Atari Asteroids

After today’s matinee performance of Pick Up Ax, I was over at my friends Eron and Amy’s place. Eron just got the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time: a 1979 full-size Asteroids video game. Do you remember this? He’s got one of the original ones, with the “Copyright 1979 Atari” burned in to the bottom of the black and white screen and everything! I think Atari made about 90,000 of these in all. I wonder how many of them are left.

astroid2.jpgWhen I was 9 or 10 years old I used to steal quarters out of my piggy bank and ride my bike down to the infamous Sauce & Such Liquor store on the corner of Riverside Drive and Whitsett to play Asteroids. One day my dad caught me there. I was playing a great game and all of a sudden somebody tapped on my shoulder. He wasn’t too happy. He thought all video games were a waste of time and money. I remember once, after we had eaten at the original Jerry’s Deli on Ventura one Saturday afternoon, we actually played a two player video game in the bowling alley behind Jerry’s at his suggestion. Boy was that a shock. The game had some completely generic name like “Fire Truck”. One person would drive the front end of the truck and the other person would drive the back end.

Anyway, a whole bunch of us were over at Eron’s taking turns playing. Every now and then the game would spontaneously shut off. Rob said it was a loose connection in the power supply. He had spent part of the afternoon fixing all the little problems the machine had. I took a peek at the guts of the thing. That’s where it really shows its age. The motherboard is absolutely massive with hundreds of chips and resistors on it and wires going every which way. Even the way it scores points is old! If you reached 10,000 points you were doing a great job. Today most video games easily score into the millions.

astroid.gifBut despite all that, Asteroids will always represent something great from my childhood. My best friend, Ryan Kirk, used to play it for hours on his Atari 2600. One day we sat up in his parents bedroom for half the day in an effort to “flip” the score and get a picture of it. I can’t remember if we were successful or not.

Those were the days. It’s so sad to think of that kind of carefree fun being completely in the past, even though I know it is. Fun is still out there to be had of course, but not like that. Not like the day we pushed a huge boulder across the street simply for the hell of it. Or the cocamaime schemes for getting rich off selling lemonade to passing cars. Or swimming in my pool in the summer. Jumping on the big rectangular trampoline at his place. I could go on, but you get the drift. Happy memories, but kind of sad all the same. I believe the word is “bittersweet”.

I wonder where Ryan is now and what he’s up to. It sure would be nice to catch up on old times…

  1 comment for “Atari Asteroids

  1. Rose
    June 14, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    The game is a great game of the past. I have one that is full size. My kids have played it and enjoy it even with todays graghics on other games. As it sits in the garage, I feel I may get rid of it to someone who truely loves the game from the past.

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