Star Raiders, the iconic computer adventure game, was created for the Atari 400/800 home computer line, in fact, it was created at the same time as the development of the computers. It was programmed by Atari hardware designer Doug Neubauer. Neubauer was also on the design team of Atari’s famous POKEY (POtentiometer and KEYboard) chip that controlled the Atari 8-bit computer’s paddle controller potentiometers, the keyboard, and most notable, the audio special effects and music generation. The POKEY chip was also used in the audio circuitry of the Atari 5200 game console and some of Atari’s classic arcade video game cabinets such as Missile Command, Centipede, Star Wars and others. While the Atari 7800 gaming console didn’t have a POKEY chip onboard, it did support game cartridges which could include a POKEY chip along with the game ROM. Only two officially released games, Ballblazer and Commando, supported this feature. Later hacks and homebrew games would also take advantage of this feature as well.
Star Raiders was based, in part, on earlier text-based, turned-based Star Trek computer games. In an October 1986 interview with Lee Pappas in ANALOG Computing magazine,
Neubauer said that “Star Raiders was to be a 3D version of the Star Trek game played on the mainframe computers of that time. The Star Trek game was all text and not played in real time, but it had the idea of ship damage and sector scanners and charts”. And in the 1997 book, Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers, by James Hague, Neubauer stated “The movie Star Wars had come out right around that time. So I wanted to combine Star Wars with the text-based ‘Star Trek’ game”.
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