"DEAR AGH" (July/August, 1998)

Subject: Classic Gamer Magazine @ World of Atari '98
From: Cav

  • Hello,

  • (Place in the "For What it's worth" file):

  • In September I'm launching a fanzine dedicated solely to the classic games and gaming systems.

  • I wanted to let you know that I will be in attendance covering the happenings of World of Atari 98.

  • The fanzine will be in the spirit of the old Electronic Games magazine so the new addition of Katz/Kunkel and Worley to the lineup is of great interest to me.  Thanks for the guest lineup update.

  • By the way, you are entitled to a free first issue.  If you would like to receive it please send me a mailing address and I will beging sending out issues on September 1st.

    Many many thanks.

    Thanks for the info about your upcoming magazine, there's always a place for coverage during the "golden era of gaming." And we look forward to meeting up with you at World of Atari '98. Should be a terrific event.

    Yep, we think everyone is excited that the EG guys will be in attendance.  We're working hard to get others to come as well.. we'll see.

    Subject: Yeah... But You're Missing A Piece!!!
    From: Thomas E.

  • Keita - I read you artical about the "proto-types" they are selling on the net.

  • You Had an Attitude - Acted like you were there - BUT YOU WERE COMPLETELY WRONG!!!!

  • When I was contracting for Atari and I had a Lynx title in development, they would often take products that WERE NOT FINAL (I.E. Prototypes) and sent them to EPYX to be excripted with RSA encryption so they could be played on a production Lynx, Not on a pinker/mandy, or a howard board - they were used to shown the product key events, OR for a process called TESTING/FEEDBACK!!!  Not the testing that took palce at the end of the product cycle - but for the producers to use and take home for feedback...  

  • Almost every single game made through the Atari Midwest office was sent through the RSA process MANY TIMES throughout their development cycle.  One of my games was sent through the RSA process at least 4 times.  before final release.  Every time it was on a GREEN PCB BOARD.  I even have prototypes of Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Land, and several versions of Bill & Ted's on these boards and they still work.


  • Each EPROM has a .BIN files that can be read and written with ANY EPROM BURNER.  Therefore - people COULD BE selling prototypes that were in development.  As long as they can mfr the Lynx development EPROM cartridge, they could sell as many of these copeis as their heart contents...  You have a good point to discourage people from purchasing high priced copies.....  But the truth to the matter is that some of them coule be real.


  • The only way yo tell if some of these things were real would be to compare the rom image they sell to the rom image of a production game, if it existed... If it was a production copy on an EPROM board - then the images would match. 

  • "They screwed me over too....."

    Upon second thought, I can see how people might see it that way.  But you must understand that it was an issue which was of importance seeing how many folks were getting screwed over by a few dealers who copied carts and represented them as prototypes.  I can tell you, however, that I gathered what facts I stated from several sources which were developers for the Lynx.  But since they were second and third party developers rather than first (Atari), there were a few differences as far as prototypes were concerned.

    Yes, I know that some of them COULD theoretically be real. But how many do you gather were made? I mean, I'm sure most of the boards were recycled, right?  It's just that I highly doubt that a sudden explosion of TONS of different prototype games in large quantities are authentic.  And one of the dealers has recently admitted that the ones he sells at least, are manufactured.

    Subject: Atari 5200 Histroy - 1983 SCES Info
    From: Thomas E.

  • I attended the 1983 Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago - the last big showing for Atari, while still owned by Warner Communications.  At that show, Atari showed the 7800 to the public, I played Pole Position, Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, Food Fight, Asteroids, and the yet-unfinished Desert Falcon.  I spoke with Atari's hardware and software engineers and got a taste of what Atari was getting ready to launch. 

  • I also played games on the Atari 5200 to Atari 7800 cartridge adapter - AND also used the High Score Game Cartridge while playing Asteriods Deluxe. (A piece of 5200 History you missed : )

    Something else also shown at the show was the computer module - but I can't remember if it was running on the 5200 or 7800....  It had the Atari Lab software running on it with a disc drive.  Another thing Atari was showing off was the "Mind Link" bio-feedback controller that you would wear like a headband.  You could use it, sometimes at least, to move a character back and forth on the screen.


