Tue, 2 June 2015
Ken Balthaser, Atari Manager of Software Development
Ken Balthaser stated at Atari as part of a skunkworks group where he wrote software for speech hardware, then became manager of application software development. He oversaw the creation of the SWEAT system software, which were development tools for non-programmers to make graphics and sound assets; and the creation of arcade conversions such as Centipede and Defender to the 8-bit platform. Prior to Atari, he was part of the team that created all of the software for the CyberVision 2000, an early personal computer that was sold by Montgomery Ward.
Ken is the father of Eunice Wlcek, an Atari employee whom I previously interviewed.
This interview was conducted April 9, 2015.
"Those were really hectic, crazy days. I mean, at that point, Atari was the fastest growing company in the world. No company had ever grown that fast that quickly. ... And just as quickly, it flamed out."
"There were a lot of people involved in the creation of the personal computer and video game industry. We tend to think that it was all Steve Jobs and Apple, and Bill Gates and Microsoft, but it wasn't. It was hundreds and thousands of other people who were participating and who were scrambling, and who were creating, and inventing along the way as well."
"It was wild there in the engineering building. If you walked past a restroom you might get high just from smoke coming out of it, you know?"