, discuss another  new atari podcast,  and interviews with Gray Chang -- author of Claim Jumper -- and Jonathan Halliday, creator of the new Atari GUI.


Links mentioned in this episode:


Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge


What We’ve Been Up To

VCF Midwest 9.0

Jim Brain Retro Innovations

iTalk II Video on YouTube

Atari 800 with Encore Video Productions Info Display System

Covox VoiceMaster Video on YouTube



Atlanta Maker Faire




Retro Gamer Magazine

New Atari 8-bit Podcast Inverse Atascii

Mini Atari 800XL with Atari 1050 disk drive (3D printed) at MakerBot

Mini Atari 800XL with Atari 1050 disk drive (3D printed) Blog

Mini Atari 400 (3D printed) at MakerBot

Mini Atari 400 (3D printed) Blog

ABBUC 2014 Hardware contest entries

SIO2BT (SIO to Bluetooth) at YouTube

SIO2BT Discussion at AtariAge

New keyboard interface for Atari 8-bit

WUDSN Atari 8-bit cross-compiling

New Cover for the 2nd Edition of Atari Inc. - Business Is Fun

Nolan Bushnell Reddit AMA

Atari User Magazine

HTML5 version of the classic Star Raiders that runs in your browser 


Bill’s Modern Segment

Asteroids Emulator at AtariMania

Norbert's Emulators page: Asteroids Emulator for the Atari 800XL

YouTube: Asteroids emulator on the Atari 800XL

Pac-Man Arcade Orders at AtariAge

AtariAge Forum: "Pac-man Update for Atari 8-bit"

The Pac-Man Dossier


Software of the Month



Hardware of the Month



Website of the Month

Lotharek’s Lair



McDonald’s Atari Commercial

AtariBBS by Thom Cherryhomes

AtariBBS ATA and ASC welcome screens

AtariBBS BBSConf status

AtariBBS User Module

AtariBBS filemenu functionality

AtariBBS flatmsg board functionality 


Interview - Gray Chang

Gray Chang Website

another interview with Gray

archive.org full version

Download APX programs


Interview - Jonathan Halliday

GUI Videos

Jonathan’s Website





The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Live from VCFSE 2.0!



On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit podcast, we broadcast live from Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2.0, interview attendees with Atari stories, find out who's going to win the grand prize for the quiz show (hint: It's someone you may know!), and answer questions from the audience.  Come join us for the most fun-packed show we've had yet!  READY

Links mentioned in this episode:

Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge


Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2.0
Serge's Boxed Atari Collection

The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Darren Doyle & Michael Current


On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast: Randy does a horrible impersonation of Rod Serling, we talk with Darren Doyle of Atari Gamer Magazine, have a discussion with Michael Current of the Atari 8-bit FAQ AND give you the scoop on Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2.0. Also Kevin gives excuses about why his alien voice box isn’t working...still.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge


What We’ve Been Up To

VCF Southeast 2.0

VCFSE 2.0 Kickstarter

The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga by Jimmy Maher

Finding The Next Steve Jobs by Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone

The Making of Karateka: Journals 1982-1985 by Jordan Mechner

Kevin's 10-line Contest Entry: Abduction

Kevin's 10-line Contest Entry: Joy Joy Revolution

CoCoFest 2014

Atari 5200 Information on WikiPedia




The Art of Atari: From Pixels to Paintbrush

City Updates Agreement for Atari Dump Dig

Retro Gamer Magazine
Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo

Classic Console & Arcade Gaming Show 2014

Video Game Summit

High Score Club (HSC) on AtariAge  - 11th season

Article: Learn more about the legends of game design from GDC 1997

Video: Learn more about the legends of game design from GDC 1997

New ACUSOL language being developed for the Atari 8-bit, discussion on AtariAge

Action! Language for the Atari

Atari Casino

More Atari Casino

Bushnell could have been rich!