  • I can't find my product catalogs that I picked up in '83.  I remember they were yellow..  They had pictures of all these devices.  Years later, when I was working with Atari Lombard, I ran into John Scrutch and asked him about these devices as I wanted to get my hands on the prototypes.  John swore they never existed - BUT if they didn't exist - what was I using at the SCES?  I'll bet you anything that when the engineers who developed this stuff were fired by the Troll-meals, they took their protypes and went home.  Needless to say 1983 sucked when the game industry crashed for the 1st time.


  • P.S. - I have 4 prototype 7800 carts that I picked up at the '86 SCES - and they are on GREEN PCB's.  The 2600/7800 dev kit is also on a green PCB.  (Atari's favorite color)

    Hmmm... I've never heard of a Hi-Score Cartridge being even announced for the 5200.  A 7800 one was announced (and shown), however.  I'm sure you meant the 7800 cart, in which case you're a lucky guy to have been able to check it out.  There has never been a reported sighting of the cartridge in recent memory, so the one you saw is either in a landfill somewhere or in the possession of someone who doesn't know he has it or doesn't know what he has!  As for the 5200 --> 7800 adapter, that is also an item that was announced, but never released.  We are aware of Atari's plans to sell it, but when the Tramiels took over, they canned just about every videogame idea.

    It's not a piece history we missed.  It's just that we don't recognize an item as existing today if NOBODY has confirmed its existence right NOW.  So even if it theoretically did exist way back when, if it's not around now, it becomes a "not believed to exist" item but certainly not vaporware.

    Cool, you worked at Illinois.  What did you do there? I think John was either dishonest or suffered from a temporary lapse of consciousness, since both the Mindlink and 7800 Keyboard exist.  The High-Score cartridge probably existed at one time (as you attested to earlier).  I don't doubt that many engineers just snagged whatever they could out of the R&D offices after the Tramiels jerked them around.

    Thanks again for your interesting story.

    Subject: Love Your Site... Got Some Stuff
    From: Justin

  • First of all, I cannot express to you what it means to me to see such a tremendous resource of Atari information at my fingertips.  I linked over from GameInformer.com and was at once amazed and like a kid again.  Like you, I grew up with an Atari joystick (aptly named) in my hands.  My parents (normally of strict, thrifty, and cautious tendencies) bought a Sears/Atari VCS 2600 system, along with a few choice games, from our then-next-door neighbor.  They managed to get a good deal out of it and my brother and I had what we had been begging our parents for. 

  • Years passed, games were played and conquered, and my love for gaming grew.  But our family, not privy to the boom of the 80s, and with my father working on commission, fell on hard times.  We were forced to sell our bundle of Atari goods for a few hundred dollars.  (if only I had known the value of some of them today...)  More time passed, but my love for gaming grew even stronger.  I would frequent the arcades, never passing an opportunity to accompany my father to his office (an arcade was nearby).  Eventually I saved up enough money for an NES.  But, I always felt like the most fun I ever had in gaming was in those simple early 80s Atari games.  When I quite literally stumbled across your site, it was as if those feelings were reborn.  I had often wondered what became of the SwordQuest series and its famed prizes.  Thank you for that interview and your efforts in insuring that the fun of an entire generation will not be forgotten.

  • Like I said, my love for gaming grew.  So much so that I began (several years ago) to actively pursue a deeper involvement into the industry.  It was through the contacts I made through several game companies, distributors, and the like that I hooked myself up with the nearly-defunct Electro-Brain.  I did game reviewing, testing, suggestive design (no programming, however), videotapes for game submittal into Nintendo (very strict guidelines, too), and anything else they needed done.  The products of this three-year marriage were:  final copies of every game I was involved with (some 20-30 games that are now long gone), a crop of memories, and two EEPROM unreleased (but complete) prototype games.  One is called "Ozone Kid" for the Genesis, and the other is called "Figetts" for Game Boy.  Both are in the "platform" vein and are actually quite fun games to play, despite their demise.  I have protected them well:  I have them in the same casings they were sent to me in and are currently locked away in my home and have been tested.

