Sat, 25 April 2015
Hello, you are listening to Antic, the Atari 8-bit computer podcast. I am Randy Kindig, one of the co-hosts, and I’m bringing to you today an interview episode with the author of one of the best games ever released for the Atari 8-bit computer line. That would be David Fox, one of the authors of Rescue on Fractalus. David shares his memories of developing that iconic game, working for LucasFilm (later LucasArts), publishing a book about Atari graphics and much more. Please enjoy.
This interview was conducted March 18, 2015 via Skype.
“Every time someone does a LucasArts or LucasIflm retrospective, they find me and they ask me to do stuff. Happy to talk to them because it's fun!”
"The original 2 games that we did, which were Rescue and Ballblazer, were intended to be kind of throw-away games."
"Thank you George (Lucas). He knew about story telling in a way that I didn't and it was really great to have his feedback on that."
"And I think Star Raiders also kind of inspired me to do Rescue, to do Rescue on Fractalus"
Thu, 23 April 2015
Charles Ratcliff, son of MAT*RAT
Charles Ratcliff is the son of Matthew Ratcliff, the prolific writer for the Atari magazines. Matthew Ratcliff -- or MAT*RAT -- died in 1999.
Matthew wrote for Antic, STart, Compute!, A.N.A.L.O.G. Computing, and ST-LOG. In 1986 won Antic magazine's award for Outstanding Contributor. Here's what they wrote about him:
"In 1985, Missouri programmer Matthew Ratcliff was really on a roll--publishing four major Antic programs on a remarkable variety of subjects. In March, he delivered the powerful printing utility Custom Print. Following in August was Atari 'Toons, an ambitious animation program that we featured in a popular contest. In September, it was the innovative Revision C Converter that debugged a longstanding problem for many users of Atari BASIC Revision B. Then in December, BBS Crashbuster was a valuable safeguard for bulletin board sysops needing protection against destructive system-crashers."
Charles dug around in his dad's filing cabinets and found a lot of interesting Atari-related material that he lent me to scan. In it, you'll find: Matthew's a record book listing expenses and income related to his writing (which is fascinating look at the financials of an early technology writer), writing contracts for A.N.A.L.O.G. Computing, Antic Magazine, and ST-LOG Magazine, and a version of Matthew's resume.
This is a different sort of conversation, in which I interviewed Charles about his dad, then he sort of interviews me about his dad, then we end with some technical troubleshooting on his Atari, which I've left in the recording because, why not.
This conversation occurred December 12 2014.
Tue, 21 April 2015
Michael Phillips, Atari Bench Tech
Michael Phillips worked as a bench technician at Atari from February 1981 to June 1984, doing component level repair of Atari video game systems, personal computers, and peripherals.
Because Michael is a lifelong stutterer, he didn’t want to do a voice interview — but he was willing to be interviewed by email. Because this is an audio podcast, I’ve enlisted Randy Kindig to read Michael’s responses. You can also read the original written version of this interview via the link below.
The interview was conducted via email, February 2015.
“Beating the device in question...was part of being a good tech. The key is knowing how hard and where to hit.”
“Misspellings, bad English and odd terminology were par for the day. One guy once referred to the I/O cable as a ‘hose’.”
“One I vividly remember was an 810 [disk drive] that came back 3 times. The guy claimed it would randomly erase disks, but we could never find a culprit...”
Sun, 19 April 2015
Ian Chadwick is the author of Mapping The Atari, which was -- and remains -- the ultimate
memory map for the Atari 8-bit computers. Mapping was published in two editions: the
original was for the 400/800 computers, then an updated version was later released for
the XL and XE machines. Ian also did a lot of documentation writing behind the scenes,
including many of Antic's software manuals, and several manuals for Batteries Included and other companies.
This interview was conducted on March 3, 2015.
"So I would write these little BASIC programs that would go along, and they'd POKE a bunch of memory locations, and at the same time they'd be PEEKing into other memory locations to see what would happen. And it was so much fun!"
"It wasn't intentionally started out as a book, it really intentionally started out as a database of information for my own use."
"They'd say 'You're the guy who wrote Mapping The Atari! You know, that turned my life around when I was 18!' or something."
"It took about two or three minutes to get the platter warmed up. Spinning up to speed it
sounded like a Lear jet taking off. Wooooosh! And it held six megabytes."
Fri, 17 April 2015
Louis Massucci, Atari Bench Tech
Lou Massucci was a bench technician for the Atari 800 line, repairing 8-bit computers and peripherals in Somerset, New Jersey. Later, he was was promoted to field service representative for the southwest territory.
This interview was conducted on March 2, 2015.
"Actually, that's what was causing some of the failure modes because the debris left behind by the cockroaches is very acidic and would actually eat through the PC board traces."
