Buried E.T. Cartridges Discovered by Archeologists

By taylorhatmaker - Atari E.T. Dig: Alamogordo, New Mexico, CC BY 2.0April 26, 2014

As part of the filming of the documentary, Atari: Game Over, a team of archaeologists at a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico uncover the site of an estimated 700,000 Atari 2600 cartridges buried in 1983, including copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, one of the most famous commercial failures in video game history. Since 1983 when it was first reported that Atari had dumped excess copies of unsold cartridges, the event had become a type of urban legend, with the details of the games, other equipment, and quantities dumped varying according to who was telling the story. It also became a symbolic event of the video game crash of 1983, where home video game revenues fell by nearly 97% over two years. It was commonly believed that millions of copies of E.T. were buried, although it was claimed by a former Atari official during the excavation that the number was only 728,000 cartridges of various games.

It was reported that only about 1100 cartridges were uncovered as the majority were buried deeper than expected. Games found in the recovery included Yars’ Revenge, Star Raiders, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Defender, Warlords, Centipede, and yes E.T.

As an 8 or 9 year old kid, I actually really liked the E.T. game! I remember the agony of not being able to win and having E.T. die or be captured, and the thrill of completing the game and sending E.T. home. In fact, I still have my original cartridge as well as my original Atari 2600.

Arcade Game of Many Firsts

Gran Trek 10March 18, 1974

Atari Introduces Gran Trak 10. It is the first arcade game to use solid state read-only memory (ROM) to store sprites for each car, the game timer, the race track, and the score. As such, it’s the the first game to have defined characters rather than mathematically manipulated dots. The game’s controls, which include a four-position gear shifter, a steering wheel, and two foot pedals, are also all firsts for arcade games.


Japan Goes Crazy for Playstation 2!

March 4, 2000

Sony released the Playstation 2, the follow-up to their wildly successful original Playstation, in Japan to a waiting crowd of 10,000 people, many of whom had started waiting four days earlier. Sony promptly sold out of all 1 million Playstation 2 launch units in a single weekend. Interestingly, because there were only 11 launch title games available, the fact that the PS2 could play DVDs at a significantly lower price than most standalone DVD players of the time drove much of the early demand.

Magnavox Licenses Home Video Games

Magnavox OdysseyMarch 3, 1971

Magnavox gets the exclusive licensing of television video game technology from Sanders Associates. The first home video game console, the Odyssey, was developed at Sanders by a team headed by Ralph Baer.


Introduction of the Bandai Pippin

Bandai PippinFebruary 9, 1996

The Bandai Pippin is introduced. A little-known “multimedia device” using technology licensed from Apple Computer, it was an ill-fated attempt at a home video game console. It was 22nd on PC World’s list of the “25 Worst Tech Products of All Time”.

The Sims Released

The Sims CoverFebruary 4, 2000

EA releases The Sims, the best-selling PC game in history. I guess people like pretending to be other people!

Tetris Sneaks Into the US

Tetris DOSJanuary 29, 1988

The computer game Tetris makes its first appearance in the United States as a PC game. The company that released the game was Spectrum Holobyte, which had dubious licensing rights to the game. When companies became interested in licensing Tetris for other platforms besides the PC, a series of events kicked off a long legal battle, in which the big winner was eventually Nintendo, who used the game Tetris to drive sales of its new Game Boy platform.

The Birth of Video Games

Ralph BaerJanuary 15, 1968

Ralph Baer, generally considered the father of the video game industry, applies for a patent on a TV game system he designed. This patent eventually leads to the Magnavox Odssey, the first home video game machine. Ralph Baer is also well-known for many other products such as the electronic game SIMON.

iD Software Releases DOOM

doomDecember 10, 1993

Video Game developer iD software releases the game DOOM. DOOM is considered one of the most influential titles in video game history, popularizing the first-person shooter genre with its “deathmatch” multi-player mode. Its use of graphic violence and satanic imagery also made the game controversial, which of course only served to increase DOOM’s popularity.

Atari Introduces Pong

Atari_Pong_arcade_game_cabinetNovember 29, 1972

Atari introduces their first product, Pong, which would become the world’s first commercially successful video game. The story goes that Atari’s founder Nolan Bushnell installed the game at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale California on this day. Soon they were called by the bar owner complaining that the game stopped working. Upon investigating the problem, they found that the game was jammed with quarters. At least that is the legend but regardless there were 10,000 machines installed within 4 months.

The popularity of Pong sparked the beginning of the video game industry with Atari being the leader in both arcade and home video gaming through the early 1980’s.