Party like it’s 1979
One of the lesser known perks of living in Silicon Valley is that it was effectively the birthplace of the video game industry as we know it. Atari was headquartered in Sunnyvale and the first Pong cabinet was actually installed in a restaurant less than two miles from my front door. These days, many of the big US developers are headquartered in Seattle or Los Angeles but many still have offices in the Bay Area and the history of gaming runs deep. Some of the stewards of that history are the folks behind The Digital Game Museum; a non-profit which aims to preserve, present, and study digital games and the impact of those games on our culture.
They have amassed quite a collection of retro hardware from the early days of gaming and partner with groups and organizations to set up temporary installations where people can interact with some really rare and special systems. This past weekend they partnered with the Sunnyvale Public Library to throw an Atari Party to celebrate the history of Atari. In addition to a jaw-dropping collection of classic systems, Atari alumni Dan Kramer and Al Alcorn were on hand to talk about the creation of the Atari Trak-Ball Controller and PONG game. Many community members brought in their systems and set them up so people could spend time playing games on everything from original Atari home consoles to portable Lynx systems.
It was a really great event and inspired me to get involved with the conservation efforts at the DGM. If you’d like to help them out their website offers some really excellent opportunities to donate systems and games or offer monetary support. If you’re in the Bay Area, it’s also worth a trip to the museum itself to see some of their more rare equipment in person.