I don’t know how often folks check this website, but I wanted to bring your attention to something I am exceedingly proud of that came out this year: my book!

Copies of the Atari Archive Vol. 1 book.Entitled Atari Archive Vol. 1: 1977-1978, this covers the first two years of the Atari VCS’s life… and then some. If you’ve seen the video series or read this blog, you can guess the format of the book – much of it consists of delving into the history behind each game released in that two-year stint. The chapters are derived from these blog posts, but they aren’t identical, as I was able to come across some details during the writing of this book that I didn’t have putting the blog together.

But there’s additional content as well. In order to provide the context that I feel this particular era of video games demands, I also spent time delving into the state of the industry before the VCS’s debut, and dug in deeply on the creation and life of the VCS itself – even interviewing the surviving folks who were intimately involved in its development. There’s a chapter about the FCC’s impact on the video game home market in the 1970s, and chapters delving into the history behind all the competing programmable consoles from this era, pulling together all the sources I could possibly find for each one.  Topping it all off, we have an interview with Larry Wagner, the author of Combat and Video Chess (and the first head of Atari’s consumer development team for the VCS), a foreword by top-notch writer and my dear friend Jenn Frank, and absolutely lovely photography taken by Jeremy Parish of all the game boxes and cartridges – both the Atari and the Sears versions – as well as the consoles, the console boxes where i could source them, and some incredible rarities provided by other collectors. Rounding out the package are a slew of screenshots, flyer images, documentation and news clips where I could get reprinting permission.  I can’t guess the amount of time I put into this book, and I am really thrilled with how it came out.

Of course, with Twitter’s rapid demise it’s been difficult to promote it, and frankly I’ve been bad about pushing it as much as I really should be. But if you or someone you know is interested in the history of Atari or early video games in general, I think this is the book for you. My goal was to provide as definitive an overview of these games and this era as I could, and I’m confident enough to call it one of the best books on Atari and that time period of video games out there. You can buy it directly from the publisher, Limited Run Games, and on Amazon. And hey, if you don’t want to go through those, why not ask your local book store to stock it too?

The vast majority of the early VCS games covered so far were games that the developers were personally interested in putting together. Whether these were ports of popular arcade games, conversions of tabletop timewasters, or novel concepts, marketing had largely stayed out of the way on what games came along and focused on selling them. But there were exceptions, even at this stage, of which Brain Games is one.

The crux of the marketing department’s request involves the VCS’s mix of controllers. You’ve got the two major ones that were packed in with the console itself from the get go: the joystick and the paddle controllers. The vast majority of the games on the platform use the joystick, which is surprisingly flexible for having one button. A smaller number use the paddle controller, which is much more limited in the types of games that it excels at; developer Larry Kaplan noted that marketing specifically requested that the programmers create games that use the paddles to ensure that users were still getting use out of them, which is why he put together Street Racer for the VCS’s 1977 lineup. The VCS also hosted two other controller types though: The driving controller, used in the system’s heyday with only Indy 500; and the keyboard controller.

Continue reading “Brain Games – October 1978”


No small number of VCS titles from 1977 were based on arcade games. Tank begat Combat, from Anti-Aircraft came Air Sea Battle, Pong morphed into Video Olympics, Indy 800 brought us Indy 500, Star Ship is based on Starship I, and Surround is a conversion of Dominos. But a few of these early games were unique creations, such as the one being highlighted here, Street Racer. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the weakest titles in the 1977 VCS lineup.

Continue reading “Street Racer (Speedway II) – September 1977”

Welcome to the Atari Archive homepage! Some of you may know me from my YouTube channel, Atari Archive, which since 2017 has been looking at the history of the early video game industry through the lens of each Atari Video Computer System (or 2600) release in chronological order. I really enjoy producing these videos, and am really pleased that they’ve found an audience. The problem with video, of course, is that once it’s done, it’s incredibly bothersome to go back and update… and certainly since I’ve started this project I’ve come across a variety of sources that I either couldn’t fit into the video for whatever reason, or discovered them after the fact. This website will serve as a repository for me to publish my findings, update items where applicable, and source my research for those who may want to do their own digging. Consider it a companion to the video series, if you will!

Despite the name of the website and the video series, I’m not *just* interested in Atari’s history. My research has involved numerous other players in the early game industry, from home game companies like Astrocade, RCA, Fairchild and Mattel to arcade developers such as Ramtek and Exidy… and even further back to the early days of computer gaming. These get mentioned in the relevant Atari pieces, but expect the periodic article specific to a non-Atari topic or company.

For a little bit of background on me, I’ve been interested in the early history of video games since I was a kid and came across a copy of the Winners’ Book of Video Games, by Craig Kubey, in my local library. At this point it had been out of date by about a decade, but it provided a tantalizing glimpse into an era of game history I’d known little about and discussed games I’d never heard of. I became pretty tuned in to early video game history and collecting websites as the internet matured, and a few years ago decided to start doing my own research, tracking down and interviewing former game-related folks, visiting archives to check out their periodicals, sifting through old newspaper ads and magazine reporting to try and formulate a list of when games actually came out. As a journalist by trade, these were all skills I’d already honed, and I decided to challenge myself to learn about video production with the Atari Archive YouTube series. As I see it, all of the games we know now as titles in a pile of cartridges or in a list of computer binaries came out in specific contexts and points of history, with their own legacies and development stories – my goal here is to try and tease out as much of that as I can to make the experience of actually checking out these games a richer one.

If you enjoy this page or my videos, please consider backing the Atari Archive Patreon. But either way, I hope you enjoy your time here and learn a thing or two you didn’t know before!