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Knurrikowski

Star Raiders release date

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Hi folks! I am doing some research on Star Raiders, the famous game. It is widely believed to be released in 1979. But is there any proof? Some websites claim that he official release date is march of 1980 - but no proof for that again. What do you think? Are there any reliable documents or interviews stating the release date? Best regards, Knurri

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The later date is more likely - I believe that the 1979 date is likely to be the announcement date - and the Atari 400/800 computers would be more widely available in 1980?

In an interview (ANALOG?) the programmer said there was the extra time available to enable fine tuning of the gameplay of the game - that it was thoroughly tested.

The first computers had the CTIA chip - which was quickly swapped for the GTIA chip. The first cartridge games were 8K as it was thought this would be standard - but this soon changed to 16K when chip prices fell and games really needed this minimum to work with.

 

You would have to research through the early computing magazines of this time - to confirm the above.

 

Harvey

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From the A8FAQ maintained by M.Current, subject 11.1:

"What is the history of Atari's computer platform"... (starts in 1975!)

1980January 5-8: At the Winter CES in Las Vegas, for the 400/800, Atari introducedthe 825 printer, 830 modem, and 850 interface, introduced 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe,Star Raiders, and Calculator, and again promised Music Composer, AssemblerEditor (previously: Assembler Debug), and Personal Finance (previously: HomeFinance; never shipped).  Atari announced a license agreement to market 8investment-application programs designed by Control Data Corp. from CDC'sCyberware library, including: bond yield, bond price and interest, bondswitch, stock rate of return, stock dividend analysis, stock charting,mortgage analysis, portfolio analysis. (WSJ Jan8p37; TVDigest 1/14/80p13) Also, list prices for the 400 and 800 packages increased to US$630 andUS$1,080 (up from US$550 and US$1,000).
January?: Atari shipped: Computer Chess, 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, Star Raiders

ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/faqs/atari-8-bit/faq

Edited by CharlieChaplin
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Thanks for your replies!

 

What makes march very likely to me is that the trademark STAR RAIDERS was first used in the beginning of march 1980 (cf. https://trademarks.justia.com/733/63/star-73363484.html). All boxes and cartridge labels I have seen during my life feature that TM-sign. Noone would release a product with the respective TM on it if the trademark was not granted by the respective authority, right? Also, in an interview with Russ Wetmore he stated that he aquired his personal Star Raiders cartridge in April 1980. The earliest ad featuring Star Raiders I found so far is in the mai issue 1980 of Byte magazine. Just to let you know what I have digged out so far.

Edited by Knurrikowski
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What hair is being split here, you could have star raiders as early as January and buy in almost any store come march/April etc. That being said.. easy enough for someone who has the requisition, shipping and delivery reports to check. I'd go that route. As has happened from time to time, if important enough the fellows hear have done the deep dive or produced such paper or internal electronic memos. We are long in the tooth and it would take some doing for them accomplish this at this stage in life. I'd contact Curt and he can either help or point you in the correct direction...

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Another find. Tomzcyk writes in his book Home Computer Wars (page 1): "It was November [1979] and we were doing some graphics work for an Atari designer named Bill Hamlin. One day he gave us a new computer and a new game cartridge called Star Raiders and asked us to try them out. We didn't know it, but we had become an unofficial beta-test site. Remember, this was several months before the Atari 800 and Star Raiders were on sale to the public. Even dealers didn't have them yet." To me that sounds like the game was not released before 1980. More opinions?

Edited by Knurrikowski

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Another find. Tomzcyk writes in his book ...

 

 

First off, Tomzcyk is a great story-teller, no doubt about that. His interview for Randy Kindig's FLOPPY DAYS podcast is just wonderful. But remember two things: 1) It's been pushing 4 decades since these events. Try to remember what you had for breakfast on a particular Thursday 3 months ago and you see how vague and selective human long-term memory really is (I have 17+ years of professional experience with peoples' memories, FWIW). And 2) Tomzcyk is a ridiculously-biased Commodore homer. Anything he comments about non-Commodore stuff, especially given the vagaries of human memory, needs to be taken with a very large grain of salt.

 

All boxes and cartridge labels I have seen during my life feature that TM-sign. Noone would release a product with the respective TM on it if the trademark was not granted by the respective authority, right?

 

Here's a hint about U.S. trademark law and usage: The "Circle R" sympbol ( ® ) is only granted when the U.S. Patent and Trademark offices actually grants the trademark and grants the mark-holder rights to use it in commerce for the intended application(s). By contrast, the "TM" symbol ( ™ ) may be used once the mark is APPLIED FOR and before it's granted. If the trademark application is denied by the USPTO, the ™ symbol must be taken off the product materials and no longer used going forward. Some of the particulars may have changed in the 23 or so years since I studied this in depth, but those are the basics.

 

No here's some further advice for you: if you haven't already, start listening to the ANTIC interview podcasts with Atari folks. There are some Atari folks who remember well building early-production units and packaging them to meet a deadline in very late summer or early fall '79 to have machines in the boxes and "available" in the warehouses for the 1979 Christmas catalog photoshoots and publication. Of course, once the catalogs were sent out, most or all of those were returned to Sunnyvale and tested, re-built and factory fixes applied for those that needed it, etc.

