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William Arkush and the Video Game Data Library

William (Bill) Arkush is noted for his distribution of an early series of video game technical manuals known as the Video Game Data Library. The manuals focused on early black and white video games produced during the 1970’s; games such as Pin Pong by Atari, Tank by Kee Games, and Gun Fight by Midway, amongst others.

Tank by Kee Games

The manuals have a wealth of detailed, game specific information about how to keep the machines working and earning for the operator. They were printed in an odd, over sized format, with color covers, color pages and plastic spiral binding. Trouble shooting “video” games was a new concept for operators in the 1970’s as electro-mechanical games and pinball machines were still in service. Good technical information about this new type of game was important, so the manuals were likely well used. Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to find a full set in good shape.

I had seen a few of the manuals and some basic background information on the old Wiretap (or spies) archive, if you remember that from the RGVAC days! While spies is long gone, much of the content is mirrored on the cityofberwyn website and can still be accessed. The site lists a number of publications I had never heard of before, but hoped could be tracked down. As luck would have it, local collector “p1001”, came across a handful of the manuals during a warehouse raid and was interested in getting them scanned and archived. While this increased the number of manuals available, there are still quite a few missing and lots of gaps in the information surrounding their production. Fellow enthusiast Jeff Rothe of rotheblog took on the task of trying to locate William Arkush so that the lost documentation could be recovered. To revel in his search-foo, check out the story William Arkush Video Game Manuals.

I learned about the existence of Kurz-Kasch arcade game test fixtures from Jeff’s post, something I knew nothing about. A little research on that name sparked an idea, and I shot off a few emails to people that have been in the business for a long time. Bingo! I got a number of responses and a suggestion to contact Randy Fromm, owner of the well known Arcade School in Orlando. A response from Randy didn’t provide any contact info for Bill Arkush, but it did answer the question about the odd sizing of the manuals. Apparently during a conversation with Bill back in late 1970’s, Randy asked about the odd size. “When I asked Bill about the format of the books (big and printed with colored ink on colored paper) he replied that it was meant to discourage Xeroxing and free distribution.” Well Mr. Arkush, you were successful in making them tough to duplicate. Scanning those manuals with any quality was a huge pain. I have a lot more information to work through as the history behind the manuals from the actual content writers starts to take shape. The ultimate goal is to have the full set available so we can continue to keep our games running and to preserve this interesting piece of arcade game history. For now, check out the Resources page where you’ll find the William Arkush Library. Enjoy!

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