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Gaming historian Curt Vendel has died at the age of 53, as reported by retro gaming site Vintage is the New Old.
Vendel was best known for his work documenting the history of Atari. He founded The Atari Museum in 1997, working with a number of former employees of the gaming company “to track down and recover as much of the lost history of Atari as possible.”
With Marty Goldberg he also co-authored the 2012 book Atari Inc.: Business is Fun, an expansive 800-page volume recounting the original company’s rise and fall.
An engineer by trade, Vendel’s preservation efforts were not limited to academic recounting of Atari’s past. In the mid-2000s, his firm Legacy Engineering Group designed and manufactured the first two Atari Flashback plug-and-play retro consoles. According to the Centre for Computing History, Vendel was given just 10 weeks to design the original Flashback and the 20 ported games that would be included on it.
Jason Scott of the Internet Archive posted a Twitter thread with his own memories of Vendel, saying, “an unquestioned giant in computer history has died.”
Scott credited Vendel in particular as helping to resolve a dispute between Atari and the Internet Archive from when the site began emulating old games — including numerous Atari titles — and letting people play them on the site.
Vendel’s obituary was posted by F. Ruggiero & Sons funeral home, which said he died unexpectedly August 30.
A number of Vendel’s associations shared their thoughts and memories on the site, with former Atari employee Loni Reeder among them, saying, “I may have ‘lived’ through a few Atari years working there, but Curt embodied the entire scope of Atari’s legacy, from the beginning to the present, from both a technical and a cultural perspective.”