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The unofficial history of the Atari in Melbourne

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The Atari 2600 home video game console
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An Atari 2600 in the late 1970s and 80s was the envy of the neighbourhood. 

Kids would gather transfixed to the CRT TV playing arcade classics Pong, Space Invaders, Frogger and Dig Dug – for the first time from the comfort of home.

For this week's Unofficial History, we asked for your happy and frustrating memories of playing the classic console:

John in Coburg "looooovvvved Atari 2600. Top games were Super Breakout and Pitfall (which I double clocked only once. If you played all the way through in less than 20 minutes you got a second run with another 20 min.)"

"As a 5 year old," John from Flemington writes, "I can clearly remember my first introduction to an Atari at my cousins house in 1982. It was a revelation at the time that has led to a lifetime of gaming and integration with technology. Pitfall was my Atari game of choice, the adventure of running the character through perilous screens of alligators, swamps and swinging through a jungle was truly an enlightenment for a youngster. Hours, then months, and years of gaming followed on all of the platforms that followed in the coming years."

Danielle's "family favourite game on the Atari was 'megalomania'. One summer when my brother and I were away for 2 weeks my mother spent the entire time playing so she could beat us when we got home!" 

Some of you had a hand in it's creation! Helen "worked for Atari in Australia in the early days. It was a unique experience."

While Rod "worked just around the corner from Atari's distributor Futuretronics headquarters in Oakleigh back in the day. It was built to look like a spaceship! Amazing at the time."

Some fun local history - "Kmart used to have a set-up at the stores where you could play the Atari for free! You just had to have your fingers crossed that no one was there when you wanted to play it. The greedy ones playing kept on resetting for another game as if the people around them wanting to play were invisible!"

Some of you are very creative with your Atari uses! Kathie "was already an adult and mother by the time they came out, but my kids were too young for it at that stage. However, I used my Atari for music programs, attached to a synthesizer and also wrote a database to create a shopping list each week!"

Scott's use of it was also creative "I was lucky enough to have an Atari in the mid 1980s. The rubber cover on the handle easily slipped off. I was stupid enough to stick this to my forehead, like a unicorn. The suction of the handle on my forehead left a perfect round bruise, right in the centre between mt eyes. Not a good look for a 14 year old at school."

And Lauren proves to us that loving an Atari is ageless and timeless: "If only my kids knew how many hours their mum spent playing the Atari back in the 80s! So much so, that I had my arm in a sling from overuse! Asteroids, space invaders, berserk and barnstorming were the favourites."

And that's just some of your unofficial history of the Atari.

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Drive with Raf Epstein wants to uncover in to the 'real' history of iconic Melbourne spots by hearing your stories. If you have a great suggestion of a location for us to delve in to, email us on melbournedrive <at> abc.net.au

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  • Rafael Epstein, presenter
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Melbourne, Video Games, History