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Created page with "This is a transcript of an audio interview. This transcript may contain errors - if you're using this material for research, etc. please verify with the original recorded inte..."
This is a transcript of an audio interview. This transcript may contain errors - if you're using this material for research, etc. please verify with the original recorded interview.
Source: ANTIC: The Atari 8-Bit Podcast
Source URL: http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-32-al-alcorn-atari-employee-3
Interviewer: Randy Kindig
My guest for this interview was employee number three at Atari where he created the world's first commercially successful video game, Pong, Mr. Al Alcorn. Al was a very influential figure in the early Atari and has a lot of great stories to share about those early days. He tells us about Steve Jobs stealing employees from Atari, his opportunity to buy into Apple, why Atari got into the home computer business, a special meeting with IBM concerning Atari computers, and his thoughts about why Atari failed. Al has a terrific sense of humor and I very much enjoyed talking with him. I hope you enjoy it too.
Al: We're talking about video games back in the '70s.
Randy: Well, specifically I was hoping to talk to you about computers, the Atari computers.
Al: All right.
Randy: And I know that you were primarily the video game developer for Atari, but I think you were involved somewhat with the computers, right?
Al: Well, I wouldn't look at me as the video game developer for Atari. I mean, my title was V.P. of R&D. Even though in the earlier years I acted as V.P of engineering, but I took on the risky new stuff. When we decided to make a home game, I remember... I actually had donated it to Stanford, a business plan, a company document from that era. When a consumer division was started, we had a whole work chart full of blanks and there was one name on it at the very top - Al Alcorn - and everything else was blank. And I took off and did that because I got bored doing arcade video game engineering management. And the challenge of doing a home version, putting the game on a chip, that was exciting to me. So, after that there was the personal computer but at that time I was more engaged with the holographic game, Cosmos. So look at me that way.
Randy: Yeah, okay. I did some research and read some other interviews that you had done, and quite a few I found on the web were people had interviewed you, so you're definitely in demand, it sounds like.
Al: Yeah. Yeah. As I always said, "don't applaud, throw money."
Randy: Right, right. I hear you. That's one of my favorite sayings as well. So I guess what I wanted to focus on was, do you listen to podcasts at all?
Al: To your podcast, no, I haven't. I'd be happy to. I listen to podcasts. I go hiking in the morning, so...
Randy: Well, we do one on the Atari 8-bit computers, and we've been doing it for about a year and a half.
Al: Oh, sorry, I would have listened to it so I could give you some flack. Okay, I see. Normally I get my podcasts through Apple Podcast. Are they available there, or do I download on this website?
Randy:Yes. No, it's available on ITunes, yeah.
Al: Under Antic?
Randy: Yeah, exactly.
Al: I shall do that. Now that I've gotten ahold of you, I know where to direct my criticisms.
Randy: Feel free. Feel free. Believe me, we get a lot of emails about it. It's really amazing because we get about 1500 downloads for every episode which considering how small the community really is, that's not too bad I don't think.
Al: Yeah, yeah. Wow. It always amazes me that people... I'm fascinated about the new stuff and always new things and I'm always delighted that there are young people that are interested in old stuff, some of which I did. It’s wonderful.
Randy: Well, I wouldn't say that I'm so young. Some of the people are younger, but I'm probably not even 10 years younger than you, so I'm not that young. But, I grew up with Atari computers though.
Al: All right.
Randy: So, maybe we can start out with - can you maybe just tell us a little bit about where you live and what you do today?
Al: Oh, okay. Yeah. I live in Portola Valley which is a small community behind Stanford, up in the hills, in Silicon Valley. I've lived here for about 30-some odd years. In fact, I was able to buy this nice place on a hilltop with money from Atari - the sales to Warner.
Randy: Just keeps on giving, huh?
