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Finding my Function at Atari


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Atari forum,

 My boss in the lab was Don and the first thing he did was put a small
 aluminum box on my desk and said "see what you can do with this".  It was
 about 4 X 4 X 2 inches, had an on/off switch on the side and a panel on
 the top with 4 leds and 4 buttons.  It was the first prototype for the "Touch
 Me" game, the forerunner of "Simon".  I played it all day.  It wasn't a very
 successful game but we had an arcade size prototype in the lab and we would
 play it as a 4 player game.  Each player was assigned to a button and as the
 game progressed everyone would forget when it was their time to press their
 button.  It was a hilarious.

 Later that week I attended an in house class that taught all new engineers the
 circuity used in Pong, concentrating on the composite sync signal.  I think the
 instructor's name was Mac.  I had a basic understanding of electronics
 including integrated circuits and transistors but much of this was new to me.

 On the wall in the classroom was a clock that was upside down, the face was a
 mirror image and it ran back words.  I thought "welcome to Atari" which was
 starting out to be different than any other place I had ever worked.

 After the class I was pretty much left alone to figure out where I could
 best contribute to the success of this amazing company.

 The production floor at Atari similar to most.  It was a large open area with
 a flow solder machine and pc board assembly on one end and final assembly for
 the cabinets on the other end.  There were probably about 100 people working
 in that area.  During break time the final assembly workers played foosball
 on a machine set up in their area.

 On the final assembly end of the building there was a model shop run by a guy
 named Holly.  He had 5 or 6 young men working for him making parts for the
 game currently in production.  In the shop there was a lathe, milling machine,
 router, thermal forming machine, table saw, etc.  Most of this equipment was
 very familiar to me because I had been a machinist at one time.  Holly and I
 struck up an instant friendship and I had the run of the shop.

 There was a large fish tank in the lobby made of inch thick plexiglass.  I
 later learned that it was made in this shop.

 With all this equipment available to me I convinced my boss that I could build
 the cabinet, mount the TV, make the wire harness, install the coin handling,
 and basically make the first complete prototype for any new game. I would just
 need help with the graphics on the cabinet because I have no art gene.

 This became my function but it didn't make our mechanical designers or
 draftsmen very happy because when I completed a prototype game I would put it
 next to their drawing board and have then measure what I made and make
 drawings.  There was no thinking or creativity left for them to do.

 I'll post more as I try to recall events from over 40 years ago.

 Thanks for viewing.

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