May 3, 2020
Youth Advisory Board: Tracey Cullinan
This is the seventh in a series of episodes featuring the kids of Atari's Youth Advisory Board. In 1983, Atari formed a Youth Advisory Board, selecting teenagers from around the United States to share their opinions about computers and video games, test software, and promote Atari's computers at events. The group consisted of kids aged 14 through 18, including Tracey Cullinan.
Tracey worked as a salesperson at the ComputerLand store in Los Altos, California — starting at the age of 12. He started a software company, Superior Software, which produced custom software for local businesses, as well as a couple of games for the Apple II computer. At 14, Tracey was invited to be a member of the Youth Advisory Board. As part of that job, he went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago to demonstrate Atari computers. The next year, as a 15-year-old, Tracey was interviewed on the "Today" show as a young entrepreneur.
There's a chapter about Tracey in the 1984 book "Computer Kids" by George Sullivan. (His picture in on the back cover of the book.) I'm going to read several passages from that book, quotes from Tracey.
...A Computerland store opened
in a mall near my home. I made friends with the people
who worked in the store, and they let me use the computers
The store happened to be within walking distance of
where I live, and I'd go there after school and on week-
ends, or almost anytime I had free time. I often wrote
game programs on the computers, and I bought a disk on
which to store the programs. They let me keep the disk
at the store.
When customers came into the store, I'd sometimes
help out by showing them what a computer could do.
They'd be amazed. "What’s this nine-year-old kid doing
showing me how a computer works?"
I’m now working at the store. I started as an employee
when I was twelve. I was in sales at first but later I shifted
over to computer repair...
I now know five or six computer languages — BASIC,
Pascal, LOGO, plus three machine languages: 6502, the
one that’s used on the Apple and Atari and the one I use
the most, Z-80. I’m starting to learn 8086, the language
for the IBM Personal Computer...
The company that I operate is called Superior Software.
I prepare custom programs for businesses in the
area. One program involves inventorying and invoicing
for a company that sells charcoal fire starters. I’ve got
another program that gathers stock market prices from a
computer, and then correlates them and prints them out
for a local stockbroker.
A third program I wrote for the Los Altos Little
League. It’s a mailing list program. They use it in sending
out notices about tryouts, practices, and things like that.
I became a member of the Atari Youth Advisory Board
because someone at the consulting firm that was getting
the names of kids together for Atari happened to know
my dad. When the consulting firm found out that I was
into computers, they put my name on the list. Then the
people at Atari picked me.
We've been giving Atari advice mostly on their home
computers. Later, I think they're going to ask us for advice
on their video games and arcade games...
I also use the computer to write game programs once
in a while. One that I’ve written is called Glutton [for the
Apple II.] You, the shooter, are armed with little missiles
and positioned on the right side of the screen. You can
move up and down only. You shoot to the left.
The glutton moves back and forth across the screen.
The glutton likes to eat. Different kinds of food fall from
the top of the screen. Some of it is good food, like apples,
carrots, and chicken drumsticks. But some of the food is
junk food, like cupcakes and soda pop. The object of the
game is to keep the glutton well fed, but healthy, You try
to eliminate the pieces of junk food by blasting them with
I've tried to sell Glutton to some of the companies that
market game software to computer owners, to companies
such as Broderbund and Sirius. But I haven’t been successful yet.
...As far as the future is concerned, I plan to go to college.
I'd like to go to a good private university, a technical
one, like MIT, Cal Tech, or Stanford... After that, I
think I'd like to be a game programmer, and maybe work
for Atari, Imagic, or Activision, or some company like
Tracey didn't go to any of those colleges. He died 1986 of brain cancer. He had just turned 18.
I talked with Tracey's mother, Leola Wooldridge; and his younger brother, Cory Cullinan, about their memories of Tracey.
This interview took place on April 17, 2020. In it, we discuss John Dickerson, whom I previously interviewed.
Tracey in Computer Kids book
Demystifying Excellence by Cory Cullinan
John Dickerson interview