- Paperback: 292 pages
- Publisher: Ziff Davis (March 16, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0692851275
- ISBN-13: 978-0692851272
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation Paperback – March 16, 2017
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First, this isn't a bad book. The author probably does a fine job telling a personal story of his life experience with 8-bit Atari computers to a generation of people who haven't used them (although it's not clear to me why this audience would pay to read a 250 page black and white book over the many YouTube videos that cover the topic.)
Where the book falls short to me is that it is more of a set of personal reflections by the author, than any sort of well-researched journalism. I found the author’s extended life anecdotes far less interesting than I would have found high-quality original journalism exploring in-depth the topic of the book.
Where it has the chance to go deep and be interesting, it doesn't. For example, the author talks about how he “found it strange how the newer Commodore 64’s SID chip is more widely recognized today.” To me, this is the essence of what’s missing in the book: it reduces complex, interesting topics to low-substance soundbites that feel more to be a reflection of the author’s lack of adequate domain research.
It’s hard to credibly argue Bob Yannes’s SID chip wasn’t vastly superior as an actual music synthesizer than POKEY was. — and the lion’s share of standout 1980s chiptune music was written primarily for SID. So, yes, of course, the SID chip naturally gets the lion’s share of attention, as well.
It’s a shame the author settles for shallow statements like these, when the deeper substance would have been so much more interesting.
Similarly, the author had the missed opportunity to do interesting, original journalism when dedicating substantial book space to the Atari games. For example, in mentioning the anonymous “programmers” of Draconus who generated drum sounds — I couldn’t help but wonder why the author didn’t credit the composer by name (Adam Gilmore) or perhaps reach out to him for a few words about how he realized he could use a low-pass filter to achieve that effect?
For a book whose title promises to answer "how Atari 8-bit computers defined a generation", I would have appreciated original journalism actually answering that. How did the product actual influence the way people think about technology 30-40 years later? For example, I understand (anecdotally) that the SIO interface in part inspired modern USB. But nothing like that is captured in this book.
There’s also just a few bits of sloppy editing. For example, a photo of a 1200XL is used when it’s captioned as an 800XL. And the book printing isn’t great quality — it feels a bit print-on-demand.
As a final nitpick, whereas Art of Atari set the bar high for recreating the aesthetic experience — this book doesn’t. Even though so much of the book is about presenting classic video games - and the importance of the Atari's advanced color graphics for its era - it's particularly disappointing that there is not a single color photo in the entire book.
Glad the author wrote it, but I can’t say I’d have bought it again.
I enjoyed the first part of the book where he goes into the history of Atari, and the development of the systems and the various personalities at Atari. That was really interesting. I did notice, however, when he introduces the Atari 1200, the image on the page shows the 1200, but the caption says Atari 800XL. That's a misprint I noticed.
Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who owned and loved their Atari! ATASCII for life! I also bought that Atari Game Art book a while ago, that is highly recommended as well.