The video games and other components from Atari were buried in the Alamogordo Landfill in 1983. The city through the Tularosa Basin Historical Society has made the decision to allow a limited number to be sold to the general public.
Tularosa Historical Society Vice President Joe Lewandowski said they’re selling the first 100 cartridges on Ebay just to get an idea of about how much they’ll be going for and then they will sell another 750, and possibly 800 more.
“We don’t have an idea of how much they’re going to be. No one has ever done this before, and after this no one is ever going to do it again,” said Lewandowski. “We’re selling them on Ebay because it’s the best thing to hit worldwide and this is a worldwide phenomenon. I got people from England, Spain, Italy, Thailand, and basically places all over the world asking for them.”
There will be nine different titles of games available which are Asteroids, Missile Command, Warlords, Defender, Star Raiders, Swordquest, Phoenix, Centipede, and of course E.T. the Extra-terrestrial. The city and the Tularosa Basin Historical Society state that the games being sold might not be in working condition as they were unearthed from thousands of pounds of waste and dirt from 30 years ago.
To identify the games they will be listed under the heading of Atari Dig Cartridges on Ebay’s website. The games will come with a City of Alamogordo property identification tag and a certificate of authenticity to insure that it’s a game unearthed from the Alamogordo Landfill.
Lewandowski said there is still 792,000 cartridges in the landfill but it is costly to dig them up, he just wanted to prove the legend was real.
Lewandowski said Atari dumped over 3.5 million other games in different landfills across the country but cannot disclose where.
“It took so long to dig the games up because I didn’t know people were interested in it. Over the years people would ask me about it because they knew I was from Alamogordo. I never thought anything of it until the Discovery Channel called and they started asking about it,” said Lewandowski. “There was another movie company that called and a professor from New York University who was writing a book also called about it too. That’s when I got online and looked up Atari dump. There was million of hits. I was shocked, I thought there could be a real story here.”
He said there’s so many conspiracies as to why Atari covered up the fact that they decided to throw away their merchandise. He said there’s books and documents by Atari executives denying that they ever threw away their games as well as people online debating the urban legend.
“At the time I didn’t really care when I knew there were games from Atari being dumped here, I wasn’t a gamer I was just doing my job,” recalls Lewandowski. “When I found out that Atari was denying these allegations and people were debating it, I knew it wasn’t true. It was fun knowing.”
Being the dig supervisor on the Atari dig, Lewandowski has distributed game packages to museums around the world. He has sent a package to the Video Game Museum of Rome, which has the games on display. Other museums from France, Sweden, Denmark, and Australia are also wanting items from the historic dig.
Howard Scott Warshaw, the creator of the game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, was present at the dig being supervised by Lewandowski. He was convinced his game was not in the landfill.
Lewandowski said Warshaw was guaranteed by Atari executives that his games were recycled and used for other things and not thrown away.
“When they pulled out thousands of cartridges of Warshaw’s games, he had tears in his eyes,” said Lewandowski. “That was his creation but he was optimistic that his game was more famous now than it was back then.”
Many gamers and critics believe that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is considered to be the worst game of all time. Although the poorly designed E.T game was blamed for the demise of Atari, most analyst believe now that Atari’s downfall was because of the saturation of the market
After years of conspiracies and finally digging up the truth, Lewandowski said they were lucky to even find the games.
“Back then all we did was dig up a hole, put the trash in, cover it up, and go home. We don’t do that anymore,” said Lewandowski, “We track everything that goes in there now. There’s GPS tracking and surveying. We know where every load went. In those days we didn’t.”
Like finding a needle in a haystack, that was half the fun Lewandowski goes on to say, it was really about one of the greatest treasure hunts of the technological world.
©2014 the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.)
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