Q essay: E.T. and new relics of the distant past

Decades-old Atari 'E.T. the Extraterrestrial' games were unearthed from a dumpsite in Alamogordo, N.M., this month. (Juan Carlos Llorca/Associated Press)

Decades-old Atari 'E.T. the Extraterrestrial' games were unearthed from a dumpsite in Alamogordo, N.M., this month. (Juan Carlos Llorca/Associated Press)

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Time is a relative thing, Jian reflects in Tuesday's opening essay. But since when did something just over 30 years old become worthy of a big dig in the New Mexico desert?

That was the case for up to a million copies of the now-infamous Atari 2600 title E.T. The Extraterrestrial, a game so despised at the time of its release in the 1980s that its makers buried truckloads of copies.

An interesting tale, to be sure. But Jian wonders whether our perception of what a "historic artifact" is has really changed that much in just 30 years.

"In the new culture of speed, the new relics of the distant past are not pyramids or carvings or castles, but consoles and cartridges from the '80s."

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