Back in 1983, Warner Bros. couldn’t give away copies of its woefully rushed game E.T. Now, one of the Atari 2600 cartridges, dug up from a New Mexico landfill earlier this year, is part of The Smithsonian’s collection of historic artifacts.
Of course, E.T is more than just a crappy old videogame. The recent documentary Atari: Game Over showed how the game reflected its times and, in many ways, its changing reputation is also a reflection on us.
Here’s what The Smithsonian technician Drew Robarge had to say about the decision to give the game a place in the museum’s collection:
“The cartridge is one of the defining artifacts of the [Atari] crash and of the era. In addition to the crash, the cartridge can tell many stories: the ongoing challenge of making a good film to a video game adaptation, the decline of Atari, the end of an era for video game manufacturing, and the video game cartridge life cycle.
“The cartridge also serves as closure for many things: the urban legend of the burial, the golden years of Atari, an era where American companies dominated the console scene. All of these possible interpretations make for a rich and complicated object. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”