I received an email from a radio station in Spain this morning asking if there was any truth to the internet rumor that hundreds of E.T. Atari games were buried in the El Paso desert
Wonder no more, here is a April 12, 2005 article by Shelley E. Smith of the Alamogordo Daily News:
The 1983 "Atari Titanic" is rising
So started the legend, which has escalated to international a claim of whether this did, or did not, occur. Some are calling it the "Atari Titanic" and comparing it to the legendary Stonehenge or Roswell's extraterrestrial experience.
Bruce Snyder recenlty came from Fort Worth, Texas, to visit friends and to do research on the Atari landfill incident.
"If you go on the Internet there is a lot of international interest in this from the United Kingdom, Japan and Europe," Snyder said.
While filming with a video camera at the old landfill, he said, "I am filming this site to stick on the Internet just to show everybody and to feed curiosity. I want to show them where it is and that way they can quit speculating. It won't really give them anything except knowing that it really did happen. It is said that it is the resting place of ŒE.T.,' or the burial site of ŒE.T.' Some people believe they were shipped off to Mexico and not buried here."
Old Daily News articles fed the theory: Tons of Atari games buried; dump here utilized, (Sept. 25, 1983), and City cementing ban on dumping, landfill won't house any more Atari rejects, (Sept 28, 1983). These articles by former Daily News staff writer M.E. McQuiddy reflect that the Atari dumping did occur.
According to landfill officials at the time, 14 to 18 truckloads of Atari cartridges were dumped, steamroller crushed, and buried.
The Alamogordo Department of Public Safety reported they received calls that Saturday that youngsters or individuals were taking the cartridges and were trying to sell Atari games to local stores. The following Tuesday, to keep the site from being looted, a concrete slab was poured over the Atari dumpsite, covering about 45 yards.
Then City Manager Dan Malone had no idea until Saturday that Texas had chosen Alamogordo as an industrial dumpsite. By Tuesday night, the City Commission established a new ordinance, which limited the flexibility of the garbage contractor.
Snyder said, "Some people are having thoughts that it might be fun to try and come out here and dig it up, but in reality it is not a feasible idea. They are treating it as a treasure hunt, just to see where they are at and maybe find some items that were in the Atari warehouse that got buried along with the millions of extra copies of ŒE.T.' and other games. You could call them video game fanatics, or digital Atari archeologists.
"There are people all over the world that grew up with the Atari 2600s, 5200s and the 7800s. There are many collectors. In my collection I have probably 2,000 games, tops, and there people who have out about 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 game systems."
Fire Commander Joe Bailey, of the DPS Fire Station at 619 Texas St., said, "They had a consortium of all the communities of the counties and the municipalities. They closed down the old landfill and opened our new landfill, the Otero County Regional Landfill, located 23 miles south of Alamogordo. In the mid-1990s, the state amended the rules on how the landfills were handled. Now all landfills have to be fully lined with a very thick plastic liner. When it rains the pollutants are caught and can't get into the underground water to contaminate it."
From the Sept 28, 1983, article "Dumping could be hidden" by Santa Fe correspondent Kate McGraw, the computer parts and computer games that were dumped at the Alamogordo landfill did not involve hazardous materials as far as anyone knew. However, the potential still existed in landfills around the state for hazardous materials being dumped without the public's knowledge.
An Emergency Management Act was passed by the Legislature, which created the Emergency Management Task Force from the incident of the Atari dumping. Code regulations and standard procedures were developed for dealing with anyone dumping questionable materials or hazardous materials.