Ph: Careers: Remembering Atari: Part 1 Poem by Brian Johnston

Ph: Careers: Remembering Atari: Part 1

(Unsigned, Sealed, and Delivered)

Part 1:
Oh I worked several years at Atari (1)
Always thinking, 'It's too good to last, '
Bushnell's (2) leaving - hand writing on rampart -
Though momentum would carry us past.

Nolan's (2) vision was not all that perfect,
VCS (3) up to roof day I joined,
But then critical mass was accomplished,
Nolan screwed, and Atari purloined.

Nolan's loss viewed by most as quite tragic,
But the bean-counters quickly took charge
And though remnants remained of old culture,
New unfortunate seeds loomed quite large.

Like one time at a company picnic,
With a beautiful girl by my side
Ray Kassar (4) introduced himself firmly,
And he wanted to give me a ride.

Ray's experience mostly was garments,
But his management style seemed too tame,
For to handle unruly designers,
He would need to be 'Master of Game.'

But Atari was poisoned by money,
And in death throes was free-falling up,
Lining pockets of sycophant beggars
Whose main talent, the art of the cup!

It is certainly hard to believe now
But your game's launch won't bring you Champagne,
Though the folks that distribute your product
Likely treated to week say in Spain!

Game designers considered cheap labor
Not deserving of mention by name,
Though their effort might span year or longer,
Sacrifice not attached to their game.

Mike Moon's (5) spending of cash flowed like water
Hard to think new 800 (6) would fail.
Soon our campus had grown to five thousand
Management had a cat by the tail.

But wild cats at their best are unruly,
And their egos not soothed left the ship,
Founding numerous troublesome upstarts,
Whose last vote for Mike Moon was 'pink slip.'

But new management all failed Atari
They were trying to save their cash cow,
While ignoring the 800 platform,
Game improvements that it would allow.

Their suggestion, 'Compete against Apple! '
Was like calling a Zebra a horse,
And predictions it might win the 'Derby, '
All amounted to nothing of course!

So now CDC (7) stars of computing
Began scanning the 800's charms,
What they found was fantastic game platform,
But for business they soon raised alarms.

Well the Wozniak (8) floppy was genius,
And Paul Laughton (9) made Woz (8) hardware sing,
But then neither man worked for Atari,
As it turned out, that meant everything.

Roger Badisher (10) melted when testing
Showed that drive by Atari was flawed
But the business crowd changed one to zero,
Up till then, frankly, all did applaud.

I was there to see friends 'raked on hot coals, '
And for Zebra, not horse to be blamed,
This delusional marketing posture
Cast dispersions in hope they weren't named.

Premier game machine served its intention
To strike fear in competitors' heart
Specs then changed post production had started
Blocking game vindication dead smart!

Thursday, August 4, 2016
Topic(s) of this poem: career
Brian Johnston
August 4,2016

Poet's Notes:
One of the best jobs I ever had was working for Atari (1978-1982) , but the political intrigue was incredible and publish or perish the rule for survival. I take my hat off to the remarkable men and women that made hard work so much fun!

I wrote Part 1 in haste preceding an interview that may lead to a book about those days. I am anticipating a Part 2 and many revisions as well!

Glossary of terms:
(1) Atari: During the late 70s and early 80s Atari was the world's largest and most successful video game company, creator of PONG (a home racket ball simulation done in hardware) and shortly after the VCS (a Video Computer System that played games using Cartridges that were purchased separately) . Atari designed larger Console Video Games as well that were constructed using hardware only without the aid of microcomputers. Such Console styled games were found in Bars and Pizza Parlors in the early days.
(2) Nolan Bushnell: The founder of Atari.
(3) VCS: The Video Computer System was the first Game Platform design for home users and enabled the end user to change the video game it played by just by plugging in a new Game Cartridge.
(4) Ray Kassar: Atari's New President after Nolan Bushnell sold the company in 1978.
(5) Mike Moon: President of the Consumer Video Game Division of Atari. There was also a 'Coin OP Division, ' and a 'Home Computer Division.'
(6) Atari 800 and Atari 400: These were the first Home Computer/Game machines designed by Atari.
(7) CDC: New managers for the Home Computer Division were hired from Control Data Corporation to help give the '800' and '400' a new legitimacy in the computer world.
(8) Wozniak (Steve) : The Apple co-founder and hardware engineer who designed Apples highly successful Floppy Disk Drive,
(9) Paul Lawton (And Kathy O'Brien) : Paul wrote the Apple Hard Drive's firmware. He and Kathy were instrumental in Apple's early software success.
(10) Rodger Badisher: President of Atari's Home Computer Division. Roger and Bruce Irvine, the Home Computer Division Vice-President, were early Control Data Corporation hires by Atari.
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