Keeping Score with the Atari Log Book - Part One  

For those of you who still love to play Atari 2600 games and strive to have the best possible score, this feature is for you. Back in 1978, Atari came out with a free booklet called the "Atari Log Book". It was the same size as the (small) Atari game instruction manuals, but was only colored black, white and green. To get one, you simply filled out and mailed Atari a post card (mine came in a Space Invaders box) . You could also write to Atari and ask for one by name. Its purpose was to get Atari customers more involved in the games that they played, and to keep track of their high scores.

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The initial release of the Atari Log Book contained entries for 25 games, which was most, if not all of the 2600 library available at that time. The Atari Engineers determined which game variations, and difficulty settings were to be selected for each game cartridges. If you could perform specific deeds, or score enough points, then you earned the title of "Pro", "Master", or "Wizard" at that game. To become a "Wizard", and achieve the highest honor, a game player had to perform most if not all of the possible deeds, or maybe even get a perfect score at that game. In some cases like "Chess", this was not realistic. For most game cartridges, however, an average game player could achieve the rank of "Pro" after a few hours of dedicated game play. There was never any prize to be won, or nothing to send in for. This book only gave you the means to rate your own personal achievement on the video screen. Some Atari 2600 game manufactures, like Activision, went a step beyond this and made patches that could be earned, and mailed to the game players. One had to send Activision a photograph of their television screen as proof of the score. Today, several sites on the Internet display scans of the Activision patches, or list the scores required to earn each patch. Since I have yet to find such a tribute to the Atari Log Book, I am writing this for all the Atari fans out there!

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In 1982, the Atari Log Book was revised, in full color, and made to look like the Atari Game Catalog. Now, every game was placed within one of the eight specific playing genres, titled: Skill Gallery, Space Station, Classics Corner, Adventure Territory, Race Track, Sports Arena, Combat Zone, and Learning Center. This Rev 1 Log Book added more games to bring the total up to 41. Actually 9 games from the first edition were dropped, probably because they were no longer big sellers, or not being released by Atari at that time. So the total was now up to 50 games. Instead of Pro, Master and Wizard, each cartridge was given unique titles or ranks for each of the three skill/honor plateaus. This month in Retro Times we feature the "Skill Gallery". Subsequent issues of the Retro Times will cover the remaining seven genres. All artwork is from the Atari Log Book.

But this is not the end! I would like to include entries for about 50 more Atari corporation titles that came out after the final release of the Atari Log Book. Actually, there are more than 50 titles to choose from, but I'll stick with those that are Common, Uncommon, and Rare, for now. I would like to get your help and suggestions regarding the Atari Log Book and future entries to add. In order to add more titles to the list, we need to evaluate the games and determine the scores needed to be a "Pro", "Master" or "Wizard". Stay tuned to future issues . . . heck we may even do an Atari 7800 version some day - if I can just snag a few more of those harder to find "R" 7800 carts. Feel free to send Tom or me your comments on these Log Book articles.


Keeping Score with the Atari Log Book - Part Two

Part two, of "Keeping Score with the Atari Log Book" features the genre "Space Station". An '*" has been added to those cartridges that Atari did not include in the second version of the Log Book. Because of this, I decided to make up the honorary titles myself. I hope you like my titles better than "Pro", "Master" and "Wizard". See Retro Times #15 for the first article in this series.

As I mentioned before,  I would like to get your help and suggestions regarding the Atari Log Book and future entries to add. After all eight genres have been featured, we'll start over again. For the next few months I'll tell you what titles we'll be adding on down the line. Your task, should you accept it, is to play these game cartridges and decide what scores, or deeds are needed to be a "Pro", "Master" and "Wizard". Of course you can also help suggest what the three honorary titles will be for each cartridge. The new "Skill Gallery" entries that we need your gaming expertise on are: Centipede, Crystal Castles, Demons to Diamonds, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong Jr., Jr. Pac-man, Kangaroo, Mario Brothers, Midnight Magic, Millipede, Mouse Trap, Ms. Pac-man, Q*bert, and Taz,. Wow! That's a ton of games. Assume game one, on easy difficulty for now. This is good place for me to provide a plug a site that has been an inspiration to me. Visit Sam Hartman's page at: : . IMHO this is the best site on the Internet to see how good you are at playing home video games. I hope to contact some of the top players listed at this site in our efforts to expand the Atari Log Book.

[Alan Hewston first began playing home video games with his Atari VCS back in 1978. After a few visits to the Tomorrow's Heroes store front, and from Emails with Tom Zjaba, he returned to retrogaming in February 1998 with his original collection of 44 Atari 2600 carts. Since then, he has become addicted to nearly all the classic game systems and now has over 500 carts for the Atari 400/2600/5200/7800, Bally Astrocade, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, Intellivision, NES, Sega Genesis, SNES, and Vic 20. Alan can be reached at )


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