ColecoVisions Podcast Forum

Colecovisions Podcast Show Notes

Dennis Harkins Atari Papers

Archive.org - MicroTimes magazine

Atari 800 on v1n1 - interview with FreeFall (archon)’s creators Jon Freeman and Anne Westfall

BBS land

Atari 520 ST First Impressions, Preview of Amiga

Br0derbund software interview

Mindset computer


Website of the Month

Atari Mail Archive


Software of the Month (Software Automatic Mouth, SAM)

SAM Manual, disk image, and MP3s

SAM Online simulator

SAM Creator SoftVoice



Hardware of the Month (VoiceBox Speech Synthesizer by The Alien Group)

Ad for VoiceBox

AtariAge discussion


Listener Feedback

Ten Pence Arcade Podcast

Atari Technical Information Maintained by Dan


Interview - Darren Doyle

Atari Gamer Magazine

Homebrew Heroes Magazine


Interview - Michael Current

Unedited version of the interview (1 hour)

Michael current’s web site

Atari 8-Bit Computers: Frequently Asked Questions

Atari 8-Bit Computers: Vendors and Developers list

Welcome to comp.sys.atari.8bit!

Atari History Timelines

St. Paul Atari Computer Enthusiasts (SPACE)

The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Disks & Paul Nurminen


On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast: we delve into the mystery of floppy drives, talk with Paul Nurminen about his love of Atari, and rescue adventure games off of cassette tape.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge



atari.org Tape Preservation Project

cassette discussion on atariage

Altirra emulator

Atari800Win-Plus emulator

Adventure Creator

War Games magazine research

"CoCo: The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer" by Boisy G Pitre and Bill Loguidice

"Vintage Game Consoles: An Inside Look at Apple, Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, and the Greatest Gaming Platforms of All Time" by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton

"Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time" by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton

Audio on a Record

Atari800MacX emulator

Vintage Computer Festival Southeast (VCFSE) 2.0

Vintage Computer Festivals


Atlanta Science Festival


Atari Roots” by Mark Andrews

Atari BASIC Source Book” by Bill Wilkinson

Sophistication and Simplicity, The Life and Times of the Apple II Computer” by Steven Weyhrich

Atari Pool disks

Intellivisionaries Podcast

Paul Nurminen's Website with Atari programs

B&C ComputerVisions


Atari Dump Hunt on hold

More Atari Dump

Atari Chapter 11 News

VI for SpartaDOS

Revival Mini

Revival Survival! Kickstarter

Homebrew Heroes Magazine

New Fandal Site

Atari Blast! update

Incognito Board

Incognito Board Third Run

30 Years Later, One Man Is Still Trying To Fix Video Games” article on Chris Crawford


New 7800 Stuff at archive.org

Vintage Volts Podcast

Atari Gamer Magazine


Running the Atari800 emulator on the Raspberry Pi


Atari BBS’s via telnet

The Atari 8-Bit Podcast - Intro


On this first episode of ANTIC: The Atari 8-bit Podcast -- we talk about the first Atari to be installed on a Navy submarine, two recent books about the Atari computers --- are there really millions of ET carts buried in a landfill in New Mexico?, and which Atari computer is the prettiest? All that and more!

Links mentioned in the show:

Floppy Days Podcast

Atari Magazines

Atari Archives

Terrible Nerd

Atari Dump

More Atari Dump

Atari Dump Interview

Rapidus Accelerator Board

Book - Atari Inc.: Business is Fun

Electronic Games Magazine

Book - Atari 40th Anniversary Special




The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Kieren Hawken & Dale Yocum


On this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit codpast: interviews with atari author and enthusiast Kieren Hawken; and Dale Yocum, the guy who thought up Atari Program Exchange. And Bill kendrick complains and ends up with his own segment, reviewing Space harrier. . . And we don’t talk about the Atari Dump Dig.


