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Atari Stories (how it changed your life)

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I thought I would start this thread to see who else has a story to tell on how owning/using their Atari's changed their live's (for better or worse).

I started this here as the 800 was the starter for me (might be ST's for others).

 

For me it started with a 2600 that I bought for my "kids"¬†ūüėÄ, then about a year later I wanted a Computer and the most appealing in spite

of the price was the Atari 800 with 48K and a Cassette. 

I started like most learning Basic, but wanted to know and use the power of this little beast, so an Assembler Editor Cart came next.

I learnt 6502 and am still quite proficient at it.

 

Work wise I was an Electronics Engineer in the RAF and was posted to a facility that was staring to

use In-Circuit testing which required our team writing programs, I found the transition quite easy as

I was already using BASIC and Assembly Language and ended up having to teach the other staff.

 

I later progressed to an ST where I self taught 'C' and obviously 68000 machine code.

I moved to a new station that built Automated Test Systems, again lots of programming.

I even managed to get my bosses to buy some ST's to do the CAD drawing for our project ST->rs232->IEE488 Interface->>10 pen Plotter.

 

On leaving the RAF I got a job working for a Major Bank as an Analyst Programmer as they developed all their software in 'C' and I was quite profficient

in the language by then.

 

That kept me employed for about 17 years, then I moved on to become a Test Analyst for Cable and Wireless WorldWide, this still used my

programming skills and again kept me gainfull employed until I retired.

 

I don't think my career would have gone the way it did if I hadn't got that first Atari, I probably would have stayed as an Aircraft Engineer !!! 

 

 

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I started life after leaving school working with special needs children as a teaching assistant and I also was their bus attendant to pick up and return the kids home. It was a wonderful job, never two days the same and very rewarding apart from when you got you thumb turned backwards or bitten etc, not so fun then but I loved the job. It was at that time I'd just got a ZX80, I was RUBBISH at programming it and remember going to a micro show and asking what buttons you pressed to get those bar graphs you saw on the box, yes, I was that nieve then. Having given the people on the stall a laugh I then knew of programming and started it remaining almost as rubbish to this day :)

 

So I'd got the computer bug by then, I'd never seen such things, I'd had simple toys as a kid like Etch a sketch and now there was something I plugged in to the TV and could play simple games on..

 

I became a regular visitor to the local Mapling branch which made me some good friends with all sorts of people around the Atari scene as it was to become, I had just got an Atari and was helping on a saturday in there selling them just for something to do and then they offered me a job which took me aback so I gave it lots of thought as by then I was doing a lot of the actual teaching work and was about to train as a Nursery Nurse which would have allowed me to enter teaching and be better paid BUT the allure of computers simply took me in that direction, it was both sad but was the right choice for me...Twas a true life changer, I was now selling the very machines I loved, getting access to loads of software and getting well paid for it as well, amazing.

 

The rest and other adventures I had with the Atari and later machines is now history..

Edited by Mclaneinc
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I have been "exposed" to 8-bit Atari since I was five.

 

I went through gaming-only period (5-10) and (Turbo) BASIC programming period (11-13). From the later period, I remember one moment of absolute clarity when the dots connected themselves and I suddenly knew how DL, PMG, and custom character set work.¬†I wish that would have happened later in all my math classes/courses later ūüôā

 

Then, relatively late (1997), I switched to PC compatibles and skipped the 16/32-bit Atari machines completely.

 

Having no internet access until 2001, I didn't know about emulators, unless I stumbled over the SCORE magazine, issue 63, where they happened to include an emulator. I think it was Atari800Win at the time. It allowed me to play some games here and there. I used to download mostly from Atariland at the time. But I was not back to programming for 8-bit Atari until 2007. Out of despair, before the toughest exam of my master studies, I put together a simple game in CC65. And then I scraped through.

 

So what were the consequences of being "exposed" to the stone gray box with keyboard?

They were severe and mostly good.

 

1. Early exposure to and interest in learning English (parents realized that and sent me to courses when I was 9).

2. General interest in programming and computers (parents realized that too and sent me to afternoon computer school when I was 11. There I have learned how to use PC and how to program it in Turbo Pascal). 

