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Alien Found Buried in New Mexico Desert
April 26, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

The dig for the Atari dump in the Alamagordo, New Mexico desert started today. It didn't take long to find what they were looking for. Previously
posted by pashdown (65 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just blow into it and it will work fine.
posted by notme at 1:04 PM on April 26 [24 favorites]


No good can come of this, the dead should stay buried.
posted by calamari kid at 1:07 PM on April 26 [21 favorites]


Keith Schofield's prophetic vision of the event (video for Wintergreen's "When I Wake Up.")
posted by damehex at 1:09 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Look upon their works, ye mighty, and despair.
posted by Etrigan at 1:18 PM on April 26 [18 favorites]


This place is not a place of honor.

(also: I can never get over the fact that the same guy designed both the worst Atari 2600 game and the best. Yar's Revenge, of course!)
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:28 PM on April 26 [25 favorites]


When I stumbled upon the Yar easter egg I wrote Atari Age about it. You could have had a scoop, Atari, but you blew it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:35 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Will it be possible to buy an exhumed ET?
posted by anonymisc at 1:37 PM on April 26


God, I played so much Yar's Revenge. I can still hear all the different sound fx, and just the memory of the sound of the Yar chipping away at the barrier still sets my teeth on edge.

As for the post, it's awesome that they found it. I've heard about it for so long I almost can't believe it exists in anything other than legend.
posted by nevercalm at 1:37 PM on April 26


My aunt is good friends with the guy responsible for both ET and Yar's Revenge. My understanding was that the development window for ET was really short (they gave him a couple of weeks).
posted by unknownmosquito at 1:38 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


I have decided this discovery occurred exactly like the opening scenes of Werewolf


warwilf
posted by The Whelk at 1:39 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


While I wouldn't go so far as to call E.T. a "good" video game, I think it is over-criticized.

I definitely played this video game when I was a kid; I had to go check Wikipedia to get my dates right, and it turns out it was released when I was 5 and my brother was 2. I remember him playing it with me, so we must've held onto it for a couple years; assume I was 8 and he was 5.

Frankly, the game play was entirely solid and appropriate for players like us at that time. It was non-violent - sure, E.T. could "die," but he was easily revived and there were no guns or blowing up of ships or anything like that. The plot was simple but fine - assemble phone, collect candy along the way, then phone home! - and the "puzzles" were likewise simple but good enough to entertain a kid for a while. And as to the complaints about the graphics, well, we didn't know any better; all Atari graphics were pretty terrible. Honestly. I mean I think people knocking on the graphics are mis-remembering what video games generally looked like in 1982 - every Atari game I remember was blocky with 16-color graphics. The NES was a revelation when we got one in (checking Wikipedia again...) well, sometime later than 1985, that's for sure.

Anyway, it was "meh" but fine! One may regard this as damning with faint praise ("ooh, you said the E.T. game was good for 5-year-olds - burn!"), but there's no shame in making a game for kids. As I recall the movie was sort of for kids, too. There's no question they got arrogant, trying to code it all in 5 months and then hyping it to high heaven, but still.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:44 PM on April 26 [12 favorites]


That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger eons, even death may die.
posted by jquinby at 1:45 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


Aw man I don't even care if it's a bad game at all. It's an artifact of a very recent cultural event (i.e. "Video games") and some weirdness and some human silliness and that's just plain interesting
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:49 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


I've always loved this story. A bit like collecting vinyl LPs, it connects you with something that although ephemeral, has a physical existence that has a lifespan and a death and then an afterlife... unlike all our new 'messaging' or 'data aggregation' app startups in Silicon Valley that, after the bursting of this current bubble, will leave no physical remains for us to laugh at wryly.
posted by colie at 1:53 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


While I wouldn't go so far as to call E.T. a "good" video game, I think it is over-criticized.

E.T. Atari revisionism. Hipsters will like.