Links mentioned in this episode:


Recurring Links

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge


What We’ve Been Up To

Maker Faire Atlanta




Briel Computers

Ten Pence Arcade


Pro(c) Magazine -Euro 5,00 / World incl. postage. Payment by PayPal to 8bit@proc-atari.de



Nolan Bushnell interview on Retro Obscura - Discussion on AtariAge

Nolan Bushnell interview on Retro Obscura

Dump Dig movie trailer. movie to be titled “Atari: Game Over”

RetroChallenge 2014

RetroChallenge 2014 - Earl Evans’ entry

Atari SAP Music Archive

Classic Gaming Expo

VCF Midwest

Portland Retro Gaming Expo

Player/Missile Atari Podcast

Translating ATASCII text files to ASCII text files on AtariAge

"Invenies Verba" for Atari 8-bit by Bill Kendrick on YouTube

Archive.org Atari Emulator Screenshots


Bill Kendrick’s Modern Segment

Chris Hutt's website (Wayback Machine archive)
Chris Hutt's YouTube channel
Release announcement on AtariAge forums (with video and download link)
AtariMania entry


Software of the Month

Atari 800 Best Game Pack


Hardware of the Month

Atari-styled USB Joystick


Website of the Month

Once Upon Atari



Listener Feedback

James Hague’s DaisyPop iPhone Game on iTunes

Computer Art and Animation: A User's Guide to Atari LOGO



Interview - Kieren Hawken

Retro Video Gamer

Homebrew Heroes

Revival Retro Event

ROM Retro Event

Retro Gamer Magazine

Atari User

Nolan Bushnell Interview by Kieren on YouTube


Interview - Dale Yocum

Unedited version of Interview at Archive.org



Atari Tape Music


The Atari 8-bit Podcast - Xmas & Mike Albaugh



In this episode of Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast, our Holiday Gift guide (for that Atari lover in your life, even if it’s you), an interview with the man who created the Atari in-store demonstration cartridge, and reboots of two classic Atari games.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Recurring Links:

Floppy Days Podcast



Kevins Book “Terrible Nerd”

Atlanta Historical Computing Society

New Atari books scans at archive.org

ANTIC feedback at AtariAge



AtariMax MyIDE II Compact Flash Interface

Lotharek’s SIDE 2 Compact Flash Interface

Master Memory Map for the Atari 400/800 Computer Book

AspeQt Atari Serial Peripheral Emulator Software

AspeQt Discusson on AtariAge


Kevin’s ABBUC 2013 Contest Video on YouTube



M.U.L.E. Returns Comes to IOS

M.U.L.E. Returns Review on Pocket Tactics

M.U.L.E. on Wikipedia

Jumpman on Wikipedia

Custom Atari Action Figures

Silly Venture 2013 Party

Download Software from Silly Venture

Bits of the Past

Pong Played on Philly Skyscraper

Forbes Article on Nolan Bushnell

Book “Finding the Next Steve Jobs” at Amazon

Epyx “Summer Games” to Soviets

Atari Videodisc Kiosk

Jumpman Forever Kickstarter

Jumpman Forever Article



Intellivisionaries Podcast Website


Special Topic – Christmas Recommendations:

Atari-style USB Joystick

Atari Tshirt

Atari Christmas Ornament

Custom Dust Cover for the Atari 400

Lost Treasures of Infocom for iPhone/iPad

Atari 800 READY prompt t-shirt

AtariUser Magazine

Atari Business Is Fun Book

Best Electronics Gift Certificate

400 / 800 32K RAM Card

Atari Joystick Art from FrameAPatent



SIO2SD Interface



2600 Connection

Atari 8-bit Computers FAQ

Best Podcast Discussion at AtariAge

Atari 810 Disk Drive Promo at YouTube


Special Topic – Interview with Mike Albaugh:

Mike Albaugh Complete Unedited Interview

Kevin Shows In-Store Demo

Another Interesting Interview with Mike Albaugh



Electric Ping-Pong


Sometimes an idea is so good it keeps showing up. Electronic ping-pong games are one of those ideas. The game was independently invented at least twice, in 1958 and then in 1966. But, here's the thing, PONG didn't come around until the 70s. What were theses earlier tennis games? Did Atari steel the idea for their first hit? Today we go on an analog journey to find some answers.

Like the show? Then why not head over and support me on Patreon. Perks include early access to future episodes, and bonus content: https://www.patreon.com/adventofcomputing

The Laws And Court Cases That Shaped The Software Industry


The largest global power during the rise of intellectual property was England, so the world adopted her philosophies. The US had the same impact on software law.

