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The Atari interview discussion thread

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On 12/4/2020 at 8:25 PM, Savetz said:

Suzanne Ciani, pioneer in electronic music

Suzanne Ciani is a pioneer in electronic music, Grammy-nominated composer, and recording artist. In the 1980's, she created music for television commercials, corporate tags, and audio logos for Atari as well as many other companies. She also created the soundtrack for the 1980 Bally pinball machine, Xenon. In addition to being an early adopter of electronic music, she educated the world about it, demonstrating sound design techniques on The David Letterman Show, 3-2-1 Contact, and other popular media.

 

After I published my interview with Suzanne Ciani, she found an unpublished Atari song in her archives. It's a tune titled "My Atari". She sent it to me and allowed me to share it. It's really good, worth a listen.

 

 

Hear it at https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-special-episode-my-atari-by-suzanne-ciani

or 

 

 

-Kay

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Atari at the Science Fair: Scott Ryder: Atari-Controlled Robot
https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-404-atari-at-the-science-fair-scott-ryder-atari-controlled-robot


Here's an article from The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) dated April 15, 1982: "Science proves Fair game to young minds".

"Joseph Paul Ogas, 17, has designed a cheaper way to manipulate material beneath a microscope. Garey Nishimura, 13, has evaluated the relative flammability of several household fabrics. Theirs were the big winners among the 693 projects that filled the Fresno Convention Center Exhibit Hall for this year’s California Central Valley Science and Engineering Fair.

"There were other interesting projects that didn’t win big [such as] 'The Effects of Birth Control Pills on Plants,' and 'Determining the Correlation Between Canine Howling, Cockroach Activity and Earthquake Prediction'."

And later -- in the article's final paragraph, the reason for this interview: "Runners up [included] Scott Ryder, a sixth-grader at Ayer Elementary School: "Can an Atari 800 Control a Robot With Software?"

Can an Atari 800 control a robot with software? And if so, why did an awesome Atari-controlled robot only earn a runner-up award at the Science and Engineering Fair? I talked with Scott to find out.

This interview took place on February 21, 2021.

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Heidi Brumbaugh, Antic and START Magazines
https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-405-heidi-brumbaugh-antic-magazine

 

Heidi Brumbaugh worked at Antic Publishing, where she started off as editorial clerk, then was promoted to editorial assistant, for both Antic magazine and START magazine, then was programs editor for START Magazine. She wrote many articles for Antic and START, including three programs for the 8-bits published in Antic: Red, White and Blue, a board game; Hot and Cold, a Master Mind-type game; and Antic Prompter, a teleprompter application.

She met her husband through Antic publishing, START author and programmer Jim Kent, who also created the Cyber Paint program for Atari ST.

This interview took place on February 28, 2021.

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An article was published in the Daily Press newspaper of Newport News, Virginia on February 13 1985, titled "Best in Show at Science Fair: Computer program helps young readers conquer the 'silent e' challenge'.

Two years ago Michael Fripp wanted to make sure his younger brother didn't face a hard time learning how to deal with the "silent e" principle in reading lessons. Putting his own Atari computer to work, Michael developed a fun, educational computer program designed to teach then 6-year-old Daniel how to successfully pronounce words like "cap," "tub" and "man" when an "e" is added to each.

"I remember the trouble I had with 'silent e' and didn't want him to have that trouble," says 13-year-old Michael, an eighth grader at Queens Lake Intermediate School. "There are lots of math but few English programs for computers. I hope to bridge that gap."

Michael went on to expand the "silent e" program, complete with more detailed instruction and graphics, through his computer science class at school and entered it as an exhibit in the York County Science Fair. Michael's educational reading program — "Silent E: A Program for K-3" — was judged best in show.

"We were pleased and surprised a computer program was picked because usually the judges pick pure science," says Carolyn Gaertner, who teaches math and computer science at the intermediate school.

Michael's computer program involves a simple story outline about an earthling named Tim and his spaceship landing on the planet EOP which is ruled by the Silent E's. There, Tim learns how the Silent E's simply and quickly turn words such as "pan" into "pane" with the addition of their favorite letter...

He has copyrighted the program and hopes to market it commercially. More than 100 hours of work have gone into the project...

"Computers are like a fever; they grow on you," says the young man. "I try to do a lot of programming at home but homework really limits me."


The large photograph accompanying the article shows young Michael, replete with calculator watch, in front of an Apple II computer, not an Atari.

I talked with Dr. Fripp to hear all about his program.

This interview took place on February 28, 2021.

Intro song: Silent E by Tom Lehrer
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Guy Nouri, Interactive Picture Systems
https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-407-guy-nouri-interactive-picture-systems


Guy Nouri was co-founder of Interactive Picture Systems, a company that created software for 8-bit computers from 1982 through 1984. The company's first program was PAINT! for the Atari 8-bits, which was developed at the Superboots software development lab located at the Capital Children's Museum in Washington, D.C.. Its next program was Movie Maker, an animation program. Next came three educational titles for the Atari: Trains, a business simulation; Grandma's House, a sort of digital dollhouse; and Aerobics, a fitness program. The company also created Operation Frog, virtual dissection software for the Apple II and Commodore 64; and First Draft, an outline processor that helped kids plan their writing.

This interview took place on March 7, 2021.

 

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On 5/6/2016 at 2:56 PM, Tempest said:

Michael Park contacted me about my Midi-Maze 8-bit proto page a few years back to correct some typos and provide a little more info. I e-mailed him back asking some questions but he never responded.

