Zap! The Rise and Fall of Atari

This is a reprint of a book from 1984, a time which you might recognize (or remember) as the “golden age” of video games. Actually, I suppose that 1984 was getting late in the golden age as many arcades had closed by that point, but I’m getting off-track…

As a long-time gamer, I devour all things related to the “good old days” of video games and anything Atari is at the top of that list. When I saw Zap! I had to grab it! I should note that I have the original 1984 version of the book, but my understanding is that the currently-available edition is nearly identical.

Zap! chronicles the early days at Atari, the company that basically created the video game craze. The book has interviews with insiders and does a good job giving the reader a bit of feeling as to what it was like to be working there, which is something I really enjoyed. Atari was the “super star” of the time and still ranks as one of the fastest-growing companies in history. For those of us without a time machine, it’s books like this which allow us to pretend that we could be doing something fun and exciting.

However, the book does tend to focus on certain aspects of Atari (Nolan Bushnell, the VCS/2600, etc.) more than others, leaving me with a bit of a lop-sided viewpoint. There are scads of editorial mishaps throughout the book (spelling errors, repeating, and the like) but none of it really made it unenjoyable for me to read. It is a fast-reading book and will take an average reader only a few casual reading periods to complete.

I do wish that I could find a seriously in-depth book which addressed both the company/business side of Atari as well as the people side, but until that time, Zap! The Rise and Fall of Atari is one of the better books as long as you read it to enjoy and can ignore the shortcomings. If you know of a better book, please post a comment and let me know!

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