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John Harris: Jawbreaker, Frogger, Mouskattack

http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-200-john-harris-jawbreaker-frogger-mouskattack

John Harris created the games Jawbreaker, Frogger, and Mouskattack for the Atari 8-bit computers. He worked at Sierra On-Line and later Synapse Software. He later created video character generator systems based on the Atari machines.
This interview took place June 10, 2016.
Teaser quotes:
"Literally — I mean, a day or two difference could have made — gosh, my goodness, what a huge difference in my life if I had gone into that store a couple of days earlier."
"He just said, you know, 'I'll give you $1,500 a month to live on for two months, and if you haven't finished a game in two months, you won't make it in this industry anyway.'"
"The general public opinion was, 'Oh, this is just more Jawbreaker.' ... But I still kind of have a fondness for it."
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200 interview episodes in the can.

 

http://www.expertclick.com/NewsRelease/ANTIC-Atari-Podcast-Posts-200th-Interview-with-Computer-Pioneers,201680797.aspx

 

First interview published August 22, 2013.

200 interview-only episodes published.
Plus 16 other interviews before switching to the interview-episode format
For a total of 228 people interviewed.
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What was the contention that caused Frogger to be written by both John Harris AND Chuck Benton at Sierra ??? (I've seen BOTH versions, and BOTH were officially released.)

 

-Thom

 

nevermind.. he answered it...

 

-Thom

Edited by tschak909

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Back in 1998 or so, I remember John saying he still had copies of his early games in BASIC. Any chance of a nice surprise? IIRC, all were commercial releases but not a single copy has been found yet!

 

Would also love to know more about the Blythe Valley Software titles as they're MIA as well... and whether something remains of Bankster!

 

--

Atari Frog

http://www.atarimania.com

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Great John Harris interview so far. I'm about halfway through, and really enjoying it. What a cool guy. Adam and I met him at the World of Atari '98 in Vegas, and we wound up having lunch with him. He told us a story about how Ken brought the early-stage, colorful Frogger demo to an AppleFest (sp.?). He had an Apple II set up beneath the television, giving the impression that it was a Frogger conversion for that computer -- but out of sight behind the kiosk sat the Atari 800 that the game was actually running on! Too funny.

 

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Back in 1998 or so, I remember John saying he still had copies of his early games in BASIC. Any chance of a nice surprise? IIRC, all were commercial releases but not a single copy has been found yet!

 

Would also love to know more about the Blythe Valley Software titles as they're MIA as well... and whether something remains of Bankster!

 

--

Atari Frog

http://www.atarimania.com

 

 

John told me today:

 

"Pretty sure I don't have any of the basic games. I think the Blythe Valley games may be on the hard drive of the Channel Plus, and Bankster is there for sure. Even mustache game is on it. :) I had to reconstruct that one from a bad floppy at one point, where I could read most, but not all of it. So I patched in missing sections of code from memory and sleuthing.

Looks like the CMOS battery died on it though, so it's going to take some effort to resurrect. Most of it is probably on floppies too, but I don't even have any drives, and unlikely the disks would be readable anyway.
In any case, I'll see what I can come up with, but we're still trying to do our beta release, so no free time at the moment. "
He's now on my list to follow up in a few weeks.
—Kevin
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Bob Brodie: User Group Manager for Atari

 

http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-201-bob-brodie-user-group-manager-for-atari

 

There's a lot of talk about the Atari 8-bit line in this interview, including the 1450XLD! But, this is more than just an interview about the Atari 8-bit computer. Bob talks about the Atari ST, the Stacey, the ST Book, Atari's attempt to compete with PC compatibles, when/how/why they got out of the computer business (hint: it involved Sam Tramiel's daughter). I think you'll enjoy this!

 

I'm extremely pleased to provide this interview with a name well-known in the Atari community: Mr. Bob Brodie. Bob worked for Atari as User Group Manager and later Director of Communications from 1989 to 1994. Bob was directly involved in many of the Atarifests in that timeframe and I recall personally meeting him at an Atarifest in Indianapolis. I think you'll find that he has many interesting stories and perspectives concerning his time working for the Tramiels and even a story involving an Atari 1450XLD. I personally want to thank Bob for the time he spent talking with me, even calling me back when he remembered additional information or stories he thought might interest everyone. Bob is a classy guy and I enjoyed talking with him immensely.


This interview took place on February 17, 2016.


Quote

“Oh, about 6 ½ feet up in the air, I see a 1450XLD, unboxed, just sitting there!”