 

In other words, it seems pretty clear there was VERY VERY "limited availability" of hardware and a very few titles as of the Christmas season 1979 but widespread availability wasn't until the winter/spring 1980. For instance, the Sears Christmas 1979 catalog shows the 400 and 410 Program Recorder, plus a bare handful of carts and cassettes such as Basketball and Music Composer. Star Raiders is NOT one of them. Neither the 800, 810 nor any additional hardware, and very few additional titles are shown.

 

So if media reports from CES 1980 say Atari showed off Star Raiders then, that's likely as good a date as any for "introduced." I don't see that this is really all that much in dispute. The *real* question is why, if Doug Neubauer finished the code in the summer of '79 once the hardware configuration was frozen, why wasn't the game "released" for the Christmas '79 catalogs along with the other early stuff? Were there problems getting mast ROMs produced? Were there some last-minute tweaks to the code after that "Jun 79" date but the date never updated? Were there printing problems with the Atari promo and dealer materials?

 

Find out those answers and we'll know the WHY, which is much more interesting than the WHEN.

Edited by DrVenkman
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IMO a good chance the game was finished at the earlier time.

 

Along with very few others it has 2 attributes that most cart games don't.

1. It will run on an 8K Ram system.

2. It runs in diagnostic mode. Which for "tight times" is sort of against the grain as that means you have to do the initialization stuff that the OS otherwise takes care of, which might eat up a valuable few hundred bytes or more.

The reasoning for that - possibly the OS wasn't finalised while SR was in development. Remember, there's a similar kludge that still lives involving Basic and CIO - the PUT Character routine differs from all the others in that it provides a direct entry point which was provided so that parallel development could take place.

Re initialization - the "smart" way of running game carts in fact is to run as a normal cart with Init/Run vectors in place but to just not return from the Init call.

Doing that means you get the system initialization up to just before E: is opened and also gain the benefit of no tape or disk boot being possible.

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First off, Tomzcyk is a great story-teller, no doubt about that. His interview for Randy Kindig's FLOPPY DAYS podcast is just wonderful. But remember two things: 1) It's been pushing 4 decades since these events. Try to remember what you had for breakfast on a particular Thursday 3 months ago and you see how vague and selective human long-term memory really is (I have 17+ years of professional experience with peoples' memories, FWIW). And 2) Tomzcyk is a ridiculously-biased Commodore homer. Anything he comments about non-Commodore stuff, especially given the vagaries of human memory, needs to be taken with a very large grain of salt.

 

 

Here's a hint about U.S. trademark law and usage: The "Circle R" sympbol ( ® ) is only granted when the U.S. Patent and Trademark offices actually grants the trademark and grants the mark-holder rights to use it in commerce for the intended application(s). By contrast, the "TM" symbol ( ™ ) may be used once the mark is APPLIED FOR and before it's granted. If the trademark application is denied by the USPTO, the ™ symbol must be taken off the product materials and no longer used going forward. Some of the particulars may have changed in the 23 or so years since I studied this in depth, but those are the basics.

 

No here's some further advice for you: if you haven't already, start listening to the ANTIC interview podcasts with Atari folks. There are some Atari folks who remember well building early-production units and packaging them to meet a deadline in very late summer or early fall '79 to have machines in the boxes and "available" in the warehouses for the 1979 Christmas catalog photoshoots and publication. Of course, once the catalogs were sent out, most or all of those were returned to Sunnyvale and tested, re-built and factory fixes applied for those that needed it, etc.

 

In other words, it seems pretty clear there was VERY VERY "limited availability" of hardware and a very few titles as of the Christmas season 1979 but widespread availability wasn't until the winter/spring 1980. For instance, the Sears Christmas 1979 catalog shows the 400 and 410 Program Recorder, plus a bare handful of carts and cassettes such as Basketball and Music Composer. Star Raiders is NOT one of them. Neither the 800, 810 nor any additional hardware, and very few additional titles are shown.

 

So if media reports from CES 1980 say Atari showed off Star Raiders then, that's likely as good a date as any for "introduced." I don't see that this is really all that much in dispute. The *real* question is why, if Doug Neubauer finished the code in the summer of '79 once the hardware configuration was frozen, why wasn't the game "released" for the Christmas '79 catalogs along with the other early stuff? Were there problems getting mast ROMs produced? Were there some last-minute tweaks to the code after that "Jun 79" date but the date never updated? Were there printing problems with the Atari promo and dealer materials?

 

Find out those answers and we'll know the WHY, which is much more interesting than the WHEN.

Perhaps I was not clear. If you check the website I have given in my first post you find the following:
First Use Anywhere Date
1980-03-05
First Use In Commerce Date
1980-03-05

 

So, no use in 1979.

