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Birthday Mania - Unwrapped

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Back in October of 2005 the game Birthday Mania was brought to the attention of the general collecting community. Like many people, I started looking for the history of the game with no luck. In July of this year, I finally stumbled across a clue that led directly to the creator Robert Anthony Tokar. I started by sending an introductory email and then followed up with a phone call several weeks later. He was kind enough to talk with me although he was having some health issues and is in his 70’s and was not excited to have a stranger contacting him.

 

He indicated that I was the second person to track him down, as a student working on a Master’s degree had called him a couple years ago. He specifically remembered the person telling him the story of the only copy that was in a collector’s hands.

 

At the beginning of the conversation I asked him if it was o.k. to share his name publicly. He was fine with that but didn’t want to get sued by the “Happy Birthday” people. After the call I did a little research and sent the follow up information to put his mind at ease. Time Warner is the current holder of the copyright and makes about $2.0 million per year from it. A simple Google search will turn up plenty of information for anyone that cares, but this is my conclusion. The copyright for the tune has expired and comes from the original title “Good Morning to All” issued in the late 1800’s. We are free to hum it or play it free of charge. The copyright that Time Warner holds is the pairing of the lyrics with this earlier tune, like when Weird Al creates a new copyright with his parodies. Several researchers have concluded that the current copyright should not have been granted, but the cost to fight it in court is more expensive then the licensing fee, so companies just pay it.

 

I had sent a list of questions in the original email that we went over in our brief conversation.

  1. What was the reason(s) you decided to create a game for the Atari 2600?

I enjoyed playing the games at that time and was just starting a new business so decided to try making a game.

 

2. How did you learn how to program for it?

 

I found a book on how to program the 6502 chip and started with that.

 

3. Do you remember what equipment was used in the development process?

 

I can’t remember.

 

4. How long did it take?

 

Several months, not sure of the exact length.

 

5. Did you advertise the game for sale? (Magazines, Newspapers, Other)

 

Yes, in the newspaper.

 

6. Was the advertising specific to where you were living at the time?

 

Yes, in The Newark Star-Ledger (If someone has access to the Rutger’s University Alexander Library, it looks like they might have microfiche; I would suggest looking in 1984; Personal Games Company was registered on 8/13/1984)

 

7. One of the main features appears that the name of the individual can be personalized. Was there a limit to how many characters

could be put in the display?

 

Yes, but I can't remember what the limitation was.

 

8. Because of the personalization, did you use EPROMS to burn each cartridge?

 

Yes, I did each one individually.

 

9. Where did the shell casings come from? They kind of look like the ones that Apollo Games used at the time.

 

I can't remember.

 

10. Did you work on any other games for the Atari 2600 or any other system?

 

No, this was the only game.

 

11. Approximately how many copies of Birthday Mania were sold?

 

About 10 plus a few given to people who helped in the process.

 

12. Did you hang on to any of the items involved in this production? (Cartridges, Computer Code, Game Manuals, Advertising, etc)

 

No, I didn't keep anything. They were not sold with boxes but did have a manual that was just a tri-folded piece of paper.

 

 

As the conversation was wrapping up I could sense that he did not want to have to deal with a thirty year old project and really didn’t want people contacting him. So I threw my plan of building trust out the door and went for the sales pitch. I asked if he would consider licensing the game for reproductions. He flatly said he didn’t want to have to deal with the hassles. I then proposed buying the copyright (knowing I would have to get a Wonder007 or other collectors involved to make that happen). He then surprised me completely. He said he wasn’t interested in selling it, but would give it away if any profits would go to a charitable organization. My jaw almost hit the floor as I didn’t expect that kind of generosity. I work with a lot of lawyers and said I would draft something for him to review.

 

A couple weeks later I sent a draft copyright assignment to him for consideration and he sent it back to me signed. The two items I put in our agreement were that he would always be recognized as the creator of the game and that any profits from reproductions would go to a charitable organization as he requested. I have filed the assignment with the Copyright office and was holding off in posting this information in hopes I could obtain the computer code and game manual that are filed with them as a surprise. Unfortunately after waiting several months and reading some faqs on the website it could take 6 months or more till I’m able to actually get copies of what they have. So maybe sometime in 2013 we’ll be able to create reproductions for people to enjoy. I would love for Thomas or someone with great skills to create an automated way to have each cart personalized with a name like the originals were.

 

Update on July 31, 2019

 

Attached is a ROM with the original programmers name in recognition of his creation.  Thanks to Thomas for cleaning up the code and creating this version and Albert for help with the forum.

 

Play Hints:

 

1. This is a paddle game (left port)

2. Left difficulty switch in A=narrow blast, B=wider blast

3. Reset starts new game

4. Select not used

5. B/W switch, Color position shows and plays Happy Birthday screen, B/W position skips intro screen

6. Right difficulty switch in A=single blow mode, B=continuous blow mode

7. The game pauses between waves and only starts the new wave when the fire button is pressed or if it is being held down.

8. Enjoy!

Birthday_Mania_Robert_A_Tokar.bin

Edited by Atari_Warlord
Added ROM
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Thread title had me thinking you'd found a sealed Birthday Mania and decided to unwrap it ;)

 

 

A great bit of detective work. Well done.

Edited by nofrills100
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This is awesome. So the code is actually filed away somewhere, able to be obtained and created again? Am I understanding that right?

