Article 9—Atari Portfolio Bulletin (1991)

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I know very little about the Atari Portfolio palmtop computer, other than the common anecdote about John Connor using it to hack an ATM in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Unlike Atari’s previous home computers, the Portfolio looked like it
had limited game-playing functionality, which basically negated its appeal for me. This publication (APB: Accessories • Peripherals Bulletin for the Atari Portfolio, Volume APB0190) includes tips on using the Portfolio, which may be of some use if there are any Portfolio users still walking the earth.

I’m more interested in the insert page, which was obviously included in copies of APB that were handed out at the Consumer Electronics Show. It reads, “As a valued customer to the Atari booth during the Consumer Electronics Show, we want you to be a proud owner of a Portfolio computer. Simply call (800) 443-8020 and say ‘I’m a C.E.S. V.I.P.!’ You will be entitled to purchase two sample Portfolios for personal or professional review for only $499.” The pitch goes on to suggest that you could “buy one as a sample and get a great deal on the second one for yourself.” I guess if you were a journalist looking to write a story about the Portfolio, or a retailer who wished to evaluate the product before deciding whether to carry it in your store(s), you were not gonna get a freebie or a loaner from Atari. You had to buy them…two of them!

The one thing I do know about the Portfolio is that it allowed me to visit Atari for a memorable job interview in 1990. At the time, Atari had a small office in Lombard, Illinois where it developed games for the Atari Lynx handheld system. I had spotted an Atari job listing in one of the Chicago-area newspapers: a position in the Lombard
office relating to Portfolio software development. My only software development experience involved writing inane BASIC games (with titles like Poison Planets and Buried Alive) for the Atari 800 home computer, but I somehow managed to bluff my way into a face-to-face meeting with the two men who ran the Lombard studio, Larry Siegel and Craig Erickson. They quickly figured out that I was just an Atari fan who knew nothing about the Portfolio and had little to offer the company at the time. I’ll never forget how Siegel called me out by asking me, point-blank, if I was a “game goof.”

“What’s a ‘game goof’?” I asked.

“You know,” he replied, “one of those guys who are crazy about video games.”

That’s exactly what I was, unfortunately, and I saw no reason to deny it. “Well,” I stammered, “I would think that you’d have to be one, to a certain extent, in order to be successful at this company.”

Siegel was no game goof—he actually told me that his favorite Lynx game was Hard Drivin’, one of the system’s worst titles!—and clearly had no use for any game goofs around the office. I didn’t get the job.

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