- Texas Film Awards Kicks Off SXSW
- Edward Snowden To Speak At SXSW
- Hollywood Comes To Austin For SXSW
- Idle Cars Become Moneymakers For SXSW
- Cold Weather Won't Stop Mardi Gras Revelers
- Ken & Bettie Predict The Oscars
- Bettie's Box Office:Wicked Review
- "Wicked" Arrives In Austin
- SXSW Gaming Awards Voting Ends Friday
- AFS has The Big Shootout Screening
- Review: Endless Love
- TV Reporter Confused Samuel L. Jackson With Laurence Fishburne
- Shirley Temple Dies At 85
- WICKED Comes to Austin
- Bettie's Box Office:The Monuments Men Review
- AP Sources: Hoffman Found Dead With Syringe In Arm
- Bettie's Box Office:Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit Review
- Pop star Justin Bieber Arrested In Miami Area
- One-On-One With Anjelah Johnson
- Bettie's Box Office: Lone Survivor Review
- Austin Broadcasting Legend Larry Monroe Dies
- Russell Johnson, 'Gilligan' Professor, Has Died
- 'Hustle,' 'Gravity' Lead Oscars With 10 Nods Each
- Bettie's Box Office: American Idiot Musical Review
- WikiLeaks Founder To Speak At SXSW Interactive
- Caged: 30 Years of Nic!
- Carnaval Austin Celebrates 37 Years
- Bettie's Box Office: Her Movie Review
- American Idiot on Broadway in Austin
- Insane Clown Posse Sues Feds Over Gang Label
- A&E Reverses Decision On 'Duck Dynasty' Patriarch
- Review: American Hustle
- Bettie's Box Office: Saving Mr. Banks Review
- 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch hears from supporters
- Country Singer Ray Price Dead At 87
- Bettie's Box Office: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- New Heights With Blue Lapis Light
- Memphis the Musical
- Review: Homefront
- Review: Disney's FROZEN
- Bettie's Box Office:Nebraska Movie Review
- 'Catching Fire' Ablaze With $135M At Box Office
- Brooklyn Man Finds Emmy In The Trash
- Bettie's Box Office: Delivery Man Review
- Review: Dallas Buyers Club
- Chicago: Broadway in Austin
- Thor: The Dark World
- Bettie's Box Office: Last Vegas Review
- SXSW Lineup Released For 2014
- Movie Texting Gets Madonna Banned From All Alamo Drafthouses
- Bettie's Box Office: Captain Phillips Review
- Nearby Shops Disappointed With ACL Sales
- Bettie's Box Office: Runner Runner Review
- ACL Brings Big $$$ To Austin
- Author Tom Clancy Dead At 66
- The Book of Mormon In Austin
- Bettie's Box Office: Getaway Movie Review
- Review: Closed Circuit
- Lawyers Settle Paula Deen Lawsuit In Georgia
- Affleck To Play Batman In 'Man Of Steel' Sequel
- Late Night Broadcast Stars No Longer TV Salary Leaders
- Ice Cream Festival At Fiesta Gardens
- Review: The Spectacular Now
- Review: Kick-Ass 2
- Bettie's Box Office: Elysium Movie Review
- Bettie's Box Office: We're The Millers Movie Review
- Allegretti, 'Captain Kangaroo' Character, Dies
- Review: 2 Guns
- Bettie's Box Office: R.I.P.D.
- Dave Matthews Fans Meet Him In Need Of Ride To His Show
- Review: The Way, Way Back
- Bettie's Box Office: Pacific Rim Review
- Texas Town Supports Randy Travis' Fight For Life
- Country Singer Randy Travis Hospitalized In Texas
- Bettie's Box Office: The Lone Ranger Review
- Review: The Lone Ranger
- Bettie's Box Office: White House Down Review
- Review: Monsters University
- Target Cuts Ties With Paula Deen
- Bettie's Box Office: World War Z Review
- Two Takes On Man Of Steel
- One-on-one With Cyndi Lauper on her TONY nomination
- Review: The Kings of Summer
- Bettie's Box Office: This Is The End Review
- Review: After Earth
- Bettie's Box Office: Now You See Me Review
- Review: Gimme The Loot
- Blues On The Green Returns To Zilker Park
- Before Midnight Premiere
- Review: The Hangover III
- Bettie's Box Office: Fast And Furious 6 Review
- Bettie's Box Office: Star Trek: Into Darkness Movie Review
- Review: Fast & Furious 6
- Angelina Jolie Had Double Mastectomy
- Is The Great Gatsby In The Pocket?