"And it kind of came out of nowhere. I mean, we were repairing these things for a year, and really never had a problem with the keyboard. Then all of a sudden we're starting to get this rash of defective 800s with spacebar problems."
"I think it was a Friday afternoon. We got a call from Atari California, and my manager came in saying, 'You need to get the modem going and they're going to download this file.' We complete the download and it was basically a beta copy of the Pac Man cartridge. So for the next two hours, I think, four or five of us were sitting around our computers playing a beta copy of the Pac Man cartridge."
"I was actually a support engineer for a commercial -- an Atari 8-bit computer commercial."
Tue, 14 April 2015
On this episode of ANTIC the atari 8-bit podcast:
Yoomp will have a great time listening!
Links mentioned in this episode:
Atari 5200 and Atari 2600 News Releases provided by VIctor Cross
Midwest Gaming Classic April 11 & 12, 2015, Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel
VCF East X April 17-19, 2015, Wall, New Jersey
VCF SE 3.0 Saturday, May 2 & Sunday, May 3, 2015 Kings Market Shopping Center, Roswell, Georgia
Atari Party Sat May 2 2015 at the Davis, CA Public Library
VCF Midwest 10 August 29-30, 2015, Elk Grove Village, IL
New at Archive.org
Bill’s Modern Segment
Idea / main code: Marcin "Eru" Żukowski
Music / sfx: Łukasz "X-Ray" Sychowicz
Graphics: Bartek "BeWu" Wąsiel
Decompression / Music routines: Piotr "0xF" aka "Fox" Fusik
Awards: ABBUC 2007, 1st Place
Of the Month (Brad)
Programming Language Segment - Microsoft BASIC (Randy)
Sun, 12 April 2015
Al Alcorn, Atari Employee #3
Welcome to Antic, the Atari 8-bit computer podcast. I’m Randy Kindig and this is an interview-only episode of Antic. My guest for this interview was employee #3 at Atari where he created the world's first commercially successful video game: Pong, Mr. Al Alcorn. Al was a very influential figure in the early Atari and has a lot of great stories to share about those early days. He tells us about Steve Jobs stealing employees from Atari, his opportunity to buy into Apple, why Atari got into the home computer business, a special meeting with IBM concerning Atari computers, and his thoughts about why Atari failed. Al has a terrific sense of humor and I very much enjoyed talking with him. I hope you enjoy it too.
Sat, 11 April 2015
William Volk wrote three Atari games for Avalon Hill: Conflict 2500, Voyager 1, and Controller. He also wrote Forth Turtle Graphics Plus, a 3-D graphics library for the Forth language that was released by Atari Program Exchange; ValGraphics for Valpar International; and Super Smart Terminal, an 80-column terminal application which -- may have been released by APX? He later went on to work on Return To Zork for Activision.
This interview was conducted March 25 2015.
“True story, when we did Conflict 2500, we had no documentation, so we literally started poking addresses to find out how to do things. Literally.”
“It sounded like a good deal but I was still in grad school so I said, ‘I would only do that if you paid me X,’ where X was for the time was some ridiculous amount of money. And they said ‘Sure, we’ll pay you that much.’”
“It looked terrible. It looked annoying as hell but it was funny because it made you think you were in a radar room, you know?”
“Voyager 1 was in inspired by Alien. In fact I remember taking my future wife to the premiere of Alien in Philadelphia, thinking that it was going to be like Star Wars: pretty light-hearted. I was kind of shocked. As was she! Our first movie date.”
Wed, 8 April 2015
Jerry Jessop worked at Atari from 1977 through 1985 where he did many jobs - including lead of production repair, customer service supervisor for the Atari 400/800, and he worked with the secret skunkworks group that was creating the Amiga, when it still could have been an Atari product. In this interview he shares great stories, including how he hand-assembled Atari 800s on the production floor, and fired up the very first 800XL prototype the very first time.
This interview was conducted on March 28, 2015.
"I worked on the 1400XL. I could tell from day one, nobody had their heart into it."
"It was good stuff cutting up Atari 2600s on a Sunday afternoon."
"I shoved 72 Atari 810s in a 1979 Dodge Colt one day. I took the seats out so that I could load up as many 810s as I could possibly get in there."
"We had this big inflatable frog that we grabbed from the party, and we're walking down the street in Chicago and we ran into a very drunk on-the-street Muhammad Ali."
Sun, 5 April 2015
David Cramer - Western Design Center
David Cramer is the VP of Business Development at Western Design Center, the company that still, today, manufacturers and sells the 6502 chip, the CPU that's at the heart of the Atari 800, Apple ][, Commodore 64, and many other classic computers. In fact, the 6502 is used in many modern applications like pacemakers, and it's also available in development kits for hobbyists, as David explains.
This interview occurred on March 27, 2015.