In 1982 Atari enlisted the talents of Howard Scott Warshaw to developed a game based on the film E.T the Extra-Terrestrial for the VCS 2600. The object of the game was to guide the alien through various screens and collect pieces of an interplanetary telephone, which eventually allows E.T to phone home.
Due to the popularity of the film, Atari anticipated the game to sell well. However when Atari finally secured the rights the produce the game, it had left Warshaw only five and a half weeks to develop the game in time for Christmas. The result was a commercial flop. Anticipated high sales, Atari produced 5 million copies of the game but only sold 3.5 million. A combination of returns and low sales would lead to the company netting a loss of $100 million., this would prove the beginning of the end for the once mighty video game giant.
E.T is regarded by most gamers as one of the worst games ever released. The failure of the game and the effects it had on Atari have led some to suggest it contributed to the games industry crash of 1983.
In the years that followed, an urban myth developed around the fate that befell millions of unsold copies of the game as well as the thousands of copies that were returned. In 1983, a Mexican news paper based in Alamogordo, Mexico, reported a large number of trucks arriving in the city from an Atari storehouse in El Paso, Texas. The report went on to say, that the trucks had unloaded several trailers full of Atari games, consoles and peripherals to a landfill within the city, where they were crushed and subsequently buried.
Many dismissed the story as untrue, including E.T’s original developer Warshaw, who had the following to say on the subject:
“I’ve seen lots of evidence by hearsay and print but I’ve never really heard from any first hand participants and no one has ever produced a single cartridge from the burial site in over a quarter century.”
However for some gamers, Atari’s denial as well as that of some of it’s employees only fueled the spell of mystery around the fabled Atari treasure, which lay buried somewhere in Mexico awaiting discovery.
Since 1983 the E.T story has been told time and again, ironically making the worlds worst game in to one of the most talked about and known. Youtube is rife with video reviews of the game, the channel G4 even featured the it in an episode of “Code Monkeys”, in which the two main characters, Dave and Jerry are tasked with developing a game based on the movie E.T. True to reality the game they develop is terrible, resulting in an angry mob of gamers hunting for the developers responsible.
Digging up the truth
In 2013 the city council of Alamogordo granted permission to Canadian media company “Fuel Industries”, to search for the cache of unsold Atari games and other products which had been buried on the site over 30 years ago. The company organised the search in conjunction with Xbox Entertainment Studios, who plan on featuring the excavation in an exclusive documentary for Xbox One and Xbox 360, called “Atari: Game Over”.
On the 26th of April, 2014, the team of excavators armed with a JCB and bulldozers fell upon the landfill in Alamogordo. Extensive efforts had been taken by site organiser, Joe Lewandowski, to locate the site, once a local garbage contractor in Alamogordo. Interviewing truck drivers, landfill owners and local residents and listening to the stories of those who had witnessed the original 1983 dump as kids, and how they sneaked on to the site at night, coming away with handfuls of Atari cartridges. While the pressure was on during the dig, within hours of commencing the team had uncovered boxed copies of E.T, along with other games such as Defender, Centipede, Breakout and ironically Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hindered by strong winds and dust clouds, the team were only able to uncover a small fraction of the estimated 750,000 games buried on the site by James Heller, an Atari employee in 1983, who was tasked with the job of disposing of a warehouse of Atari products as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Present during the excavation were Howard Scott Warshaw original developer of Yars Revenge and the less successful E.T. As well as Joe Lewandowski screen writer and film director Zak Penn.
So there you have it folks, the mythical Atari burial site has been found, be mindful of anyone offering you a new boxed copy of E.T, as it may contain sand!
Keep on geeking!
In my last article, I covered how the Gameboys one let down was its low resolution screen. After 20+ years of service these screens are beginning to show their age as one by one, they begin to fail. If your Gameboy is one of them, the chances are it is afflicted with pesky lines running vertically up the screen. For many this means the end of their Gameboy. My own original Gameboy suffers with lines running horizontally across the screen, which is less common and not as easy to repair. Yes you heard me right, dodgy Gameboy screens can be repaired with a little know how and in some cases you don’t even need to use a soldering iron.
In To The Beast
Opening your Gameboy for the first time might seem daunting to some. Even to those of us that are used to repairing gadgets, the process is just as worrying. Luckily there is a wealth of information online, documenting the insides of the classic Gameboy. In fact a quick look on Youtube will bring up a dozen or more tutorials on how to repair the very screen issues being covered in this blog. It was through watching several of these, that I began to see where the old Gameboy was failing and how best to fix it.
I was intending to make a video showing how to fix the screen. But with the amount of videos already covering the subject, I decided it would be easier if I just include what I believe to be the creme de la creme for you to follow. All that hard work searching done for you, aren’t I nice!
This video is excellent at explaining the problems behind the screen and worth watching if you with to learn about the Gameboy’s LCD screen.
The following video guide requires you to own a soldering iron and apply it to components inside your Gameboy. Proceed at your own risk!
USE THE GREY MATTER!!! USE COMMON SENSE!
Now this is where things become a little sketchy and sadly disheartening. My classic Gameboy suffers not with the typical vertical lines, but horizontal ones. So how to fix them? It would seem the general consensus is not to bother even trying. The two ribbon cables connecting the LCD screen to the main PCB can not be disconnected. As such the aging solder begins to dry and crack. Unlike the bottom ribbon cable which deals with the vertical lines. The cable that deals with the horizontal is sandwiched behind the LCD and the PCB. Making any attempt with a soldering iron very hazardous. Your more likely to melt the cable then you are to mend the fault.
Even so, I still attempted a repair. Instead of using a soldering iron, i opted to use a hot air gun. The sort you would use for removing paint. I used this method of heating and softening solder on a PS3, to fix the “Yellow Light of Death”. So finding people where suggesting it online as a possible fix, did not come as a surprise.
With the Gameboy apart, and the screen laying on a non flammable surface. I set my heat gun to the lowest setting and hovered it above the screen until it turned black. Usual you can see the effect the heat is having on the solder as it begins to soften. Sadly it did not fix the issue of the horizontal lines. Which leads me the think my screen is properly dying.
Hopefully in the next few months I will be able to grab another. As I much prefer my classic Gameboy to the GB Colour or pocket.
Well I hope thats helped some of you, please drop me a post if you’d like me to cover anything in a future blog.
For now, keep geeking!