- Before Midnight Week of Events & Contest
- Fantastic Fest 2013 Location Announced
- Bettie's Box Office: The Great Gatsby
- Young and Restless Star Jeanne Cooper Dies At 84
- Bettie's Box Office: Iron Man 3 Review
- Priscilla, Queen of The Desert In Austin
- Jimmy Buffet Concert At COTA Postponed
- Chris Kelly, Of Rap Duo Kriss Kross, Dies In Ga.
- Austin Trash Collectors Appear On Big Screen
- Country Music Superstar George Jones Dead
- Central Market Celebrates Brazilian-Style
- Review: Oblivion
- Bettie's Box Office: 42 Movie Review
- Review: Evil Dead
- Million Dollar Quartet Comes To Bass Concert Hall
- Review: Wrong
- Sun-Times: Famed Movie Critic Roger Ebert Dies
- Paul McCartney To Play Erwin Center
- The Lords Of Salem At SXSW
- Sound City Makes Sweet Music At SXSW
- SXSW Film Awards
- Some Girl(s) at SXSW
- 'Hours' at SXSW
- 'Holy Ghost People' As Narrative Feature
- Bettie's Box Office: Olympus Has Fallen Movie Review
- 'Gus' at SXSW
- 'I Give It A Year' Comes To SXSW
- 'Before Midnight' Serves as Festival Favorite
- Maladies Screens At SXSW
- Stevie Nicks Promotes Documentary At SXSW
- SXSW Presents Prince
- Sarah Palin Writing Book About Christmas
- Evil Dead Demonizes SXSW
- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
- Austin police decide not to enforce a city ordinance during SXSW
- Bettie's Box Office: Oz The Great And Powerful
- Red Carpet Affair For Texas Film Hall Of Fame Awards
- Getting Around Austin During SXSW
- Austin Red Carpet Rolls Out For Texas Stars
- Streets Closed For South By Southwest
- Facebook Adds More Personal Touches To News Feed
- Grumpy Cat Visits Austin For SXSW
- Review: 21 And Over
- Deal Reached With DirectTV
- Texas Classical Pianist Van Cliburn Dies
- Academy Awards Wrap
- Ken The Critic's Oscar Predictions
- Review: Dark Skies
- Bettie's Box Office: Snitch Movie Review
- Review: Safe Haven
- Elton John Shares Grammy Stage With Young Rockers
- Bettie's Box Office: Identity Thief Movie Review
- Bettie's Box Office: Warm Bodies Movie Review
- The Lion King Roars Into Austin
- The Lion King Comes to Austin
- 'Dear Abby' Advice Columnist Dies At Age 94
- 'Burt Wonderstone' To Open SXSW Film Festival
- Review: Gangster Squad
- 'Lincoln' Leads Oscars With 12 Nominations
- Dueling Reviews: Zero Dark Thirty
- Rodeo Austin Announces 2013 Concert Lineup
- Review: Les Misérables
- Review: This Is 40
- Bettie's Box Office: The Guilt Trip Movie Review
- Bettie Cross Reviews Cirque du Soleil Saltimbanco
- Bettie's Box Office: The Hobbit Movie Review
- Billy Elliot The Musical Brings A Satisfying Taste Of Broadway To Austin
- Review: Holy Motors
- Mexican-American Singer Jenni Rivera Killed In Plane Crash
- Billy Elliot the Musical
- William And Kate Expecting A Baby
- Review: Hitchcock
- Bettie's Box Office: The Rise of the Guardians Movie Review
- Sharing Popcorn: Lincoln Movie Review
- Bettie's Box Office: Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
- Judy's Garland's Wizard Of Oz Dress Gets $480K At Auction
