|The early 1980s was the
"golden age" of computer game programming. Computer
hobbyists would design and program games for fun and
sometimes become stars or superstars by selling their
games to eager consumers. Games were typically written by
individual programmers, working alone, often without any
profit motive. There was a lot more creativity and
originality involved in game design, and a much wider
variation in game play than today.
If you wrote and sold any games in the early 1980s, you are almost certainly listed in The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers maintained by James Hague, a game programmer from the 1980s to the present. Mr. Hague has published an online book consisting of interviews with classic game programmers, called Halcyon Days. I paid for this book when it was new, and now it's free on the web. I especially enjoyed reading the interviews with Chris Crawford (the respected game designer and game design teacher), Steve Hales (a fellow programmer for Synapse), Warren Robinett (designer of Slot Racers), and Ed Rotberg (designer of a favorite coin-op game, Battlezone).
Amateur game programmer Mark Reid wrote a game called Getaway! at about the same time that I wrote Bumpomov's Dogs. The Atari Program Exchange (APX) was promoting our games, but both games failed in the marketplace due to the rapid collapse of Atari in early 1984. You can read Mark's story at the Reminiscing: 8-Bit Atari Games web site.
A wealth of information on the Atari computers is available at the Atari Archives web site maintained by computer journalist Kevin Savetz. The site includes the Atari Program Exchange archive as well as past books, reference manuals, and articles about the old Atari 8-bit computers.
If you are looking for games for young kids, I recommend my games Dog Daze and Bumpomov's Dogs, and then you might want to try Frogger. Older kids will enjoy Shamus, a Synapse game loosely based on the coin-op game Berzerk.