The Atari 2600 is the pinnacle of electronic gaming

Atari 2600

This article first appeared in the Herald Sun on Monday, September 4

Each time my computer or phone stops due to some conflict, glitch, lack of software, or to perform a required update, I’m reminded of the perfection of my most prized electronic possession. That pinnacle of all things computer and game – the Atari 2600.

Prior was the Commodore 64 and its epic load times. Afterwards came everything else, and nothing better.

Mine was made of wood and only eight other essential bits. It proved that you don’t need millions of pixels, only hundreds, and any more than one button on a controller is too many.

Nothing on an Atari ever needed to be updated either, because those game developers got it right the first time. Apart from when they didn’t, with games like Superman and maybe the worst game ever – E.T.

The most important aspect of any game is the gameplay, the Atari had it, and you don’t need anything else. Which is why live sports barely ever change, and nobody thinks they’d be improved by adding mustachioed plumbers, sonic hedgehogs, or grand theft anything.

Atari Fart

Consider all the times you use a computer each day. Now imagine how much better your day would be if that computer was replaced with an Atari 2600.

Instead of email, you get Donkey Kong. Facebook becomes Frogger, text messaging is Space Invaders. Try to take a photo of yourself, you’re Pacman, take a photo of someone else, you’re Mrs Pacman.

Unfortunately, unless you’re okay with having a great time and getting nothing done, this is a horrible idea.

Atari Joystick

When it comes to electronic gaming, everything past the Atari is unnecessary, but technology does offer some benefits. Our devices and lives would be improved immeasurably though, if we started applying the Atari principle, and stopped once we got it right.

Just because it’s super shiny, expensive and covered in bells and whistles, that doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile. Nothing needs both a bell and a whistle, and anytime you’re paying for both, you’re getting ripped off.

Examples exist everywhere of requirements being met with beautifully succinct aplomb that aren’t sport or Atari, and are still outrageously popular. Icy poles. Slip and slides. Victoria Bitter. Dogs.

One measure of superior design is efficiency, and where is the efficiency with technology?

Today’s mobile phones are the Swiss Army of knives, and while some versions of the Swiss Army Knife come with over a hundred features, the Swiss Army itself prefers the version with four, because, in their experience, that’s all you need.

Every function of my phone, apart from the ability to make and receive calls, reminds me that just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. That giving me something I might one day use is the same as giving me something I don’t need.

While all those features might be nice to have just in case, but there’s usually a big dollar difference. Really, today’s phones are the all you can eat buffet of technology, and you know what happens anytime you visit an all you can eat buffet? Nothing good.

Instead of all these pointless features, phones should be staying the same and getting cheaper.

Atari back in my day

The biggest lie of all is that the new features save us time. So many apps are about organizing, streamlining, and making life easier. Yet we all have less spare time than ever.

The solution is to produce a handheld Atari 2600 that can make and receive calls. You’ll be unable to text, tweet, email, and update anything, and it’ll save you hours every day, and give you years of your life back.

All time you’ll be able to spend productively doing what we were put on this earth to do – play Moon Patrol.

This article first appeared in the Herald Sun on Monday, September 4

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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