Most case law that shaped the software industry is based on copyright law. Our first real software laws appeared in the 1970s and now have 50 years of jurisprudence to help guide us. This episode looks at the laws, supreme court cases, and some circuit appeals cases that shaped the software industry.


In our previous episode we went through a brief review of how the modern intellectual property laws came to be. Patent laws flowed from inventors in Venice in the 1400s, royals gave privileges to own a monopoly to inventors throughout the rest of Europe over the next couple of centuries, transferred to panels and academies during and after the Age of Revolutions, and slowly matured for each industry as technology progressed. 

Copyright laws formed similarly, although they were a little behind patent laws due to the fact that they weren’t really necessary until we got the printing press. But when it came to data on a device, we had a case in 1908 we covered in the previous episode that led Congress to enact the 1909 Copyright Act. 

Mechanical music boxes evolved into mechanical forms of data storage and computing evolved from mechanical to digital. Following World War II there was an explosion in new technologies, with those in computing funded heavily by US government. Or at least, until we got ourselves tangled up in a very unpopular asymmetrical war in Vietnam. The Mansfield Amendment of 1969, was a small bill in the 1970 Military Authorization Act that ended the US military from funding research that didn’t have a direct relationship to a specific military function. Money could still flow from ARPA into a program like the ARPAnet because we wanted to keep those missiles flying in case of nuclear war. But over time the impact was that a lot of those dollars the military had pumped into computing to help develop the underlying basic sciences behind things like radar and digital computing was about to dry up. This is a turning point: it was time to take the computing industry commercial. And that means lawyers.

And so we got the first laws pertaining to software shortly after the software industry emerged from more and more custom requirements for these mainframes and then minicomputers and the growing collection of computer programmers. The Copyright Act of 1976 was the first major overhaul to the copyright laws since the 1909 Copyright Act. Since then, the US had become a true world power and much as the rest of the world followed the British laws from the Statute of Anne in 1709 as a template for copyright protections, the world looked on as the US developed their laws. Many nations had joined the Berne Convention for international copyright protections, but the publishing industry had exploded. We had magazines, so many newspapers, so many book publishers. And we had this whole weird new thing to deal with: software. 

Congress didn’t explicitly protect software in the Copyright Act of 1976. But did add cards and tape as mediums and Congress knew this was an exploding new thing that would work itself out in the courts if they didn’t step in. And of course executives from the new software industry were asking their representatives to get in front of things rather than have the unpredictable courts adjudicate a weird copyright mess in places where technology meets copy protection. So in section 117, Congress appointed the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works, or CONTU) to provide a report about software and added a placeholder in the act that empaneled them.

CONTU held hearings. They went beyond just software as there was another newish technology changing the world: photocopying. They presented their findings in 1978 and recommended we define a computer program as a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result. They also recommended that copies be allowed if required to use the program and that those be destroyed when the user no longer has rights to the software. This is important because this is an era where we could write software into memory or start installing compiled code onto a computer and then hand the media used to install it off to someone else. 

At the time the hobbyist industry was just about to evolve into the PC industry, but hard disks were years out for most of those machines. It was all about floppies. But up-market there was all kinds of storage and the righting was on the wall about what was about to come. Install software onto a computer, copy and sell the disk, move on. People would of course do that, but not legally. 

Companies could still sign away their copyright protections as part of a sales agreement but the right to copy was under the creator’s control. But things like End User License Agreements were still far away. Imagine how ludicrous the idea that a piece of software if a piece of software went bad that it could put a company out of business in the 1970s. That would come as we needed to protect liability and not just restrict the right to copy to those who, well, had the right to do so. Further, we hadn’t yet standardized on computer languages. And yet companies were building complicated logic to automate business and needed to be able to adapt works for other computers and so congress looked to provide that right at the direction of CONTU as well, if only to the company doing the customizations and not allowing the software to then be resold. These were all hashed out and put into law in 1980.

And that’s an important moment as suddenly the party who owned a copy was the rightful owner of a piece of software. Many of the provisions read as though we were dealing with book sellers selling a copy of a book, not dealing with the intricate details of the technology, but with technology those can change so quickly and those who make laws aren’t exactly technologists, so that’s to be expected. 

