The underdog who should not be forgotten


        Some people just like to root for the underdog, in sports, life, and in movies especially. I think there is something for watching someone you never expected to even make it win the championship. There are too many examples to get into right now but I think most people can agree it is common enough occurrence that most people are just used to it. There is a flip side to that, there is an equal if not greater desire to watch the weakling get bullied into tears. We have all been there, either been bullied or become the bully. In fact some of us have been on both sides of the stick and it’s never fun. That is one reason why I tend to stick up for those who do not deserve to be kicked while they are down. Sure there are some scumbags we just want to see crawling in their own filth, but then once they get down there we kind of start to feel sorry for them.


        That is how I think the internet fandom works, no matter what the side who loses gets the undeserved hate and then everyone just assumes it is okay to pick on them. Like Transformers against the Gobots, nobody ever talks about how the Gobots actually were better toys, no they don’t even talk about the apparent flaws that make the original Transformers cartoon nearly unwatchable to anyone who wasn’t a kid in the 80’s whereas the Gobots cartoon had the same timeless Hanna-Barbara charm kids of all ages and generations keep coming back to. Some people on the internet hold this regard that if a product, property, or company ceased to exist they must have not been worth anything or that if they lost market share they obviously did something wrong, never mind that in a free market even the best ideas sometimes lose out to the lowest common denominator. In the late 1990’s I lived through a time when everybody went from thinking SEGA was the coolest thing ever to happen to video games to re-writing history into this warped reality where they *always* sucked and just somehow got lucky. These same people are currently undergoing a shift from praising the once mighty Nintendo to writing them off as always having been behind the times or having always relied on their franchises despite all those franchises having to start somewhere. Still it bothers me to see so many people needlessly attack anyone especially those who do not deserve it.


        Out of all the companies that gets the most hate that I feel is not just undeserved it totally and completely warped by some major flawed logic and re-writing of history to fit the current misconception, and that company is Atari. Why do people especially young people just write Atari off as something from the past that never mattered? Well I am here to point out where they are wrong and set the record straight, no you can not say that if not for Nintendo there wouldn’t even be a Sony Playstation or an Xbox, screw that if there hadn’t been an Atari first there wouldn’t have even been a Nintendo (at that time they were in the brothel business and just starting to branch out into toys.)


So here are some key points fanboys on the internet always seem to forget whenever the name Atari gets brought up.



        Fact number one, Atari INVENTED video games. Shut up yes they did. Nerds will gladly point out some anecdote about some scientist somewhere in a lab or garage or whatever who somehow managed to get a simulation to work on an old radar scope something or other, I did my fact checking and guess what, WHO FRIGGIN CARES it was NOT a commercial product, it was an experiment in a garage that somebody wrote about AFTER the fact as some revisionist history. Atari has the patent on video games, or “interactive TV games” they lost the patent to TIME but they DID invent video games so deal with it.


        There is also a myth that the Magnavox Odyssey was the first true video game or this tech demo called “Tennis for Two” or some bull shit like that, Again those were tech demos done by researchers in a LAB. Pong hit arcades the same year as the Odyssey but here is the catch nobody out side of techies and internet nerds EVER knew what the Odyssey was, if you were alive back then you knew PONG PERIOD. Maybe years latter you heard of the Odyssey 2 most people mistakenly remember that as the first one but it was actually years latter. Anyways PONG was a hit in arcades and began the arcade revolution, Magnavox and their tech demo never even made it to major retailers before being lost to time. I am an avid collector of video game and TV technology, I used to own a Beta Max, Laser Disc player, and a CED player (look that one up if you don’t know) among many other obscure TV related tech. I have NEVER seen an Odyssey in the wild, you see them online in auction sites and in museums but nobody ever bought the damn thing so they might as well not even exist. Does that mean Atari deserves all the credit? YES in my book they do. Sure they maybe borrowed ideas from others at the time but here is the reality, so what, their idea took off and launched an entire revolution, those other ideas where just nerds dinking around in a lab for the hell of it. Atari did the smart thing and found a way to turn it into a business which is why you and I even care about video games in the first place, they were successful products in the marketplace that we as consumers purchased for our enjoyment.