Al: Hey, you know, home was very very good to me. So you know, I'm pretty much retired these days but in general, I'm an entrepreneurial engineer at Ben and involved in the start up of a bunch of companies. Different things, you know. I guess the closest one to our business is the slot machine business. I own a company called Silicon Gaming that created a next generation slot machine for Las Vegas and indeed, changed the landscape for that industry - the slot industry. Too bad we were about two years too early to profit from it. I was also a founder of a company called Integrated Media Measurement (IMMI) that used a cell phone - Shazam acoustic matching technology - to track viewing of television and listening to radios and movies and stuff like that. Very interesting technical challenge. I like technical business entertainment challenges.
Randy: Sounds like it. And it sounds like you kept yourself pretty busy since the Atari days.
Al: Yeah, and ironically, I ended up working at Apple Computer for five or six years. As an Apple Fellow.
Randy: That is interesting.
Al: And in fact, one of the things I did, was I led a team in research in advanced technology that developed some of the underpinnings of MPAV, the idea of digitizing movies, videos and putting them on a computer, which was reviled at the time. This was in the late '80s. Scully and Gassay [SP] thought it was a stupid idea, which was absolutely great because in a big corporation, had they realized how important that technology would be - Quick Time and videos - they would have given it marketing, legal, administrative support and probably would have ruined it. We were left to our devices. So there I was at Apple without Steve Jobs, which was one of my criteria. I did not wish to work for Mr. Jobs.
Randy: Oh, really? Well, I can't say that I blame you. I've heard stories.
Al: Well, he worked for me so...
Randy: Oh, yeah, that's right. I guess that would make it a little awkward, wouldn't it?
Al: I liked it when he worked for me. What he did to many of the people there was not my style of management.
Randy: Sure. So Al, I think everyone in the entire community and the gaming community and a lot more people than that actually, know that you were one of the founders of Atari, and was one of the primary forces behind the development of Pong, but today I was hoping we could focus a little bit on the Atari 8-bit computers.
Al: Let me correct one thing, because it's caused me a little bit of grief, I legally technically was not a founder of Atari. Atari was founded by Nolan Bushnell, Ted Dabney and Larry Bryant as Syzygy company and I was the first employee. I was employee number three and the engineer hired. I had a big amount of stock, which I thought was worthless at the time. But, it many senses I was a founder, but not in a legal sense. So, I don't get too much email on hat subject.
Randy: Okay. Well that was one of the things I wanted to clarify. I wasn't sure wheter you were a partner in the company when it was founded. I knew you were employee number three.
Al: Not technically a founder.
Randy: Okay. So would you be willing to talk a little bit about Apple and the fact that they offered their computer to Atari and how that whole thing came about?
Al: Sure. Okay. When Steve was working at Atari as a tech primarily, he had this buddy, Woz, that was working at HP. And at one point, he left and went off with Dan Kottke to India to meet his guru and when he came back he asked for his job back, and I said "sure." And so things progressed and his buddy Woz would come by quite often in the evenings and play the driving games that we had on the production floor at the time. So he'd be playing them all night. So you know we were all friends and Woz was certainly a brilliant man, but Jobs had this crazy idea for a home computer called the Apple II. He and Woz had done the Apple I and so they made a business out of it. I sadly, wasn't too impressed with the business, because back in those days, back in 1974-75, not a lot of people had ever touched a computer. Having graduated from Berkeley, I did have to work with a computer. Big control data CDC 6400. So I knew a tad of Fortran. Even though it's not something we ever had access to at work, although we did have at the time a mini-computer - a Nova General - nevertheless I didn't think there was any kind of a market for a computer in the home.
Because my vision of computers were things you program with Fortran and maybe basic stuff like that. But he had the enthusiasm and they had a prototype - the Apple I. So he offered us the product. My understanding was Woz offered it to Hewlett-Packard and they turned it down. They offered it to us. I got an introduction meeting with Joe Keenan who was our sane business man president and Joe turned it down. Basically because we had a lot on our plate dealing with the home video game business. And by the way, I think that the 6402 micro-processor was probably a joint decision. It was something we had chosen for our VCS and we saw the power and price performance of that product and I'm not going to get into a fight about who got there first, but it was about the same time. You had to choose between Intel and Motorola. And in fact the 6402 was quite the processor. But back to that story, we passed on it. Steve was kind of stuck, he needed money to fund this thing. We introduced him to Don Valentine at Sequoia, a venture capital firm in the Valley which is still around and doing quite well. And Don Valentine was a little bit taken aback by it at first. These are very young people, no real business experience and I remember Don coming back and saying "They're in a garage." I said "Isn't that the Silicon Valley story, you start in a garage?" "Yeah, but there's a car in the garage. It's his mother's garage."
Al: Get him a place, you know. I remember in the early days when he was doing it, we had a liberal policy at Atari engineering. I didn't want to make criminals out of the engineers. The engineers could take home parts, components, chips, stuff like that. Go ahead steal a few, don't make a business out of it. When Jobs and Woz were in fact making a business out of it, we actually cut a deal with them where they bought the chips from us. Because these were the same chips we were using in our video games. We charged like 10% and that was a better price than he could buy them for on the street at the time. We helped him out. I remember we still have, I'm looking at it right now, my 465 oscilloscope that was used to design Pong. I loaned it to Woz who used it to design the Apple II. We did a lot of things. Helped them out a lot. They were fun guys. I didn't think that crazy Apple thing was going to last for very long so what the hell. Then he wound up raiding our employees, stealing people from us. That pissed me off a bit. Especially, he called me up one day, asking for advice. He needed a switching power supply for the Apple II product. At the time there were a few switchers out there, it was a fairly new idea. And none of the commercial products were satisfactory. He asked me what to do. I said "I’ve got a guy here who works for us that's in consumer innovation, that's maybe one of the best for this and he's not that busy right now. Do some consulting with him, I wouldn't mind." That was Rob Holt. Next thing I know he hires Rob Holt. Gives him a ton of stock. Done very well for Rob, God bless Rob. But I was pissed.
Randy: Yeah, I can imagine. That wasn't very nice for you.
Al: No, in fact, we were rather upset. He was stealing people at a clip. It's one of the little unknown stories, I don't know if you found this story out. We tried to get him to stop and he wouldn't stop so what we did was Joe Keenan and Nolan and I came up with this idea, we’re going to build the Apple II. We could make the Apple II way cheaper than they could. And we're going to flood the market with cheap copies of the Apple II and put them out of business. Or at least get into business and compete with them. And we knew that we really couldn't do that. I think we had 18 engineers - good engineers. You go to a good engineer and tell them that their job this year is to copy somebody else's product, they're not going to do that. But we initiated the project anyhow, much to the displeasure of the engineers. We knew what would happen, because the Valley was so small at that time, we knew the word would get back to Steve. And sure enough, within two weeks, I got a call from Steve saying "I will stop if you stop." And that worked. That was actually our first personal computer product - a knockoff of the Apple II.
Randy: So it was a real project?
Al: Well, it was a project - I don't think a resistor or wire was ever wrapped. I think we just tried to get it started administratively. We knew that the engineers would whine about it and we would get back at Steve because he was hiring all the [inaudible 00:19:03] anyhow.
Randy: So, you guys, obviously you didn't know you were helping someone who would wind up being a competitor one day.
Al: Not a competitor in the game business, which we saw ourself in at the time. Subsequently, later we then decided to participate in the personal computer industry. There were many players in it by that time.
Randy: So, what did make Atari decide to do their own computer?
Al: Well, a couple of things. I mean it was a big opportunity. We certainly had the technology and we thought we had an unfair advantage which any company needs when they have a product that could be really successful. And at the time the unfair advantage was our ability to deal with the FCC part 15 radiation rules. The rules back then were extremely severe. They were very, very hard. I won't go into the technical details but very, very hard to satisfy and we had done it in a production environment with the home version of Pong and the Atari VCS which was a more difficult product with the paddle controllers and all that and cables. So, our goal was to be the only personal computer manufacturer in America. Had they not changed the FCC rules we might have pulled that off. Did you ever hear about that story?
Randy: I read a little bit about it on one interview I came across. I guess at the time TRS RadioShack was having difficulty with the TRS-80 and the FCC and the Apple II. So you thought you could probably jump in at that time.
