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Savetz

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Savetz last won the day on December 7 2017

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About Savetz

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    Portland OR
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    preserving Atari publications at AtariMagazines.com, AtariArchives.org, and Archive.org. Co-host of ANTIC the Atari 8-Bit Podcast.

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  1. Computers: Expressway to Tomorrow https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-417-computers-expressway-to-tomorrow Imagine this. It's 1983 or 1984. You're drudging through yet another day of middle school or high school. But today, there's a surprise, a break from the monotony. The teacher tells your class to put away their stuff and go to the gym, or the cafeteria, or the auditorium. Today, there will be an assembly. As you and your class -- and all the other classes -- get settled in the uncomfortable folding chairs, or the bleachers, or even the floor, you take in the scene: two large projection screens. Some speakers and audio equipment you haven't seen before. One of your peers is getting ready to run a spotlight. Then, this enthusiastic person -- older than you but really not by much -- explains why you're here. Today, at this assembly, you're going to learn about computers. The lights go down, the spotlight comes up on that energetic host, and you realize this is a different sort of school assembly than you've seen before. Two projectors come on, lighting those two big screens -- it's a synchronized wide-screen movie. The presenter -- that not-much-older-than-you person -- talks to the screens, interacting with the movie and talking to the audience too. It's kind of corny, but your peers seem interested so you keep watching. The show discusses the basics of computer operation, and how computers work differently than the human brain. There's a scene where the computers talk in voices like people. There's a section about robots, and a part where Suzanne Ciani shows how she makes music using computers. It touches on computer art, and the social implications of computers in the world. 40 minutes later, the show is over, and it's back to class. You learned a few things about computers, and talk about the assembly with your friends at lunch. Maybe you'll ask your parents for a computer for your birthday. This scenario played out more or less exactly that way for more than a million middle school and high school students in 1983 and 1984. The assembly was called "Computers: Expressway to Tomorrow" and it was financed by Atari. According to a 1983 article in InfoWorld: "Atari has a fleet of ... people traveling around the country giving the Atari multimedia presentation 'Expressway to Tomorrow' to a minimum of 500 people per performance at high-school assemblies." (Full disclosure, the article claimed "Atari has a fleet of 700 people" putting on the show, but I can't believe that number is accurate. More likely the number was closer to 7.) The traveling show would visit 2,000 schools in 1983, and was booked a year in advance. With the required minimum attendance of 500 students per show, that's a million kids. More than a million kids saw this assembly. that year. The September 1983 issue of Personal Computing magazine said: "Since January 1983, nine separate touring units have crisscrossed the United States, presenting the show to nearly 1,400 public and private schools — a total of 1.2 million students to date. Touring begins again this September after the summer break, and will run through December 1984." In reality, I believe the show ended by mid-1984. According to that article: "The show is a lively one, with the host on stage for the entire presentation. Several film projectors are going at once, filling two huge screens with fast-moving shots. Music is constant throughout. The host is busy either talking to the audience or interacting with characters on screen. ...The program aims to give people [a] feeling of comfort about computing. The show focuses on the many applications of computers today, from storing recipes to teaching a language, to tutoring." What survives of this show today? Not much that I know about so far. We don't have the film or the script. Audio tapes were available to help the presenters learn their lines. Informational packets were produced for teachers to hand out after the assembly. So far, I haven't been able to find anyone who has any of those things. (If you do, contact me!) What I do have is two interviews: memories of that project by one of the performers who went from school to school running the assembly, and the filmmaker. Before we get to the interviews, I want to give some background about the business of producing school assemblies. It turns out that school assemblies are a big business. Computers: Expressway to Tomorrow was one of many shows put on by Rick Trow Productions of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. These shows were often sponsored by corporations, designed to educate kids, but also to get them excited about whatever it was they wanted to promote: taking pictures with Kodak cameras. Going skiing. Buying new music. According to an article in the Boston Globe from 1972 -- this is 11 years before the Atari show, but some of the few hard stats I could find -- Rick Trow Productions staged 7,000 assemblies in 1971, maintained 23 touring companies offering 16 different shows to schools. They put on educational assemblies that promoted products and services from companies that wanted to reach the "youth market" -- CBS Radio, Air France, Eastman Kodak, and others. Its multimedia productions also included titles such as "The Black Experience", "Environment: Challenge to Action", and "The History of Rock and Roll". At the time, according to the article, the company charged a school just $80 per assembly. But by the time of the Atari show in 1983, the company seemed to have changed its business model to offer the shows to schools for free; earning their money entirely from the companies whose products its shows promoted. The companies got access to an audience of young people who might become eager to buy their product (or to ask their parents to get it.) The schools got free access to (hopefully) an educationally worthwhile presentation that would broaden their students' horizons. A classified advertisement by Rick Trow Productions seeking presenters stated that in the early 1980s, presenters could expect to receive a salary of $100 per week during rehearsal period, and $500 per week for salary and expenses while on tour. My first interview is with Veronica Wiseman, who was one of the presenters who traveled from school to school putting on the Atari show. Her name at the time was Ronnie Anastasio. Veronica did three "tours" of Expressway to Tomorrow, from January 1983 through April 1984. (interview) Next, my interview with Dr. Chuck Sterin, the filmmaker. (interview) The interview with Veronica Wiseman took place on October 23, 2020. The interview with Chuck Sterin took place on June 5, 2020. Thanks to Chuck Sterin and Veronica Wiseman, and to Tom Bregatta, Bob Barto, and Frank Darby, who were also presenters who provided background information for this episode. If you remember seeing Computers: Expressway to Tomorrow at a school assembly, I'd love to hear your recollections. If you happen to have any of the materials, such as the script, practice tapes, or the film, please contact me. Check the show notes for links to magazine articles about the show, as well as scans of material that Veronica Wiseman saved, including Rick Trow Productions employee newsletters, a large collection of thank-you and feedback letters from many schools where she presented, and her photographs from that time.
