Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $24.95
  • Save: $9.12 (37%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 13 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Racing the Beam: The Atar... has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Fast shipping from Amazon! Qualifies for Prime Shipping and FREE standard shipping for orders over $35. Overnight, 2 day and International shipping available! Excellent Customer Service.. May not include supplements such as CD, access code or DVD.
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $2.00
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Platform Studies) Hardcover – January 9, 2009


See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$15.83
$15.00 $8.00
Paperback
"Please retry"

All You Can Pay: How Companies Use Our Data to Empty Our Wallets by Anna Bernasek
Information and Its Discontents
Browse books on computers, technology, and the effects on society. Learn more | See related books
$15.83 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 13 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Platform Studies) + Atari Inc.: Business is Fun + The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga (Platform Studies)
Price for all three: $63.75

Buy the selected items together


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Montfort & Bogost raise the bar on anyone wishing to talk meaningfully about computer culture. Not only must we interpret these machines, we must first know how they work -- and yes, sometimes this means knowing assembly code. From chip to controller, the authors lead us with ease through the Atari "2600" Video Computer System, one of the most emblematic devices in recent mass culture."

(Alexander Galloway, Associate Professor of Culture and Communication, New York University, and author of Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization)

"Montfort and Bogost's analysis is both technically detailed and historically contextualized, both informative and methodologically instructive. They write with a rigor and grace that future contributors to the series may be at pains to match." -- Seth Perlow, Convergence

(Seth Perlow, Convergence)

Read it, it will do you good.

(José P. Zagal Game Studies)

Racing the Beam doesn"t spare the technical details, but is always accessible and compelling. Downright thrilling at times, in fact, a sort of The Right Stuff of video game development.

(Darren Zenko thestar.com (Toronto Star))

Montfort and Bogost raise the bar on anyone wishing to talk meaningfully about computer culture. Not only must we interpret these machines, we must first know how they work -- and yes, sometimes this means knowing assembly code. From chip to controller, the authors lead us with ease through the Atari 2600 Video Computer System, one of the most emblematic devices in recent mass culture.

(Alexander Galloway, Associate Professor of Culture and Communication, New York University, and author of Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization)

About the Author

Nick Montfort is Associate Professor of Digital Media at MIT and the coauthor of Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (MIT Press, 2009).

Ian Bogost is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC, and the coauthor of Newsgames: Journalism at Play (MIT Press, 2010).
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Shop the new tech.book(store)
New! Introducing the tech.book(store), a hub for Software Developers and Architects, Networking Administrators, TPMs, and other technology professionals to find highly-rated and highly-relevant career resources. Shop books on programming and big data, or read this week's blog posts by authors and thought-leaders in the tech industry. > Shop now

Product Details

  • Series: Platform Studies
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 2nd ptg edition (January 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026201257X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262012577
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Otwell on August 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a fascinating book. It's a terrific idea to examine the iconic Atari 2600 in this way, and the authors do a good job of exploring it at the lowest levels. They make a good case that the physical hardware design directly influenced the design of some of the device's most famous (and infamous) games, and that those early design tradeoffs themselves led to certain conventions still apparent in modern video game design. The book's organized around several key game cartridges, each of which is a case study to point out some aspect of the technical or cultural impact of the Atari; it's a really good way to organize the narrative.

If you've only ever worked with "modern" graphic computer technology (i.e. anything with pixels), you'll be really amazed at what the Atari programmers were able to do with the unbelievable constraints they had to work with. One of the most incredible things I learned was that the system had only 128 bytes of RAM, not even enough to store this sentence in memory. In contrast, the cheap laptop I'm writing this on has more than 9 million times as much RAM available. That is an almost unimaginable difference in scale.

Unfortunately, the book is really poorly written. The two authors obviously divided the subject into cultural and technical sections, each covering their own turf. The book tends to go back and forth between these topics, so there are weird changes in tone, references to ideas that haven't been introduced clearly, and an annoying use of jargon. Overall, the book suffers from the academic tendency to try to point out even the most mundane and obvious details ("the joysticks were connected to the unit by cables") as well as a total lack of understanding what the reader may know coming to the book.
Read more ›
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By D. Hodgson on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Racing The Beam" is a book on a delicious subject that suffers from serving multiple masters. Who is the target demographic here - is it the technogeek enthusiast? Or the Wired cultural sociologist? Maybe it's the Retro Gamer reader who has fond memories of the VCS platform and is looking for a bit of behind-the-scenes action. Authors Nick Monforst and Ian Bogost, whom seem to be hewing to the publisher's adage that every equation cuts your book sales in half, do the reader no favors by leaving out such appendix gold as a memory/register map of the VCS and something along the lines of a brief "Hello World" code example. Sound, which is the other half of the equation, gets even shorter shrift - if the hardware supposedly can't synthesize a chromatic scale in tune, how did later programmers like Synthcart's Paul Slocum get around this?

One of the book's problems is that the authors try to make the book seem timely by trying to force connections between its vintage software biopics and such breathtakingly unrelated modern titles as World Of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It's almost like the publisher was feeling nervous that nobody of college age could relate to such early games, which is a shame given that the stories are all fascinating in their own right. And on the hardware side, while the Apple II and C-64 get brief nods why are no comparisons drawn between the Atari VCS and Jay Miner's later designs incl. the Atari 400, 800 and Amiga? And what were the specs of the Mattel Intellivision anyway, seeing as how it gets mentioned so often as the VCS's main rival?

Any reader old enough to remember this hardware as a wood-grain box is probably going to have a few comments bordering on the personal, but let's keep things short.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on June 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A fact that I still can't entirely wrap my head around, after reading this book, is that the Atari 2600 had only a few hundred bytes of RAM. It had little enough RAM that the programmer had to very carefully time his graphics operations so that characters got drawn to the screen before the monitor's electron gun arrived. Unlike other game systems, the 2600 wasn't "frame-buffered": you couldn't draw an entire screen's worth of data, then push it to the screen all at once when the display refreshed.

This design limitation led to all manner of digital hacking, which somehow, miraculously, allowed the game industry -- and Atari in particular -- to flourish. Montfort and Bogost do a decent job explaining the technology, at a level somewhat above what most computer users can be expected to have; if you don't grok the concept of a CPU register, a good bit of Racing the Beam will be tough going for you.

Their larger project is to view the whole world of gaming -- from the code up to the artwork, to actually playing the game, to the social world around game consoles -- with an understanding of how the technology limits and frees all the layers above it. What significance is it, from the game player's perspective, that the Atari had special registers to render sprites? In what way did this free game designers? In what ways did it constrain them? The authors view videogames the way that many view art generally: as the act of overcoming the limitations of a medium. They believe that the lowest level of a game's design has largely been left out of discussions of the larger game story.

They manage to bring all the layers of gaming together reasonably well, but the book didn't wow me: I'd be unlikely to pursue any future books in the "Platform Series," of which Racing the Beam is the first.
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Platform Studies)
This item: Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Platform Studies)
Price: $15.83
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: online racing game, racing equipment, racing supplies, racing equipment, racing supplies