Al: We knew we could make a personal computer that met the FCC rules. And indeed the Atari 800-400 did in fact meet those rules. The Apple II never did. Nor any of the other ones. What they did was the rules got changed. Under the thesis by the FCC that a personal computer could not be made to meet those rules. In spite of the fact that not only had we done it, we had submitted it for approval to the FCC and had gotten approval. Yet, they concluded that it could not be done. Figure that one out.
Randy: Somebody convinced them I guess.
Al: Well, anyway. It's a long story. I think politics had something to do with it. Owned by Warner at the time.
Randy: What was your actual involvement in the computer project?
Al: I was not very close to that. It was more from an executive level. The high end decision making. There were some things that I did do to get involved in it. One of them, there were some issues about the Basic. The very first prototypes of the personal computer had a weird, bizarre thing that when you powered them up, it would reset. Zero out all memory. These guys had never used a personal computer before I guess. You don't want to wipe out all Ram memory. Kind of nice to have programs be persistent, you know. So I remember giving that advice. I also remember at the time we had to get Basic. Remember, Microsoft Basic. So I do remember a fascinating luncheon meeting negotiating Basic with Mr. Gates. The young Mr. Gates - young enough that I had to take him to the airport because you can't rent a car when you're 18.
Randy: Pretty young I guess.
Al: So, we did that. There was some other political decisions that were being made. The place was owned and run by Warner at that point and there were some differences in style and what not. I know there was a big fight over the TIA chip that does graphics and what not. We realized there was some meat left on the table, we could do better graphics modes. I don't recall exactly what they were. One of the engineers in the chip group - George Simcock - had made an improved TIA chip - we called it the G TIA - television interface adaptor, which had some of these small changes that made it a lot more powerful and that was never put in because they said it'd be too late. I pointed out you're never going to get the thing in production when you say anyway. But anyhow, it never got in. There were some fights about that and some other stuff. Steve Bristow was more involved I think in the daily management of that project.
Randy: So were you still there when the 400 and 800 were actually released?
Al: Oh, yeah. And I was there for some of the silly arguments by our now huge marketing department and consumer board. I remember the fun. Internally, it was really kind of amusing from a distance. You know, here we were, Atari the preeminent game company and we had this computer which had great graphics and it would work as a personal computer and all that. But what about games, because we knew games were popular on the Apple II and we could do better games. So we had a bunch of great games on it. But the people we had in the marketing department at the time, these guys were more Procter and Gamble professional world class stuff that had zero experience. It was just prop. They didn't know anything about computers, Silicon Valley, any of that stuff. So, they decided in their infinite wisdom that we should be a serious computer and that games would detract from that. So we weren't going to include games. We took the games out and then four or five months later, they realized games were a big part of this and we have to have games. So we put the games in and then four or five months later they went back the other way. We thought, this is getting ridiculous. And I remember some of us, when they went back and said no more games, we said put that in writing. And what the guys did was they put the games up on a bulletin board, this was before the web, so we just put them out there for free for everybody. Six months later when they went back and said we got to have games, we said they were already out there. Well why did you do that?
Randy: We’re already giving them away, right?
Al: Yeah, they didn't care, give them away. Then, why did you give them away? Because you told us to. By that time, Atari as a corporation had become a very top heavy corporation, much different than Nolan and Joe's Atari. It was a very flat organization. So top management was quite insulated from what was going on down there amongst what they referred to as the great unwashed. That was their customer base.
Randy: That was an interesting decision they made not to include games, or move away from games, considering that the machine was so powerful in that regard with the chips that were built in.
Al: Yeah, but you know, a very key thing was the IBM PC. That was coming out somewhere around the same time we did the Atari 800-400. And there was a very interesting meeting we had with IBM. A fascinating meeting. I don't know if you're interested in that.
Randy: Yeah, what was that about?
