To a lot of people, Atari means games. Old-school games. But for a little over a decade, from 1979 to 1993, they were a respected computer manufacturer. And I was privileged to be part of the excitement.
Sometime in 1979, I was leafing through the Sears catalog. For those of you that weren’t around back then, that’s what you did when you had little or no money, and wanted to daydream about something you’d like to own someday, you leafed through the Sears catalog. We had no internet to suck away hours looking at “stuff”, so we used the Sears catalog.
As I turned the pages, I saw something that caught my eye. Sears was offering a computer! I had been fascinated by them ever since a co-worker showed me his Radio Shack TRS-80 a couple of years prior. I was fascinated, until I saw the price. $800. That was 1979 $$’s. Way out of my reach. But, I could dream.
Fast-forward a couple of years to early 1982 and I was working at K-Mart as a sporting goods/automotive parts manager. The Apple II computer was a hot item at the time, and Commodore and just offered the soon-to-be popular Commodore 64 as an step up from the Vic-20. But there was no way Apple or Commodore was going to let K-Mart carry them.
On Sale Deal
K-mart decided to carry the Atari 400 and 800 lineup during the Christmas season to see if they could capitalize on the computer-craze during the Christmas season.
It didn’t work well for them. The public wasn’t ready for discount stores to carry computers while Apple and Commodore had their specialty stores. Especially when they were offering “not the hot item” computers.
So, they put them on sale. With deep cuts. As I remember, they had priced the Atari 800 at $600 for the Christmas rush, then marked it down 75% on a clearance sale. I got my computer for a mere $150!
That began a long and winding road leading to a career in computers for me. It took a couple of years, but I added a tape drive, then a disk drive, then switched from sporting goods retail sales to computer sales. That eventually led to me owning a computer store with two friends and then later to PC component sales. From there, I switched to server operating system support. 35 years (as of this writing) as a professional in the IT field, and it began as a curiosity based hobby.
If you’d like to comment, I invite you to do so. Would love to hear how you got your start with computers, and where it’s lead you.