- Bettie's Box Office: SKYFALL Movie Review
- Bettie's Box Office: FLIGHT Movie Review
- Bettie's Box Office: Cloud Atlas Movie Review
- SXSW To Hold Las Vegas Event Next Year
- Seattle Man Gets Billy Idol To Play His Birthday
- The Austin Film Festival Highlights
- You Betcha: Fargo Awaits TV Version Of Hit Movie
- Bettie's Box Office: Alex Cross Movie Review
- F1 Announces More Bands For Race Weekend
- Austin/Central Texas Halloween Guide
- Argo Reviewed
- Life Saving Program Comes to ACL
- ACL 2012 Kicks Off
- Watch ACL Online At Home
- Safety At ACL
- Traffic Anchor Erica Harpold's ACL Traffic Advice
- ACL Music Festival Funding Park Improvement Projects
- Bettie's Box Office: 'Seven Psychopaths' Movie Review
- Capital Metro Provides Options Getting To ACL Music Fest
- Live-streaming Goes Mainstream At ACL, Other Music Festivals
- Tips For A Hassle-Free ACL
- ACL Music Festival Will Cause Street Closures Around Downtown
- How To Avoid Buying Counterfeit Tickets
- ACL Preps Begin At Zilker Park
- Agreement Finalized To Expand ACL Fest To 2 Weekends
- `Wizard of Oz' Dress Worn By Judy Garland To Go Up For Auction
- HAAM Benefit Day Keeping Music Alive In Austin
- Review: Hotel Transylvania
- Fantastic Fest: Frankenweenie
- Fantastic Fest: Dredd 3D
- 'Moon River' Singer Andy Williams Dies
- Rock of Ages on The Stage
- Trouble With The Curve: Likable Cast Makes This Predictable Film Very Watchable
- Best Bets At Fantastic Fest
- ZACH Opening Topfer Theatre with "Deep in the Heart" Gala on September 29th
- VORTEX Staging World Premiere of Heather Woodbury's As the Globe Warms
- Ensemble Settecento Debuts Opening Concert on September 22nd and 23rd
- Penfold Theatre Company Opens 5th Season with Moonlight and Magnolias
- Austin Mime Theatre Debuts Surreal Dark Comedy This Uh...Body
- Tickets Go on Sale This Friday for Austin Tour Stop of Billy Elliot the Musical
- The Baron's Men Scare Up Halloween Mayhem with Original Medieval Macabre
- Laura Bush Announces Texas Book Festival Lineup
- Teatro Vivo to Debut New Play Cura by Austin Playwright Raul Garza
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra Returns to Austin with The Lost Christmas Eve Tour
- Austin Classical Guitar Society Launches FlamencoAustin Series
- Austin Civic Orchestra Readies Texas Premiere of Tribute to Woody Guthrie
- Bettie's Box Office: The Words
- Texas Early Music Project Celebrates Music of the Tudors Next Weekend
- Blue Lapis Light Returns to The Long Center for New Work Heaven~Earth~One
- New Scooby Doo Live! Musical Books Erwin Center in May for Inaugural National Tour
- Ballet Austin Opens 2012-13 Season with Stephen Mills' The Taming of the Shrew
- Mike Daisey Returns to Austin with The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
- Ballet Austin's Original Not Afraid of the Dark Returns September 15th and 16th
- Ariel Dance Theatre to Debut The Geometry of Proximity at The Long Center
- El Mariachi Celebrates 20 Years!
