Where is the great, all-encompassing history of Atari?

OK, now that I’ve suffered through the Atari bashing in the well-written but overly biased Commodore love-fest On The Edge, and complete disregard for Atari history in books like Fire In The Valley and Accidental Empires, I’m ready to ask the question:

Where is the great, all-encompassing history of Atari?

There have been some books in the past that have to covered part of Atari’s history. However, other than the near assassination attempt Zap! written 25 years ago, no other fully Atari-centric book to ever be published. Atari has appeared as major player in several other books such as the Nintendo-centric Game Over , and in Steven Kent’s amazing, but far too-general, Ultimate History Of Video Games , but Atari has never really starred in a proper book of its own.

Where is the great tome of Atari? The book that covers the engineering, creativity, business and social impact of the world’s first great video game company? A warts and all book that covers coin-ops, home video games, computers, Atari Inc, Atari Corp, and Atari Games equally and in their full glory (or non-glory)? Where is the book that interviews and or covers all the important players like Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, Joe Keenan, Ted Dabney,Steve Mayer, Harold Lee, Bob Brown, Jay Miner, Ed Logg, Ed Rotberg, Alan Miller, Larry Kaplan, Bob Whitehead, David Crane, Larry Wagner, Ed Riddle, Rob Fulop, Jay Margolin, Owen Rubin, Joe Decuir, Doug Neubauer, Chris Crawford, Brad Stewart, Ray Kassar, the entire Tramiel clan,and all the other great programmers, engineers, artists, business and creative people that were part of Atari’s rich 25 year history?

I want a book that doesn’t just regurgitate things we already know, but really gets into the stories of people as well as the products.  I want read about products and games and their effect of the people who made them as well as people who used and played them.   I want to read rumors confirmed and myths debunked.  If it really happened, I want read an interview with the guy who drove those truckloads of Atari products to the Arizona desert, and the first-hand account of the guy who paved over the enormous hole with concrete.  I want to know if the Tramiels were really as bad as they have been made out to be, or if instead they just simply rode-out the wave that Bushnell and Dabney started in 1971.   I want it all, and I want to read it as soon as possible.  Is that too much to ask?

A few years back I started trying to write my own history of Atari. I even enlisted an actual writer, Andrew Bub over at GamerDad.com to help write it. We put together a full outline, and several sample chapters to send around to publishers and agents that Andrew knew in the industry. You know what happened? Nothing. The publishing industry did not seem interested in Atari or its history at all. I’d blame our research and writing, but the rejections came back so fast, we were never sure if anyone ever read or understood any of it. In general, it seems, the publishing industry doesn’t seem very interested in books of this type. Most of the books previously mentioned here were self-published by their respective authors. I have heard of other people researching and writing books on Atari, but the stories are fleeting and no solid information ever surfaces. There was a mention on http://www.classicgaming.com once of someone working on a book, but there was never a follow-up. A few months ago, a mysterious poster on our forums mentioned that he was working on one, but I’ve yet to hear any more about it. A request to interview this person for the site went unanswered.

Why does an all-encompassing book about Atari seem like such a taboo subject? Why has no “legitimate” writer tried to tackle the subject? Why won’t publishers even consider a book about Atari? Why are actual projects talked about in hushed voices, or kept completely secret? I no longer have the drive or energy to attempt to write a book about Atari myself. I’d rather spend time with my kids and work on my own projects then write about other people’s work. However, I sure would like to read someone else’s well-researched, well-documented, and above-all, well-written account of the story of Atari. Who will do it? Who will write it, who will edit it, and ultimately who will make it worth-while by actually publishing it?

I’m still waiting.


Leave a Reply