Al: Apple had created this market for home computers, soon to be called personal computers, and for whatever reason, IBM decided to get into that business. But they also decided to do it in Boca Raton, outside of the corporate environment because someone there was smart enough to realize that that kind of corporate culture is not going to work well for a thousand dollar personal computer. There's no way that organization could do it. So they did it with Intel's chips and Microsoft's software. But at that time, long story short, our corporation got a hold of their corporation and I think Ray Coussar’s [SP] goal, the idea was to persuade IBM that maybe what you need is our computer. You know, if you're going to do that, we have the whole deal right here and it meets the FCC rules. So there was this very big all day meeting with this entourage of IBM executives and attorneys. Fascinating. Maybe I'm wandering a little bit too much here, but do you recall Gary Kildall and CPM?
Al: Where Gary Kildall and his wife wouldn't sign the NDA for IBM. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Al: And I understand because IBM came to us and I think it's very rude and presumptuous of them to show up with three or four attorneys and sit down and tell you, "Don't tell us anything that isn't patented already because we're going to take anything you tell us" and I understand what they're trying to do because people would sue IBM saying you stole our idea. But, they want you to sign this NDA that says they own everything. And it's just a really tough tough thing. And they give it to you on the spot. You don't have your attorneys there. And I think it's if not unethical, it's immoral or unfair. Nevertheless, we had our attorneys and we were able to deal with it. So there was a race to get out there. IBM was getting out there. Everyone wanted to jump into this business that frankly Apple had created. As I said, our unfair advantage was that we could meet the FCC rules.
Randy: Very interesting. I never knew that story. So you're saying Atari actually talked with IBM about using the Atari computers and putting the IBM name on them or selling the computer line?
Al: Yeah, something like that. Doing a partnership. And my impression was when they came out they were kind of condescending and like "Oh, Atari, you make games, this is computers, what do you guys know?" We showed them what they had and they were like "Oh, oh. I didn't know the FCC was such a problem. Oh, I didn't know." I came away with the feeling they were more impressed with what we knew about the stuff than when they walked in the door. They were pretty much [inaudible 00:31:54] with the way they were going and weren't going to change. I don't recall that the first IBM PCs even met those current FCC regs. The regs may have been changed by that time. That's a whole other story - the regs – that change for political reasons, simplifying them.
Randy: I think the IBM PC came out in '81 and the 400-800 came out in '79, so they were pretty close but certainly things could have changed by then.
Al: Yeah. I think they did.
Randy: Okay, do you have any other stories about the Atari computers? Recall any other interesting stories?
Al: I know there were some real issues with the disk drives. They were a liability. I know there were some problems with that.
Randy: With the ATN [SP] drive?
Randy: Again, that was a problem, but again, to me part of the problem there was we had to keep the high speed signals under control. But it was a weird step child. Atari at the time - around 1981 - was flush with Atari VCS. We were making up in the billion dollar range on cartridges. Way more than personal computers were making at the time. So it didn't have the full focus of attention. Management under the Warner regime was kind of disconnected. The engineering was no longer engineering driven, it was more marketing driven. But the marketing people didn't really understand this emerging industry or really even the old traditional Silicon Valley industry. So there were some issues in my humble opinion. I eventually left because I didn't see these guys having much success long term because of that. Sadly I was right in '83.
Randy: So did you end up leaving Atari before or after Nolan did?
Al: I left in '81. I had done this holographic game, the Cosmos thing, and we had it all tooled and all ready to go. Invented embossed holograms in production which you now see on Mastercard and stuff like that, you may have heard about the Cosmos product. And they just wouldn't ship it. They wouldn't release it. I realized that it was never going to get released under that management. In fact I realized that Atari was never going to release any new product. Nothing ever came out after the VCS. I mean, the personal computer, but...
Randy: You mean as far as video game consoles?
Al: Yeah, anything. They had developed a telephone product that never got released. They never were able to release a successor to the VCS that amounted to anything. They just didn't have - it takes courage. Something I don't think those guys understood was in Silicon Valley high tech business, if you don't obsolete your own products somebody else will. That's not the case in traditional business world. That's not the case in most businesses. So the idea that we would cannibalize our own sales - better we cannibalize it than they do. There was some real fundamental disagreement about how to run a Silicon Valley kind of company, which I don't think some of the guys from Warner understood.
Randy: Do you still have any contact with the old Atari gang - Nolan or anyone?