  • Even though I am married, a college graduate and am employed as a music teacher (my other lifelong passion), I am still a gamer at heart.  Thank you for a site that took me back almost twenty years.

    First of all, thanks for the kind words.  Everyone has their own heart-filled stories, but yours brought a tear to our eyes :) Games have become more complex and realistic, but does that necessarily mean they've gotten better?  It's hard to say. Games like Combat, Space Invaders and Adventure offered a multitude of variations in one game.  For example, Combat offered bi-planes, tanks, ricochet shots, no barriers, invisible tanks, etc.  Space Invaders had shots where you could control the direction of your shots, moving barriers, no barriers, invisible opponents, fat ships and much more.  Adventure offered a "random" feature where every single game had the keys, dragons, bats, bridges and other items in different places. Those were the days, wasn't it?  You could hand your girlfriend a joystick and enjoy an evening of fun without resorting to reading through an entire game manual and still have fun today. And good job on the prototype scores; I'm sure many readers are getting a tad green with envy right about now =)

    Subject: Comments From An Ex-Atari Employee
    From: Hans

  • I have been wondering about the "Atari assets" and the Hasbro purchase - I've only heard rumors from other ex-Atari employees... Now I find (through Excite search, of course, where I work now :) that your site has a large history of the Atari breakdown, complete with a picture of the previous CEO at the top... Thanks for having this site.  I'll be using it and recommending to others.

  • One question:  Do you know if John Skrutch, previous Director for game development at Atari. Corp, who managed to continue on at JTS, is now working for Hasbro still linked to Atari Corp's games?

  • - Hans (former tester then systems administrator, and at one point the only person in MIS left... [I may have delayed one of many layoffs by calling in sick... No one knew how to turn off accounts on network systems but me :)

    John Skrutch was basically the last person to stay with Atari. When JTS bought Atari Corp., he was kept on board to oversee things such as licensing and archiving.  However, when the Hasbro deal went through, he decided not to move to Massachusetts (where Hasbro is) and stayed with JTS for a few weeks, until he was let go by JTS.  I have been told that he has landed a job recently, but I don't remember where.

    Subject: Lynx Developments
    From: Greg

  • Hey, great web site! I have been checking your New Lynx Developments page for a while but it's always the same. How about letting the fans know about what's happening with the titles that are mentioned in that section? The games look GREAT!!  Please update that section or e-mail me with an update. Keep up the good work.

    You asked for it.. you got it! Check out the info on S.I.M.I.S., a new Lynx game brought to you by a triumverate of talented guys. The reason the page isn't updated too often is because the development of Lynx games is not an easy task, and takes a long time to complete each game.

    Subject: Jaguar Recommendations
    From: Trevor

  • What games do you think I should get?  In your opinion, what is a good game? I want it to be under 30 bucks though the only games i have is Cybermorph and Iron Soldier.

    Off the top of our head, we can think of several games worth buying: Rayman, Tempest 2000, Aliens Vs. Predator, NBA Jam: TE, Atari Karts, Missile Command 3D, Doom, Cannon Fodder, and Defender 2000, and Battlemorph, Vid Grid (a pack-in), Highlander, Dragon's Lair, Space Ace and Iron Soldier II if you have the Jaguar CD. You shouldn't be paying much more than $30 for ANY Jaguar game unless it's one that was a later Telegames release.

    Subject: Stupid Question
    From: Troy

  • What exactly is an emulator and what does it do and how do you use it? ROM Images, what are they?

    Didn't your grade school teacher ever say that a question is only stupid if you don't ask it? Anyways, to answer your question:

    An emulator is a program that tries to replicate the actual hardware that powered whatever games that ran on it.  ROM images are the actual game code in binary format.

    To explain it in another way, the games (ROM images) run on software (emulator) that mimics the performance of the original video-game platform, (2600, ST, NES, Arcade). Programmers  then study a game's original hardware to write a software "image" of the  ROM chip containing the game's instructions. Together, the emulator and the ROM can create a near-perfect copy of the original graphics and gameplay.

