Monday, April 30, 2012

Department of Acquisitions: Atari 400

When I was about seven years old1 or so my parents got my brother an I an Atari 400. With it they got two cartridges: Pacman and BASIC (spelled Basic from here out). The idea being that if we wanted to play anything other than Pacman we'd have to write it ourselves. The idea worked. I got several books with games and some stories that had games dropped in the middle of them. Of course, back then there was Dartmouth Basic, Altair Basic, BBC Basic, Basica, Atari Basic, Apple Basic, GW-Basic, QBasic, Tiny Basic, and who knows how many others. Any book of programs that I'd pick up had games of who knows what Basic that were pretty much guaranteed not to work on our system. So I learned, at the age of eight or so, how to debug other people's programs. What is it they're trying to do? Is my Basic capable of doing that? Then make it so.

At some point ours stopped working and went on a shelf. I took it down years later to open it up and found that all the circuit pathway, which were simply massive, had cracked and boiled. Eventually, I remembered my brother and the neighbor kid using the Atari as part of the structure for their Hot Wheels track to run down. They would also occasionally use speaker magnets instead of Hot Wheels.

Anyway, I got a new one. Two new ones actually. One doesn't display properly, but the seller thinks it should be an easy fix. The other displays, but some games won't play and others lock up the system. But Pacman works!

1 I had previously said five because this system was released in late 1979. I see now that Pacman was released for this system in 1982.

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