Archive for the 'Demonstration Centers/Stations' Category

Atari Demonstration Center, Circa 1982

Atari Demo Tower

Two more from the Tower Records Project. The location is Mountain View, California. I don’t recall many of these demo centers inside record stores at the time; Tower certainly had the floor space. There’s a list of games on the Entertainment Sale sign, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, released in 1982.

Tower Mountain View Entertainment

Video Game Demonstration Center, Circa 1980

Video Game Demo Circa 1981

According to Vintage Richmond, the shot is from a Circuit City store circa 1981. I think the year is likely 1980, because I don’t see Asteroids, Missile Command, or Yar’s Revenge, all of which were released for the 2600 in 1981. I do see Space Invaders and Warlords, both released in 1980.

There are two 2600 consoles in the photo, as well as a Magnavox Odyssey² and an Intellivision. I keep thinking two things: first, who was the poor bastard who had to get those TVs onto that shelf? And second, those TVs look very precariously perched on that shelf.

Note that customers had to “limit video game play to 5 minutes only”. I’m sure the kids minded the warning.

Sears Tele-Games Demonstration Center, 1977

Sears 1977

Christmas shoppers in Sears waiting for a turn at the “arcade,” via the Billings Gazette. That was a big TV in ’77. See more demo units here and here. Watch a Tele-Games (Atari 2600 clone) commercial from the same year here.

Demo units were extremely important to the early console industry. Many of us were introduced to various games and systems while dad was shopping for tools. The real arcade was usually not too far away, but it wasn’t portable, and it didn’t allow for endless play.

Atari Computer Demonstration Center, Circa 1980

Atari Center 1980

Everything points to 1980 except for Pac-Man, which came out for the 400/800 in 1982. Atari’s probably cheating a little. I don’t see a Pac-Man box. In fact, the only game boxes I see are Super Breakout and Kingdom. The screenshots on both sides of the TV fall under different headings. I think the one in the middle is “entertainment.”

I don’t remember seeing the display. It’s possible I blocked it out—there’s no way I would’ve been able to push my way to the front of the line for a chance to play. The big kids ruled the demo units. And by big kids I don’t mean the well-dressed, well-mannered couple in the ad.

The image is from James Vaughan, who has some of the coolest sets on Flickr, including one called Retro Tech.

Kids Playing Atari in Department Store, 1981

Kids Playing Atari 1980

The year is a guess, and the exact location is unknown. I’m going with 1980 because that’s when Intellivision (carts in the glass cabinet on the left) was released nationwide. The Atari 400 and 800 came out in November of ’79, and the Odyssey² came out in ’78. The original Magnavox Odyssey hit shelves in 1972. The ping-pong game that came with it inspired Pong.

I can’t tell what’s playing on the 400, but somebody’s playing Space Invaders on the screen to the far left. It doesn’t look like any of the Atari versions, so maybe my year is off after all. It could be Intellivision’s Space Armada (1981), but there’s more space between the aliens in that game.

UPDATE: The year is at least 1981. Lefty Limbo spotted the Asteroids 2600 cart (1981) on the top row of the front glass cabinet. Title updated accordingly.

(Photo via Historic Images/eBay)


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