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Feature: 'A History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 8-Bit Computers'

Feature: 'A History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 8-Bit Computers'

July 31, 2008 | By Staff

July 31, 2008 | By Staff
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Following entries for the Commodore 64, Vectrex, Apple II, Atari 2600, and Mattel Intellivision, Gamasutra's acclaimed game history series continues with a look at the Atari 400, 800 and beyond, from Fractalus through Dandy.

One of the noteworthy historical initiatives undertaken by Atari during its 8-bit days was a community driven program exchange, that saw bedroom coders receive royalties for games sold to other home users, including some that would go on to greater commercial success.

Explain the authors:

"Even though Atari was not very forthcoming about revealing technical information, the company nevertheless took a positive step towards fostering a strong user community with the creation of a new division, the Atari Program Exchange (APX).

The APX featured a free quarterly mail order catalog of user-written software that went to all Atari computer owners who opted into the program. Users could both submit their own programs and purchase the programs of others, who would receive a small royalty from each sale, as well as occasional prize money.

A great deal of productivity, utility and entertainment software was produced, with some of the best titles later receiving full commercial releases, like Chris Crawford's turn-based strategy game, Eastern Front (1941) (1981), and Greg Christensen's shooting game, Caverns of Mars (1981).

Other APX notables include future First Star Software founder Fernando Herrera's My First Alphabet (1981) educational program, a $25,000 APX Star Award winner, and John Palevich's Dandy (1983), a user-extendable four player action dungeon crawling game believed to be the inspiration for Atari's hit arcade game, Gauntlet (1985).

Dandy would receive its own update in the form of Dark Chambers, released for Atari 8-bit computers, as well as the Atari 2600 and 7800, in 1988."

You can now read the full feature, with an extensive look at Atari's 8-bit computer hardware and history, and a series of its most influential and innovative software.

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