Dr. Seuss And The Atari 2600
Sometime in 2010, Shelia Botson bought an old filing cabinet at an estate sale in California. When cleaning it out at home, she found a spiral-bound notebook resting on the bottom that had evidently fallen behind one of the drawers. She was astonished to find the name “Theodor Geisel” written on the inside – the pen name of Dr. Seuss.
The first few pages were filled with telephone numbers (possibly for publishers), lists of rhyming words, and the occasional reminder (“Roosevelt’s Nude Eel” chief among the oddest), but the real prize was a seemingly complete poem about Geisel’s introduction to – of all things – the Atari 2600. He and his friend “Jeboop” discover the wonders of River Raid and Combat before Geisel concludes by waxing poetic about the state of technology.
A transcription of the fictional poem follows.
Two Thousand Six Hundred And Me
I’ve chronicled my time on Mulberry Street,
and spoke rather highly of Truffula Trees,
but my dear friend Jeboop showed me something today
that might be my favorite Catch of the Day.
From days in Yimkizzle to years in Palsseen
the likes of this thing I’ve never quite seen.
‘Twas a box with a hole for a cartridge of sorts,
and two smaller holes Jeboop deemed “the ports.”
But no way a vessel or ship could go in it,
let alone several – even toys wouldn’t fit!
Though cartridges I’ve seen in the Waldorg machine
that Mrs. Moog needs to keep her Fleenex parts clean,
the rest was quite new to my dreary old eyes -
and tell you I must of this wonderous surprise.
From Jeboop’s massive suitcase came the aforesaid box,
with one word, “Atari,” embossed on the top.
“This controller,” he said as he plugged in a cord,
“Makes the beeps and the boops move with you in accord
with the ways that you turn this magical stick -
push that red button if you need to jump quick.”
I asked if Atari felt my moves through the wires
and knew exactly when that jump was required,
but Jeboop said it wasn’t, it was all up to me!
It was all about choices as big as the sea.
So we plugged in the box and turned the thing on -
it was then Jeboop’s heart filled up with a song!
He smiled and told me that he just couldn’t wait
to show me each one of these fantastic games…
I grabbed the handle like I thought Jeboop said,
which is to say, like a hammer, up and over my head.
I could tell that was wrong by the look on his face
so I set the box down in its particular place.
Then he showed me how games like these were all played,
and on that couch we remained for the rest of the day.
By the beard of a Thrick-Tock, I knew not what to do!
Colored blocks on the television started to move.
One like a plane shooting little tiny boats
up some kind of river (or poorly made moat),
then we played as tanks that hid behind walls
trying not to get hit by the other at all.
After three more hours we called it a day,
Jeboop said “Goodbye!” and was off on his way.
I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure how,
but I felt like I’d been to the future somehow!
I’m sure no one’s seen this from Who-ville to Rome
(though the Turtle King might have one in his home).
It was like I’d found a secret too good to tell -
which is good, cause I won’t, no matter how much you yell.
These interactive pictures? They weren’t fancy at all,
but I’m sure that will change by the Summer or Fall.
Technology moves quick, by the speediest of sail,
Through the ripples of time, forever, without fail.
There was a date of “Nineteen Seventy & Six” scrawled at the bottom, and other than that there was only one other notation of interest: “UNLESS.”
— — —
Note: In case it wasn’t made absolutely clear, this poem and its origin are all fictional – I simply love the idea of creative people interpreting each others’ works. I ended with the word “UNLESS,” which was the famous moral from The Lorax, because from the environment to passion and all-around joie de vivre, it’s also a very important idea in my life: “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Header illustration by Zoe Quinn