Being serious, the poor guy that coded E.T. did it all alone and had less than 5 weeks from brief to release by some accounts. The story is also replete with hubris about how giant companies exploit the labour of a tiny few skilled people - in this case, actually one dude - and then expect to make squillions of dollars off it.
posted by colie at 1:58 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Fixing E.T.
posted by Potsy at 2:01 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


The story is also replete with hubris about how giant companies exploit the labour of a tiny few skilled people - in this case, actually one dude - and then expect to make squillions of dollars off it.

One dude... making squillions off it... New Mexico... Atari wasn't owned by Madrigal Electromotive, by any chance?
posted by rory at 2:13 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


I have decided this discovery occurred exactly like the opening scenes of Werewolf

Does that mean Joe Estevez will be turning into a were-ET?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:15 PM on April 26


Well, that's one indie film I wish I hadn't backed...
posted by parliboy at 2:25 PM on April 26


Estevez doesn't turn into a wharwelf, it's one of the workers and the guy with the multiple hair dying stations (and eventually Puuuuuual and Miss Nameless)
posted by The Whelk at 2:25 PM on April 26


I've already spoken my piece about this awful game. The only good reason to dig these up would be to make sure that they are properly destroyed. I suggest shredding them and incinerating the pieces.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:26 PM on April 26


"..they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled.."
posted by jadepearl at 2:30 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Once they dig them up they should replace them with all known copies of the Raiders of the Lost Ark game.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:37 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


...or Journey Escape, which was such a turd that it makes me wince 30 years later...
posted by COBRA! at 2:41 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


"No good can come of this, the dead should stay buried."

You sonofab*tch! You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!!
posted by markkraft at 2:49 PM on April 26 [6 favorites]


Glad to know it's not an urban legend. Having spent so much time stuck in the stupid pits in that game, the fate of the cartridges seemed entirely fitting.
posted by oulipian at 2:51 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


or Journey Escape, which was such a turd that it makes me wince 30 years later...

Journey[,] Escape? That was a great album.
posted by Melismata at 2:54 PM on April 26


I suppose you guys believe in the moon landing too? This massive fraud is surely part of some evil Microsoft plot I haven’t figured out yet.
posted by bongo_x at 2:56 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


or Journey Escape, which was such a turd that it makes me wince 30 years later...

Journey[,] Escape? That was a great album.
posted by Melismata


Well...
posted by COBRA! at 3:01 PM on April 26


Did they find any Battletoads?
posted by Windopaene at 3:01 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


the development window for ET was really short (they gave him a couple of weeks).

ET phoned it in?
posted by yoink at 3:59 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Are You Hot Enough To Play With Journey?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:01 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


The game was bad because once you fell into a pit it was really, really hard to get out. I know it was a 2600 game and one has to keep one's expectations low. But even by the standards of the day it was a bad game simply by reason of poor mechanics.
posted by GuyZero at 4:10 PM on April 26


i feel like there should be a word for one who actually played many hours of Atari E.T., a unique signifier
posted by angrycat at 4:16 PM on April 26


patiEnT.
posted by arcticseal at 4:18 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


i feel like there should be a word for one who actually played many hours of Atari E.T., a unique signifier

You mean besides "awesome"?

I admit nothing.
posted by Etrigan at 5:09 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


And all these years later, game studios are still shitting out half-assed movie tie-ins. Sigh.

So, anyway, the obvious thing to do now is to release a special edition of the game, in which all the phone parts have been replaced with discarded E.T. cartridges.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:19 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


If Journey Escape had been more successful, we probably would have ended up with games named Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down and Phil Collins No Jacket Required. Really dodged a bullet there.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:30 PM on April 26 [13 favorites]


Oh my god I just thought of a 2600 AUD0/1 version of the drum break from "In the Air Tonight" and now I CAN'T STOP THINKING IT.
posted by Etrigan at 5:45 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


At least this time they didn't just move the headstones.
posted by blurker at 5:49 PM on April 26


(also: I can never get over the fact that the same guy designed both the worst Atari 2600 game and the best. Yar's Revenge, of course!)

It is certainly not the worst 2600 game; a single awful game cannot be blamed for the Great Game Crash. What might is the flood of terrible 2600 games on the market, many of which are quite easily worse than E.T. Custer's Revenge, for example.

