Skip to main content

Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 115.4168
The Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection comprises 41 linear feet of materials with dates ranging from 1976 to 1984. Materials include drawings, photographs, proofs, preliminary package mockups, drafts of manual scripts, unused packaging, box flats, designs, and other internal documents used in the design and production of Atari’s packaging and manuals for home console video games, computer games, game consoles, and handheld games. There are materials related to the Atari 400, Atari 800, Atari 2600, Atari 5200 SuperSystem, various home Pong consoles, and the Atari Touch Me, as well as materials related to several unreleased devices. Additional scope and content notes can be found within the Contents List section of this finding aid. (Oversized materials may require advance notice to retrieve for researchers.)

The Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection has been arranged into four series, two of which have been further divided into subseries. The materials are housed in 16 archival document boxes and 5 flat file drawers.

Dates

  • 1976-1984 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1977-1983

Language

The materials in this collection are primarily in English. However, some items contain French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) have not been transferred, The Strong has permission to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.

Extent

41 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection consists of 240 folders containing drawings, photographs, proofs, preliminary package mockups, drafts of manual scripts, unused packaging, and other internal documents used in the design and production of Atari’s packaging and manuals for home console video games, computer games, game consoles, and handheld games. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1977 and 1983.

Historical Note

Nolan Bushnell grew up in a small town near Salt Lake City, Utah. As a teenager, he repaired television sets while also working at his father’s cement contracting business. Bushnell received his first exposure to computer games attending the University of Utah as a computer graphics student. While there, he, like other computer engineer students, played math and simple video games on large and expensive mainframe computers. Bushnell also worked a part-time job at an amusement park arcade, where he became familiar with coin-op electro-mechanical games. After college, Bushnell combined his knowledge of computers, televisions, and coin-op games to make the first commercial video game, Computer Space. Based on an MIT space game, Spacewar!, Bushnell licensed the game to Nutting Associates. However Computer Space failed to generate much excitement or fanfare. Believing that he could do better on his own, Bushnell, along with his business partner Ted Dabney, founded Syzygy; when they were informed that the name was taken, they changed it to Atari, Inc. Once Atari was officially founded in 1972, Bushnell and Dabney hired engineer Al Alcorn to design a table-like ping pong game. The result was Pong—the simple tennis-like game that featured two parallel bars and a moving dot—which ultimately transformed the video game industry.

Following Pong, Atari continued to experience tremendous success. Along with Pong sequels (Doubles Pong, Super Pong, Quadrapong, and other variations), there were other subsequent hits including: Gran Trak 10,

System of Arrangement

Series I: Insert designs, 1976-1984

Subseries A: English game manual designs
Subseries B: French game manual designs
Subseries C: PAL game manual designs
Subseries D: Hardware manual designs
Subseries E: Miscellaneous insert designs

Series II: Box designs, 1977-1984

Subseries A: Game box designs
Subseries B: Hardware box designs
Subseries C: Shipping box designs

Series III: Promotional materials, 1978

Series IV: Packaging and manual specifications binder, 1981

Custodial History

The Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection was acquired by The Strong in September of 2015 from Cort and Barbara Allen. The collection was accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 115.4168. The collection was received from Cort and Barbara Allen in approximately 150 labeled folders, contained within a large cardboard box.

Related Materials

The Strong is also home to the Atari Coin-Op Division corporate records, which comprise 600 linear feet of game design documents, memos, focus group reports, market research reports, marketing materials, arcade cabinet drawings, schematics, artwork, photographs, videos, and publication material. The Strong acquired several unique museum objects with this accession lot of archival materials; as a result, ICHEG’s collections include two computer towers which operated at Atari, Inc. (a mobile unit and a stationary tower) and a binder which notable game designer Ed Logg utilized in the creation of iconic Atari game Asteroids. For additional information on the coin-op division of Atari, see also the Atari design concept sketches, 1973-1991, in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. These design sketches provide a further look into Atari’s arcade cabinet designs.

Also acquired alongside the Atari Coin-Op Division corporate records were the remaining corporate records of Tengen, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atari Games which operated between 1987 and 1994 (see also the Tengen, Inc. records, 1985-1995, in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play).

The Strong is also home to a large collection of Atari coin-operated arcade games, ranging from best-sellers such as Pong, Asteroids, and Centipede, to lesser known prototypes such as Maze Invaders. In addition, The Strong also houses several Atari home consoles and many Atari home console games. They can be viewed via the Online Collections section of The Strong’s website.

Processed by

Robert Ramos, August 2016
Title
Finding Aid to the Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection, 1976-1984
Status
completed
Author
Robert Ramos
Date
8 September 2016
Description rules
dacs

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

Contact:
The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.263.2700
585.423.1886 (Fax)