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Birthday Mania released in August of 1984?


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The post by Waggie below says that the game was advertised in the The Newark Star-Ledger and that Personal Games Company was registered on August 13, 1984. Is it safe to say that the release month for Birthday Mania was August of 1984?

 

Was anybody ever able to check the The Newark Star-Ledger for his ad?

Back in October of 2005 the game Birthday Mania was brought to the attention of the general collecting community. Like many people, I started looking for the history of the game with no luck. In July of this year, I finally stumbled across a clue that led directly to the creator Robert Anthony Tokar. I started by sending an introductory email and then followed up with a phone call several weeks later. He was kind enough to talk with me although he was having some health issues and is in his 70’s and was not excited to have a stranger contacting him.

He indicated that I was the second person to track him down, as a student working on a Master’s degree had called him a couple years ago. He specifically remembered the person telling him the story of the only copy that was in a collector’s hands.

At the beginning of the conversation I asked him if it was o.k. to share his name publicly. He was fine with that but didn’t want to get sued by the “Happy Birthday” people. After the call I did a little research and sent the follow up information to put his mind at ease. Time Warner is the current holder of the copyright and makes about $2.0 million per year from it. A simple Google search will turn up plenty of information for anyone that cares, but this is my conclusion. The copyright for the tune has expired and comes from the original title “Good Morning to All” issued in the late 1800’s. We are free to hum it or play it free of charge. The copyright that Time Warner holds is the pairing of the lyrics with this earlier tune, like when Weird Al creates a new copyright with his parodies. Several researchers have concluded that the current copyright should not have been granted, but the cost to fight it in court is more expensive then the licensing fee, so companies just pay it.

I had sent a list of questions in the original email that we went over in our brief conversation.

1. What was the reason(s) you decided to create a game for the Atari 2600?

I enjoyed playing the games at that time and was just starting a new business so decided to try making a game.


2. How did you learn how to program for it?

I found a book on how to program the 6502 chip and started with that.


3. Do you remember what equipment was used in the development process?

I can’t remember.


4. How long did it take?

Several months, not sure of the exact length.


5. Did you advertise the game for sale? (Magazines, Newspapers, Other)

Yes, in the newspaper.


6. Was the advertising specific to where you were living at the time?

Yes, in The Newark Star-Ledger (If someone has access to the Rutger’s University Alexander Library, it looks like they might have microfiche; I would suggest looking in 1984; Personal Games Company was registered on 8/13/1984)


7. One of the main features appears that the name of the individual can be personalized. Was there a limit to how many characters
could be put in the display?

Yes, but I can't remember what the limitation was.


8. Because of the personalization, did you use EPROMS to burn each cartridge?

Yes, I did each one individually.


9. Where did the shell casings come from? They kind of look like the ones that Apollo Games used at the time.

I can't remember.


10. Did you work on any other games for the Atari 2600 or any other system?

No, this was the only game.


11. Approximately how many copies of Birthday Mania were sold?

About 10 plus a few given to people who helped in the process.


12. Did you hang on to any of the items involved in this production? (Cartridges, Computer Code, Game Manuals, Advertising, etc)

No, I didn't keep anything. They were not sold with boxes but did have a manual that was just a tri-folded piece of paper.



As the conversation was wrapping up I could sense that he did not want to have to deal with a thirty year old project and really didn’t want people contacting him. So I threw my plan of building trust out the door and went for the sales pitch. I asked if he would consider licensing the game for reproductions. He flatly said he didn’t want to have to deal with the hassles. I then proposed buying the copyright (knowing I would have to get a Wonder007 or other collectors involved to make that happen). He then surprised me completely. He said he wasn’t interested in selling it, but would give it away if any profits would go to a charitable organization. My jaw almost hit the floor as I didn’t expect that kind of generosity. I work with a lot of lawyers and said I would draft something for him to review.

A couple weeks later I sent a draft copyright assignment to him for consideration and he sent it back to me signed. The two items I put in our agreement were that he would always be recognized as the creator of the game and that any profits from reproductions would go to a charitable organization as he requested. I have filed the assignment with the Copyright office and was holding off in posting this information in hopes I could obtain the computer code and game manual that are filed with them as a surprise. Unfortunately after waiting several months and reading some faqs on the website it could take 6 months or more till I’m able to actually get copies of what they have. So maybe sometime in 2013 we’ll be able to create reproductions for people to enjoy. I would love for Thomas or someone with great skills to create an automated way to have each cart personalized with a name like the originals were.

 

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If you can get access to a scholarly library that has an online newspaper archive subscription, I think Proquest is OCR searchable. Might be worth seeing if that newspaper is in their archive.

 

If you're out of luck then I can probably take a look at the Library of Congress sometime. They have a subscription to that service for sure, and their own internal archives.

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If you can get access to a scholarly library that has an online newspaper archive subscription, I think Proquest is OCR searchable. Might be worth seeing if that newspaper is in their archive.

 

If you're out of luck then I can probably take a look at the Library of Congress sometime. They have a subscription to that service for sure, and their own internal archives.

I'd love to search old newspapers online, but I don't know which company is trustworthy and I don't really have the money to pay for a subscription.

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  • 3 months later...

Not the Star-Ledger, but here's two copies of the advertisement from the Courier-News, December 20 and 22, 1984:

 

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/21952724/birthday_mania_1/

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/21952752/birthday_mania_2/

 

Thanks. Here is a copy of the ad in case the links stop working in the future:

 

post-13-0-19037800-1531916079_thumb.png

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