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Unearthing Atari 2600 E.T. Game from New Mexico Landfill

It’s really amazing the kinds of things that you find when you start digging through the boxes you have stashed away in the attic or the garage. I remember unearthing some old LEGOs and Transformers toys the last time I did that. Some people might rediscover some old NES cartridges they had.

Thirty years ago, the E.T. game was released on the Atari 2600 and, well, it was bad. Really bad. So bad, in fact, that urban legend has it that “millions of copies” were packed onto nine trucks, burying all of these old game cartridges in some landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. No game, regardless of how bad it may be, deserves that kind of fate.

And so, on the 30th anniversary of this classic Atari game based on a beloved Hollywood movie, film company Fuel is going to dig up the landfill to look for the buried games, filming the whole process for a documentary. The Atari port of Pac-Man is said to be buried too and Fuel might find it. Who would have ever thought that dumpster diving could be fodder for a movie? I guess our little friend is finally phoning home?




About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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One comment

  1. marty_goldberg

    Michael, this whole thing is a non-issue publicity stunt. We already cleared that up in our book “Atari Inc. – Business Is Fun” released last fall, going by direct interviews and actual internal documents.

    There were never thousands of ET games buried in Alamogordo, that’s a myth that sprung up later and was also never once mentioned by the actual press articles of the time. The dump there was simply a clearing out of Atari’s Texas manufacturing plant as it transitioned to automated production methods and a focus on personal computer manufacturing. It had previously been one of the main plants for manufacturing of game cartridges and other hardware, and game manufacturing was being moved overseas to China.

    As part of the transition the unused cartridge stock of a group of titles (not just E.T.), console parts and computer parts were all dumped there in New Mexico. It was covered in detail by the Alamogordo press at the time, and is just such a non-mystery that I’m surprised by all this.

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