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
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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.

The game was one of hundreds recovered at the Alamogordo city landfill last spring. It was found as a team of documentary filmmakers investigated a decades-old urban legend. The story was that Atari secretly dumped the cartridges. The "E.T." game had the reputation of being the worst game ever. It contributed to the demise of the company.

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

He describes the "E.T." cartridge as a defining artifact. He said it tells a story about the challenges of adapting blockbuster movies to video games. It also helps to learn more about the end of an era in video game manufacturing.

"As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure," he said.

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

The documentary debuted on Xbox last month. It's too soon to say when the "E.T." cartridge might go on display. 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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COMMENTS (135)
  • LaurenT-5
    1/14/2015 - 09:00 p.m.

    While looking through the piles of garbage in New Mexico, someone has found an E.T. video game that was very old. This E.T. Atari game is going to be added to the video game history collection at the Smithonian. That game was not the only one found in the landfill last spring. The E.T. game was rated as one of the worst games, which is why it was probably in the garbage. Drew Robarge, a museum specialist, has a bunch of game artifacts that trace back to big moments in video game history. He says the E.T. Game is "defining artifact". The video game was in a documentary on Xbox. I think it is crazy that you could find such an old game in an landfill. I would love to have such an old game.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    1/14/2015 - 09:02 p.m.

    I think the old Atari video game cartridge would become popular in the Smithsonian video game collection because the game cartridge contributed to the demise of the Atari company. I wonder why the discovery is such a big deal. I think this is because Atari games were not seen until the day when people found the Atari game cartridge at the Alamogordo landfill. Why do people want to dig through landfills and keep the things that they find? I think this is because they might find something very valuable.
    Critical thinking challenge: How could a worst game ever lead to the demise of Atari?
    Answer: The worst game ever led to the demise of Atari by lessening their annual sales.

  • LucasU-5
    1/14/2015 - 09:16 p.m.

    The article is about an old video game cartridge uncovered from a landfill that had been an important part of video game history. This game was based off of the blockbuster movie ET the Extraterrestrial and had shown how hard it was to make a game about a blockbuster movie. This game was important because it led to the end of the Atari company due to it being "The Worst Game in the World."

  • Hannahmab-3
    1/14/2015 - 09:43 p.m.

    Years old garbage is now being added tot he extensive Video Game Collection at the Smithsonian Museum. The old video game E.T was recently dug up at a garbage heap in New Mexico. A specialist at the museum Drew Robarge thinks it will be a wonderful addition to the collection. They have some very popular games like Ralph Baer's "Brown Box" prototype for the first game console and Pong's arcade cabinet. He said something was missing though and that something was a piece of history related to the downfall of video games which was the game E.T. the game ruined the company, Atari. This game was just one of the hundreds that was recovered from the landfill.

    I think it is very cool that they recovered these old games. I have older brothers and play video games. I think it would be fun to play these old games and to see how technology has advanced over the years. I would like to know, however, what other games were found and would like to know more about why the game ruined the company.

  • JacquelynS-3
    1/14/2015 - 11:35 p.m.

    An "E.T." Atari game was found with a bunch of garbage buried in the New Mexico desert. It has since been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian Museum. The game was one of hundreds recovered at the Alamogordo city landfill last spring. The story was that Atari secretly dumped the cartridges. The "E.T." game was known as being one of the worst games. This contributed to the demise of the company.

    I think it's most likely that Atari did dump these cartridges without telling anyone. It's really cool that now it can be part of a museum.

  • JohnL-4
    1/15/2015 - 02:14 a.m.

    The E.T video game for atari was found underground in a landfill, and is now in the Smithsonian. There are only a few hundred left, mainly because Atari got rid of them when their company began to crash. This is also rare because there are not many artifacts from the early 80s since the video game era crashed. This was a defining artifact to Atari's downfall. There is a documentary on xbox, and the cartridge will go on display soon. I wonder how someone happened to find this piece just lying around in the trash, and it manages to get in the Smithsonian. I thought if they were able to find another cartridge, they would put one on display that wasn't in the trash.

  • R.A.Micheal
    1/15/2015 - 08:36 a.m.

    E.T "The worst game ever" lead to the demise of Atari BECAUSE of how bad it was. They felt it was so bad that they might've had no future hope for the Atari gaming console.

  • SD2000green
    1/15/2015 - 08:37 a.m.

    It would of lowered the overall opinion of the software and in the end no one would continue to buy Atari products. At the same time, other gaming companies were competing with it so it's demise was inevitable

  • giezc0103
    1/15/2015 - 11:38 a.m.

    This that they found it is an artifact that reminds us not to make messed up video games based of the movie instead progress past the movie to make it better.

  • DominicMBlue
    1/15/2015 - 12:02 p.m.

    I think it's funny that so many people are interested in this "E.T." Cartridge even though Atari thought it was the "worst game ever".

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