Lot #318
Atari: Space Station / Liberator Prototype Schematics (circa 1981) from the collection of David Sherman

This lot has closed

Estimate: $800+


Complete set of nine prototype schematics for ‘Space Station,’ a prototype wire-wrap hardware developed by Atari, Inc. in 1981, deriving from the personal collection of Atari hardware designer David Sherman. Each schematic measures 17 x 11, with the lower right of each featuring the Atari logo with project information, which includes the titles: “Schematic Missile Command II, P.C.B.D.,” “Space Station Sync,” “Space Station Planet Video I,” “Space Station, Video & Audio,” and “Space Station, I/O.” Also includes copies of relevant pages of ‘Liberator’ schematic from the game manual (these are cross-referenced to the prototype schematic), and a DC Comics Superman comic book with an interior section promoting the ‘Liberator’ game with Atari Force characters. In overall fine, folded condition.

A ‘missing link’ development between Missile Command and I, Robot, Space Station was a unique hardware design that displayed a correctly rendered 3-D rotating planet in the lab using only a small amount of transistor-transistor logic (TTL). The hardware served as a ‘proof-of-concept’ design stepping stone in getting Atari management excited about funding the I, Robot project. This complete set is very likely the only existing copy of the prototype schematic with the planet hardware merged with a Missile Command version.

According to Sherman: ‘It’s safe to say, that this was the only video game design with longitude and latitude as fundamental hardware parameters for indexing into the object database. The planet database was ‘run-length’ encoded in the reference frame of the planet surface, using the longitude as the starting point for the color length and the latitude as the index to the actual color, instead of using a flat plane as an offset in the video screen coordinates. The current longitude of the left-hand limb of the planet was used to start the planet video generation, and the subsequent longitude starting point for a length was mapped into the screen space, also as (warped) run-lengths. In this way, the ‘run’ of color on the screen changed as the planet rotated into view. This direction of mapping minimized aliasing effects and the amount of processing required per display pixel.

This hardware design was used in the released video game ‘Liberator’ by Atari. I handed this off to another engineer to take to production because I was working on early I, Robot designs and supporting Tube Chase (Tunnel Hunt). I also objected to the gameplay, which involved firing on bases and cities on the planet, instead of defending them as in Missile Command and so I washed my hands.’

From the Collection of David Sherman

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Science and Technology
  • Dates: #650 - Ended December 15, 2022