Company: Atari
Model #:
Steve Gibson
Year: 1983
Uses the Atari Lightpen


The lightpen.  The forgotten input device.  Once thought to be the next greatest advancement in input devices, the lightpen burst onto the computer scene with a flash and disappeared just as quickly.  There are many reasons for this, but the main one was that the user had to actually draw on the TV or monitor screen.  This made the lightpen awkward and not so convenient to use, so it was quickly relegated to being used exclusively with drawing programs.  However with the introduction of the mouse the lightpen was quickly forgotten about, never achieving the fame or fortune it deserved.


AtariGraphics is a drawing program that specializes in using the lightpen.  On the main screen the user is greeted with four different menus, each with several buttons and drop downs that can be activated with a touch of the pen.  The four menus Options include Drawing Modes (box, circle, line, or parallelogram) and Screen Fills, Storage Control, Color and Patterns, and Color Mixing.  Like any good drawing program, each menu allows the user to create shapes, lines, patterns, and colors.  The lightpen gives the user the freedom to quickly draw complicated pictures in ways a joystick or mouse cannot.


One of the most amazing things about AtariGraphics is that it does not require a keyboard to use.  The entire program is interfaced through the lightpen, and the keyboard is only used to enter text on the screen.  When using the lightpen with AtariGraphics, it behaves the way a conventional pencil would (I suppose lightpencil just doesn't have the same ring).  One simply picks up the lightpen and draws on the TV screen as if it were a piece of paper.  Even erasing images in AtariGraphics is just like using a pencil.  All one needs to do is simply wiggle the lightpen over the spot a few times (simulating an eraser on a pencil).  It's little innovations like this that make AtariGraphics truly remarkable.


According to Steve, the programming of AtariGraphics only took three months from start to finish, and then another month for Atari to decide how they were going to market it.  However the initial prototype lists the copyright date as 1983, while the released version has a copyright of 1984.  Why it took Atari almost a year to bring this program to market is unknown, but it probably lead to the game not being as well distributed as it should have been.  AtariGraphics was a unique program, and is worthy of its place in history as Atari's only entry into the lightpen arena.


Version Cart Text Description
Revision 0 Atari Graphics (c) 1983 Atari Inc. Rev #0 Serial #14 (Light Pen Version) Almost complete


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