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Phreak Out 2 - Atari and a bit of imagination.
by Phreak 2/02/02

Well fuckney doodad, I'm a raging Bulldog and someone's nicked me bone. I'm so angry, I make Tyson look positively pussyish. And why? The past, everyone's forgotten the glorious past, man.

A couple of blocks
Do you remember when people didn't give a monkey's about how games looked? No, neither do I, but it did happen. A long time ago, in a games market far, far away, people bowed down to the mediocre looks of the VCS. Video gaming was a new and exciting thing. It didn't matter that cars looked like postage stamps, people looked like matchstick figures and balls were akin to the girl next door, a flat square. A couple of blocks, garish colours and a wee bit of imagination were enough for the public. This spartan ethic allowed for some of the greatest gameplay triumphs ever.

Move objects on your TV!
But there was another shallow attraction, more in tone with today's market: the fact that you could actually move objects on your TV! Super-zowie! As the Japanese would say 'Fantastical-excitement-in-offering-special-yes?', but they didn't. These brave leaps were achieved by one nation, the US, with the Japanese following in the wake. Atari was king, and the hits just kept on coming. By the end of Atari's life (an embarrassing merge into JTS, a manufacturer of mass storage devices) in 1996, the company had amassed a range of intellectual properties to scare the shit out of the most prolific Kyoto developer.

Suing Sega for infringement
Do you know what Atari's most profitable move of the Nineties was? Suing Sega for infringement of Atari's nine pin port design, amongst other things. They made 100 million in an out of court settlement. That's no small potatoes. From pads to polygons, Atari probably owned the patent, but rarely kicked up a fuss. Why? They'd probably forgotten how much they had. Hell, they did it with hardware, little bits of paper was no stretch for them. And now the name has been passed on to someone new, Infogrames. More importantly, all those patents and properties are also in the Frog's hands. This could be scary.

Revolutionise home entertainment.
I'm not saying that Infogrames is going to chase up all the infringements (and believe me, there are lots out there), but with the market under the watchful eye of the moneymen, what's to stop them. Thing is, Atari may be long since dead, but people remember the name. That's a fairly powerful thing to have in your back burner. However, the real power lies in over twenty years of research and development from one of the most innovative electronics companies in existence, all sown up and patented. Have people forgotten the sorts of crazy whacked out shit that Atari were up to? These are the sorts of things that could revolutionise home entertainment, or at least put it squarely back in maverick territory where it belongs.

Millons of Dollars
For example, Atari's abortive attempts into Holography. Millions and millions of dollars got poured into that, are we saying that there is no application for this sort of technology? Modular computers, file formats, the TT, palmtops, electromagnetic input devices, OS's, handheld gaming technology, all of these concepts could be updated, re-boxed and re-badged for very little cost because Atari did the ground work. Infogrames might use the name to push tossy titles in the US, but the fact remains that Atari could be one of their smartest investments yet, simply because of the potential. I'll take respectful optimism over ill-informed pessimism any day of the week. So should you.

Badly spelt rants or back pats to: Phreak@phreaquency.freeserve.co.uk

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