        Activision, THE number one video game company in the world, you know the guys who make a little game I am sure you all heard of “Call of Duty”, they started *AS* Atari, that is right the company that you know and love USED to be Atari games. Well sort of but there is a story behind it. Atari was like all tech businesses at the time, and mostly today too, they paid their programmers for work produced and then put them on a new project. Some programmers thought they were rock stars and should be paid and given credit like recording artists and a dispute over royalties led them to LEAVE Atari and launch Activision, a 3rd party publisher that existed to program and sell games for Atari’s home console the 2600 VCS. Why did they name their company Activision? Because it comes before Atari in the phone book, that was the way their founder tells it anyways.


        Atari also created a side business called Pizza Time Theater, it was this pizza restaurant that also housed the latest and greatest video arcade games for kids to play while they waited for their food. Their mascot was a cartoon rat named Chuck E Cheese and oh by the way they still exist today but they now use that rat as more than a mascot he is their namesake too.


        Atari created the first wireless controllers for a video game console way back in the early 80’s for their 2600 game system. I could go on and talk about how programmers from Atari created some of the most successful games of all time but instead I will share one tidbit about Nintendo and leave it at that. Nintendo wanted to get into the budding video game business so they sold some of their games across the ocean to American companies to release on their machines. Their most popular games were Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. and Popeye. They ported these to nearly every home console and computer at the time making them a third party company (so when Nintendo fans say Nintendo will NEVER go third party correct them and say they might not go BACK to being 3rd party instead) anyways Nintendo wanted to get into the hardware business because their arcade games were not selling well, those three listed above were it the rest were all flops nobody remembers, even Nintendo leaves them off their company history page.


        Oh so getting back to Atari, Nintendo didn’t know how to make a video game console so they stole Atari’s design and rebranded it the Famicom, imported it back into the US as the NES and the rest is history. They made minor changes to the RAM and added a co-processor for graphics but the internal CPU was the same one found in Atari’s machine from 1976, NES came out a DECADE latter. Okay so that is not enough to defend Atari as this great company but here is one for you, even though they STOPPED making video game consoles in 1997 they made MORE consoles from the 70’s to 90’s than Nintendo has to date. They also made computers and arcade machines for nearly 20 years, Nintendo barely made arcade games for five years before getting CRUSHED in the Arcade arena by Atari and Sega, two companies who remained kings of the Arcade till the very end. (or the decline anyways)

        Atari also took their game consoles online TWO DECADES before Nintendo did. Of course everybody had been doing online a whole decade before Nintendo anyways so that isn’t saying much. Also keep this in mind, even though Nintendo supposedly revived the video game industry after this mythical crash that gets blown out of proportion by internet sites looking to sensationalize a downturn in the economy, anyways the point is despite Nintendo somehow saving or reviving the video game industry people tend to forget Atari survived the crash, they kept making products during and throughout the entire period, Nintendo just came in and took all the credit for basically just taking advantage to a clean market with most competition bankrupt.


        I think Nintendo has done some great things for the video game industry and so has Sega, Sony, and well even Apple, but don’t forget that it all started with Atari. Oh by the way Steve Wokzniak the guy who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, he was a programmer at Atari before Apple, and he made one of the most memorable Atari 2600 games ever. Anyways not only that but the guy who programmed Mortal Kombat got his start at Atari as did the guy who programmed some of the more popular Sega Genesis games. In fact Atari and Sega are similar in many ways but one of them that is unfair is they both failed to stay in the hardware business. My view is first so what, they made great games who cares where you play them, second actually it is false to say neither still make consoles, although they mostly make flashback consoles based on their old tech, that is more than Nintendo does for their long time fans so lets not forget about that. If you want to play some Atari classics like Asteroids or Missile Command or Centipede, go ahead an Atari Flash Back can be had for a reasonable price at nearly any store. You want to revisit old Nintendo NES games, first shell out the money for their LATEST console as that is the only way to play their old games, they won’t even sell them on Steam, or mobile devices.