- John Cage Centennial Celebration Concert Planned for September 8th
- Renowned Texas Pianist Van Cliburn Diagnosed With Cancer
- Bettie's Box Office: Premium Rush
- Country Singer Randy Travis Charged With Assault Near Dallas
- Cirque du Soleil Returns to Cedar Park Center in December with Saltimbanco
- Laurie Anderson Performing Dirtday! at McCullough Theatre in September
- Austin Symphony Orchestra Opens 102nd Season with Renowned Violinist Midori
- Dueling Movie Reviews: Sparkle
- Austin OKs 2nd Weekend Of ACL Music Festival
- Bettie's Box Office: THE CAMPAIGN Movie Review
- Review: Killer Joe
- Bettie's Box Office: Total Recall
- Your Favorite Milkshake Recipe Could Win You Prizes
- "One Singular Sensation" In Georgetown At The Palace Theatre With A Chorus Line
- The City Theatre Creates Mayhem with Classic Comedy She Stoops to Conquer
- Batman Star Christian Bale Visits Shooting Victims
- Sherman Hemsley, TV's George Jefferson, dies
- New Shows To Premiere On KEYE TV In September
- ZACH Theatre Adds Weekend Night Dance Parties
- 21st Annual RED HOT Party Returns July 20th to Benefit Project Transitions
- Forklift Danceworks Spotlights Austin Symphony Maestro Peter Bay in Solo Symphony
- Central Texas July 4 Fireworks Displays
- Iconic Atari Turns 40, Tries To Stay Relevant
- Invincible Czars Performing Re-Imagined 1812 Overture Sunday
- Tom Cruise And Katie Holmes Divorcing
- Weekend Happenings: Fri. 6/29 - Sun. 7/01
- Hyde Park Theatre Staging Austin Premiere of New Play, Tigers Be Still
- Austin Playhouse And SummerStock Austin Partner For Austin Debut Of CHESS
- Palace Theatre In Georgetown Kicks Up Its Heels With Annie Get Your Gun
- ACL Live Adds Tony Bennett, Pat Green and Chris Isaak Concerts For Summer
- Today in History
- U.T. Hosts Broadway Veterans For Workshop & New Musical Staged Reading
- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Returns In August
- Stuntman Prepares To Tightrope Niagara Falls
- Young Shakespeare Brings Julius Caesar To Curtain Theatre
- Matthew McConaughey Marries Camila Alves in Austin
- Tony Awards Show Not Skimping On Razzle-Dazzle
- Austin Symphony to Soar with Return of July 4th Concert, Fireworks
- Leonard Cohen Adds Second Bass Concert Hall Performance
- American Ballet Competition Coming to Austin
- The Rocketboys Perform On Austin Live
- Intergalactic Nemesis Debuts Book Two: Robot Planet Rising In Austin
- 'Family Feud' TV Host Richard Dawson Dies At 79
- Review: Men In Black III
- Austin Symphony Closes Season With Van Cliburn Medalist And Texas Tenors
- Celebrate The Movies From The Summer of '82
- Actress Shirley MacLaine
- Behind the Scenes of Les Miserables in Austin
- Silent Movie, Live Music And A Gourmet Meal...
- Gilbert And Sullivan Society Of Austin Offer Patience
- Dance Work Pretty Bee And Other Translations Performs This Weekend
- Rock Band Foreigner Pairs Up With Home Grown Choir
- Trinity Street Players Staging Free Performances
- Les Miserables
- ATX Television Festival Starts June 1st
Iconic Atari Turns 40, Tries To Stay Relevant
Updated: Saturday, June 30 2012, 10:03 PM CDT
(AP) A scruffy, young Steve Jobs worked at Atari before he founded Apple. "Pong," one of the world's first video games, was born there, as was "Centipede," a classic from the era of quarter-guzzling arcade machines. "Call of Duty" creator Activision was started by four of Atari's former game developers.
The iconic video game company turns 40 years old this week, much slimmer these days as it tries to stay relevant in the age of "Angry Birds" and "Words With Friends."
But Atari's influence on today's video games is pervasive.
Although it wasn't the first company to make video games, Atari was the first to make a lasting impression on an entire generation. At arcades -- or at video game bars such as Barcade in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn -- nostalgic patrons still gather around such Atari classics as "Asteroids," "Joust" and "Centipede."
The Atari 2600, launched in 1977, was the first video game console in millions of homes, long before the Nintendo Entertainment System (1985), Sony's PlayStation (1994) and Microsoft's Xbox (2001).
Today's younger iPhone gamers might not remember how "Pong," that simple, two-dimensional riff on Ping-Pong, swept across living rooms and arcades in the 1970s. But they might recognize elements of it in easy-to-learn, hard-to-master games based on simple physics -- among them, "Angry Birds."
"For tens of millions of Gen X-ers, or kids who grew up in America in the `70s and `80s, Atari is a cultural icon, an intrinsic part of childhood," says Scott Steinberg, tech analyst and author of "The Modern Parent's Guide to Kids and Video Games."
"Pong," he adds, was in some ways the very first social video game, one designed to play in bars, at home or at an arcade, while spectators crowded around to watch the action.
Launched in 1972 from Atari's Silicon Valley headquarters, "Pong" featured a basic black-and-white screen (that's black and white only, no shades of gray here), divided by a dotted line. Short white lines on either side stood in for paddles. Two players controlled them and tried to get a moving dot -- the ball -- past their opponent.