Source code versus compiled code also got tested. In 1982 Williams Electronics v Artic International explored a video game that was in a ROM (which is how games were distributed before disks and cassette tapes. Here, the Third Circuit weighed in on whether if the ROM was built into the machine, if it could be copied as it was utilitarian and therefore not covered under copyright. The source code was protected but what about what amounts to compiled code sitting on the ROM. They of course found that it was indeed protected. 

They again weighed in on Apple v Franklin in 1983. Here, Franklin Computer was cloning Apple computers and claimed it couldn’t clone the computer without copying what was in the ROMs, which at the time was a remedial version of what we think of as an operating system today.  Franklin claimed the OS was in fact a process or method of operation and Apple claimed it was novel. At the time the OS was converted to a binary language at runtime and that object code was a task called AppleSoft but it was still a program and thus still protected. One and two years later respectively, we got Mac OS 1 and Windows 1.

1986 saw Whelan Associates v Jaslow. Here, Elaine Whelan created a management system for a dental lab on the IBM Series One, in EDL. That was a minicomputer and when the personal computer came along she sued Jaslow because he took a BASIC version to market for the PC. He argued it was a different language and the set of commands was therefore different. But the programs looked structurally similar. She won, as while some literal elements were the same, “the copyrights of computer programs can be infringed even absent copying of the literal elements of the program.” This is where it’s simple to identify literal copying of software code when it’s done verbatim but difficult to identify non-literal copyright infringement. 

But this was all professional software. What about those silly video games all the kids wanted? Well, Atari applied for a copyright for one of their games, Breakout. Here, Register of Copyrights, Ralph Oman chose not to Register the copyright. And so Atari sued, winning in the appeal.

There were certainly other dental management packages on the market at the time. But the court found that “copyrights do not protect ideas – only expressions of ideas.” Many found fault with the decision and  the Second Circuit heard Computer Associates v Altai in 1992. Here, the court applied a three-step test of Abstraction-Filtration-Comparison to determine how similar products were and held that Altai's rewritten code did not meet the necessary requirements for copyright infringement.

There were other types of litigation surrounding the emerging digital sphere at the time as well. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act came along in 1986 and would be amended in 89, 94, 96, and 2001. Here, a number of criminal offenses were defined - not copyright but they have come up to criminalize activities that should have otherwise been copyright cases. And the Copyright Act of 1976 along with the CONTU findings were amended to cover the rental market came to be (much as happened with VHS tapes and Congress established provisions to cover that in 1990. Keep in mind that time sharing was just ending by then but we could rent video games over dial-up and of course VHS rentals were huge at the time.

Here’s a fun one, Atari infringed on Nintendo’s copyright by claiming they were a defendant in a case and applying to the Copyright Office to get a copy of the 10NES program so they could actually infringe on their copyright. They tried to claim they couldn’t infringe because they couldn’t make games unless they reverse engineered the systems. Atari lost that one. But Sega won a similar one soon thereafter because playing more games on a Sega was fair use. Sony tried to sue Connectix in a similar case where you booted the PlayStation console using a BIOS provided by Connectix. And again, that was reverse engineering for the sake of fair use of a PlayStation people payed for. Kinda’ like jailbreaking an iPhone, right? Yup, apps that help jailbreak, like Cydia, are legal on an iPhone. But Apple moves the cheese so much in terms of what’s required to make it work so far that it’s a bigger pain to jailbreak than it’s worth. Much better than suing everyone. 

Laws are created and then refined in the courts. MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer made it to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1993. This involved Eric Francis leaving MAI and joining Peak. He then loaded MAI’s diagnostics tools onto computers. MAI thought they should have a license per computer, but yet Peak used the same disk in multiple computers. The crucial change here was that the copy made, while ephemeral, was decided to be a copy of the software and so violated the copyright. We said we’d bring up that EULA though. In 1996, the Seventh Circuit found in ProCD v Zeidenberg, that the license preempted copyright thus allowing companies to use either copyright law or a license when seeking damages and giving lawyers yet another reason to answer any and all questions with “it depends.”