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You quoting use anywhere in europe or usa? Clearly CES Jan 1980 counts as USE somewhere... sigh..... So Jan 5 1980 is your first publicly chronicled instance. Corroborated in print and reportings

Edited by _The Doctor__

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Well,

 

I have played several Star Raiders carts on my PAL 800XL, where e.g. a Control-G did (and still does!) show garbage instead of the galactic map. But I have also played several SR carts on my PAL XL where this is not the case (so it is most likely not a PAL vs. NTSC thing and also most likely not an OS-A vs. OS-B vs. XL-OS thing)...

 

So Atari had faulty SR ROMs at some point and they also had corrected SR ROMs at some point... and now let me speculate, that the faulty SR ROMs are from 1979 and the corrected ones are from 1980 (but both say 1979 on the cart label and Atari was so evil to sell both)... ?!?

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Perhaps I was not clear. If you check the website I have given in my first post you find the following:
First Use Anywhere Date
1980-03-05
First Use In Commerce Date
1980-03-05

 

So, no use in 1979.

 

 

That doesn't mean the game wasn't completed in 1979. FYI, I'm not talking out of my ass on US trademark law here. I'm actually an attorney (among other things). ;)

 

post-30400-0-06026900-1538874380_thumb.jpg

 

The "first use" stuff is straight out of Atari, Inc. company filings. All that means is that's the date Warner Communications' lawyers put on their paperwork, not when the game was done, the mask ROMs sent off to the chip fabs, the first EPROMs were burned for winter '80 CES, etc. The really interesting bit is that Atari didn't even file the application for the trademark until two and a half years after their claimed "first use."

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even more interesting is when was the first renewel? usually it's 10 years... so 2002? at best 83 +15 is 1998 so forgot about it for 5 years?

Edited by _The Doctor__

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This is the back of my "Star Raider" cartridge.

Yes, "Star Raiders" without the 's'.

First release, note the year below the Atari-logo.

But as you say, this is most likely the © year, not the production.

post-6668-0-84053200-1538907419_thumb.jpg

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Chips inside are 1981

 

:-P

 

I also opened my educational system,

dated "7938" and has a sticker inside with "33"

Hmmm.....

post-6668-0-85421100-1538907713.jpg

Edited by mr-atari

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This is the back of my "Star Raider" cartridge.

Yes, "Star Raiders" without the 's'.

First release, note the year below the Atari-logo.

But as you say, this is most likely the © year, not the production.

I own 3D-TIC-TAC-TOE and Basketball carts with that kind of back cover. My STAR RAIDER carts (without S) show a regular cover without copyright notice. Strange.

Edited by Knurrikowski
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That doesn't mean the game wasn't completed in 1979.

 

As the thread name indicates I am not interested in the completion date but the official release date.

Edited by Knurrikowski

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As the thread name indicates I am not interested in the completion date but the official release date.

 

And it's pretty obvious that as of November 1982, Atari's (or Warner's) lawyers thought it was March 5, 1980. That's been a matter of public record since (ta da!) November 1982.

 

You're missing (or purposefully disregarding) the really interesting issue concerning why it took so long to publish a game ostensibly finished some 9 months before, and apparently demo'd several months before the game was "officially" marketed. Some of that is certainly attributable to the fact the entire system design was still somewhat in flux (search the forums - there's been at least one very interesting 800 prototype unearthed that's significantly different from the released versions), and the OS wasn't finalized. But that still doesn't explain why, for instance, Basketball and Music Composer were shown in the '79 Sears Christmas Wishbook but Star Raiders wasn't even though it had been "done" for six months.

 

But another thing to remember that's REALLY important when people today try to establish a singular date for something decades later , "Release Date" in the 70's and early 80's was not at all like a game release today. By and large there was no coordinated effort across multiple retailers throughout the retain logistics chain to ensure that sales of a particular title were all begun on a particular date certain. Rather, independent stores and chain retailers would get marketing flyers from company marketing departments informing them of anticipated upcoming titles, from which they would typically be asked to order a certain minimum number of units for stock, with an expected date that the titles would be shipped to them. The folks at the store would receive shipments, typically weekly, but they'd generally not know what they got until they opened the box and saw the packing slips or bills of lading. I worked retail jobs as a teen in the 80's, so again, not just making stuff up here. There's also a good amount of Atari dealer stuff scanned and available to look through on Atarimania if you want further understanding of how marketing worked in the 80's.

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And it's pretty obvious that as of November 1982, Atari's (or Warner's) lawyers thought it was March 5, 1980. That's been a matter of public record since (ta da!) November 1982.

 

So, Mr. Tomzcyk seems to be right :)

Edited by Knurrikowski

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Funny enough, in some respects, Atari provided at times not only evaluation copies but retail copies ahead of time... Some shops were known to sell such things to select customers ahead of time... I am not sure you would call that 'official' but how is that not unlike today's' advance or pre sale models of today when certain folks get it before others? The official date is later, but clearly it's a commercial release to the people who got that extra special ahead of other folks treatment with the game in hand.

 

I don't know how much help any of this it to you... But commercial copies of the game were sold before March. How much more can be said. It helped sell the computer at the time, with a wink and a nudge. Know what we're saying?

 

I hope this gives you a little insight into how and what went on back in time... paperwork oftern lagged reality.

Edited by _The Doctor__

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