May 17, 2018
Youth Advisory Board: Kerrie Holton and Tina
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
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
"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
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
..."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
"These are the languages of the computer age, languages that
are Greek to anyone who doesn’t know a word processor from a
...“'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
"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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org