One thing was certain, the digital world was coming fast in those Clinton years. I mean, the White House would have a Gopher page and Yahoo! would be on display at his second inauguration. So in 1998 we got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Here, Congress added to Section 117 to allow for software copies if the software was required for maintenance of a computer. And yet software was still just a set of statements, like instructions in a book, that led the computer to a given result. The DMCA did have provisions to provide treatment to content providers and e-commerce providers. It also implemented two international treaties and provided remedies for anti-circumvention of copy-prevention systems since by then cracking was becoming a bigger thing. There was more packed in here. We got MAI Systems v Peak Computer reversed by law, refinement to how the Copyright Office works, modernizing audio and movie rights, and provisions to facilitate distance education. And of course the DMCA protected boat hull designs because, you know, might as well cram some stuff into a digital copyright act. 

In addition to the cases we covered earlier, we had Mazer v Stein, Dymow v Bolton, and even Computer Associates v Altai, which cemented the AFC method as the means most courts determine copyright protection as it extends to non-literal components such as dialogue and images. Time and time again, courts have weighed in on what fair use is because the boundaries are constantly shifting, in part due to technology, but also in part due to shifting business models. 

One of those shifting business models was ripping songs and movies. RealDVD got sued by the MPAA for allowing people to rip DVDs. YouTube would later get sued by Viacom but courts found no punitive damages could be awarded. Still, many online portals started to scan for and filter out works they could know were copy protected, especially given the rise of machine learning to aid in the process. But those were big, major companies at the time. IO Group, Inc sued Veoh for uploaded video content and the judge found Veoh was protected by safe harbor. 

Safe Harbor mostly refers to the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, or OCILLA for short, which shields online portals and internet service providers from copyright infringement. This would be separate from Section 230, which protects those same organizations from being sued for 3rd party content uploaded on their sites. That’s the law Trump wanted overturned during his final year in office but given that the EU has Directive 2000/31/EC, Australia has the Defamation Act of 2005, Italy has the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000, and lots of other countries like England and Germany have had courts find similarly, it is now part of being an Internet company. Although the future of “big tech” cases (and the damage many claim is being done to democracy) may find it refined or limited.

In 2016, Cisco sued Arista for allegedly copying the command line interfaces to manage switches. Cisco lost but had claimed more than $300 million in damages. Here, the existing Cisco command structure allowed Arista to recruit seasoned Cisco administrators to the cause. Cisco had done the mental modeling to evolve those commands for decades and it seemed like those commands would have been their intellectual property. But, Arista hadn’t copied the code. 

Then in 2017, in ZeniMax vs Oculus, ZeniMax wan a half billion dollar case against Oculus for copying their software architecture. 

And we continue to struggle with what copyright means as far as code goes. Just in 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in Google v Oracle America that using application programming interfaces (APIs) including representative source code can be transformative and fall within fair use, though did not rule if such APIs are copyrightable. I’m sure the CP/M team, who once practically owned the operating system market would have something to say about that after Microsoft swooped in with and recreated much of the work they had done. But that’s for another episode.

And traditional media cases continue. ABS Entertainment vs CBS looked at whether digitally remastering works extended copyright. BMG vs Cox Communications challenged peer-to-peer file-sharing in safe harbor cases (not to mention the whole Napster testifying before congress thing). You certainly can’t resell mp3 files the way you could drop off a few dozen CDs at Tower Records, right? Capitol Records vs ReDigi said nope. Perfect 10 v Amazon, Goldman v Breitbart, and so many more cases continued to narrow down who and how audio, images, text, and other works could have the right to copy restricted by creators. But sometimes it’s confusing. Dr. Seuss vs ComicMix found that merging Star Trek and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” was enough transformativeness to break the copyright of Dr Seuss, or was that the Fair Use Doctrine? Sometimes I find conflicting lines in opinions. Speaking of conflict…

Is the government immune from copyright? Allen v Cooper, Governor of North Carolina made it to the Supreme Court, where they applied blanket copyright protections. Now, this was a shipwreck case but extended to digital works and the Supreme Court seemed to begrudgingly find for the state, and looked to a law as remedy rather than awarding damages. In other words, the “digital Blackbeards” of a state could pirate software at will. Guess I won’t be writing any software for the state of North Carolina any time soon!

