Ataris: The Artifacts of the Gaming Age

| 30 Nov 2009 10:00

Who would have thought that a 32-year-old piece of consumer electronics would have a place in museums?

Considering the breathtaking pace of technological advancement in the past few decades, the birth of home console gaming - with its blocky sprites and single-button controllers - feels like a truly ancient age. In fact, the groundbreaking Atari 2600 is just over 32 years old, but you wouldn't know it by putting Space Invaders next to Uncharted 2. Despite being relatively recent, though, consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari 2600 are being sought out as museum pieces - because as Greg Tito points out in Issue 229 of The Escapist, why miss the chance to chronicle the birth of an important new medium when we have the chance?

"I think it's important we preserve a wide variety of material artifacts to allow future generations a window through which they may view our world," says Eric Wheeler, Associate Curator of the collection. It may seem odd to think of the hardware you played with as a kid as "culturally significant," but Wheeler points out why it's important to adopt this approach: "Studying history and collecting artifacts from a near-term perspective has distinct advantages. We can still find examples of key artifacts, arcade games such as Computer Space or copies of the Magnavox Odyssey, and speak to the individuals responsible for creating them." In other words, if we waited too long to recognize the historical value of these seemingly commonplace items, there might not be anything left to preserve.

To read more about the reasons to preserve our digital heritage - and those who are doing just that - check out Greg Tito's "Eight-Bit Antiquities" in Issue 229 of The Escapist.

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