> While I wouldn't go so far as to call E.T. a "good" video game, I think it is over-criticized.
E.T. Atari revisionism. Hipsters will like.


Way to dismiss an opinion there! I played a good deal of E.T. back in the day, and have certainly thought about it more than you, and I tell you it is underrated. It doesn't hold a candle to the best games (I'll list some later -- for starters, look up Mountain King, it's awesome), but it's not awful. It does have some really annoying bugs, and it does require reading the manual. But there are plenty more obtuse games even than E.T. -- try playing Imagic's Riddle Of The Sphinx some time. (That's actually quite an interesting game, but it needs its manual even more than E.T. does.)
posted by JHarris at 6:08 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


i feel like there should be a word for one who actually played many hours of Atari E.T., a unique signifier

That word is ME.
posted by JHarris at 6:10 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


And I'm going to repeat Potsy's link above, Fixing E.T., which I've read before and is terrific both for detailing the good parts of a maligned game, and for its technical explanation and changes for making it better.
posted by JHarris at 6:12 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


So, anyway, the obvious thing to do now is to release a special edition of the game, in which all the phone parts have been replaced with discarded E.T. cartridges.

Which is available only as a phone app.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:22 PM on April 26


Potsy: "Fixing E.T."

Yup. We had a good discussion about that last year.
posted by barnacles at 9:07 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


IIRC there were more ET cartridges made than there were Atari VCSs to play them on. ET was a colossal, high-profile debacle, and it really was the place where the early American video game market peaked. The VCS market was being flooded with crappy games - both from third-party firms and from Atari - and this much-ballyhooed license being such an underwhelming game was kind of the last straw.

Seriously, I had the thing, and I remember speculating that more space in the cartridge went to the picture of ET on the title screen than to the actual game. I cut it a hell of a lot more slack when I learnt that HSW wrote it, and did it in like two weeks, but in the grand scheme of things it's really not a good game. It's maybe better than Atari's adaptation of Pac-Man. But not by much.

Much of what Nintendo did when introducing the NES to the US was in direct reaction to the VCS' faults; they had the lockout chips and the "seal of quality" to try and avoid all those super-shitty games happening, they gave it a name that didn't even say "video game" because US retailers were skittish, they added on that robot mostly to distract the US retailers who started to realize what it was. Because a lot of people were super burnt out on the idea of "video games" after the first wave's crash. And ET was the froth on that wave as it smashed into the beach and dissipated.
posted by egypturnash at 10:49 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


I have decided this discovery occurred exactly like the opening scenes of Werewolf

Is they in it for fame and fortune?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


RobotVoodooPower: Are You Hot Enough to Play With Journey?

Only the young can say.
posted by dr_dank at 5:29 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I liked Raiders of The Lost Ark. :( But I cannot defend the Journey title, oof that was bad. But in fairness to the band, the arcade version was better, at least as I remember it.
posted by cj_ at 6:13 AM on April 27


Like, it had digitized bobble heads of the band members for avatars. How cool is that? The inability to pull that off on the 2600 was almost certainly the biggest problem.
posted by cj_ at 6:24 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


It's like the Al Capone's Vault thing, except if Geraldo had gone there HOPING to find just a bunch of empty soda bottles.
posted by Legomancer at 6:49 AM on April 27


If you look closely at the basement scenes in Cabin in the Woods, there's a 2600 in the corner with an ET cartridge sticking out of it.
posted by ckape at 8:45 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


Man I do not even care if that's true. As far as I'm concerned, it's fact.
posted by Etrigan at 8:58 AM on April 27


it had digitized bobble heads of the band members for avatars

There's a great story behind that. Bally / Midway engineers had the idea for a digital camera mounted inside an arcade game cabinet that could take a picture of top scorers and display their faces alongside their high scores. They playtested it in a Chicago arcade, where some players promptly stood on a chair and dropped their pants for the camera. The project was scrapped, but they salvaged some of the work they'd done by using it to digitize Journey's heads.
posted by ulotrichous at 11:18 AM on April 27 [6 favorites]