 

Count me in. I want a personalized game for not only me but my kids as well. Multiple donations to charity!

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Holy Christ that is incredible news. Well done and well done for ascertaining that 10 were sold and a handful more were given away. Its not every day you meet someone as generous as this creator. I salute him and salute you too Waggie. Great job ;)

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This is awesome. So the code is actually filed away somewhere, able to be obtained and created again? Am I understanding that right?

 

Count me in. I want a personalized game for not only me but my kids as well. Multiple donations to charity!

 

According to the Copyright office description they have a printout of the code. I hope it is correct and that they have kept it safe all these years. Once the assignment is processed I'll be able to request copies of what they have on file. I really wanted to wait until everything was in hand, but I could see people were getting anxious in the Air Raid thread and felt it was time to let the news out.

 

In the meantime, if someone in New Jersey has a little time, I think the advertisement can be found, probably just text in the classifieds section.

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Pretty good detective work, Waggie! This gentlemen is kind indeed wanting to donate to charities.

 

 

As for writing something to customize the names, well that is pretty trivial for any of the programmers on these boards. What is more interesting than the rom is the source code that constructs it, especially if it has the authors comments. This gives us an unique insight of what is going on in their head as they were writing the program.

 

 

Great success all the way around. I hope this gentlemen remains in good health, and doesn't get bombarded by calls from collectors trying to beat him with their wallets. Sounds like he just doesn't want to be hassled.

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Yay!

This is Great!

Finally we'll be able to archive this!

Ironic how just the earlier the other day I mentioned Birthday Mania three times!

Did I cause this?

...

 

Go Go Home Monster

 

Go Go Home Monster

 

Go Go Home Monster

 

I guess we won't need Project Blowout, after all, praise the lord. I can't believe it came within a month, but just one day? It's a miracle!

 

When Albert sees this he'll be happier than me when I discovered that Air Raid had a manual!

Oh, and Albert needs to update the database.

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OH, can you ask him one more question? I have a theory that there are actually two different colors. One pink for girls, and one blue for boys. I was wondering if my guess is correct or not.

Edited by homerwannabee

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OH, can you ask him one more question? I have a theory that there are actually two different colors. One pink for girls, and one blue for boys. I was wondering if my guess is correct or not.

 

Only one...red.

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Finally!

ROM won't need to use those blurry screenshots anymore!

Now if only a copy of Basic Algebra by Unitronics would show up...

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I'll update the game page.

Don't forget the very latest findings about Air Raid. ;)

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Yay!

This is Great!

Finally we'll be able to archive this!

Ironic how just the earlier the other day I mentioned Birthday Mania three times!

Did I cause this?

...

 

Go Go Home Monster

 

Go Go Home Monster

 

Go Go Home Monster

 

I guess we won't need Project Blowout, after all, praise the lord. I can't believe it came within a month, but just one day? It's a miracle!

 

When Albert sees this he'll be happier than me when I discovered that Air Raid had a manual!

Oh, and Albert needs to update the database.

 

I am praying for the day when this one finally surfaces. Lets keep the dream alive shall we ;)

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Great success all the way around. I hope this gentlemen remains in good health, and doesn't get bombarded by calls from collectors trying to beat him with their wallets. Sounds like he just doesn't want to be hassled.

 

It might have been a little subtle in my description above, but I'm the current copyright holder, so any commercial discussions have to come to me. I did not want to do it this way when he made the original proposal, but decided it would be awkward and he may think I was scamming him if I introduced a third party. I want to make the game available for purchase and to honor his wishes for charity. Ultimately I think it should go to a museum that has a strong emphasis on the Atari 2600.

 

Here is my checklist for the project:

 

1. Obtain Computer Code.

 

2. Obtain Game Manual.

 

2. Have genius (you know who you are) write a program to automate putting individual names in the game.

 

3. Although it didn't come with a box, I think it would be nice to have one and would love to see what people could come up with.

 

4. Have someone design a label exactly like the original.

 

5. Maybe spruce the manual up a little. I have a feeling the original is spartan and we would need to thank everyone that contributes.

 

6. Talk to Albert about production and costs.

 

Not necessarily in this order. Have I forgotten something?

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Just as a side note, it might be prudent to talk with CPUWIZ about production and release. He has done a lot of high-visibility releases such as this in the past (GLCB being the most recent) and has the supplies and talent on hand to create a stellar box, manual, and cart. :) He's generally the "go-to" guy when it comes to reproductions of the highest quality, in my opinion. :thumbsup:

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Just as a side note, it might be prudent to talk with CPUWIZ about production and release. He has done a lot of high-visibility releases such as this in the past (GLCB being the most recent) and has the supplies and talent on hand to create a stellar box, manual, and cart. :) He's generally the "go-to" guy when it comes to reproductions of the highest quality, in my opinion. :thumbsup:

 

Dont give him too much credit,its Mrs CPUWIZ thats does that hard work. ;-)

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When you said he wanted it to go to charity, I was thinking he meant the needy or suffering. Donating to an Atari related museum seems kind of like donating to ourselves and not a charitable organization. The game was meant as a birthday gift for children and is about blowing out the candles to make a wish. In my opinion, something like the Make-A-Wish Foundation would seem more charitable and fit with the spirit of the game.

 

 

 

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