        Atari was a great company that had some poor management and made some bad decisions (that face it NOBODY could have predicted would be wrong) and well they ended up becoming a relic of the past. Do I think they are the greatest game company ever, no and I greatly exaggerate some of their accomplishments to prove a point not to be taken literally so don’t even bother with comments debunking facts because I don’t care this was an opinion piece the facts don’t mean shit to me. The reality is facts are stupid the truth is Atari made the video game industry and their great games are still available for all to enjoy, Nintendo hordes their old games like some sunken pirate treasure chest or something. Do I hate Nintendo, no but I hate when people shit all over Atari, turn around and praise Nintendo for things they had nothing to do with, and then act like Atari never mattered in the fist place. They have become a relic of the past which is fine they are just a company that failed to stay relevant but at least they DID actually matter and for more than a decade.


        I could twist more “facts” if you want but the truth is Atari is great and deserves to be remembered for their accomplishments, and nobody cares about those nerds in their garage tinkering with their doodads, the REAL story is Atari created Pong and that launched the video game revolution that is still evolving to this day. Long live ATARI. Now I am off to play me some good old Asteroids on 2600.

A Netflix experiment

     Ever since I signed up for Netflix streaming I have been really frustrated with their recommendation system, I know I am a pickyperson and hard to please but they make it impossible to find what I like because my tastes are all over the place and just because I watched a season of some anime with subs off to brush up on my Japanese does not mean I am interested in other shows with similar themes. The show was called Black Butler so what do they recommend? Cake Boss, really? That was just the “Top Pick” which made no sense because they should know by now that I HATE reality TV. Anyways since they introduced accounts I have been experimenting and I found a system that I think mostly works but it has a flaw.


     I have four accounts out of five, one is my main account that I messed up and will never get fixed, I call it the junk account but I am trying to train it to like comedies and such but not having any luck it keeps bringing up that crap I accidentally clicked on and didn’t stop in time so it still thinks I liked it among other flaws. Seriously it is getting annoying. My other three accounts are mostly trained perfectly to match their intended moods, I have an animation and family account for the cartoons, anime, super hero, and occasional Transformers relapses I might have from time to time. This lets me have an account where I don’t mind it suggesting Hanna Montana as long as it also shows me some X-Men and some good anime from time to time. It also has learned me pretty well and has gotten good at knowing what to recommend and what to hide.


     My third account is dedicated strictly to science fiction stuff, that one is harder to train because some science fiction, well most in fact, can also be classified elsewhere like Ghostbusters is also horror and comedy, which gets difficult especially with Event Horizon also being horror and dark so it keeps suggesting off the wall stuff like American Psycho or Hell Raiser IV because it takes place in space apparently. I am making progress but it has a long ways to go. The fourth account is dedicated to horror movies and slasher films and that one can literally read my mind, which is not hard to do because its hard to make a bad horror movie, they are all b movies to begin with. 


     That leaves one account open to play with. I have tried action movies but realized that is redundant because most of the ones I would like show up in one of my other accounts, action comedies under my comedy account, sci-fi action in the sci-fi, the super hero stuff under my super hero account and the darker stuff in sometimes in the horror account, so I was never getting anything I didn’t already have elsewhere. I tried a second theme that also did not work out because it wasn’t one I was in the mood for enough to want to see more than occasional movies which also showed up elsewhere. And it quickly devolved into late night comedies anyways. So I tried a new experiment, this was the one I was working on this week, no manipulating the system just being honest and letting it recommend me movies based on viewing habits only. This was going to be hard because I opted NOT to fill out the taste profile period and opted NOT to rate movies I already have seen. Just watch a movie rate it and see what happens. I am hoping that it will just learn my tastes without me trying to interpret their hard to crack vague code words they use in their taste profile. They let you rate individual movies on a five star rating system but you can only rate a TV show as a whole, what if I ONLY liked season one of Heroes? Or what if I only liked seasons 2-7 of Everybody loves Raymond? Or better yet what if I only like certain episodes of a show like Doctor Who where it is very hit and miss? Also Netflix should have a better taste rating system, Never, Sometimes, Often are too narrow. I would not like five options that is too hard to keep track of so I suppose it is the best they could do but I think four could be okay, like Never, Rarely, Sometimes (or occasionally might be better), and Often (or almost always for some)


