Atari Pioneer Headlines Rutgers–Camden Symposium on Digital Technology

By Tom McLaughlin

The Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University–Camden will bring together leading scholars and artists to discuss the historical and cultural significance of digital technology from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, April 21.

The Rutgers­–Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera (R-CADE) Symposium will be highlighted by a dinner and conversation with videogame pioneer Warren Robinett from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theater, located in the Fine Arts Complex. Robinett is a renowned designer of interactive computer graphics who created “Adventure” – widely credited as the first action-adventure game – for Atari in 1979. His 2016 book, The Annotated Adventure, presents and analyzes the program that implemented this genre-defining video game. In 1980, he co-founded The Learning Company, which became a major publisher of educational software in the 1980s and ’90s.

The daylong event, which is free of charge and open to the public, will be held primarily in the Multi-Purpose Room, located on the main level of the Campus Center.

In the spirit of the R-CADE – a repository of hardware and software made available for scholars to take apart, dissect, and repurpose in order to understand their historical and cultural significance – scholars and artists have been tasked with researching and/or repurposing a shared object of study for the past couple months, and will now share their work at the daylong event.

Rachel Simone Weil

“The symposium is much more than a festival for audiences to experience the work of artists and scholars,” says Robert Emmons, associate director of the Digital Studies Center. “It’s a place for attendees to join the maker community.”

Rachel Simone Weil, an experimental designer whose work engages electronic nostalgia, Japanese “cute” culture, and the history of computing and video games, will deliver the keynote address. Weil has done extensive work creating cute, alternative-history games and hardware for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). A technical evangelist for Microsoft, she also heads up FEMICOM Museum – an online and physical archive dedicated to highlighting femininity in video game history – and serves on the board of directors for Juegos Rancheros, a nonprofit indie games collective in Austin, Texas.

A full slate of workshops includes a session wherein participants will hack vintage film equipment and use modern fabrication tools to create a digital film scanner.

“As a filmmaker, I am very excited,” says Emmons, who notes that past workshops have invited guests to create GameBoy games, learn how to write and program electronic literature, and make story games using Apple’s HyperCard.

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