Edited by rkindig

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Peter Donoso, Atari Explorer magazine

http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-202-peter-donoso-atari-explorer-magazine

Peter Donoso was managing editor of Atari Explorer magazine from September 1991 through February 1993, primarily covering Atari during the ST era.
This interview took place on November 23, 2015.
Teaser quote: "[Jack Tramiel's] vision and his ability to find technology that was ahead of the market ... was just remarkable. I mean, he continually had these visionary ideas which he was able to actually implement.”
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I really liked the recent interview with John Harris, and when he talked about the Channel Plus Character Generator it brought back an early memory of having met John at FTE headquarters in Scotts Valley CA back around 1992. Mike Holman had brought the two of us together because I was working on an Atari based video color gen-lock at the time, and John had been working with a 3rd party doing software for the Channel Plus Character Generator. So we had both brought our respective hardware to Mike's headquarters and demoed it to each other. I remember being very impressed with John's work on the character generator, and we discussed the possibility of perhaps combining what I was doing with the Channel Plus system. This idea of merging the technologies never went any further than the discussions that we had that day, but it didn't really matter in the least as far as I was concerned since it was just a lot of fun talking with both John and Mike about all the Atari possibilities. That Scotts Valley visit was the first and last time that I was to see FTE headquarters, but I'll always remember what a magical time it was in an era that seemed like Atari would be in our lives forever. And to this day, I still recall what a great and truly talented guy John Harris was, and apparently still is.

 

- Michael

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Ted Toal, Cyan Engineering

Ted Toal was a software developer at Cyan Engineering, an Atari research group. He worked on Atari's unreleased picture telephone as well as other projects. This interview took place January 24, 2016.
Teaser quote: "He wanted to have toys that would be able to listen to sounds in a room and figure out where the sounds were coming from, and like maybe be able to turn towards the sound."
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  • Jim St. Louis (with Russ Karas) - wrote the famous atari robot / rocketship demos. Jim was also involved with Koronis Rift and Rescue on Fractalus.
  • Regan Cheng - worked at atari 11 years. designed the atari 5200 and 1200xl cases, responsible for the "angular" atari xl look.
  • Kevin Mckinsey - worked at atari 8 years. designed the classic atari 400 and 800 cases. also 810 drive?

  • Tom Palecki - worked for Kevin, designed the atari 1050 drive, 1029 printer, and atari touch tablet

 

regan, kevin, and tom are definitely around and online. might be interesting to get kevin and tom on a dual interview. maybe all three?

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Ray Citak, music education software

Ray Citak wrote Name the Notes, a music education program that was accepted
by Atari Program Exchange, and won an APX award, but never appeared in the
APX catalog. (The program is, as far as we know, lost to the sands of
time.) He also wrote the program Keyed Up, "a music education program
disguised as a goofy game," which appeared in Antic magazine, and Lightning
Renumber, an automatic line numbering program that was published in
Compute! magazine.
This interview took place on January 30, 2016.
Teaser quote: "The trick to learning, of course, was knowing the computer.
Of course, I just devoured books on what the computer could do and what its
capabilities were when you plugged in different values in different places."
Richard Wiitala, Number Blast
Richard Wiitala was the author of Number Blast, an arithmetic teaching program that was published by Atari Program Exchange. Number Blast first appeared in the winter 1981 APX catalog, where it won third prize in the education category.
This interview took place on February 1, 2016. After we talked, Richard send me 23 pages of scans of his correspondance with Atari Program Exchange, including the letters that included his royalty statements, and info about BASIC language upgrades and software compatibility with the Atari 1200XL computer. Those are now available for your perusal at the Internet Archive.
Teaser quote: "When I applied for a copyright on this, there weren't really a lot of guidelines about copyrighting computer programs back then."
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Richard Mansfield: Compute! Magazine, 6502 Machine Language Books

Richard Mansfield is author of the best-selling book Machine Language For Beginners, and its sequel, Compute!'s Second Book Of Machine Language, both published by Compute! books. He also wrote Apple Machine Language for Beginners, Commodore 128 Machine Language for Beginners, and a bevy of other computer books continuing right up through today. Richard was also a long-time editor of Compute! magazine.
This interview took place on March 17 2016.
Teaser quotes:
"It was kind of a lucky thing for me, the timing was right. I had the writing skill and I also had an intense curiosity and interest about computers and programming."
"Unfortunately, the amateur computer programmer is a memory, really. If some kid gets into computing now he basically has a lot of algebra, a lot of other hurdles that are meaningless, but they're there."
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Richard Mansfield: Compute! Magazine, 6502 Machine Language Books

Richard Mansfield is author of the best-selling book Machine Language For Beginners, and its sequel, Compute!'s Second Book Of Machine Language, both published by Compute! books. He also wrote Apple Machine Language for Beginners, Commodore 128 Machine Language for Beginners, and a bevy of other computer books continuing right up through today. Richard was also a long-time editor of Compute! magazine.
This interview took place on March 17 2016.
Teaser quotes:
"It was kind of a lucky thing for me, the timing was right. I had the writing skill and I also had an intense curiosity and interest about computers and programming."
"Unfortunately, the amateur computer programmer is a memory, really. If some kid gets into computing now he basically has a lot of algebra, a lot of other hurdles that are meaningless, but they're there."