     The rating system is not perfect but I can say it is not too terrible. It isn’t as smart as Pandora is about finding exactly what I am in the mood for but if you take the time to train it just right and don’t over think it, eventually the ratings start to get better. Of course if their BROWSE feature and SEARCH feature were not so broken then it wouldn’t matter as much but as it currently is when you browse it HIDES the stuff it thinks you won’t like already and when you search it can get stupid at times, I searched for Home Improvement and it didn’t even register their is a sitcom by that name it was all reality home building, home repair shows. I searched for King Of the Hill a show I used to watch regularly on Netflix, it took me straight to the page of this movie, it bypassed the normal landing page where it says “not available to stream, here is other stuff you might like” and then show that other movie, nope it just took me right to that movie. I hate that because it used to take you to a search page with similar stuff, so when I typed in Star Trek it brought up ALL their different offerings, instead now it just takes me to the original series page and stays there, what about that 2009 film? It was JUST called Star Trek and that was the one I was looking for, it didn’t even show me it for DVD anymore which it used to do.


     So with the search and browse features so broken it is very important to get the taste profile just right otherwise I will never know when they DO finally add that movie or TV show I keep waiting for. I did stumble into the Walking Dead by a recommendation and actually enjoyed it so I know it does work from time to time I just hate how I search for something and it gets so stupid because other titles might have the same or similar name and it doesn’t even try to sell me on the DVD’s anymore, which I guess is a good thing because the DVD side is going downhill anyways.


     I will keep trying for now but I am still looking for a replacement. For the money the amount of shows they have alone makes it work it, I added it up it would cost me ten years of Netflix to get all the shows I watch on DVD and that is just what they have right now. I used to be all for owning stuff on DVD but those days are gone, DVD is a waste of space and I am all in to digital only mode now. I went all digital before and then relapsed into physical when Blu Ray came out, which lead me right back to DVD when blu rays became too expensive and their offerings were not worth it and the DVD collections were often better than the Blu Ray sets. Then I realized I was back into an endless cycle of spending all my money on stuff I will never watch, for $8 dollars a month I don’t mind all the piles of crap as long as the few good shows and movies they do have outweigh the cost of buying DVD anyways. Take Psych, that show now has 8 Seasons at roughly $25 a season, used is slightly less but not much. That 70’s Show also had eight Seasons and Doctor Who and Star Trek ALONE make Netflix a STEAL. ONE Season of Doctor Who, 13 Episodes, is usually $60 or more. The Christmas Specials usually run $30 on their own. Netflix doesn’t have anything past season 6 but still that’s a lot of money to get just those six on DVD, plus the classic Doctor Who specials go for a lot more and are much harder to find. ONE Season of Star Trek TNG goes for almost $100 on Blu Ray and the DVD set goes for $75 per season, you can get them slightly cheaper used IF you want the bare bones discs no packaging because Star Trek sets are collectors items so if you just want to watch the show your options are pay a small fortune for the damn discs, pay a smaller fortune for cable to watch them once a week with commercial interruptions or just pay the eight bucks to get them ALL. That price above was JUST for one show. Netflix has Buffy, Angel, all the Star Treks, The Walking Dead, Psych, Bones, Transformers G1 (another collectors nightmare to get on DVD), Doctor Who, Last Man Standing, Melissa and Joey, Everybody Loves Raymond, How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy, and Futurama. Try getting ALL of those for the same price as one YEAR of Netflix I dare you. That alone makes it a bargain Add to that all those obscure but still great horror classics or a whole bunch of really cool but not worth paying for cult sci-fi films and anyone who thinks Netflix is not a good deal is blind.


    Will it ever have everything ever released no and sure they lose shows from time to time but they tend to get them back eventually, no different than TBS or other cable channels which also rotate their shows but then bog them down with endless commercials. Now I admit I would be willing to pay more for the service if it allowed them to get more content, especially more shows from the 80’s and 90’s that they are neglecting, but until then I will stick with it and enjoy my endless sea of content for next to nothing while those who can’t see a good deal spend their life savings on DVD’s because somehow that’s supposed to be better? Also Netflix still offers the DVD by mail option for that stuff they don’t stream, so there is always the temptation to just add DVD’s to the plan. My other thought has always been to add Hulu Plus but for now money is tight so I will keep that on reserve.


Right now I will conduct my experiment of just watching and rating without filling in the taste profile to see how that works, I will report back my results once I have enough data to make a reasonable conclusion. I tried the totally honest approach with ratings and it didn’t find me anything I DIDN’T already have in my list so that was a bust.