Al: Sure, sure. I saw Nolan a month ago. We had an interview on Business Week with me and Nolan talking about Pong, stuff like that. And I'm good friends with a lot of the engineers. We had a lot of fun. Most of them say it's the best time they ever had.
Randy: We've heard that from a lot of ex-Atari people. It's interesting because we do a lot of interviews for ANTIC. We've contacted a lot of people who used to work at Atari at one time or another and they all say the same thing.
Al: Well it was a lot of fun. We did not take ourselves that seriously but we worked like hell, we got great products out and we had a great time doing it. In retrospect, a lot of people said it was the best company they ever worked for. Yet, at the time, the IBM guys would look at us and said "You guys have got to be kidding. You guys don't know what you're doing." But we did know what we were doing. When you're off in new territory, this idea of exploring new stuff and applying technology to entertainment business was really kind of fun. We did it.
Randy: Is there anything you feel you could have done different or Atari could have done different at the time they released the computer that maybe would have made it better?
Al: Boy, well, I think if there was a real focused commitment - there was just so much distraction because of all the money that was coming in from the VCS that I didn't think they were that serious about it and they didn't see that. The idea that your great product that's making a billion dollars could go to sales of zero in a year I don't think ever occurred to them, that that could happen. And if you really believe that then you're going to set about to design its replacement pretty quick. And they did not do that. I don't think they took seriously the business, to really put the effort into it - the engineering effort into it - needed to sustain that kind of advance. Because if we had, we had a tremendous engineering group, much better than early Apple, we could have been a dominant force. But they basically took their eye off the ball in my opinion.
Randy: Do you have any contact or involvement with the Atari of today that basically is name only?
Al: Yeah, no. No. Goofing around with Nolan when ever he's in town.
Randy: Do you have any memorabilia or any materials or prototypes from your days at Atari?
Al: Oh, sure. Yeah. I have the original Atari Pong prototype, which is at the Computer History museum - a loan. I've given them a prototype of the Atari VCS. I have prototypes of some of the early games like Space Race and Gotcha. Talking about personal computers: when Steve was getting going with Apple, he and Ron Wayne and Wozniak offered me a chance to buy some stock in Apple and I basically responded by saying I had plenty of wallpaper already, I didn't need anymore, but I could use a free computer because I had frankly helped them with - I remember having a chat with Woz about how to do cheesy color. How you make digital circuits make NTSC color. Which is why the Apple II had such bizarre ringing artifacts but hey, you can't fix the call of the feature. And we helped them get started, helped them get parts. I remember Steve Jobs being 18 years old, it was really hard to get a trade account anywhere. And in fact, there were really only two places he could buy the 6502 microprocessor and one of them was SynaTek, a partner of ours who was making chips for us. I got them the license to build that processor out here. And they wouldn't talk to Steve because he was a kid. So I got an introduction to the principals at SynaTek and they had a hilarious meeting where Steve, in his emaciated state, flipped off the chair and disappeared under the conference room table. They pulled him out and they cut him a deal where he could go get a letter of credit, or a credit account to order parts. To get parts from them directly. And that became the biggest account SyraTek ever had. We helped them, so he offered me some stock. He needed the money. I wish I had bought it, but I took a free Apple II instead. So I have one of the first Apple II's.
Randy: Oh, you still have that?
Al: Yeah, I still do. Had 4k of Ram in it. So yeah I have a bunch of old prototypes and hardware stuff.
Randy: Do you have any of the computers, any of the 400 or 800?
Al: Yeah, I think so. I think I have a 400-800.
Randy: You don't really do anything with them it sounds like.
Al: No, no. I'm looking at new stuff. I'm personally playing around now with this role called The Internet of Things. I'm playing with postage stamp sized computers that are hooked to the Internet already. I think it's pretty interesting. Seeing the world from where I sit, there's all this wonderful Silicon Valley technology just waiting to be applied to a problem that couldn't have been solved ten years ago. Now we have a solution. We just haven't put the two together.
Randy: So do you attend any vintage computer shows or Atari shows?
Al: Not too much. Not so much.
Randy: I think you went to Bill Kindrig's Atari party, right, last year?
