Atari Tried to Get You to Exercise Back in the Early 80s

Exploring Intensity

Atari Tried to Get You to Exercise Back in the Early 80s

Yes, that Atari, the one who had you playing Pong and Space Invaders before anyone had ever heard of Mario or Luigi. This story of the Puffer, a nearly released exercise bike that was going to be connected to video games, is pretty interesting just to see how long companies have been trying to figure out how to make exercise seem like a game.

Atari has a new app in the works that will supposedly give the user a comprehensive workout by using some sort of gaming experience, but 30 years ago they were working on something bigger, a lot bigger. The idea for the Puffer seemed to stem from Atari wanting to diversify and get people doing things other than trying to beat Pac-Man. So they worked on games that could be operated by how fast someone pedaled. And it almost happened.

While there were some issues (they mention that some games led people to almost steer the bike onto its side to avoid projectiles), the idea and execution had enough traction that the project was run by doctors to make sure it would actually be a health-conscious piece of equipment and was pretty much ready for mass production. So what kept you from biking your way to first place in Pole Position? It was nothing to do with the concept, but rather the failure of Atari. There was an oversaturation in the market and the company started to lose a lot of money. And while the idea seems pretty revolutionary now, at the time they were not prepared to make a Hail Mary pass by investing that much into exercise video games.

Who knows where we would be now if the Puffer had been released, but there are plenty of new products trying to make up for lost time. And it’s also important to mention that you can still get out there and have some fun exercising, even if Asteroids isn’t involved.