Captain Atari and the Hotline

My first job in the games industry was product and technical support.  Although back then, we didn't know there was a games industry - it was just the coolest job a 22-year old could ever have!

No email - everything was phone or letter. 

I had two types of customers that I supported - users of Atari home computers who wanted to know how to things like connect their electric typewriters to use with AtariWriter, people having problems with 6502 Assembler Editor programming, or maybe upgrading their Atari 800 to it's full potential of 16K!  

The other type of customer were kids - they would call and ask for hints on how to progress in Pac Man or Space Invaders, or any of the other cool games on the Atari 2600.  And for them, I was Captain Atari!  True!

I would also attend no end of trade shows in the UK or Ireland (I recall giving several demos in the early mornings at London railway stations too), attend user group meetings, or writing letters and responding to hundreds or questions every week.  Also, writing for the UK user magazine called I/O.

The department was part of the Atari Service division, and run by George West.  These pictures are stills from a video that was made to show the state-of-the-art operation we were running back then, in the days when Wham! were the hot pop stars!

George

George's pet - he loved this machine, which at the time was state-of-the-art!  It kept track of how many calls we were handling, how long people had to wait etc

atari-george.JPG

The front line customer support phones were manned by Helen and Dawn.

Helen

Dawn

Sha pretending to work - look at that top-end tech!

The guy that taught me the job was John Norledge, who moved upstairs to setup Atarisoft London (Slough!), and later recruited me there - and hence I became a games producer.  John's replacement, who I trained, was a brilliant teacher looking for better pay - Shamus Kelly.

We had a blast!  Those were great days.

The fine folks of Atari Service, UK, circa 1983