Date: Tuesday, April 29th, 2014, 08:48
Category: Consumer Electronics, Fun, Game, History, News
Relax, there is no need to call up Fox Mulder, these E.T.s weren’t buried by a government conspiracy. They were buried 30 years ago by a video game company. The mid-80s saw a lot of changes in not only the personal and business computing market, but also the home video game markets. The two were no doubt intertwined as the emergence of affordable personal computers meant that not only could you do your accounting and word processing on your computer at home, but you could also play games, leaving many to ask, “why should I spend the extra money to buy a separate gaming console?”. It’s not like the gaming console ever went away, but at the time it meant new business challenges to companies like Atari, Coleco, and Mattel who had new sources of competition besides each other and had to struggle to stay in the game (no pun intended). The 80s also seemed to introduce rumors of companies sending their failed products to landfills and Atari was one of them (see also: Apple Lisa).
While often pointed to as the reason Atari went down in flames, the flop that was E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (based ever so loosely on the hit Spielberg movie) was simply one of a string of bad decisions by Atari that cost them millions of dollars that they would never be able to get back. If you want to see how bad this game was, check out this video walkthrough (man, I really wanted to Rickroll people with that link). As a result of remarkably poor sales, the gaming myth that Atari had buried millions of unsold E.T. game cartridges in a New Mexico landfill was born, even though Atari claimed that what was being dumped was a relatively small amount of unused and faulty stock and parts for cartridges, consoles, and computers from the company’s El Paso plant.
To prevent looting, or additional snooping into the disposal, concrete was finally poured over the dump site which didn’t help to dispel the rumors of what was being dumped there. The myth even branched off at some point conceding that a large number of unsold game cartridges were actually disposed of, but that it was done in Sunnyvale, California. In a deal with the Alamogordo City Commission, approved in May 2013, a Canada-based film production company (Fuel Industries) would be given permission to excavate the Atari landfill site and produce a documentary about the legend of the buried E.T. cartridges. With the help of Microsoft, Director Zak Penn along with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, a team of archeologists, and representatives from Xbox Entertainment Studios attacked the landfill on April 26th and did manage to find ‘hundreds’ of E.T. game cartridges (not the long rumored “millions”) as well as some others such as Pac-Man (also considered an Atari flop) and other Atari products.
So there is one 80s technology burial story that can be put to rest (still no pun intended), but with the Lisa mouse excavated recently, how long before we get to watch as “millions” of discarded Apple Lisas and Macintosh XLs are dug up? What would you like to see from tech history dug up?