Atari Oddities

The wacky Atari you don't know: Its digital photo booth, video phone, "Puppy Pong," and more.

Posted by  | Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Non-Video Game
Atari made its name as a pioneer video arcade game manufacturer. But it didn’t limit itself to video technology in the coin-op world. In fact, Atari moved outside its comfort zone with the release of its only electromechanical arcade game, F-1, in 1976. This release is slightly odd because electromechanical games were prone to frequent mechanical failure, containing precisely the kind of technology video games were supposed to replace.

In this case, however, the projected, animated racing action featured in the Namco-designed F-1 unit represented a smooth racing experience that video games of the time could not replicate. It wasn’t long before video game technology caught up, rendering electromechanical simulation games obsolete only a few years later.

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9 Comments For This Post

  1. JM_Brazil Says:

    Thanks for the nostalgia Benj, this brings back many fond memories.

  2. Martin Goldberg Says:

    A little off on the Tank console and joystick history there. It wasn't the Tank console first and then the VCS/2600 and the sticks weren't chosen for one over the other. They were in development simultaneous. In fact the Tank console (called Tank II in the Atari version), the last of the dedicated consoles, was there simply in case something went wrong with the VCS. It didn't and the Tank console was cancelled accordingly. Additionally, the sticks used in this and the VCS were not CX-40's, they are the spring loaded CX-10's.

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    I had a feeling I'd hear from you on this one, Marty. Thanks for clarifying that murky bit of Atari history for us.

  4. Martin Goldberg Says:

    Benj, not a problem. Great article otherwise!

  5. Mem Says:

    Wasn't that F-1 game in Dawn of the Dead?

  6. Guest Says:

    I actually owned a Hercules pinball game. It was easily the heaviest piece of electronics I have ever purchased for home use. It cost $500 from a Denver arcade refurbishing shop and came with free shipping back in 1993. Never broke down once in the 2 years I owned it but don't recommend putting this in the basement. Gave it away rather than trying to move it to my new house. Still, it was a lot of fun.

  7. Puffers Rabbinald Says:

    Just as a comment, the guy who eventually created programming to supercede scrolling as approximated in F-1 was Steve Hanawa, who worked as head of R & D for Sega of America during the Master System's initial launch. The game he did this in, which revolutionized racing games forever, was Turbo.

  8. Daniel B. Says:

    "Puppy Pong" did in fact get some kind of national exposure — it was a one-bid prize on a nighttime (Dennis James) episode of "The Price Is Right" during the 1974-75 season. Janice Pennington and Anita Ford were shown playing it.

  9. Daniel B. Says:

    AnitRa Ford, sorry. Also, here's the segment where Puppy Pong was offered (audio only, sorry):