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Easy to Learn, Hard to Master: An Atari Story

Easy to Learn Hard to Master Nolan Bushnell

In the late 70s, Atari was the company to beat. Their ingenuity and innovation not only took Silicon Valley by storm, but the world soon after. At the heart of the boom, Nolan Bushnell stood as a visionary and propelled the company forward. The rest, as they say, is history. Eary to Learn, Hard to Master is an upcoming documentary focusing on the story of Atari’s founding, owner, and key players. I spoke with Bruno of 8 Bit Generation, the visionaries behind this film, to learn more about the documentary.

RD: Why did you decide to put together Easy to Learn, Hard to Master?

Bruno: Atari is a story to be told for two main reasons: it is pure fun and it is impressively educational.
The story of Atari is two-thirds the story of Nolan Bushnell, founder and visionary, and one-third the first and probably biggest boom and bust of the new economy some 20 years before the new economy even existed.

Atari was showing that technology is cool, way before the personal computer revolution took place and they were reaching out to an ever-growing audience with something that is still cool today: video games.

Atari literally introduced the digital world to the mass consciousness.

Nolan Bushnell and Atari have a huge collection of firsts: the first successful video game company, the first coin-op video game ever, the first general purpose console to win the market, the first marriage between video games and movie industry in the history of entertainment, the fastest growing company in history, the biggest industry crash ever, the weirdest anecdotes in Silicon Valley, the coolest brand on the planet.

RD: Who can we expect to see show up in the film in terms of Atari and gaming all stars?

Bruno: These are all the people that will tell their stories in the documentary (in alphabetical order): Allan “Al” Alcorn, Minoru Arakawa, Ralph Baer, Nolan Bushnell, David Crane, Walter Day, Joe Decuir, Manny Gerard, Eugene Jarvis, Raymond E. Kassar, Steven L. Kent, Dennis Koble, Chris Kohler, Chuck Peddle, Ed Rotberg, David Rolfe, Steve “Slug”, Russell, Howard Warshaw, Steve Wozniak.

The interview with Ray Kassar is particularly important and unique: there are just a few interviews with him and this is the most recent and complete!

RD: What’s your history with video games and Atari?

Bruno: The Atari 2600 is one of the video games I loved more (but still today!).
I remember that the first time I saw it and played with it I was totally mesmerized! I was just a kid, but for me, it was a magic box transporting me into another world!

RD: What are some of your personal favorite games for the Atari 2600?

Bruno: Pitfall!, Burgertime, and DigDug. Pitfall! was really awesome, hard to solve, compelling and funny to play. Burgertime is a game that I loved from the first time and this conversion avoided me an Intellevision buy. DigDug was a game that I played a lot as a coin-op. It was so addictive.

RD: What are the next steps to making your documentary happen?

Bruno: We need help and support to reach the Kickstarter target! If we don’t have the resources to finish the documentary, all the work we have done until today and all the memories we have collected will be lost (like tears in the rain!).
We are sure that the story we will tell it will be a wonderful mix of entertainment and historical facts.

Thanks again to Bruno and 8 Bit Generation for taking the time to chat. Check out the Easy to Learn, Hard to Master Kickstarter and lend your support!

Update: Since the time this interview was made, the Kickstarter goal has been met!

Johnny grew up sharing NES, Genesis, and Playstation games with his older brother. His first personal system was the Nintendo 64. After regaining most of his old games, he began to expand his collection. Eventually, his mission became to collect anything and everything retro related.