I just wanted to report that Michael Park actually DID write me back but I missed the email (must have gotten lost in my spam filter).  Today he contacted me with a copy of the email he sent back then. 

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1 hour ago, Tempest said:

I just wanted to report that Michael Park actually DID write me back but I missed the email (must have gotten lost in my spam filter).  Today he contacted me with a copy of the email he sent back then. 

Looks like you dropped the square Pong ball there. :)

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Allan said:

Looks like you dropped the square Pong ball there. :).

Indeed.  Unfortunately he doesn't remember much about the game other than he wrote it and another person worked on the drone AI.  I asked about the new version that was found without the compass but with a 1991 copyright date and all he could remember was that someone didn't like the compass so they made a version without it.  The 1991 copyright date is a mystery though, especially given the prototype box says 1989 on it.

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David Maynard, Electronic Arts Worms?
https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-408-david-maynard-electronic-arts-worms


David Maynard created the game/simulation "Worms?" Published by Electronic Arts in 1983, it was a launch title -- one of the five initial releases from the company. David, one of EA's first employees, wrote Worms? for the Atari 8-bit in FORTH. It was later ported to the Commodore 64.

Worms is an interactive version of Paterson's Worms, a family of cellular automata devised in 1971 by Mike Paterson and John Conway. It is an unusual program, in which the player teaches wormlike creatures how to move on a hexagonal grid -- what direction to move in various situations. The worm's goal is to to grow and survive, and to capture more space on the grid than its competitors. Up to four worms could play simultaneously, with any combination of human- and computer-controlled worms.

But the program's manual didn't tell you all that straight off. In fact, here's the first thing you saw after opening the package: "You will find detailed instructions enclosed. Do not read them. Instead, sit down and get started. Don't ask how. Just start. You know how these things work... Resist them. Do not read them for a very long time. In fact, do not read them until you know how the game works... Then never read the instructions. Innocence is bliss."

David also collaborated on Cut & Paste, a word processor published by Electronic Arts in 1984.

After our interview, David sent me a binder of Worms? development documentation and source code for Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64, all of which I have scanned and are available at Internet Archive and GitHub. The originals are going to the Strong Museum of Play, at David's request.

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11 hours ago, Savetz said:

Not yet, afaik. I hope someone does.

 

K

 

 

If you run these via Altirra you get the title of Nitro and the main game or at least an idea of it..

MAIN.OBJ TITLE.OBJ

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Ed Fries: Romox Ant Eater, Princess and Frog, Sea Chase
https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/ed-fries-romox-ant-eater-princess-and-frog-sea-chase


Ed Fries programmed three games for the Atari 8-bit computers, which were published on cartridge by Romox: Sea Chase, Ant Eater, and Princess and Frog. His forth game for Romox, Nitro, was unfinished because the company went out of business before Ed was done coding it.

Years later, Ed became vice president of game publishing at Microsoft where he oversaw the creation of the Xbox. In 2010, Ed released Halo 2600, a demake of the Halo video for the Atari 2600. In 2013, he coded an Atari 2600 version of Rally X.

This interview took place on March 11, 2021.

After the interview, Ed sent me the assembly language source code to five games, which he graciously released as open source. You'll find the code for Sea Chase, Ant Eater, Princess and Frog, the unreleased/finished game Nitro, and a chess game, at GitHub.

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Ed actually sent me the source code to Nitro back in 2019, but the disk copy he sent seemed to be corrupted and would not resolve to a text file.  I never did get to the bottom of the issue but it's good to see this stuff was able to be rescued regardless.  He did show me his original notebook sketches from the game's development plus some other stuff. 

 

nitro.jpg

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He wrote Nitro in Mac/65, which tokenizes its source code. The trick to getting text files is to open the files with Mac/65 then print them from there.

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Romox had quite a number of titles that were announced but never released due to the crash.

 

@Savetz Did you ever get back to Tim McGuinness to know whether he had any lost code to these games? Maybe you have plans for interviews with other former Romox programmers? I sent an e-mail to Tim 10-15 years ago and he seemed very protective about the subject.

 

Also wondering whether anybody saved the Romox .pdf files which were available on Tim McGuinness' old site. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be accessible through the Wayback Machine. 

Edited by www.atarimania.com
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On 3/24/2021 at 2:41 PM, Tempest said:

Indeed.  Unfortunately he doesn't remember much about the game other than he wrote it and another person worked on the drone AI.  I asked about the new version that was found without the compass but with a 1991 copyright date and all he could remember was that someone didn't like the compass so they made a version without it.  The 1991 copyright date is a mystery though, especially given the prototype box says 1989 on it.

 

Was there any cross-chatter concerning the 7800 version... such as whether it made it past simply being listed on paper with a corresponding product code number assigned to it?

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Not that I know of.  I can ask but I doubt he remembers.

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On 4/3/2021 at 3:56 PM, www.atarimania.com said:

I sent an e-mail to Tim 10-15 years ago and he seemed very protective about the subject.

I've also contacted him in the past, and he was not particularly cooperative.

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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.

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On 4/10/2021 at 8:01 PM, Savetz said:

Ann Lewin-Benham, Director of Capital Children's Museum

Loved that interview, what a wonderful lady, her passion comes across clearly. Thanks Kay.

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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.

 

 

 

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