But what about content created by a state? Well, the state of Georgia makes various works available behind a paywall. That paywall might be run by a third party in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. So Public.Resource goes after anything where the edict of a government isn’t public domain. In other words, court decision, laws, and statutes should be free to all who wish to access them. The “government edicts doctrine” won in the end and so access to the laws of the nation continue to be free.

What about algorithms? That’s more patent territory when they are actually copyrightable, which is rare. Gottschalk v. Benson was denied a patent for a new way to convert binary-coded decimals to numerals while Diamond v Diehr saw an algorithm to run a rubber molding machine was patentable. And companies like Intel and Broadcom hold thousands of patents for microcode for chips.

What about the emergence of open source software and the laws surrounding social coding? We’ll get to the emergence of open source and the consequences in future episodes!

One final note, most have never heard of the names in early cases. Most have heard of the organizations listed in later cases. Settling issues in the courts has gotten really, really expensive. And it doesn’t always go the way we want. So these days, whether it’s Apple v Samsung or other tech giants, the law seems to be reserved for those who can pay for it. Sure, there’s the Erin Brockovich cases of the world. And lady justice is still blind. We can still represent ourselves, case and notes are free. But money can win cases by having attorneys with deep knowledge (which doesn’t come cheap). And these cases drag on for years and given the startup assembly line often halts with pending legal actions, not many can withstand the latency incurred. This isn’t a “big tech is evil” comment as much as “I see it and don’t know a better rubric but it’s still a thing” kinda’ comment.

Here’s something better that we’d love to have a listener take away from this episode. Technology is always changing. Laws usually lag behind technology change as (like us) they’re reactive to innovation. When those changes come, there is opportunity. Not only has the technological advancement gotten substantial enough to warrant lawmaker time, but the changes often create new gaps in markets that new entrants can leverage. Either leaders in markets adapt quickly or see those upstarts swoop in, having no technical debt and being able to pivot faster than those who previously might have enjoyed a first user advantage. What laws are out there being hashed out, just waiting to disrupt some part of the software market today?

Our Friend, The Commodore Amiga


Jay Miner was born in 1932 in Arizona. He got his Bachelor of Science at the University of California at Berkeley and helped design calculators that used the fancy new MOS chips where he cut his teeth doing microprocessor design, which put him working on the MOS 6500 series chips.

Atari decided to use those in the VCS gaming console and so he ended up going to work for Atari. Things were fine under Bushnell but once he was off to do Chuck E Cheese and Time-Warner was running Atari things started to change. There he worked on chip designs that would go into the Atari 400 and 800 computers, which were finally released in 1979. But by then, Miner was gone after he couldn’t get in step with the direction Atari was taking. So he floated around for a hot minute doing chip design for other companies until Larry Kaplan called.

Kaplan had been at Atari and founded Activision in 1979. He had half a dozen games under his belt by then, but was ready for something different by 1982. He and Doug Neubauer saw the Nintendo NES was still using the MOS 6502 core, although now a Ricoh 2A03. They knew they could do better. Miner’s company didn’t want in on it, so they struck out on their own.

Together they started a company called Hi-Toro, which they quickly renamed to Amiga. They originally wanted to build a new game console based on the Motorola 68000 chips, which were falling in price. They’d seen what Apple could do with the MOS 6502 chips and what Tandy did with the Z-80. These new chips were faster and had more options. Everyone knew Apple was working on the Lisa using the chips and they were slowly coming down in price.

They pulled in $6 million in funding and started to build a game console, codenamed Lorraine. But to get cash flow, they worked on joysticks and various input devices for other gaming platforms. But development was expensive and they were burning through cash. So they went to Atari and signed a contract to give them exclusive access to the chips they were creating. And of course, then came the video game crash of 1983. Amazing timing.

That created a shakeup around the industry. Jack Tramiel was out at Commodore, the company he founded originally to create calculators at the dawn of MOS chip technology. And Tramiel bought Atari from Time Warner. The console they were supposed to give Atari wasn’t done yet. Meanwhile Tramiel had cut most of the Atari team and was bringing in his trusted people from Commodore, so seeing they’d have to contend with a titan like Tramiel, the team at Amiga went looking for investors. That’s when Commodore bought Amiga to become their new technical team and next thing you know, Tramiel sues Commodore and that drags on from 1983 to 1987.