Can anyone with semiconductor engineering or production experience tell me: are there things we could be learning about long-term degradation from these?
posted by qbject at 1:45 PM on April 27


I played (and "beat") E.T., Raiders, and Riddle of the Sphinx. I don't think I had the manuals, because I was essentially gifted the games when my neighbor's Atari died. Although, I can't imagine how I figured out how to play them in the pre-Internet days without a manual. Maybe just obsessive replaying.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:47 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I was kind of hoping these would stay buried until alien archaeologists found them long after we went extinct.
posted by homunculus at 5:19 PM on April 27


I blame both ET and Pitfall for a couple of smashed joysticks, due to them being so damn tricky and getting so pissed off, that had to vent on the poor joystick.
posted by Merlin The Happy Pig at 5:33 PM on April 27


Not a scientist and I don't have any experience with semiconductor manufacture, but I don't think that there's much semiconductor science to be learned from these things.

Silicon itself is pretty inert.

Plastics can decompose nastily, but those cartridges post-date stabilisers so they're not likely to do anything unpleasant, especially considering that they'll have been heavily shielded from UV all this time.

About the only reactive thing that I could think of in there would be the possibility of solder flux, if the soldering was not done well, and that's both well understood and probably not an issue in this case anyway.
posted by YAMWAK at 4:15 AM on April 28


Journey Escape was way worse than E.T. It had one level, repeated 5 times. The only difference being two letters in the corner signifying that now "Ooh! You are now playing as Ross Valory! Now it's Steve Smith!"

I can't imagine paying retail for it. But the 5 dollars I did pay was totally worth it some 15 years ago for that intro scene of the Journey scarab busting out to the 2600 tune of Don't Stop Believin'.
posted by mediocre at 12:33 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Ok so I have this game, I didn't realize this was THE game they were looking for, otherwise I would have sold it on ebay at a premium.

And yes it IS terrible. I remember as a kid thinking: jesus fuck, how do you play this game? All I can do is run away from the guys who chase me, and fall into a hole.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:35 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Ok so I have this game, I didn't realize this was THE game they were looking for, otherwise I would have sold it on ebay at a premium.

The only problem with that is that E.T. is not exactly a rare cart. Atari Age rates it as "common."

One thing about the dig is, all the pictures I've seen so far have had a single ET cartridge, a single box, and an Atari catalog. Not exactly a wealth of inventory. I was expecting great masses of crushed games, not something I could have duplicated myself if I hadn't sold my old Atari many years ago.
posted by JHarris at 1:47 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


I've selected a few 2600 games and written them up, but it might be better to use that in a full FPP than a comment here. Thinking it over.
posted by JHarris at 7:55 AM on April 29


Ok so I have this game, I didn't realize this was THE game they were looking for, otherwise I would have sold it on ebay at a premium.

The only problem with that is that E.T. is not exactly a rare cart. Atari Age rates it as "common."


What is often lost in the story is that Atari sold 1.5 million copies of the game -- it was the fifth-best-selling 2600 game of all time. The issue was that they made 4-5 million and couldn't sell most of them.

This was a classic Macguffin -- the diggers didn't need the cartridges, they needed the quest.
posted by Etrigan at 8:06 AM on April 29


One thing about the dig is, all the pictures I've seen so far have had a single ET cartridge, a single box, and an Atari catalog. Not exactly a wealth of inventory. I was expecting great masses of crushed games, not something I could have duplicated myself if I hadn't sold my old Atari many years ago.
They should've, instead, posted a Vine showing one of the diggers creeping up to the uncovered site, rubbing her chin--cut to a co-worker mumbling to himself and rubbing his fingers--cut back to the digger as she quickly places a 1-pound bag of Reese's Pieces down and snatches a cartridge... She turns to the camera and then [paste in video from the Stella app] they both fall into a [E.T.] hole.

A post-credits scene shows her grabbing her hat.
Then Nolan Bushnell hold up the cartridge to a gang of buyer-remorseful 1982 gamers, goes "Wishh Wishh!" and they all chase her across a field.

Vine'ers of the world, please make this happen!
posted by blueberry at 8:35 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


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