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ANTIC The Atari 8-bit Podcast


hosts: Randy Kindig, Kevin Savetz, Brad Arnold
email: antic@ataripodcast.com
twitter: @AtariPodcast
Facebook: facebook.com/groups/ataripodcast

 

May 17, 2018

Youth Advisory Board: Kerrie Holton and Tina Bartschat
 
This is the first in a series of episodes featuring interviews with the kids of Atari's Youth Advisory Board. 
 
In 1983, Atari formed a Youth Advisory Board, selecting 20 teenagers from around the United States to share their opinions, test new software, and promote Atari's computers at trade shows.
 
The group consisted primarily of regular kids - some computer geeks, but most well-rounded teenagers. The group also included a couple of celebrities: Todd Bridges, the actor who played Willis in the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes; and Matthew Labyorteaux, the actor who played Albert on the show Little House on the Prairie, then Richie Adler on the adventure show Whiz Kids.
 
The first (and I believe only) meeting of the Youth Advisory Board took place in March 1983 at Atari's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. Was Atari genuinely doing in-depth market research into the opinions of teenagers? Or was the Youth Advisory Board a publicity stunt? Maybe it was a little of both. Either way, the idea is fascinating, and I wanted to ask the board members to share their memories of that time.
 
In this episode are my first two interviews with Youth Advisory Board kids: Kerrie Holton (now Kerrie Holton-Tainter) and Tina Bartschat (now Tina Volker.)
 
There's an article about Kerrie in the October 1983 issue of Family Computing (the first issue of that magazine) by Bethany Kandel. Titled "When Kerrie Holton Talks, Atari Listens", it features a great photo of Kerrie at her desk, sporting a tie and fedora, with a telephone handset in one hand and a cigar in the other, looking for all the world like a business mogul or 1920's mobster. On her desk there's an Atari 1200XL computer, floppy drive, printer, plus a frilly doll and Snoopy plush toy. Here's an excerpt:
 
"While other seniors were busy bragging about which college they'd been accepted to, Kerrie had something else to show off—she'd been chosen to serve on the Youth Advisory Board of Atari, one of the best-known video game and computer companies in the country.
 
Plenty of high school students have sat in study hall daydreaming about a V.I.P. tour of the inner sanctums of Atari, Inc.; Kerrie is one of the few who've been there. She took a private tour last spring, and was included in meetings with top officials, and discussions of Atari's confidential plans for software and hardware development."
 
..."Atari brought her to the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago earlier this year, and this fall will fly her to a special meeting to 'brainstorm' with the other 19 members of the YAB.""
 
..."Travel isn’t the only benefit of being a YAB member. Kerrie’s received an Atari 1200XL to review software, and a modem, so she can telegraph her latest opinions and recommendations to other YAB members and Atari's elders. 'When we say something, Atari jumps,' says Kerrie.
 
“'It's great fun having someone listen to your opinions for a change, especially when adults are always telling us what to do. Now we get to tell them.'”
 
[Interview with Kerrie]
 
Next, my interview with Tina Vokler.
 
There's an article about Tina in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, dated June 16 1983, by Jan Ackerman. It features a photo of Tina typing on her Atari 1200XL, with an Atari joystick prominently in the foreground. 
 
"Sixteen-year-old Tina Bartschat of Upper St. Claie is multilingual. The pert, blond-haired teenager learned to speak German while growing up near Hanover, Germany, where she lived until age 10. She knows other languages, too, languages with such strange names as Basic, Pilot and Assembler, all machine languages.
 
"These are the languages of the computer age, languages that are Greek to anyone who doesn’t know a word processor from a printer.
 
...“'Basic is an all-purpose language,' she explains, leading the way to the Atari 1200XL computer in her bedroom. It comes equipped with printer, a taping system, a screen and a word processor.
 
"Atari gave the system to Tina after she was picked to serve on a newly created Atari Youth Advisory Board, a select group of 21 computer-astute teen-agers from across the country, who will advise the computer and video games giant about how to cater to young consumers.
 
Tina is the only teenager from Pennsylvania selected to the elite group, which held its first meeting in Sunnyvale, California March. Besides a free trip to the West Coast, she also was given an Atari system, worth more than $1,500.
 
"She was recommended for the program by Mr. Saunders, a calculus and computer science teacher. She credits Saunders and Dr. John DeBlassio, a math and computer science teacher at her high school, with helping to sharpen her computer skills.
 
[Interview with Tina]
 
The interview with Kerrie Holton-Tainter took place on November 17, 2017. (A video version of that interview is also available.) The interview with Tina Volker took place on January 27, 2018.
 
If you were a member of the Atari Youth Advisory board, I'd love to hear from you: email antic@ataripodcast.com.
 
Video of the Kerrie Holton-Tainter interview
 
Family Computing article about Kerrie
 
Photo of Kerrie and the other YAB kids
 
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about Tina
 
Photo of Tina and the other YAB kids