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October 2015 Retro Gaming Article

October 29, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

An archeologist from the 2014 Atari Dig in NM challenges Alamogordo and Atari to shape up

I thought the Excavation of the fabled Atari landfill in Alamogordo, MN was both fascinating and successful. Through social media, I was riveted to my screen as they dug and dug and dug and found a ton of Atari artifacts (I call 'em games). The town donated some of the recovered games to museums and auctioned others on eBay.

Atari dig artifacts In and open letter to Atari and the NM EPA (reprinted below), one of the archeologists who was on site for the dig in April 2014 wants to exhume more games.

I'm not sure I understand the intent of this letter when the New Mexico EPA is certainly aware of e-waste procedures and Atari is simply a name that has been bought by numerous entities who attempt to squeeze profit from it's initial success.

I'm all for reopening the dig site and puling out all those discarded games. However, my desires are selfish as I simply want to roll naked in a large pile of filthy Atari products. Call me crazy, but I doubt I'm the only one with this thought :)


Reprint of Andrew Reinhard's open letter:

Frederic Chesnais, CEO and Chairman of the Board

Auralie Ashley-Marx, Bureau Chief
New Mexico Environment Department

Dear Frederic Chesnais and Auralie Ashley-Marx:

As you will likely recall, in April 2014 employees and citizens of the City of Alamogordo, New Mexico partnered with two media companies (Fuel Entertainment and Lightbox Media) to successfully discover, excavate, and then rebury the "Atari Dump Site" where Atari, Inc. had dumped over 800,000 video games, documentation, and hardware in 1983. A team of archaeologists was on-site during the excavation, and I had the very good fortune to be included as the team-leader.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of Joe Lewandowski at the city's old landfill, he was able to pinpoint where to dig over the weekend of April 25, 2014. The success netted over 1,300 recovered games, which were later distributed to museums worldwide as well as to buyers on eBay. Nearly 18 months later with the documentary Atari: Game Over still streaming on Netflix and several papers published in professional archaeological journals, one might think that the story of the Atari dump is over. I would disagree.

By locating the deposit of games and gaming hardware within the context of a landfill, the Atari deposit should now be classed as e-waste. I would like to know if Atari, SA (or its holding company Atari, Inc., or trademark holder Atari Interactive), and/or the State of New Mexico have any plans to revisit the dump-site, recover the remaining Atari e-waste, and dispose of it according to current solid waste management practice?

It would seem to me to be the right thing for Atari, SA to do as part of its corporate responsibility as it (and its related companies) recovers from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and rebuilds the brand. It would also seem appropriate for the State of New Mexico to fully excavate the Atari landfill cell, removing the e-waste for proper recycling instead of letting the plastic and metal cartridges and chips continue to occupy the desert a few hundred yards from US 54 in town. Granted, laws governing the disposal of e-waste were likely enacted in New Mexico after 1983, and the dump will have been grandfathered in under old laws. Be that as it may, I should hope that the State would consider doing the environmentally responsible thing anyway.

I am also writing out of a sense of enlightened self-interest. As an archaeologist, and one who was present for the Atari excavation, I would love to be able to finish what we started, to examine and document the full extent of the Atari dump. We only reached the tip of the iceberg last year. Excavating the rest of the games would benefit archaeological science, too.

By completing the full excavation of the Atari dump from 1983:
  1. Atari, SA could improve its corporate image, build its Atari brand, and turn this into positive publicity as it restarts its interactive entertainment division;
  2. The State of New Mexico could recover and recycle (or continue to sell) the Atari e-waste, netting a positive impact on the environment while potentially recovering costs through sales;
  3. Archaeologists, garbologists, historians, gamers, and the general public would get the complete picture of the now-historic Atari burial, the first (and likely only example) of its kind.
Thank you for considering the above. I am quite willing to volunteer my time in order to help plan and complete this project.

For your reference, the original find-spot of the Atari e-waste is: 32.887941, -105.963671 at a depth of 10 meters below the surface.


Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

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