Editorials Reviews Previews Essays Worth Playing


Essays 27 March 2022, 16:00

author: Jerry Bonner

Have You Found Atari Today?

Jerry, our investigative journalist, set out to trace Atari's legacy in the US. The games may have changed, but the amount of fun hasn't. If you're into retro stuff, you should love this one.

About a week ago I was searching for an old book of mine, Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and as I was looking for this long lost tome, I came across three old issues of Atari Age magazine that I’ve owned since 1982. And what a welcome sight they were because I kind of forgot I had them, quite honestly.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been involved, one way or another, with video games since the “dawn of Pong” and in the late 70’s/early 80’s Atari was my every-damn-thing. So, when Atari started a fan club (which you could join for the low, low price of one American dollar), I joined up almost immediately. The fact that an actual magazine was part of this whole “club” deal was just icing on the cake – I was sold hook, line, and sinker. And if any of this sounds familiar to you, yes, Nintendo would essentially co-opt this concept approximately four short years later for their own Fun Club and Fun Club Newsletter which would eventually morph into the revered Nintendo Power magazine.

The Atari Age magazine itself, which only lasted for two years and 11 issues of about 15-20 pages each, was really just one giant Atari advertisement from cover to cover… but what an undeniably glorious advertisement it was! I waited with baited breath for that publication to hit my mailbox every other month then read it and re-read it for days on end. I scrutinized every syllable and every screenshot for some obscure bit of information that I could lord over my schoolyard friends, who were unfortunate enough to own the Intellivision or, heaven forbid, the Odyssey 2. Oh yes, the Console Wars began much earlier than the early 90s, my gamer pals…

As I leafed through these doorways to my past, a few things immediately struck me. First, this magazine was put together by just three people: Steve Morgenstern, editor, Tony Prizzi, designer, and Parker Jerrell, the club director… whatever the hell that role was. So, this gives some insight into why each issue was only 15-20 pages, published bi-monthly. Without any kind of computer-aided design programs (i.e., Photoshop, InDesign, QuarkXpress, etc.), it would take three people, no matter how diligent they were, a hefty amount of time to produce this magazine.

And tried as though I may, I wasn’t able to track down any of the three guys who worked on Atari Age back in the day. Well, I did manage to track down Editor Steve Morgenstern but, unfortunately, he passed away in 2013. Undaunted, I even reached out to his widow just to see if there were any Atari related stories or anecdotes he shared with her at some point, but she never got back to me. Searches for both Prizzi and Jerrell both turned up fruitless as well.

Secondly, Atari Age was produced in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA – in the heart of Center City. 1700 Walnut St., to be exact, which is only about 15 minutes away from where I live now, right across the Ben Franklin Bridge in Southern New Jersey. I’m not sure why I didn’t recall this exciting tidbit because I know damn well this wouldn’t have escaped my laser-like attention when I was a kid. Regardless, I had an interesting thought: Why not check out the building now to see if there are Atari relics (possibly?) left behind?

So, the next day I took a quick jaunt across the Delaware River on the PATCO train into the city of my birth. A brisk five minute walk from the train station put me directly in front of the building… which wasn’t all that impressive. It appears that it is no longer an office building, but has been converted into an apartment building with an attached bank. That meant the front door was locked up tighter than WATA-graded game and there would be no simple walk-ins so I could snoop around. Dejected somewhat that I wasn’t going to get to pretend I was a fearless investigative journalist, I just snapped a few pictures of the exterior and then headed back to the train, singing songs of melancholy and woe.

And lastly, from reading one of the articles in the second issue of Atari Age (New Service System Speeds Atari Video Game Repairs) I blithely discovered that one of the main Atari service hubs back in the day was located in central New Jersey – 12 World’s Fair Drive, Somerset, NJ, approximately an hour or so trek up I-295 and RT.1 for me. And since I had already visited the one location… why not check out the other?

After my less-than-stellar showing in Philly, I must say that my thoughts were fixated on finding something, anything more than what I discovered (or didn’t discover) there. As I got within a mile or so of the destination, Google Maps (which I typically use as my GPS while driving) gave me a reason to be rather hopeful.

“In a quarter mile, turn left on Sunnyvale Drive,” the cheerful female voice directed me.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I replied with a grin because Sunnyvale is the California city where Atari was headquartered in the 80s. No way in hell that’s just a coincidence.



