Imperial Storm Troopers

In July of 1984, Jack Tramiel bought Atari. Tramiel had a reputation as a hard-driven, hard-bargaining businessman whose motto was, “Business is war.” The news that Atari had been purchased came as a quite a shock; Atari had been bleeding money for years, and it was clear that something drastic had to be done, but sell it? Jeez, Tramiel is going to absolutely savage this place…

From Steven L. Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games

Everybody was expecting something draconian to happen. When they first walked in the building, someone got on the PA system and did the line from The Empire Strikes Back. I think it went, “Attention, Imperial Storm Troopers have entered the base.”

That “someone” was me; as a couple of Jack’s people came in the door of the Coin-op building, I got on the horn and did that quick quip. About three hours later (after each one of us had had a five minute interview) two thirds of the engineers in my group were out of jobs.

Fast-forward about a year. I survived the layoffs, was kept on by the Tramiels to work on the Atari ST. After we finally shipped the system, Jack took the software team out to dinner, and his son told him the story about the funny guy on the PA system. Ha ha. “Things turned out pretty well, didn’t they?” he said to me and Jack, and I nodded; the Tramiels weren’t terrible bosses.

Getting to “Ha ha” took a bit of time, however. One of the things you need to know about Jack Tramiel is that when he was 12, he was in the Nazi extermination camp Aushwitz. To Jack, the phrase “Storm Trooper” has an entirely different meaning, and his son had to carefully explain the Star Wars reference. In the end, I don’t think that Jack really got it, except he understood I wasn’t calling him a Nazi.

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