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Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer Systemby Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost
Synopses & Reviews
andlt;Pandgt;The Atari Video Computer System dominated the home video game market so completely that andquot;Atariandquot; became the generic term for a video game console. The Atari VCS was affordable and offered the flexibility of changeable cartridges. Nearly a thousand of these were created, the most significant of which established new techniques, mechanics, and even entire genres. This book offers a detailed and accessible study of this influential video game console from both computational and cultural perspectives. Studies of digital media have rarely investigated platforms--the systems underlying computing. This book (the first in a series of Platform Studies) does so, developing a critical approach that examines the relationship between platforms and creative expression. Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost discuss the Atari VCS itself and examine in detail six game cartridges: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars' Revenge, Pitfall!, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. They describe the technical constraints and affordances of the system and track developments in programming, gameplay, interface, and aesthetics. Adventure, for example, was the first game to represent a virtual space larger than the screen (anticipating the boundless virtual spaces of such later games as World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto), by allowing the player to walk off one side into another space; and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was an early instance of interaction between media properties and video games. Montfort and Bogost show that the Atari VCS--often considered merely a retro fetish object--is an essential part of the history of video games.andlt;/Pandgt;
A study of the relationship between platform and creative expression in the Atari VCS.
andlt;Pandgt;A study of the relationship between platform and creative expression in the Atari VCS.andlt;/Pandgt;
Within the history of computing, the last thirty years have been defined by the ascendance of the personal computer, a device that finally brought the power of computation out of laboratories and corporate technology centers and into the purview of the individual user. That thirty years has seen a blur of technological advances in both hardware and software as computers have gotten smaller, faster, more powerful and more complex. In fact, so much has happened so quickly and been so dramatic in its effect on everyday life that we often forget to think about just how we have interacted with these machines over time, and how those interactions have come to define our experiences with these machines. In this regard the ubiquity of these tools, which often sell millions of units, and the almost constant state of change in the field of technological discovery often leaves us taking for granted just how different it has been to experience these machines at different points over time. This book aims to defamiliarize some of the most ubiquitous objects in the history of personal computing, allowing for a better understanding of the historical shifts that have occurred in the design and material experience of these computers, and to get visitors to start thinking about the cultural moments that have come to be defined by our interaction with these material objects.
Objects to be examined include:
Apple Macintosh Plus
Palm Pilot Professional
The last forty years have seen the rise of the personal computer, a device that has enabled ordinary individuals to access a tool that had been exclusive to laboratories and corporate technology centers. During this time, computers have become smaller, faster, more powerful, and more complex. So much has happened with so many products, in fact, that we often take for granted the uniqueness of our experiences with different machines over time.
The Interface Experience surveys some of the landmark devices in the history of personal computingand#151;including the Commodore 64, Apple Macintosh Plus, Palm Pilot Professional, and Microsoft Kinectand#151;and helps us to better understand the historical shifts that have occurred with the design and material experience of each machine. With its spiral-bound design reminiscent of early computer user manuals and thorough consideration of the cultural moment represented by each device, The Interface Experience is a one-of-a-kind tour of modern computing technology.
The Atari Video Computer System dominated the home videogame market so completely that Atari became the generic term for a videogame console. The Atari VCS was affordable and offered the flexibility of changeable cartridges. Nearly a thousand of these were created, the most significant of which established new techniques, mechanics, and even entire genres. This book offers a detailed and accessible study of this influential videogame console from both computational and cultural perspectives.
About the Author
Nick Montfort is Assistant Professor of Digital Media at MIT. He is the author of Twisty Little Passages: A New Approach to Interactive Fiction and the coeditor of The New Media Reader, both published by The MIT Press. Ian Bogost is Assistant Professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, at Georgia Institute of Technology and Founding Partner, Persuasive Games LLC. He is the author of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogame Criticism and Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, both published by the MIT Press.
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