Profile Atarian: Joey Kay
Struck By The Atari Bug
The Atari bug struck me quite early in life. I remember as a kid going to my Uncle Mike's house and playing such games as River Raid and Ice Hockey on my cousin's VCS. Finally, for Christmas of '83 at the age of 7 my sister and I got an Atari 2600 (Vader model). It came packed with Space Invaders, my folks bought Pac-Man and River Raid, and my Auntie Marlene bought us a copy of Zaxxon. It still ranks as my best Christmas. My 2600 library grew, and for the Christmas of 87, my folks purchased me a 2600jr.
I realized shortly after this, I had to upgrade. Brand loyalty is something ingrained deep in my blood. (I'm even on my third Ford Taurus and have never owned any other type of vehicle). While all my friends were playing the NES, I had my sights set on a 7800.Now, living in rural Saskatchewan, finding one of these systems was no easy task. The second hurtle I had to cross was affording it - I was still in grade school and getting less than 10 bucks a week for allowance. Shortly after Atari dropped the prices of their game machines in the summer of '89, our family was on vacation in South Dakota. In Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, my dad and I walked by Kay-Bee Toys. Hanging in the store front was a huge "Atari Sale" banner. I knew I had to buy myself a 7800.However, mom was not going to let me buy one, proclaiming "it was a waste of my money". Upon being told this, I literally started to turn purple, and for fear of my personal health, dad let me buy my 7800 for $59.99 US (I'm also a pack-rat - I still have the till receipt).
Plunging Into Computerville
My next foray into the world of Atari was the purchase of my 130XE later that same year. The Woolco store in Prince Albert SK used to sell the XE line, and had a lone 1050 drive left in stock. God only knows how old it was. I bought that for $149.99, and direct ordered my 130XE from Atari Canada. About four months later the 1050 broke down.
Unfortunately, it was past the standard Atari 90 day warranty. My dad brought it back to Woolco, however, and they offered to send it back to Atari and see what they could do. Atari Canada was known to be much more philanthropic - for lack of a better word - than Atari US. The good folks at Atari Canada replaced it with an XF551!I hope Jack Tramiel doesn't read this - he'll probably send me an invoice!
Regrettably, in 1990, the next computer purchase in our home was a Tandy 1000TL/2.Dad mulled over the ST, but we used IBM XT's at school and having a Radio Shack literally one block away from our home in the small town of Shellbrook Saskatchewan made Tandy the practical choice.
Defending Atari's Good Name
New Atari purchases for me did not happen until many years later. During my first year in University in 1995, one of my roommate's boyfriends brought over his Genesis. Everyone spent the rest of the day laughing at my 7800.I was so incensed, I knew I had to salvage Atari's reputation. I immediately went to Microplay to buy a Jag. The owner of the store (a very nice fellow) knew a kid in Saskatoon who wanted to sell his used Jag so he sent me his way. I proudly returned with a Jag with three games and restored Atari's good name to my household.
My final addition to my Atari family was my Lynx which I got in the summer of '96.I purchased it via "Don's Third Big Wacky Deal for Internet Dwellers" through the Atari Jagwire website. My order confirmation got misdirected due to an e-mail mix up at the University, and my order was never processed. I finally phoned Atari on August 14th, 1996 and asked to speak to Don Thomas and find out where my order was. What luck!I didn't know at the time, but the next day was his last at Atari. Had I waited even one more day to call, I would have likely never gotten my Lynx, or the other assorted goodies from Atari's warehouse.
Atari - A Lifelong Passion
Atari has been, and still is an important part of my life. My 7800 still sees almost daily use (I'd like to see an NES stand up to 12 years of that), and I occasionally use my Lynx and Jag. Lacking space and time to do too much playing, both of my 2600's, and my 130XE along with my XF551, 1020, and XM301 are sitting in their original packaging in my old bedroom at my folk's house. Occasionally I go back home and pull out the 130XE for old time's sake. In fact, I even used "Atari Planetarium" for a University project this year. Also to be found in this closet is stacks of Atari Explorer, Compute!, and many other Atari-related publications, some dating back to 1984, as well as cut-outs of Atari products from flyers, various Atari magazine ads, and much much more. My Atari closet is sacred and mom knows to stay away when she's doing her household cleaning.
I would still be playing video games today if Atari was still in the hardware business. As excited as I am for the future of Atari with Infogrames, I simply don't see myself rushing out to buy "Atari-stamped" merchandise. It's just not in the spirit of the Atari that I used to, and still do love.