A University of North Dakota researcher who participated in the recent Atari New Mexico landfill dig donated one of the ‘Centipede’ cartridges found to the school’s Department of Special Collections.

Bill Caraher, an associate professor of history, had bought the Atari 2600 classic for $60 via an eBay auction listed by the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

“While I usually would not condone purchasing archaeological artifacts of any kind, these artifacts are somewhat different because they represent our very recent past,” Caraher told the Associated Press. “When I saw that the Smithsonian had received a game and several other major cultural institutions as well, I had to acquire one for UND to commemorate the university’s participation in this unusual excavation.”

Initially, Caraher jumped at the chance to acquire the infamously bad ‘E.T.’ Atari game for the UND Department of Special Collections, but the title was already selling up to $1,500 on eBay.

While the UND Department of Special Collections typically accepts materials associated with North Dakota politicians and documents related to history, the donation of ‘Centipede’ is an entirely unique piece to appear in it.

The game “is definitely the first artifact from a landfill in our collection, and also the first video game,” said Curt Hanson, Director of the Collections.

Hanson added: “To see my childhood treated as an archaeological artifact and preserved in our collection, as well as places like the Smithsonian, is really exciting.”

The ‘Centipede’ cartridge itself marks an important event the history of the videogame industry known as the North American videogame crash of 1983. During that year, Atari had dumped entire truckloads of unsold copies of the infamously bad ‘E.T.’ game as well as other games in a New Mexico landfill. For the longest time, its existence had become something of an urban myth. However, it wasn’t until 2014 when a documentary team set out on an excavation to uncover the landfill that the myth became a reality. The result of the dig would eventually go on to become a documentary entitled ‘Atari: Game Over.’ 

Source: Herald Review