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ATARI Fiction Lore - Product Concept Drawings and Beyond


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"Disclaimer: This thread is purely a work of fiction created just for fun. All works of art, pictures, stories or concept drawings within are not real and any resemblance to possible Atari concepts of the past, present, future or otherwise are completely coincidental." 😉 <-- obligatory wink face

I love experimenting with new technologies, love Atari, love time travel and have always loved the concept product sketches you would find on the Atari Museum website.

Stuff that would mostly never see the light of day but was at some point, conceived as an idea within Atari to consider. With that said, I’ll post one every so often from my recent travels back to the various Atari office buildings and warehouses from the early 80's through the 90s. I'll continue to share based on interest or just how much plutonium is left for the DeLorean, as time permits. 😄 Hopefully it all proves to be fun and entertaining. So here they are, some of my “imagination gone wild” takes on product concepts that could have actually been considered within Atari at some point in time.


First product concept sketch pulled from the archives (scanned in for your viewing pleasure):


"Atari Walk'n'Talky" - Atari Consumer Electronics Division 1983 - Product sketch number 79a83x

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Someone at Atari around 1982 or 83 thought it would be a good idea to update one of the most popular electronic educational tech toys of the late 70s!

Featuring a book-like design that would allow it to snugly sit in-place on any bookshelf with a slight overhang, as well as a handle to lug it around, Atari's modern twist on their very own Speak and Spell clone would be coined "Walk'n'Talky". Atari would bring futuristic flare with a sleeker design, dual LCD displays (one at bottom for the Speak & Spell functions) and one near the top that would allow for touch screen text to be entered with a speaker voice box just above that. It would also sport a big red power button prominently placed just to the right. It is believed to have required 6-C batteries for an operating time of close to 8 hours if used in read-back only mode or non-interactive mode.

Other unconfirmed rumors indicated there to be a cartridge port, standard Atari joystick port and headphone jack that would turn the device into an electronic digital book reader of the 80s! It could also display animated graphics while emitting arcade quality digital music and sounds. Most importantly, it could read back dozens of digitized books on cartridge for children to enjoy using the synthetic voice capabilities of the then popular Pokey sound chip.

Pokey was already used in several Atari computers and their upcoming cartridges for use with the Atari 7800 game console. The increased chip production as a result would have allowed Atari a leading edge in pricing them even lower. The joystick port lends the idea that you would have also been able to play simple games on one of the LCD screens, though to what extent is unknown.

One of the proposed add-on accessories included a comm device (thereby actually turning it into a walkie talkie to play with friends) though that would have been an expensive walkie talkie! Sadly, with the gaming crash of 1983 and the Tramiels buyout of Atari in 1984, this would force the concept to be permanently shelved, never to see the light of day again.

Forgive the image quality, it was around 2AM when I found this paperwork and was really dark in the warehouse. Having to rush due to security, this was the best one I got out of a few shots taken:

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Appears to read:

Internal Atari Memo

"David,

After researching the component list for the Walky Talky project, I'm uncertain? we'll be able to reach an agreement for the chips needed from Texas Instruments. As you know, our options for this are limited. Have you spoke with Alan in engineering to see if some of the old stock chips from earlier arcade machines could be used? It may be worth considering.

Despite his initial interest, I should also note that Ray does not seem to be on board with this idea at the moment? point in time? It may prove to be a hard push without actual working prototypes in hand.

Regards,

Jason S."

Personally, I think it would have been really cool to see and as a kid of the 80s, feel like this would have been really futuristic feeling. Would have helped quench some of that technological thirst I desired but wouldn't have access to until the 90s!

What do you think of a Speak and Spell inspired device from Atari in the early 80s?

Could you imagine sitting in the back seat of your parents car on a vacation trip, playing games or listening to dozens of digitized text-to-speech books being read with the Pokey sound chip, while also including bizarre music notes and sound effects throughout the book to make it even more fun?

Edited by Clint Thompson

7800 - 130XE - XEGS - Lynx - Jaguar - ISO: Atari Falcon030 | STBook |STe

 

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"Atari Transparent LCD Arcades" - Atari Arcade Division 1987

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Concept sketch idea only, reflects emerging LCD technologies in the marketplace at the time.

Due to the high cost of color LCDs in the 80s, this custom transparent LCD Arcade was proposed for luxury resorts only (casinos, cruise boats, high-end hotels). The idea was to allow the player to play a game on one side while allowing on-lookers to see the action from the other side passing by! The kind of futuristic Atari Arcade that you would only expect to see in something like Blade Runner.

Would also include the cool cabinet art on the backside with illuminated top marquee and some funky design lines only found in the 80s!

7800 - 130XE - XEGS - Lynx - Jaguar - ISO: Atari Falcon030 | STBook |STe

 

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Posted (edited)

"Atari Future Home Thermostat" - Atari Consumer Electronics Division 1983 

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Conceptualized around the same time the Atari XL line was released, Atari had considered offering a line of matching (what we would now call) futuristic smart home devices, starting with this high-end digital thermostat. 
 

You can imagine the sleek metal buttons running down the middle with simplicity in mind. Giving you 3 main functions of access, increase cooling, increase heating and A in the middle for Automatic. 
 

The center square above housed an LCD-like screen, similar to those found in Casio watches at the time only much larger and included backlit illumination. The top red LED to the left would display when the unit was operational and would be housed in a plastic casing with the design lines borrowed from the original Atari 2600, having a bit of blue color flare on the top fascia. The primary computerized part would be housed in a separate box and installed behind the wall or concealed in a closet-like location, with the control interface shown merely being the way to access and control it all. 

Atari had more in mind however. The grill lines would reveal a small speaker and mic setup with a two-way communication function built-in for answering guests at the front door while holding down the transparent red button on the bottom of the unit. Atari was trying to think of it all!
 

Evolved models could have been able to accept a CCTV camera that would automatically switch to viewing  mode while using the communications feature to speak to guests at your front door. The small circular IR spot on the bottom right suggests that it could be used with an IR wristwatch and would have given the technology embracing futuristic homeowner of the 80s a way to control the thermostat from across the room like many of us take for granted today with smartphones and WiFi, seemingly a luxury only the rich could afford then but made for the masses.
 

As with many great ideas shelved due to the video game crash of the 80s, this would prove to be another far fetched causality never to see the light of day. 

Edited by Clint Thompson

7800 - 130XE - XEGS - Lynx - Jaguar - ISO: Atari Falcon030 | STBook |STe

 

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