Alex Handy and the amazing Atari 2600 chips

My colleague Alex Handy, who serves as senior editor of our new publication, Systems Management News, has two passions. One is for old computer hardware. The other is for gaming.

Thus, imagine Alex’s delight when he came across a real find at a flea market, as he wrote about on the SysManBlog:

I made a find at the flea market that has made me something of a celebrity in the world of video gaming. I found a handful of chips at a shop stall that seem to contain some long-lost Colecovision and Atari 2600 game code. As a game collector, this was the find of a lifetime. As a lover of free and open technology, this was a chance to give something to the world as well. There is, in fact, a great deal of interest out there in finding and playing games that were never published.

Read the rest of the post, it’s fascinating, because it turns out those EPROMs he discovered were for a game that was never actually released for the Atari 2600 console… but he has the chips that says that the game was developed.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is neat: The story was picked up by the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, Jason Fry wrote about the adventure in “A Videogame Fan’s Fantastic Find.” Here’s how Jason’s story starts — be sure to read the whole thing. You can read it online for free now, don’t know how long that’ll last.

At first glance it doesn’t seem like big news: Technology writer and videogame collector Alex Handy was at a swap meet in Oakland, Calif., when he found a bunch of EPROMs — computer memory chips — on a table covered with junk. When he got home, he saw some of the chips had handwritten labels that said “CPKPark Atari,” and one said “CPKPARK 2600 Atari.” Cryptic to most of us, but not to collectors of old videogames — for them, that notation was potentially the equivalent of stumbling across a 1955 double-die penny, a Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill stamp, or a Honus Wagner T206 baseball card.

Totally cool, eh?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick