SUNNYVALE -- Some people get their jollies re-enacting the Civil War. Others dig retro cuisine. Then there are fashionistas, who "heart" anything vintage.
Now, add a new category of folks who enjoy an occasional, but precious trip into the past: Atari Aficionados.
More than 100 of them -- including many who fondly remember playing Atari video games as kids in the 1970s or 80s on the company's original, ground-breaking consoles -- flocked Saturday to an "Atari Party.''
The event also featured two speakers -- former Atari engineer Dan Kramer, who championed the creation of the Trak-Ball controllers for the Atari 2600, and PONG creator Al Alcorn.
The event at the Sunnyvale Library was anything but a subdued affair for anti-social geeks. It was a surprisingly boisterious bash, as guests, some of whom brought their kids, mingled to share memories and play games like PONG and Missile Command on the bulky old devices.
"I'm here to reminisce about the good old days of video games,'' mobile designer Michael Huh, 31, yelled above the din. "It brings me back to my childhood in Minnesota. I played everyday for two or three hours.''
Like many at the party, Huh turned his passion for video games into a lucrative tech career. In a sign Huh is on the cutting edge, he sported Google Glass, a computer built like eyeglasses that contain an optical, head-mounted display, which he said he's testing.
Bill Kendrick founded the Atari Party concept in 2009. Asked why, the 39-year-old joked, "because I'm still 7, apparently.'' Now, he's the chief technology officer for Smashwords, an ebook publishing platform.
"It was like, I can make the TV do things, so what else can I do,'' said Kendrick, who began writing software as a result of playing.
Video games have come a long way since Atari helped pioneer the pasttime. Today, it's a $66 billion industry. About 80 percent of the wired world's population play games, many on their cellphones. At a more advanced level, there are even professional online gaming tournaments.
People don't realize it, but most games are not violent, said Judith Haemmerle, director of the Digital Game Museum in Santa Clara, which co-hosted the party with Friends of the Sunnyvale Library. Housed in a 1,000-square-foot office, it was founded in 2010 and Haemmerle insists it is the West Coast's only professionally managed gaming museum.
These days, there are puzzle games, anti-bullying games, games that teach skills to the armed forces and police, and others that help older people keep their brains sharp.
"Gaming is one of the major drivers of tech advances,'' she noted.
It also continues to inspire a new generation of tech-savvy kids. A 5-year-old girl, for instance, invented a popular game called "Ponycorns) (after ponies and unicorns), Haemmerle said. The museum has her original crayon drawings, part of a broader effort to preserve gaming history.
"It's being lost,'' she said, "because most people don't take video game history seriously.''
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.