3. Considerable gaming time during early secondary education. The worst offenders were Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Age of Empires.

One time, my grades declined horribly. Parents blamed the computer and it was boxed temporarily after a great deal of yelling.

Boxing didn't help and couldn't have helped, however. The gaming was involved for sure, yet the true root cause was completely different as I just needed to adjust to higher demands of my grammar school. After a rough period of struggle and mistrust, grades improved, I eventually learned Java and C. The leaving exam was flawless. That was my redemption.

4. The next step was crystal clear, of course:

10 OPEN #1,COMPUTER_SCIENCE,0,"CZECH TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY"

20 FOR YEAR=1 TO 5: GOSUB STUDY: GOSUB PASS_EXAMS:NEXT YEAR

30 GET #1, MASTER_DEGREE: CLOSE #1

5. Career in IT. I do not complain.

 

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I revceived an Atari 2600 for Christmas probably around 1979. I knew I was getting it and worked with my parents to find the best deal. There was a department store called Elder Beerman. They advertised on the back of the TV supplement in the Sunday paper every week and showed it for a decent price and pictured the keyboard controllers with it. I was like, I don't know what the keyboard controllers can be used for, but there must be something, so my Mom bought it there. Christmas morning, I opened it up and there were no keyboard controllers. My Mom called and pointed out the omission (The ad was still running each Sunday) and they said that it was obvious by the price that the controllers would not be included, My Mom Vehemently disagreed and threatened to go to the Consumer watch-dog group on the local news channel. They gave in and gave her the controllers. (Still weeks later, the controllers were still being shown in the ad...)

 

So, I had these controllers and nothing to do with them. I asked around at the local stores and eventually found the Atari Basic Programming cartridge.

 

5 minutes in, I was hooked. I could control my Atari 2600 in a way I never knew possible.

 

Atari 800 followed a few years later, I took Pascal in high school, decided I wanted to do this for a living, went to college, earned a Systems Analysis degree, got a job programming in IBM Mainframe assembler for a bank and still work for that bank 30 years later. (While we still have mainframe systems, most of what I do now is Windows and UNIX.)

 

So, yeah, it changed my life.

 

-Todd

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Nice thread idea, how you got to the Atari without all the stories about the Atari and how it may have changed your path in life..

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My families very first computer anything was an Odyssey II that my dad got us for Christmas in 1979.  Man that was huge for me.  I was instantly fascinated with it.  Later, my father bought the Intro to Computers cartridge and that started my love of programming.  A few years later my dad brought home a Timex Sinclair 1000.  I taught myself basic programming and had pretty much decided I wanted to be a computer programmer as an adult.  Then when I turned 13 My dad brought home an Atari 400.  He had the keyboard and RAM upgraded.  That was where things really took off for me.  I got the Assembler Editor cart for Christmas and taught myself assembly.  I had many years with that 400 being my main machine.  Later I moved onto other computers and the 400 ended up in the closet.  Lucky for me, that very same 400 made it through all the years/moves and I still have it to this day.  In college I minored in computer science.  My first jobs a kid (besides Burger King) were programming.  As I grew up I got out of computers and pursued my love of aviation and became an airline pilot.  Now that I am starting my 50s I find that I am getting the bug again to get back into programming/gaming.  The funny thing is that I have no interest in the modern stuff.  I just want to learn more about my 8 bits (especially the Atari)

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My story is a little bittersweet, as I blame Atari for derailing my career path.

 

I've always loved science and have been good at math, so I wanted to become an astronomer. My high school math teacher recommended a FORTRAN course but I thought that sounded too industrial, especially since it was taught in the shop building behind the school. He said it's really mathematical so I tried it and took to it quickly. My senior year the school bought two Altairs and I learned BASIC on those, plus I got my own little computer, a TI SR-56. I spent a lot of time programming those, mostly science apps.