I turned onto Sunnyvale Drive which led me into the industrial park where World’s Fair Drive was. And soon enough, I was pulling into the parking lot of 12 World’s Fair Drive…

…just to be disappointed all over again. The building itself was quite massive with a non-descript green and reddish-brown brick exterior with several loading docks jutting out of the right hand side and the rear. I would venture to guess that Atari’s operations took up the whole of this building back in the day, but now it has been subdivided into nine different offices.

I walked around the entirety of the facility itself, scrutinizing every door and loading dock in the hopes of finding some scrap of Atari branding or something but, alas, nothing.

Since these were just offices, I did manage to get inside the first door of what I assumed would have been the Atari reception area in the 80’s, but it’s now just the very cramped reception area of a tool company called Enerpac.

After a few minutes of staring at nothing but off-white walls I did manage to catch someone coming out of the office proper into the reception area. Our snappy, Oscar-worthy conversation went like this:

HIM (a swarthy dude in his mid-30’s): Can I help you?

ME (an intrepid writer type): Uh, yeah, hi… my name is Jerry and I’m a writer (insert cringe). I’m here doing a little research because this used to be an Atari facility back in the 80’s… and I’m writing a story about that.

HIM: (Three slow blinks) Oh, cool.

ME: Yeah, they used to send broken Atari systems and cartridges here for repair. I just wanted to see if anything, maybe, was left behind from that time.

HIM: I don’t think so. (Pauses, blinking) What about the big ones… like Pac-Man and all?

ME: The big ones? Like the arcade games, you mean? (Now gesturing with my hands the approximate height and shape of an arcade machine)

HIM: Yeah…those bad boys.

ME: (Restraining every super nerdy urge to tell this dude that Pac-Man was only licensed by Atari for home use and that the arcade version of Pac-Man was made by Namco in Japan then licensed for arcades in the US by Midway in Chicago so, no, Pac-Man arcade machines would NEVER have been sent here, but instead I simply say the following) No, those didn’t come here.

HIM: Huh. Well, that sucks. But no, no Atari stuff here at all. I think this whole office was refurbished for us a few years ago when we moved in, but I’ll be sure to tell everyone what it used to be.

ME: Greeeeeatttt. Well, thanks for your time! (Exit, stage left)

So, kids, the moral of this fun, little travelogue is: Even though spur-of-the-moment road trips are a gas, you can never go home again… or recapture your youth… however you want to put it. And we Americans have almost zero historical context and/or desire to preserve history… and that’s kinda sad.

How’s that Counting Crows song go? “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Yeah… that. Exactly that. That’s what this Atari-themed road trip taught me… but Atari Age certainly ruled, both in the 80’s and now.

Oh, and I still haven’t found Princess of Mars. Don’t know – what the hell did I do with it? I think I lent it out to someone at one point, so if that’s you, please give it back to me the next time you see me. Thanks.

Jerry Bonner | Gamepressure.com

Jerry Bonner

Jerry Bonner

Jerry Bonner has been a professional writer/editor for well over two decades in a variety of mediums including: journalism, copywriting, screenwriting, video game scriptwriting, comic/graphic novel writing, marketing communications, and technical writing. Currently, he is working for the Chinese video game company, TapTap, as a writer/editor/voice talent. In the past he has written for Microsoft/Mojang, WIRED, Playboy, IGN, 1UP, Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ), Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), Ars Technica, Yahoo!, What They Play, GamePro, Imagine Publications (NOW Gamer, X360, Play tm, Retro Gamer, etc.), and many others. Since 2020, he has written reviews, previews, and essays for Gamepressure. While he enjoys all genres of games, his favorites are action, FPS’s, narrative adventure, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys reading, films, collecting vinyl records, cooking, and playing pickleball while trying to avoid getting cripplingly injured in his “advanced” age.


Who Rules The Retro Gaming Roost On YouTube?
Who Rules The Retro Gaming Roost On YouTube?

This is a niche, but every gamer should know about it.Retro gaming is great and still practiced. Jerry talks about his past while talking a lot about the world today.

Rummaging For Remakes - Retro Games That Deserve a Remake
Rummaging For Remakes - Retro Games That Deserve a Remake

Old games for the first computers, Atari, ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64, need their voice. They may have aged a lot, but they still deserve... a remake!

See/Add Comments