  2. Bob Evans, Capital Children's Museum administrator https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-416-bob-evans-capital-childrens-museum-administrator This is the fourth in our series of interviews about the Atari computers at the Capital Children's Museum. Bob Evans wore many hats at the museum: he was director of special exhibits, where he worked on the museum's exhibit on the history of human communication, which used several computers, both public-facing and behind the scenes. He was administrator of Superboots, the museum's software publishing lab -- it published the computer art program PAINT! but no other software. Bob was administrator of The Future Center, the museum's public computer lab, and administrator of the museum's summer computer camp for disadvantaged youth. This interview took place on April 22, 2021.
  3. Another copy of the "Visual Search / Computerized Perceptual Therapy" cart is for sale — but sIGNiFiCaNtLy more expensive now. https://www.ebay.com/itm/313533140610 Dr. Groffman has died. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.covd.org/resource/resmgr/VDR/VDR_2_2/VDR2-2_tribute_web.pdf -Kay
  4. Peter Hirshberg, Capital Children's Museum https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-415-peter-hirshberg-capital-childrens-museum Peter Hirshberg was curator of the communications wing of the Capital Children's Museum in the early 1980s, where he helped build The Future Center, the computer lab outfitted with Atari 800 computers; and museum exhibits, some of which were computer controlled. This interview took place on April 12, 2021. In it, we discuss Ann Lewin-Benham, director of the museum; and Guy Nouri, from the Superboots lab, both of whom I previously interviewed.
  5. Yes, it was the first time I interviewed him. Prior to this, I tried for an interview with him in 2015 (he was too busy) and 2017 (no reply.) -K
  6. Bob Puff, Computer Software Services https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-414-bob-puff-computer-software-services Bob Puff is owner of Computer Software Services, a company that began creating hardware and software for the Atari 8-bit computers in 1982. Bob became president of the company in 1991. He designed a bevy of hardware products for the Atari computers, including The Black Box, a hard drive host adapter; The Multiplexer, a networking system; the UltraSpeed Plus operating system upgrade; upgrades for the XF551 floppy drive; the Super-E Burner EPROM burner; and others. He also created a number of popular utility programs, including the BobTerm terminal program; Disk Communicator, to convert boot disks to a single compressed file for transfer over modem; and MYDOS version 4.53; among other software. This interview took place on April 27, 2021. So many people have asked me for a Bob Puff interview over the years.
  7. Looks like you have plenty of offers, but I can also help in needed. Near Portland OR. I've archived hundreds of one-of-a-kind Atari disks. -Kay
  8. Valerie (Atkinson) Manfull, Atari Game Research Group https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-413-valerie-atkinson-manfull-atari-game-research-group Valerie Atkinson was a member of Atari's Game Research Group. Now named Valerie Manfull, she was on the team that designed and programmed the game Excalibur, along with Chris Crawford and Larry Summers. Excalibur was published by Atari Program Exchange in fall 1983. She is also one of the programmes of Ballsong, along with Douglas Crockford. Ballsong is a music and graphics demo program released by Atari, in which a ball bounces on the screen in response to an improvised tune. She was one of the programmers, with Ann Marion, of TV Fishtank, a demonstration of an artificially intelligent fish. (It's unclear if the fishtank program was released anywhere, though it apparently was shown at the 1984 SIGgraph conference.) This interview took place on April 22, 2021. I bet one of us, a collector or former Atari employee, has the TV Fishtank program. Who's going to be the hero?