    There are some nice emulator faqs on the web, check 'em out and have fun.  It's not hard to figure out how emulators work.. it's no harder than installing MS Word or Netscape and running those programs.

    Because the distribution of ROM images is technically illegal (since they're copyrighted material), we at AGH have stayed away from the emulation scene, at least in terms of having them available for download on our site.  But that shouldn't hold you back from getting them and enjoying them.

    Subject: Alternate Pitfall
    From: G. Elgart

  • I have in my collection an alternatively labeled Pitfall cartridge.  It is a blue label with simple text saying that the game is Pitfall by Activision.  It has no picture, no Activision logo.  I can't find this documented anywhere.  Do you know of this?  I am guessing it is an advance release.  As far as I can tell, it plays exactly the same, but I never have been very good at Pitfall.

    In the 2600's later years, Activision released "blue label" variants of many of its titles, most likely to cut costs.  Even some Imagic games (Demon Attack, Moonsweeper) were published and sold by Activision in blue labels as well.

    Subject: Who Are You Guys?
    From: D. Parsons

  • First let me say that I love your site, especially the old magazine articles. They really carry me back to when computers had a certain mystique to them. I am confused by your site, however. I cannot find anywhere where it says what AtariHQ is. Are you merely a nostalgia site? Do you own any of Atari's rights or licenses?  Could you clarify who you are and what you do so I'll have one less nagging question in the back of my head?

    Atari Gaming Headquarters is comprised of three Atari legends who seek to preserve Atari's legacy and their own. John Hardie was the co-designer of Trevor McFur and Checkered Flag (Jaguar), while Les Caron was the president of a Taiwan company which distributed 2600 pirate games, and he designed such classic knock-offs such as Tonky Kon, Paris Attack and Pitfall Larry. Keita is the father of the legendary Atari 5200 controller and is responsible for Atari's profit to jump 300% due to the sale of replacement joysticks. For more info, please visit the AGH staff page and the "Welcome to AGH" page which are both linked from our AGH main page.

    Subject: 2600 Spectravision Third Party Description
    From: T. Jaspers

  • Hi, I just thought I would mention that I had some information regarding SpectraVision. You have a description there under "History of 3rd part companies" in the 2600 area. One thing I thought I would mention if you want to add it or not, is that SpectraVision makes PayTV boxes for hotels. I was pretty much raised in a hotel. My father would move every 5 years due to a transfer, and half my life was spent in a hotel. The Sheraton Washington Hotel, The Jefferson Sheraton, the Sheraton Stamford, and so on. Anyways, they also made a pay Atari 5200 machine. It was basically a mix between a pay TV machine and a 5200. It would control the pay movies and the 2 or 4 porno channels, and it had several games in it already. Believe it or not, I actually used to have one. They had them when we lived in the Jefferson Sheraton Hotel, they were pretty much starting to take them out, it was about 86 or 87. And I had one for a while, but I could only play a few games on it -- Missile Command, Space Invaders and Pac Man -- and I ended up selling it at a garage sale. Currently they are still in business but they ONLY make Pay TV boxes for the larger Hotel Chains like Sheraton and Hilton. What they do is lease a movie and copy it and send it to all the hotels where it is then continuously played in a huge loop over and over and over and over and over.. for one month. They then destroy all the copies at the end of that month.

  • Thought it may be of some help, sort of interesting as well.

    Thanks for the info on the Spectravision hotel unit.  We own one of those things, it's mighty cool.  However, the Spectravision that made VCS games is different from the Spectravision that's still in business (the one that makes the hotel Pay TV units.) And let's be serious now -- you did not play 5200 games on it, you watched all the porn that time permitted, right? :)

    Subject: Emulator Idea
    From: Ryan DeLisles

  • Greetings AGH,

  • I have an idea that will blow you away! I think you should be the first to create an emulator of the Atari 7800 ProSystem. Here are some rom ideas to start off the game list.
      Robotron: 2084
      Desert Falcon
      and Ms. Pac-Man
    I shall give you more ideas later. Good Luck.

    Ryan, Age 13.

    Thanks Ryan, we'll get right to work on it :)

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