Brian

Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection Edit

Summary

Identifier
115.4168
Finding Aid Author
Robert Ramos
Finding Aid Date
8 September 2016
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Dates

  • 1976-1984 (inclusive) (Creation)
  • 1977-1983 (bulk) (Creation)

Extents

  • 41 Linear Feet (Whole)

Agent Links

Subjects

Notes

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Preferred citation for publication

    Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection, Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong

  • Processed by

    Robert Ramos, August 2016

  • 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, Crash ‘N Score, Breakout (a game that was famously designed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—though their design, too complicated for mass production, was not used in the final product), Night Driver, Subs, Le Mans, and Fire Truck. In 1975, Atari created a home version of Pong (appropriately called Home Pong), which was marketed exclusively at Sears and quickly sold 150,000 units under the Sears Tele-Games label. Two years later, Atari released another consumer product, the Video Computer System (later rebranded the Atari 2600), a game system that used video game cartridges.

    The Atari home consoles revolutionized the experience of gaming forever, bringing the exciting fun of the arcade into the homes of millions. Asteroids, Berzerk, Breakout, Pole Position, Robotron 2084, and Surround soon became games that many Americans could now play within their own homes. The 2600 became a substitute for many arcade games in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in turn maiming the coin-op industry. In 1982, Atari released the higher-end Atari 5200 SuperSystem, a more powerful home gaming machine with superior graphics capabilities; however, it only sold one million units. Following the release of the 5200, the Atari 7800 ProSystem hit store shelves in 1986, followed in turn by several other consoles before Atari released its final system, the Atari Jaguar, in 1993.

  • Collection Scope and Content Note

    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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Language

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

External Documents

Instances

  • Type
    Accession
    Container 1 Type
    Box
    Container 1 Indicator
    1-16
    Container 1 Barcode
    Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection - boxes
  • Type
    Accession
    Container 1 Type
    map-case
    Container 1 Indicator
    2
    Container 1 Barcode
    Cort and Barbara Allen Atari packaging design collection - MC2

Components