  9. Linda Brownstein, Atari VP Special Projects https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-412-linda-brownstein-atari-vp-special-projects As I've researched Atari and it's 8-bit computer projects over the years, one name has come up over and over again, attached to the most interesting projects. Linda S. Gordon. Executive Director of Atari Computer Camps. Linda. Executive Producer of The Magic Room, Atari's movie about its camps. Atari's collaboration with Club Med to offer computer labs at vacation destinations — Linda again. Atari Club, the fan group that published Atari Age magazine - Linda launched that. More recently, in my interview with Ann Lewin-Benham of the Capital Children's Museum, Linda's name came up once again -- she was the liaison between Atari and the museum. Linda worked on the most interesting projects. Today, her name is Linda Brownstein. Linda joined Atari in December 1980 as Vice President of Special Projects, where she worked on most of the projects that I mentioned before. In October 1983 she became Senior Vice President in Atari's Education group. She left the company in July 1984 after Jack Tramiel took over the company. This interview took place on April 21, 2021.
  10. Does anyone have a copy of TV Fishtank, a demo created by Atari Research Laboratory circa 1983-1984? Small descriptions and screenshot are at these two sites: https://digitalartarchive.siggraph.org/artwork/atari-research-laboratory-tv-fishtank/ http://www.leiterman.com/atari.html -Kay
  11. Here's my interview with Mark: Audio: https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-411-mark-simonson-atari-artist-and-font-designer Video:
  12. Mark Simonson, Atari Artist and Font Designer https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-411-mark-simonson-atari-artist-and-font-designer Mark Simonson used his Atari computers who create art that was published in magazines in the 1980s, including a portrait of Nolan Bushnell that was commissioned by TWA Ambassador, an inflight magazine; a colorful street scene for the cover of Minnesota Monthly, the magazine of Minnesota Public Radio; and a juggler for the cover of Credit Union Advantage magazine, among others. Professionally, Mark is a font designer. He created Atari Classic, a free TrueType font family for modern computers that looks like the Atari 8-bit screen font. Today, you'll see Atari Classic used in many Atari emulators, web sites, the WUDSN IDE, and elsewhere. This interview took place on April 15, 2021.
  13. Ann Lewin-Benham, Director of Capital Children's Museum https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-410-ann-lewin-benham-director-of-capital-childrens-museum Ann Lewin-Benham was executive director of the Capital Children's Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum was home to the first public-access computer center in the nation’s capital, and indeed, one of the first in the United States. In 1981, Atari and Apple each donated dozens of computers to the museum. The exact number is unclear, but 30 is the number I've seen most often for Atari's contribution. The computer lab was called The Future Center. There, the museum offered computer literacy classes for people of all ages, from Compu-Tots for preschoolers, to programming classes for adults, there was even a computer literacy session for members of Congress. It also used the lab for birthday parties. (Last year, I interviewed a woman who had her 8th birthday party at the museum.) The museum used more of its computers in its exhibit on communication. It established a software development laboratory, called Superboots, in which developers created custom softare for the museum, and one product that was released commercially: the graphics program PAINT! In a 1982 article titled A Day At The Capital Children's Museum, Melanie Graves described the scene: "My twelve-year-old friend Sarah and I went to the museum to explore the computers. There are several dozen computers scattered throughout the building which are used for exhibits, classroom teaching and the development of educational software... A machine that calls itself "Wisecracker" is the noisest of the computers that beckon visitors to the Communication exhibit. "My-name- is-Wise-crack-er," it says in a monotone, "Come-type-to-me." This message repeats endlessly until someone types at the keyboard or turns off the computer. "Hello, how are you?" Sarah typed, and pressed the return key. "Hel-lo-how-are-you," the machine’s voice responded. Sarah typed for awhile longer and then proclaimed, "It sure is dumb, but its voice is kind of cute." The computer next to Wisecracker has a data base program that asked Sarah her name, where she came from, and other questions. It informed her that she was the thirty-seventh person from Virginia to type in data that day... "Fifty-five percent of the people who came here were girls," she told me. Next to the data base, a computer is set up with a music program. Sarah pressed some random keys, causing notes to sound. At the same time, the letter names of the notes appeared on the keys of a piano that was displayed on the screen. There is also a Teletext terminal that tells inquirers about weather predictions, and news releases, the latest acquisitions at the public library, local cultural events and whatever else has been entered into the data base for that day... After playing with Teletext, Sarah and I went to the Future Center, a room equipped with twenty Atari 800s. On weekdays, the classroom is available to school groups ranging from prekindergarten to high school. On weekends, families arrive for courses in programming. Classes have also been created for working people, senior citizens, community groups, congressional spouses and other special interest groups. This summer more than sixty students from the Washington, D.C. public schools attended one of two free month-long computer camps at the museum." This interview took place on April 2, 2021.
  14. Buildable conversion of Sea Chase source to ASM6F. Byte accurate to the retail cart, by Twitter user @Controllerhead1 (post) seachase-asm6f.zip
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