 

In college I worked on my chosen career path with some programming courses sprinkled in. By senior year my interest in computers had grown and I added a second major in computer science. That's when I saw the Atari and had to have one. I obsessed over my 400 instead of studying for the Physics GRE, so thoughts of grad school faded. My career since then has been a series of programming jobs with some digital hardware development thrown in. I never made it to grad school but have had many rewarding experiences at work, with raising a family, learning to fly, and coaching school robotics teams. But I have watched as computers have become important in research science, thinking I could have done that.

 

I don't really blame Atari, and I still love those old machines, plus I have made new friends among you all in this great hobby.

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Obviously my love for all things Atari began with the 2600 and some arcade games.  Home computers were a natural progression for me since they not only play video games but I could so make my own.  I really wanted a 400 but they were very expensive so my mom got me a Tandy CoCo, which was fine since I learned BASIC programming anyway. I did eventually got an Atari 130XE for my 13th birthday which was where I 'really' learned alot about programing.  I subscribed to Antic magazine where I got lots of useful programs on a disk, some of which really helped me through my high school English classes.


But I didn't get a "real" computer until I got my Atari STe for graduation and it really helped me out in college.  I did term papers, flowchart drawings and programming projects on it as well as getting online and accessing the school's VAX computer for my computer courses.  Plus the imported games were far ahead of the 8-bit stuff I had throughout my adolesence....all of this with a Mac-like interface!

 

The most important thing I got from using Atari's computers was how to get the best out of any computer including PC's.  Plus there sense of community that's just not around anymore (I even tried using Linux in the Atari's place but it's not the same).  I'm glad there's something like AtariAge around now.

 

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The arcades in the late 70's was how I was introduced to Atari. We had a Magnavox Odyssey in '76. It pretty much sucked and got little use. I thought there was tremendous potential with such a device. We got a 2600 in around '80 then sold it a year later then got another 2600 a year later, missing the games. But it was the 800XL, our first computer, that made by far the biggest impact. Still use computers to this day for lots and lots of things. Since '84 I don't care much for game consoles.

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My first exposure to video games was probably an arcade Pong tabletop (probably a clone) around 1974-5 followed by the home version with the light gun (clone for sure) a couple of years later.

 

Didn't use a computer until I was probably 11 or 12 and it was a System 80 which is a local clone of the TRS-80.

Around the same time I saw the Atari VCS (at the same friend's house) so got a taste of videogames fairly early (for those times, late 70s into early 80s)

 

The same friend as well as another's family got Atari 400s around the same time so I spent a fair bit of time playing games on those.  Not long after I got the interest in programming which would have started about age 14 on a Compucolor II at school.

 

I got good at Basic fairly quickly and had my own Atari 400 just before turning 16 which was used to do my part in my co-authored book "More Games for your Atari 600XL".  I'd also had 1 game published (Blockout) in another book written by someone else for the C64.

At about that same time the C64 had just come out and during a 3 week school break the next year (1984) I swapped my 400 for the 64 for the duration and during that time converted 2 of my existing games and created another, and had those released in their own book.

 

The book authoring thing didn't pan out the best though the money vs time input was pretty good, the sales were poor (IMO poor promotion & distribution).  Also throw in the fact it was not long after the N American videogame crash so the whole industry was a bit screwed for a while.

 

1986 I entered the workforce.  Atari experience being helpful there, my first job was with an Educational software company that did C64 titles but they were in trouble and went under less than 6 months later.

I started working on mainframes later that year and have a bit over 10 years experience on them, working in various roles from operations up to Systems Programming.

1988 was when I got my first 1040ST which I learned 68K asm on in about a week and was later helpful in getting to grips with IBMs 370 architecture Assembly Language (now z-OS).

 

So yeah - a lot of career help from Atari indirectly at least.  Much of my landmark early achievements on Atari computers or at least as a result of skills learned on them.

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I was offered a technician job at a it surplus store when they noticed I knew what scsi to rll adapters were (learned from my MIO). Also; the atari taught me how commands (like in ms dos) worked and how to figure out problems. Been a tech, network admin, and sys admin... looking at retirement soon. So; my atari basically gave me my career.

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