Atari Inc: Business is Fun

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Syzygy Company, 2012 - Video games industry - 796 pages
Atari Inc. - Business is Fun, the book that goes behind the company that was synonymous with the popularization of 'video games.'

Nearly 8 years in the making, Atari Inc. - Business is Fun is comprised of thousands of researched documents, hundreds of interviews, and access to materials never before available.

An amazing 800 pages (including nearly 300 pages of rare, never before seen photos, memos and court documents), this book details Atari's genesis from an idea between an engineer and a visionary in 1969 to a nearly $2 billion dollar juggernaut, and ending with a $538 million death spiral during 1984. A testament to the people that worked at this beloved company, the book is full of their personal stories and insights. Learn about topics like:

* All the behind the scenes stories surrounding the creation of the company's now iconic games and products.

* The amazing story of Atari's very own "Xerox PARC" research facility up in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains

* The full recounting of Steve Jobs's time at Atari, with comments from the people he worked with on projects and the detailed story of the creation of Atari Breakout, including input by Steve Wozniak on his development of the prototype, and how it couldn't be used and another Atari engineer would have to make the final production Breakout arcade game instead.

* The creation of "Rick Rats Big Cheese Restaurants" which later became "Chuck E. Cheese's"

* How Atari Inc. faltered and took down an entire industry with it before being put on the chopping block.

If you've ever wanted to learn about the truth behind the creation of this iconic company told directly by the people who made FUN for a living, then this is the book for you!

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This is a bloated, overpriced, and poorly-written mess of a book. When I saw a sample cover of the book a year before, with the title, "The Comprehensive History Book (Volume 1) It's beginnings to July 1984...", I knew what to expect – plenty of syntax and spelling errors. It’s bad enough having 2 authors who aren’t writers for a living, but when you spend 7+ years writing a book as they both claim, you expect the finished product above the competence level of a 5th-grader. The editor, Loni Reeder, was actually a writer for a living, writing articles for RePlay magazine. But she wasn’t an editor prior to this book, and she clearly wasn’t one for it. I doubt a single editor could fix a literary disaster like this one, because grammatical errors are but one problem. The book reads as though the 2 authors wrote 2 separate books, and decided to try and mash them together to make 1. The tense constantly jumps between 1st and 3rd-person, which is extremely annoying. There’s some 300 pages of poor-quality photos (and a few being labeled incorrectly) - nearly all of which can be found online, which is probably where they came from. As for the information offered in the book itself, all the industry people noted in the book have given many interviews over the past 30-40 years, and aside from a note-worthy anecdote here and there, much like the photos, there really isn’t anything here people familiar with the subject will find new or insightful. One of the authors claim to fame was illegally dumpster-diving on Atari’s property back in the 1990s, ( and who has been profiting from the stolen items and documents ever since – the same documents which are the bulk of their book’s source material. The other author’s claim to fame is in manipulating Wikipedia pages to fit his own biased opinions (here’s but 1 example -, along with posting comments on dozens of video game websites.
There’s also the question of why the page margins and line spacing are so large. Having the correct margins and spacing would have resulted in a book with half as many pages, which would have been normal for a book of this type, but their decision to go for quantity over quality is yet another glaring mistake. Any real historians hoping to use this book in their research will find the book all but worthless since it doesn’t include an index! Given the alleged time spent putting this together, omitting an important section like that is inexcusable, but again, wasn’t a book written by professional writers or even professional historians, but rather 2 Atari fan boys who should clearly spend more time playing games, and less time writing about them, or fleecing customers with shoddy product like this. Lastly, the $50 retail price this book originally sold for is just outrageous. There are plenty of used copies showing up now for half that, which isn’t surprising, or you can simply read it for free (which I highly recommend) on Google Books, and save your money to buy some real history books on the subject, by real writers.
It’s worth nothing that both authors are very much anti-Nolan Bushnell/pro-Jack Tramiel, and that attitude comes across with this book. Both are frequent posters to a site called Atariage and a quick search there will reveal several threads where they openly make insulting or downright slanderous comments towards such well-known and respected industry figures such as Nolan Bushnell and Jeff Minter, as well as anyone else who dares to criticize this book. It's too bad Google doesn't allow you to rate something a '0'.

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About the author (2012)

Martin Goldberg - A writer and programmer in the video game industry, Goldberg has had a lifelong fascination with all things electronic entertainment since first playing PONG and Tank as a child at his local arcadesin the 70's. As the former site director of IGN/GameSpy's 'ClassicGaming.Com' and a current freelancer for Retro Gamer magazine, Goldberg has been writing about video games for 13 years. Along with Dan Loosen and Gary Heil, Goldberg is also a co-founder of the Midwest Gaming Classic, one of the largest electronic entertainment expos in the United States open to the general public. In 2004, Goldberg also founded the Electronic Entertainment Museum (E2M), a non-profit archive whose mission is to help preserve the history and artifacts of the video game and home computer industries. In line with this goal, he's also a member of the International Game Development Association's (IGDA) Game Preservation SIG, a hub and community for those interested in digital game preservation and history. Curt Vendel - A former IT Systems Engineer, Vendel is also a self-taught Electrical Engineer with a Bachelor's in Computer Science. In the 1980's, Vendel had begun collecting Atari products, engineering logs, schematics, drawings, and technical materials from former Atari employees - even making trips to Atari's buildings in California to salvage Atari's valuable history from its dumpsters. Founding the Atari History Museum in 1998, the Atari History Museum archives have amassed over 15,000 files, folders and documents, two archival rooms of schematics, mechanical drawings, artwork and PC board films. Vendel is frequently tapped as a valued resource for Atari insight and archival information by Atari, SA., Atari Interactive, numerous research institutions, trade publications and entertainment magazines, television networks and movie studios.

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