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Profile Atarian: Joseph Burke - The Atari Times

Profile Atarian: Joseph Burke

My long (sometimes sordid) history with Ataris.
by Joseph Burke

November 29, 2004
Hi! :D My name is Joe, and I am going by the handle Old Atarian. I picked the handle because at 36, I am probably one of the elder statesmen here.

The first Atari I ever owned was a Darth Vader model 2600. I remember as a kid wandering away from my Mom in Montgomery Wards to play the then new Atari VCS demo unit and getting yelled at a lot for making her come looking for me. My parents wouldn't buy me a video game system (parents never understand these things) but I was determined to have one. It wasn't until the slick, black looking models came out that the prices were low enough that I could afford to buy one on my own.

In the early 1980's I was part of a test marketing group for a new lower cost version of the Atari 2600. I was in the mall with my parents when a woman from a marketing research company asked me to come inside and look at some toys and give my opinions. When the interviewer called me in, there was a bright blue video game system I had never seen before on the table. There were also some 2600 cartridges so I figured it for a prototype to redesign the 2600 or possibly even a clone system like the Coleco Gemini. I was asked to pick up the system at one point to give my opinion on the overall size and weight and turned it over and there was an Atari label on it. I didn't find out until years later on the internet that this was the blue version of the CX-2000 "Val" prototype, a design that competed with the unit that became known as the 2600 Jr.

Next, I made friends with someone at the local chess club who had an Atari 800XL computer. That was what got me into Atari computing. I had already had a Commodore Vic-20 before this, so I wasn't a stranger to computers, even though I was still only around 15, but I was ready for something more powerful. I might have gone the way of the C64 if it hadn't been for my friend already having an Atari. The reason he had an Atari and not a Commodore, he was fond of telling me over an over again, was the painfully slow loading times of disk based games on that system. The Fast Load cartridge cured most of those problems, but why bother when the Atari was so much faster out of the box? I actually tore a page out of one his Compute! magazines that he gave me that had the ad for the Fast Load cartridge showing a C64 user pulling out his hair in frustration with the words 'Still Loading' on the monitor screen in front of him. He kept it hung on the wall over his computer desk as a reminder and we both got a chuckle out of it every time we looked at it. :D

Next came the ST (and Dungeon Master.) He got his ST before I got mine, and naturally he wanted to rub my nose in it by getting Dungeon Master. I responded by kicking him off his own computer for 3 days straight, without food or sleep, while I played DM (totally true story.) He told me that he was afraid to try to remove me from the computer, something about low growling noises every time he came into the room. :D

I eventually managed to top him with the Ataris when I got the Falcon030. The best he was able to manage was a 1040STe.

We both bought Jaguars, but I got the CD ROM drive while he opted for the rare and coveted cat box. We had mostly all the same games, although he went for Bubsy as his platformer of choice while I chose Zool 2. We never did get Jaglinks, for some reason, though.

Then Atari died out and PCs started getting more powerful so we moved our hardware arms race over to that arena. I moved on to the PS2 when it was released. I now have the PS2 and XBox still active with a Dreamcast and N64 packed away along with my Jaguar. I NEVER owned a Playstation.

So that's a brief encapsulation of my history with Ataris. I'm sure most of you have similar experiences to share and I'd really like to see them posted here.

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What is the greatest video game company of all time? (Hint: Atari.)