Thirty one years ago, Atari took some of its trash to a landfill. Although things get dumped in landfills every day, this particular landfill became a legend among those who play video games because it occurred in the midst of Atari’s video game crash and included unsold copies of E.T., which has frequently been cited as one of the worst video games of all time. The other day, a documentary film crew dug up the landfill to see if the story was true (even though it was pretty clear that it was).
Not surprisingly, the dig revealed a bunch of trash that Atari had disposed of in 1983. What may be surprising to anybody who regularly throws things away, though, is the fact that Atari’s 31-year-0ld trash is essentially unchanged from the day that it was buried in the ground. Does the image above look like something that has broken down even a little? Yes, things are sort of rumpled, but that is more likely the result of a trash compactor than sitting underground for 31 years.
Kyle Orland at Ars Technica asks what this can teach us about the creation of legends, since unlike many urban legends, the facts in this case were well-documented. I think that the more important question, though, is how we can use this as a lesson to encourage others to recycle. E.T.’s “home” supports WALL-E’s message that in the future, most of the trash you throw away is not going to look like fertile soil, it is going to look just like it did when you put it in the garbage.