Al: I went to the Homebrew Computer Club reunion even though I never went to the Homebrew Computer Club at the time. I was too busy working at Atari. But they were all taking parts from me. Oh boy. I go to a thing out here called the California Extreme with all these arcade games. It's out there in the summer. I attend that. And I do volunteer work where I mentor young people to nurture a potential budding nerd. The world needs more nerds.
Randy: Yeah, you're right. So anything else that you want to convey? Any other stories you can think of?
Al: No, I just think, not getting too nostalgic, but those were very heady days. The world was a lot smaller, the industry was certainly a lot smaller. I'll give you a little story. I remember the first annual Home Computer Conference put on by Ben Rosen back in New York. He was an analyst at the time for one of the big brokerage firms. Everybody was there. Maybe 50 people in the room. There were people from RadioShack, Mike Markkula, Steve Jobs was there, I was there. Jerry Lawson from Fairchild was there and other people. Mike Markkula was very nice to me. But I do remember a quote from one of the guys at RadioShack, I forget his name, fortunately. It was a panel discussion. The subject was the home entertainment aspects of home computers. And his quote from Texas I thought was fascinating, from RadioShack, was "I married my wife for home entertainment." It wasn't understood. I think the only thing that came out of that conference was deciding to change the name from Home Computers to Personal Computers. It was kind of fun. Ninety nine percent of the people get into businesses that already exist. There is a small percentage of people that see the world as it might be, not as it is necessarily. So it's kind of fun to hang out with guys like that. And to talk about how you can change the world. Not from changing the world so much, but just from having fun, like Woz. Amazing people, what could be done with the technology.
Randy: I hate to put you on the spot here, but we have a lot of Atari users who listen to this podcast. What message would you leave for them today?
Al: As I said back in the early days with Pong, my message was "Avoid missing ball for a high score." [inaudible 00:47:26] set on my tombstone.
Randy: There you go. That's a good quote.
Al: I am delighted that people like, still remember me. How many people get to be part of creating something that 40 years later people still care about? Isn't that wonderful?
Randy: That's true. That's got to be amazing.
Al: I'm so lucky to have that happen. But personally, I focus on the new stuff. It's nice to meet people who like the old stuff and appreciate it but I like seeing challenging stuff I can do with what's new. It's really hard to follow up something like starting the video game industry.
Randy: Yeah, it's kind of hard to top that one, isn't it?
Randy: I will definitely let you know when it's out. Are there any links of any sort that you would want me to put in the show notes or should I just put some links to some of your interviews that are found on the web?
Al: Yeah, I'm trying to find it. Have you ever heard of "Space Ghost Coast to Coast?"
Randy: No, I don't think so.
Al: It was this bizarre thing that was on the Turner Broadcasting Channel having to do with a deranged cartoon character super hero now running a talk show. It's a sarcastic, stupid thing on Adult Swim TV. And I wound up doing this bizarre interview where I am the father of some space creature. Anyways, it's the weirdest thing but if you can find it – it’s not on the web anymore, but if you can find it, that's hilarious. Let me know if you can find anything.
Randy: Okay, well if you think of any links that you want me to include, just email me and I'll be happy to put them in there. I want to thank you very much for your time, I know you're a very busy guy. It's been an honor to talk to you.
Al: Pleasure, pleasure talking to you. Good luck.
Randy: All right. Thank you. Take it easy.
If you enjoy these interviews and would like to contribute something, I encourage you instead to donate to one of our favorite organizations - firstname.lastname@example.org. The internet archive is a non-profit digital library with a stated mission of universal access to all knowledge. They have done incredible things to preserve computer history including hosting thousands of programs in an in-browser Atari emulator, creating the Wayback Machine and offering full page scans of countless Atari computer books and magazines. Make your tax-deductible contribution at archive.org/donate. Thank you.
Al: Yeah, good luck. Let me know when it's out.
Randy: I will.
Al: I'll sit down and listen to it. Maybe I'll say "Oh my God, I shouldn't have talked to you." I think these video game things are the coming thing. Who knows what will happen?
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