1982 Atari home computers ad
This Atari ad for the Atari 400 and Atari 800 computers emphasizes the useful productivity things you can do with Atari computers. Atari had an “Investment Series” line of software that allowed you to do things like chart stocks and track your investments. This ad also mentions some of the educational stuff you can do with Atari computers like composing music, learning a new language, or…simulating a nuclear power plant? That one seems a little strange…
Games are mentioned too but not until you are half way down the ad. Atari had two problems succeeding in the marketplace. The first and biggest was competing on cost. However, the perception of Atari computers being only game machines really hurt them too. Don’t get me wrong, Atari did have modest success for a long time. The Atari 400 and 800 were introduced in 1979 and 8-bit Atari computers were manufactured until 1991. It’s just that they never had the sales that Commodore and Apple had during that era and most third party software support dried up in the mid 1980s.
Commodore also developed somewhat of a reputation as producing game machines with the Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 had a couple of advantages over the Atari 8-bit line though. First, it did get at least some penetration in the education market, at least in the early years of the C64. Second, Commodore was able to dominate pretty much everyone at the time in terms of price due to their vertical integration. Commodore owned MOS Technologies who made the 6502 based CPU and other chips in the Commodore 64 (and other 8-bit computers). Commodore garnered much larger sales because of this and third party software support was much more robust, even in the productivity arena.
Atari made some great computers but they were poor marketers and just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get prices down quick enough to be dominant after the early 1980s. Apple dominated the education market with the Apple II and Commodore dominated the home market with the VIC-20 and then Commodore 64. Atari was really the only other long term survivor of the 8-bit wars but they were a distant third for most of that time. Atari’s attempt to market their 8-bit line as serious computers was never really taken…seriously.