Video game found in trash going to Smithsonian
Video game found in trash going to Smithsonian At left, workers sift through trash in search for decades-old Atari 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' game cartridges in Alamogordo, New Mexico (AP photos)
Video game found in trash going to Smithsonian
Lexile: 1260L

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One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

Museum specialist Drew Robarge made the announcement in a blog post. He included a photograph of the crinkled cartridge along with the official serial number assigned to the game by the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The game was one of hundreds recovered at the city's landfill last spring as a team of documentary filmmakers investigated a decades-old urban legend that centered on Atari secretly dumping the cartridges. The "E.T." game had the reputation of being the worst game ever, and it contributed to the demise of the company.

Robarge said the Smithsonian has some amazing artifacts that represent big moments in video game history, including Ralph Baer's "Brown Box" prototype for the first video game console and a Pong arcade cabinet. However, missing was something that represented what he called "the darkest days" of the early 1980s when the U.S. video game industry crashed.

He describes the "E.T." cartridge as a defining artifact, saying it tells a story about the challenges of adapting blockbuster movies to video games and the end of an era in video game manufacturing.

"All of these possible interpretations make for a rich and complicated object," he said. "As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure."

Members of the film crew that sparked the dig at the Alamogordo landfill said they were excited to get the call from the museum.

"Just saying the name Smithsonian resonates throughout the world. And to be part this dig and an iconic museum like the Smithsonian with something that we created and researched and actually had come to fruition is pretty amazing," said Gerhard Runken of Fuel Entertainment.

The documentary debuted on Xbox last month, but it's too soon to say when the "E.T." cartridge might go on display or be worked into an exhibit at the Smithsonian. The museum also has hard hats and a vest from the historic dig.

Critical thinking challenge: How could a worst game ever lead to the demise of Atari?

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Assigned 24 times

  • chrisw-Bab
    1/16/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I think it is interesting that people that work at a garbage dump found some thing that old in tacked more or less. If someone found and "E.T." for the ATARI that there could be other old games from other old company's in that same or other garbage dumps could have hidden treasurers.

  • wavenyj-Bab
    1/16/2015 - 01:54 p.m.

    I think this is cool because they found a E.T game and they can put it in the museum and i think it awesome when you find something that many people don't have.

  • taylorl-Bab
    1/16/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think that even though this certain video game has a repetition of being the "worst game ever" doesn't mean that no one will like this video game at all, because everyone has their own opinions and not every ones opinions are the same. i also think that the people who take care of the trash should look more carefully about what is in the trash because you never know what could be in there. Anything you find could be a treasure or could be important and you don't want that stuff to go to waste.

  • nileys-Bab
    1/16/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    this passage is about how they made the game ET and movie and how they found things that were in that movie in an land field and are taking it to an museum and how they maid the move ET and how they got there idea to make that movie i have seen it before when i was little and it really scary me so i don't watch it anymore

  • codyd-Bab
    1/16/2015 - 01:59 p.m.

    I don't get how the Atari ET game was the worst ever and it was found in the trash on its way to the Smithsonian and now it history

  • wyattd-Bab
    1/16/2015 - 02:01 p.m.

    i think that it is really cool that people are taking time out of there day to go out and find these different game to put them in a mesuem so that people could look and see what all the games were in the old days

  • shelbyf-Man
    1/19/2015 - 03:34 p.m.

    I don't like video games that much. The only game I like is Black ops. I like playing zombies. If I would have found the game i would've just thrown it away. I'm bouta waste a game that i foun. Guuuud thing i didn't fine it. Frfr.

  • r2000soccer
    1/20/2015 - 08:42 a.m.

    the worst game ever lead to demise of Atari because this give game bad rep and bad rep turned people off to buy these consoles. People especially kids want high rep consoles like Xbox or ps4.

  • SchopferR-Tan
    1/20/2015 - 08:51 a.m.

    I've heard about this game before and how a lot of copies of it were buried in a junkyard because of how bad the game was. I had a laugh when I saw this article because I have heard about the game being buried in a New Mexico Junkyard. I'm surprised that people would dig the game up to be put in a museum.

  • AdenCPink
    1/20/2015 - 12:02 p.m.

    Wow! I've heard of the whole E.T debacle before, the cartridge shown in the picture is pretty intact! My main question is, why were these people digging around in the New Mexico desert?

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