Meanwhile, the nerds worked away. And by CES of 1984 they were able to show off the power of the graphics with a complex animation of a ball spinning and bouncing and shadows rendered on the ball. Even if the OS wasn’t quite done yet, there was a buzz. By 1985, they announced The Amiga from Commodore - what we now know as the Amiga 1000. The computer was prone to crash, they had very little marketing behind them, but they were getting sales into the high thousands per month.

Not only was Amiga competing with the rest of the computer industry, but they were competing with the PET and VIC-20, which Commodore was still selling. So they finally killed off those lines and created a strategy where they would produce a high end machine and a low end machine. These would become the Amiga 2000 and 500. Then the Amiga 3000 and 500 Plus, and finally the 4000 and 1200 lines. The original chips evolved into the ECS then AGA chipsets but after selling nearly 5,000,000 machines, they just couldn’t keep up with missteps from Commodore after Irving Gould outside yet another CEO.

But those Amiga machines. They were powerful and some of the first machines that could truly crunch the graphics and audio. And those higher end markets responded with tooling built specifically for the Amiga. Artists like Andy Warhol flocked to the platform. We got LightWave used on shows like Max Headroom. I can still remember that Money For Nothing video from Dire Straits. And who could forget Dev. The graphics might not have aged well but they were cutting edge at the time.

When I toured colleges in that era, nearly every art department had a lab of Amigas doing amazing things. And while artists like Calvin Harris might have started out on an Amiga, many slowly moved to the Mac over the ensuing years. Commodore had emerged from a race to the bottom in price and bought themselves a few years in the wake of Jack Tramiel’s exit. But the platform wars were raging with Microsoft DOS and then Windows rising out of the ashes of the IBM PC and IBM-compatible clone makers were standardizing. Yet Amiga stuck with the Motorola chips, even as Apple was first in line to buy them from the assembly line.

Amiga had designed many of their own chips and couldn’t compete with the clone makers at the lower end of the market or the Mac at the higher end. Nor the specialty systems running variants of Unix that were also on the rise. And while the platform had promised to sell a lot of games, the sales were a fourth or less of the other platforms and so game makers slowly stopped porting to the Amiga.

They even tried to build early set-top machines, with the CDTV model, which they thought would help them merge the coming set-top television control and the game market using CD-based games. They saw MPEG coming but just couldn’t cash in on the market. We were entering into an era of computing where it was becoming clear that the platform that could attract the most software titles would be the most popular, despite the great chipsets.

The operating system had started slow. Amiga had a preemptive multitasking kernel and the first version looked like a DOS windowing screen when it showed up iii 1985. Unlike the Mac or Windows 1 it had a blue background with oranges interspersed. It wasn’t awesome but it did the trick for a bit. But Workbench 2 was released for the Amiga 3000. They didn’t have a lot of APIs so developers were often having to write their own tools where other operating systems gave them APIs. It was far more object-oriented than many of its competitors at the time though, and even gave support for multiple languages and hypertext schemes and browsers. Workbench 3 came in 1992, along with the A4000. There were some spiffy updates but by then there were less and less people working on the project. And the tech debt piled up. Like a lack of memory protection in the Exec kernel meant any old task could crash the operating system.

By then, Miner was long gone. He again clashed with management at the company he founded, which had been purchased. Without the technical geniuses around, as happens with many companies when the founders move on, they seemed almost listless. They famously only built features people asked for. Unlike Apple, who guided the industry. Miner passed away in 1994.

Less than two years later, Commodore went bankrupt in 1996. The Amiga brand was bought and sold to a number of organizations but nothing more ever became of them. Having defeated Amiga, the Tramiel family sold off Atari in 1996 as well. The age of game consoles by American firms would be over until Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001. IBM had pivoted out of computers and the web, which had been created in 1989 was on the way in full force by then. The era of hacking computers together was officially over.

(OldComputerPods) ©Sean Haas, 2020