 

 

 

Can't wait to listen to this one. After reading this, just for giggles I booted up a disk image I made a few years back from the floppy I ordered to go along with his SECOND BOOK OF MACHINE LANGUAGE back in the ... Ferg. :)

 

post-30400-0-90358300-1469465673_thumb.png

 

(This is my own personal floppy from 1984, not an image from Atarimania or something).

 

Man, I loved those Compute! books.

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Tom Halfhill, Compute! Magazine

Tom R. Halfhill was features editor of Compute! Magazine, and was later launch editor of several other magazines from that publisher, including Compute!'s Gazette, Compute's Atari ST, and Compute!'s PC Magazine. He co-wrote the book Advanced Amiga Basic and was later editor of Game Players magazine.
This interview took place on March 29, 2016.
Teaser quotes:
"SpeedScript was written in a couple of months by our 18-year-old, untrained programmer. ... You've got a whole staff of professional programmers, and frankly, if you can't do better than him, then you don't deserve to be in business."
"There was a full page ad for ... I think it was a strip poker program. ... He got a complaint letter, Robert [Locke] did, from a school principal at an elementary school somewhere in the U.S., saying, 'We've got this magazine in our school library, we can't have strip poker in there. This is unacceptable!'"
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Robert Jaeger (Montezuma's Revenge) is evidently very accessible, as I've just heard an interview with him on the Lost Treasures of Gaming podcast. The thing is, the interviewers don't seem to know about anything to which he refers (they draw a blank on APX, for instance, plus Exidy's Targ and some other stuff), and it would be nice to hear him interviewed by someone who's actually educated about this stuff!

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Duane Bolster, Midas Touch and Advanced Fingerspelling

Duane Bolster published two programs with Atari Program Exchange: Midas Touch and Advanced Fingerspelling. Midas Touch, a word game, was first available in the summer 1982 APX catalog. Advanced Fingerspelling, a program for teaching letters in sign language, was first available in the fall 1983 catalog. He also created an add-on for the Atari 810 disk drive that circumvented disk copy protection.
This interview took place on March 21, 2016.
Teaser quotes:
"That's one thing I gained from my working with the Atari, is that when you work outside the box, you can do incredible things. But you stick to the book, and you're stuck doing what somebody else did."
"Huh. If I market this, I'll be known as the father of software piracy."
post-803-0-68817300-1469802886_thumb.gif
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Didn't know that existed. I always used the Disassembler from Gardiner Computing (their Pirate's Treasure Chest disk)... This one is _VERY_ nice.

 

-Thom

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Gregor Novak, Math*UFO and Ringmaster

Gregor Novak is the author of two educational games which were published by Atari Program Exchange: Math*UFO and Ringmaster. Math*UFO first appeared in the fall 1982 APX catalog, where it won second prize in the education category. ("A mysterious spaceship floats to the top of the screen. Is it a Martian? No, it's MATH*UFO flashing you number drills! MATH*UFO is a very competitive , one- or two-player educational game that turns math drills into a fast-moving, arcade-style challenge.")
Ringmaster first appeared in the fall 1983 catalog, where it won second prize in the education category. ("Step right up to the circus! Watch the elephants and the camels on parade as the music plays. Everyone's in a carnival spirit, especially one rambunctious monkey. ... Using your joystick controller, you're the ringmaster ... you make sure he jumps successfully. He'll make it if he leaps onto the back of an elephant or camel numbered with a multiple of the number he started from at the bottom of the screen.") Ringmaster was also released as Under the Big Top by Main Street Publishing.
This interview took place on February 7, 2016.
Teaser quote: "I would have gone even without the money. In fact, I was shocked when Math*UFO made a couple thousand dollars. I didn't think it would do that."
post-803-0-90878100-1470150642_thumb.gif
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John Reese, Tronix CEO

http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-211-john-reese-tronix-ceo

John Reese was the founder and CEO of Tronix, the software company that produced two games for the Atari 8-bit computers: Kid Grid (in 1982) Juice! (in 1983.) The company also produced other games for Commodore computers, including Sidewinder, Deadly Skies, and Gold Fever! for the VIC-20; and Suicide Strike for the Commodore 64.
John was simultaneously founder and CEO of Monogram, the software company that produced Dollars and Sense, home financial management software that was available for the Atari ST and IBM PC. Both companies were subsidiaries of Softsel, an early software distributor.
This interview took place on March 12, 2016.
Teaser quotes:
"...told them that the right thing for them to do was to push out game software ... they didn't tell me that it's supposed to take six to nine months to go get that done."
"Piracy was there but it wasn't something that we had a handle on. It was sort of viewed at the time, by me at least, as the cost of doing business."
post-803-0-28696600-1470320300_thumb.png
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Cool! Tronix released Dragonfly Software's Scorpion, of the best VIC-20 games. In fact, it comprises the only chapter in my book that's specific to that computer. I'm sure Reese has long since forgotten about it; regardless, I'm really looking forward to listening to this interview.

 

 

Edited by Chris++

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