Keith Lowell Jensen

There in the toy section of Target, next to the Magic Eight Ball and the Retro re-issues of Coleco’s classic hand held football sat a sight I’d not seen in many years. I was suddenly face to face with a young, recklessly abandoned but never forgotten love. That black rubber joystick, bright red button, and Atari logo looking up at me as if to say, “remember?” Oh yes, I remember. I remember!

I thought this was great, brilliant and I knew my dollar would be had by the wonderful committee of marketing men and women who had banked on the emotional attachment I’d formed as I wasted my youth with a joystick just like this one gripped in my hand. I figured the joystick would be plugged into my computer and come in handy as I utilized my favorite emulators. Picking it up I realized this wonderful creation had more in store for me than improving my online experience. Much more. They had fit the entire Atari 2600 into this one joystick, including TEN GAMES! Two RCA cords begged to be taken home and plugged into my TV Set.

I dreamt of little else for the days between this discovery and my birthday party where I would find a present about the right size and weight sitting in the pile, my girlfriend’s name “Bryna” written in the “from” field.

After the unwrapping and the being polite to guests who I wished would get the hell out of my way so I could get to my TV I landed at last on my living room floor, sugar high and ready to blast some Asteroids, Kill some Centipedes and Pong some…well play Pong.

You know that magic feeling, when a song from your child hood takes you to a specific moment in your life? When you can smell, feel, and be twelve again? Well it pales compared to the blast of sappy nostalgia when you are facing the exact sites and sounds that had once kept you captivated for hours. This IS the Atari 2600. It’s exact. The weird shadow that follows your paddle in Pong, the simple sound effects, the delightful efficiency that allowed such limited technology to be so much fun.

Asteroids, Adventure, Missile Command, Sports VolleyBall, Circus Atari, Breakout, Pong, Yar’s Revenge, Gravitar and Centipede are included. I dove right into Asteroids followed by Missile Command and Centipede. These were the hip games when I was a kid. But within an hour of playing I was sucked into the hypnotic gameplay of break out. I’d almost completely forgotten Breakout, but as I moved that paddle left and right bounding that ball against the rainbow which crumbled with each impact I began to remember my four older brothers and I playing this game endlessly. I remember the excitement the first time one of us “broke out”, and the tensions as we edged closer and closer to knocking out every brick. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WHEN WE GOT THERE! The neighbors were all playing as well and we were comparing high scores at school. It was too easy to lie about your score so we employed our parents Polaroid cameras to secure evidence. Stories spread that sending a Polaroid witnessing a high enough score to the fine folks at Atari world enterprises would earn you a free Atari T-shirt. I don’t know if there was any truth to this. I doubt there was, though I did see some cool Atari shirts around the playground, on kids who hid from the sun waiting till they could go home and get back to life’s important business. And I lusted after that T-shirt like it was the back pages of my mother’s Cosmopolitan magazine!

Back to 2003, I broke rainbow bricks late into the night while blasting Cheap Trick on the Hi-Fi. I got all excited at my first break out. I’m still dreaming of breaking ALL THE BRICKS!

And I took the joystick to a late night eighties party where we plugged it into a friend’s projector. A WHOLE WALL OF BREAK OUT while Grand Master Flash was pumping on the stereo! I had at last become the adult I’d sworn I was destined to be back when I was a 12-year-old who didn’t want to lose touch with the beautiful things in life.'

I don’t own an X-Box or any other gaming system, save for my little new friend from the past and I will not. I didn’t want to be one of those old men who swore the only good music was produced during his youth. I am not. I love music from way back, and there are many bands playing today (though not on the radio) who I love dearly. I have however become that old man who will swear that they only made good video games in his youth. Graphics, bah, who needs graphics?'

Rumor has it Jakks Pacific is developing more Ten in One systems, with Space Invaders, Frogger and Pac Man possibly in the works, and I see they’ve already designed a similar set for Activision games like pitfall, though it comes with more modern style controls. At twenty bucks a pop I will own at least one more set and every now and then I will turn off the news and ignore the organic vegetables as I chomp down bowl after bowl of sugar coated goodness and blast rainbow bricks, centipedes and aliens until my frontal lobe is screaming for mercy.

Now if only the box didn’t read “A blast from Mom and Dad’s past!” Bastards!

Amazon currently has the Atari 10 In One Joystick for $19.99.  CLICK HERE TO BUY ONE OF THESE BAD BOYS!



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Robert Berry,, or their respective copyright holders.
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