With "Pong," Atari introduced video games to the masses just as Apple and Microsoft ushered in the personal computer era by bringing computers to people's desktops in the 1980s.
"It makes me think that I am getting really old," says Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder of Atari. "I'm 69, which means I was 29 when I founded Atari. It seems really young in retrospect."
It doesn't take much effort these days to see 20-something entrepreneurs in technology. Mark Zuckerberg was just 19 when he started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. But back in the early `70s, Bushnell said, "no one in their 20s started companies. In some ways it paved the way for Apple, Microsoft and those guys."
Bushnell said Atari succeeded early on because it nurtured ideas from its engineers and computer programmers.
"We dominated not because of our manufacturing and marketing prowess but because of creativity," Bushnell says. "The lasting legacy: That creativity is a real weapon. And in some ways Apple has shown that as well."
Jobs was just 19 when Atari hired him as a technician, making $5 an hour. He worked the night shift because many of his co-workers didn't get along with him and didn't appreciate his refusal to wear deodorant, according to Walter Isaacson's recent biography of the late Apple chief executive.
He wasn't there for long -- he left the company in 1974 to travel to India and co-founded Apple two years later, in 1976.
Dona Bailey, one of the creators of "Centipede," recalls a notebook that Atari had with maybe 30 ideas for games in it.
"Most of them were laser games," says Bailey, who was the only female programmer in Atari's arcade division when she was hired in 1980 and when she left in 1982. "I wasn't really interested in war, or lasering anything, or violence."
The only ideas in the notebook that didn't have to do with "lasering things or frying things" were two sentences about a multi-segmented insect that walks out on the screen and winds its way down the screen toward the player, she says. There was implicit shooting, as the player at the bottom had to destroy the insect before getting hit by it, but "it didn't seem that bad to shoot a bug."
Thus, "Centipede" was born.
Atari, Steinberg says, pioneered a lot of the concepts that are popular in gaming today: Games should be for both men and women, and they should be social by allowing many people to compete with each other.
Atari "defined games as not just a product but a social movement," Steinberg says.
But there is a generational divide. For kids born in the `80s and later, Atari elicits a respectful nod as a retro video game icon at best -- and a clueless shrug at worst.
"It may rise again, but it remains to be seen whether Atari's place is among retail giants (such as) Activision and Electronic Arts," Steinberg says, "Or in a future that is defined by its own past."
Activision, which now makes such hit games as "Call of Duty" and "Diablo III," was founded in 1979 by four disgruntled Atari game designers who wanted more recognition for their work.
As Activision's future rose, Atari's faltered. Having cemented video games as a form of mass entertainment, Atari was sold to Warner Communications Inc. in 1976 and began to pile up big losses.
Warner, now part of Time Warner Inc., discontinued the Atari 2600 and fired Bushnell, says Stephen Jacobs, professor of interactive games and media at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y.
Meanwhile, several companies tried to capitalize on Atari's success, but flooded the market with terrible products. It was a gold rush, with little gold to be had.
Atari contributed to that decline in quality with "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," still considered one of the worst video games ever made -- and that's being generous.
"They tried to push something out in six weeks," Jacobs says. "They pushed out a million units of a horrible game that they were sure was just going to be the bomb. And it ended up tanking Atari."
That was the Christmas of 1982. What followed is now referred to as the "great video game crash of 1983." People stopped buying video games.
Companies began collapsing and Atari was soon sold to a man named Jack Tramiel. Over the next decade, Atari made computers, a game console called Jaguar and a handheld game machine called the Lynx. None were hits.
Atari was then passed to the toy company Hasbro, then to Infogrames Entertainment, a French company that owns it today.
Recognizing the promise of mobile devices and its best-known titles, Atari today makes such phone games as "Centipede: Origins" and "Breakout Boost," a take on the game Steve Jobs worked on back in the day.
"The legacy is that Atari is essentially where it all began," says Jim Wilson, the company's current CEO.
So is Atari living off its legacy?
"To a certain point almost all entertainment companies are doing a bunch of living on their legacy. That's why we have `sequel-itis' in triple-A games, movies, books," Jacobs says. "Why invest in new things when you can beat the old things to death and still make money out of them?"