OpenPandora after the break…


In an alternate universe, Nolan Bushnell never gets stressed out over keeping a revolutionary new type of company going… Never decides to sell out “cheap” (relatively speaking) to a company that knows nothing about that industry… That company, after making many severe strategic errors, never decides to hand off the floundering company to a man who drove another company in that industry into the ground… That man, finally seeing the writing on the wall until it’s too late, realistically closing the business…

In an alternate universe, Atari still exists as an actual company and not simply as a label plastered on a few games to make the old-timers nostalgic for when one could walk into a computer store (that’s right – a computer, not a “video game” store) and find the same game but for five different operating systems (yes, I suppose the modern world has that equivalent – PC, Xbox360, PS3, Wii).

We don’t live in that world and never will. While most people would be indifferent to that revelation, everyone has an alternate universe that they pine for – If only they got the job at such-and-such a place, if only you had said “yes” instead of “no” or vice-versa, if your team had won a whatever final championship they have in that sport, if only you had bought stock X at time Y… The list is endless.

One of the many worlds we don’t live in is the one where Atari sees the potential in the Atari Flashback series (very small video game consoles) and finally decides to make the Flashback that everyone really wanted instead of the ones people merely tolerated… The Atari Flashback 3. The one with removable cartridges for games. The one with the Atari 800-level graphics. That one.

Could it still arrive on this world? Possibly, but probably not. Not with an Atari label on it, at any rate. The company that actually designed the previous Flashbacks has made gestures that an Atari-less version of the Flashback 3 is possible but all that remains on the shelves that people have access to is dust and promises… And you can’t do a whole lot of that, even if you attempt to physically buy it.

Until then, though, our Flashback 3-less (Atari or otherwise) world might want to consider an alternative – The OpenPandora. I’ve known about this device for quite a while. However, now that it’s actually available and being built, I feel comfortable making a comment or two about it. In Atari nostalgic terms, it’s sort of like if the Atari STacy and Lynx merged into a hybrid product, but with Linux as it’s operating system instead of STos. If that makes sense.

The cost of this product is fairly steep – US$500 dollars and it’s equivalent in Euros. Being a product independent of a big company, the costs are naturally higher because fewer are able to be produced. Put even modern Atari’s marketing and budgetary muscle behind it and that price is slashed by a third, even in half.

I know I’ll never own an OpenPandora (I’ve been known to splurge but everyone has their limits and, in this economy, mine is more limited then ever) but I’m glad I have the potential to own one. I hope that it succeeds and succeeds fabulously. I hope that there’s a 4th and 5th and 9th generation of those devices.

There’s an old saying in Washington DC politics that you only ever have two options : Not passing your legislation or only getting 20% of what you wanted from your legislation. The same, sadly, often holds true with life in general – Most of us wanted more then being desk clerks, simple laborers or struggling artists of one stripe or another (musicians, writers, game designers, etc. so forth).

If the OpenPandora is truly our “20%” then I’ll take it and be glad that we have it in our world. However, I’m still hoping for a Flashback 3… Or the Flashback Portable… Or quite possibly the Atari 800 laptop. One can still dream about the other 80%, right? Right.


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