A 1982 video visit to the Video Game Department of Sears
During the Christmas season of 1982, ABC News Business Reporter Stephen Aug did a report from a Sears store. This video somehow made it onto the web courtesy of prolific old news sharer, btm0815ma. The video is mostly b-roll footage taken around the store, but it does have a short interview with a Sears representative and a summary of the story by Aug.
After the interview, the video takes us through the Home Appliances department and past various customers going through the check-out process. We see the newest Washers and Dryers that Sears has to offer and some very patient holiday shopper, but if you are listening closely, you will hear something in the background, video games.
Yes, this video is an interesting look at how news reports are assembled and a wonderful time video times capsule, but what really caught my eye and ear, is the footage of the Video Game Department.
It jumps to a television running off an Atari 800 that is talking about something that would have amazed many people back in 1982, modems. It’s a simple shot of the TV with the message,
Communication between Computers
Over Normal Telephone Lines
It was the promise of technology that was far from common at this point and for many of the people strolling past on their way to browse the washer machines nearby, it would have read as nonsense or at best science fiction. This screen and the ones that would flash after it were all part of the Atari Store Demo Program running on the computer.
If the sound had been turned up on this demo machine, you would have heard a very catchy song called, Disco Dirge by Dan Pliskin.
What was the Atari Store Demo?
The Atari Store Demo was a program that you would run on an Atari computer in a store. Played off a cartridge, it was meant to act as an attract mode for buyers. They would see the flashing colors and come over to see what it was all about. Then they would learn all about what they could expect from owning an Atari computer. Its opening screen was amazing in that it would show an astounding 128 colors on the screen at the same time.
That is just the start of things because in the next shot we see three Atari Computer Displays. The displays contain an Atari 800, an Atari 400, and what look to be a few peripherals.
It’s a little hard to make out the details, but I believe we have an Atari 810 Disc Drive, a 1027 printer, and an 850 Expansion System. I am sure the plastic cases were covered in nose prints from kids who pushed their faces up against it while dreaming of these machines.
If you were wondering how much the Atari 800 was going to set you back in 1982, they do have a shot of the price tag. While it would normally cost $799.95, you could pick one up now for the low price of $699.95. Adjusted for inflation, that computer would cost you $1,889.31 in January of 2021.
Computers are great, but where are the games we keep hearing in this video? Well, just a few seconds later we cut to a familiar site, Donkey Kong. But it’s not the Donkey Kong most people are familiar with unless of course, those people had an Intellivision. This port of the arcade classic, might not look great, but the guy playing it has some skills.
Plus we get a look at the Intellivision Store Kiosk and its push for Intellivoice.
The camera manages to capture two more interesting highlights. One is a background shot showing racks of video games. It is too blurry to make out all the titles, but based on the color and images, you can sort of figure out at least what system they were played on.
If you watch the video of this scene, you see the customer asking if video games were still all Five dollars off. The salesperson tells him that was unfortunately last week’s sale.
The finals video game moment worth noting is a sequence where a kid plays one of the greatest video game systems ever developed, the Vectrex. The system is visible in several later shots since it’s sitting right on the counter, but this is the only time that the system is being played.
The rest of the video features Stephen Aug wrapping up the story. It takes him several takes to do it. I enjoyed watching him work because it kind of reminds me of how I must sound when I am recording my own podcast. I often know what I want to say and even how to say it, but for some reason, it just doesn’t want to come out the right way.
After Aug finishes up, the final few minutes are of the 1982 Sears’ parking lot. If you like Late Seventies/Early Eighties models of cars in various shades of brown, you are in for a real treat.
This is a great video that captures a magical moment in the video game industry. A year before the big Video Game Crash of 1983, everything was optimistic and there seemed to be plenty of room for multiple systems and hundreds of games all competing for our dollars. What a difference a year makes.