Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Unknown Atari: A Few Secrets From The Labs

Logo_02_miniSome high priced consultant walked into the halls of Atari in its halcyon days and said, "you guys are doing great at this video game stuff, but you really need to diversify".  That's what consultants do - if you're really good at one thing, they tell you to spread that knowledge to other areas - if you're stretched too thin, they tell you to concentrate on your core competencies.  There - you're all consultants now.

The result of diversification within Atari were lots of projects that few outside the company ever heard of.  Curt Vendel (one of the designers of the Atari Flashback) has collected many concept sketches by Atari's industrial designer Regan Cheng at his superlative Atari History Museum website, but a surprising number of these projects made it to the prototype stage.  Others remained the kinds of dreams that only kajillionaires can have.  Here are just a few...

Unk_atariphone2 AtariTel - eager to make their mark in the world of telecommunications, Atari researches toiled for two years in secret to come up with a line of what we'd now call home networking products.  At least one actual product came of this, but it wasn't sold by Atari.  After AtariTel was shut down, Atari sold their design for a slow-scanning video phone to Mitsubishi who sold it as "Luna".   I actually have one of these monsters, and unless one of you out there also has one we'll never know if it works!

Unk_vidcomled Atari Healthcare Systems - Atari had some interesting ideas to create a modular hardware system to simplify hooking up multiple pieces of diagnostic gear to hospitalized patients.  They got as far as creating non-functioning mockups of the proposed gear, but the whole idea was scrapped after the Atari takeover by the Tramiel family.  One product near completion was the Vidicom, a handheld LED text display for patients unable to speak.

Unk_27002Remote Control Atari - the gaming division had it share of vaporware too.  One famous example was this wireless Atari.  Sure they all do it now, but Atari had this in mind decades ago, though with inferior cordless technology). There is at least one prototype of this monstrous unit that recently changed hands for lots of money.  Not bad if you like your Atari to look like that doorstop-shaped clipboard thing that Captain Kirk seems to sign at the end of every episode of Trek.

It's easy to jeer at some of these missteps, but isn't it better that a profitable and successful company explore creative ideas?  Or does this smack of the greedy fingers of a corporation that tried to infiltrate even more of our day-to-day lives?

Visit the Atari History Museum

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