Saturday, March 26, 2011

Atari XE hopes

1987 was probably the worst year of my life, and also the best. I could go on and on about that for ages, but my memories of that year are very vivid and I keep coming back to that year again and again for various reasons (some unknown). I was 9 years old and obsessed with video games. Well, I still am, but things were at a fever pitch in 87, as the NES was still unattainable but so so close to my grasp, the Atari 7800 was in my clutches and I was psyched! The 7800 port of Xevious really broke my brain! In retrospect that system was a failure waiting to happen, but getting it as a bday present August 17th 1987 was a really invigorating prospect.
But beyond the hot desire for the NES and my love of this newly acquired Atari system, something lay like a nagging forgotten dream. Home computing. As I've written about previously on this here blog, ( computers were rather fascinating to my young self. Not fascinating enough to really pursue a relationship with the machines mind you, but just enough to generate feelings of longing. I had no computer, could not financially have one, but I had used a C64 at my friend's house and found it frustrating and kind of obtuse: "Why do we have to spend all this time typing weird stuff into this thing to make it play a game? My Atari does it just by inserting a cartidge!" Yet, all those computer wiz characters in cartoons really inspired a need. A need to compute, even if it was in a roundabout dilletantish way that maintains to this day! I was more psyched on (the completely fictonal)computer book that Penny used to solve crimes for her lame as Uncle Gadget than I was in Basic or anything else boring...or based in reality.
I sort of gave up on the computer thing once I realized how out of my family's budget it was, and how very alien the reality of computers was to my sensibilities. But I thought I found the bridge; the place where I could rest my outsider head in the world of home computing. The Atari XE.
This was entirely inspired by the televsion advertisements, as I was enough of an outsider to the culture that I had no idea that Atari had several hugely successful home computers even though I had a fierce brand loyalty to the Atari name.
This is sort of similar to how I was too young to actually notice the great videogame crash, but I reaped the benefits of it in complete ignorant bliss. Discounted 2600 games at 4 bux a pop? Bring it on, merry christmas, Danny! But I read no magazines and had no context. I was 6 and loved my 2600 and that's all I cared about. I saw the 5200 games in Toys R Us and something about the boxes kind of scared me, but that was really my only exposure to the "second generation" systems. Oh and one memorable Donkey Kong/Colecovision commercial. That shit just baffled me though. Wouldn't you just prefer playing Frogs and Flies or Demon Attack for all eternity?
But these ads for the XE really linked cartridge gaming and computers! How could I go wrong! I remember kind of struggling with having designs on this guy, or the wave of the exciting future, which was obviously the NES. I went with the NES and found out there was no Santa in the process, but I still wonder what would have been. Would have I gotten into programming and have an IT job now instead of being a DJ and paperboy? Or would have I just been still totally alienated by all that nerd shit and stuck with yet more ports of Joust? I bet the latter, as it still took me a while to realize that the B button did anything on NES once I got one in early 88. Small minded in the realm of button possibility I suppose (this later really fucking threw me in Metroid).
But anyhow, here are the ads that gave that nerd-desire a momentary pop appeal for moi.

An odd side note: At a time when videogame rentals were still kind of rare, the local mom and pop convenience store rented out XE games. Bet they regretted that business decision!

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