5 old-fashioned brands you didn't think were still around
If you thought that TaB, Howard Johnson's and Atari had bit the bullet by now, think again.
Wed, Jan 23 2013 at 4:17 PM
When news broke this week that one of the original developers of video games was filing for bankruptcy, it left many asking the same question: "Atari still exists?" Indeed. Founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, Atari was responsible for creating a number of legendary video game franchises, including "Pong" and "Asteroids." In 1976, the company was sold to Warner Communications for a reported $28 million. Under Warner Communications, Atari expanded its offerings to include personal computers. But by 1983, Atari began to suffer as a rash of video game competitors began to flood the market. Over the next 25 years, the company would be sold another three times, the final time being in 2008 to Infogrames, Inc.
Today, Atari specializes in online gaming through a multitude of platforms including browsers, Facebook and digital downloads. In addition, the company now develops and distributes interactive entertainment for video game consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. The bankruptcy filing is an effort by Atari to break away from its parent company Atari S.A., formerly known as Infogrames, Inc.
Like Atari, there are a number of other businesses that the masses have long left for dead, but actually still exist. Four others include:
In the 1970s and 1980s, it was hard to drive anywhere in the northeastern United States without passing a Roy Rogers restaurant. Named for the popular cowboy actor, Roy Rogers opened its first location in 1968. The chain, launched by the Marriott Corporation, quickly gained a following for its roast beef sandwiches, fried chicken and hamburgers. By 1990, the chain had grown to nearly 900 locations, most of which were in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. That same year, Marriott sold the restaurant chain to competitor Hardee's, hich attempted to convert nearly a quarter of the Roy Rogers locations to the Hardee's restaurant chain. A customer outcry, however, forced Hardee's to change the restaurants back to the Roy Rogers brand. Over the next several years, Hardees would sell all the Roy Rogers restaurants to a variety of chains, including McDonald's and Wendy's. By 1996, the chain had dwindled to fewer than 150 locations, all of which were being run by franchisees. In 1998, the Roy Rogers chain was sold to the Plamondon Companies, which remains its owner today. While only about 50 Roy Rogers restaurants remain today — all of them located in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia — the company is starting to grow again. Within the last three months, the company has opened two new restaurants and announced plans for another.
Few companies rose to prominence as quickly as computer manufacturer Compaq did in the 1980s and 1990s. Founded in 1982, Compaq quickly became the largest seller of both personal and laptop computers. The company sold its first desktop computer, the Compaq Deskpro, in 1984, and 10 years later overtook IBM as the largest PC maker in the world. As a way to diversify, Compaq began acquiring other computer companies, including Tandem Computer Incorporated and Digital Corporation. That proved to be the computer giant's downfall. The acquisitions began bringing down the value of the company, and by 2001, Compaq had been replaced by Dell as the world's largest PC maker. As the company's outlook worsened, it eventually agreed to a $21 billion merger with competitor Hewlett-Packard Corporation in 2002. While HP has continued to use the Compaq brand name over the past decade, it announced late last year that it plans to change how it uses it. Beginning later this year, the Compaq brand will be used solely for basic computing products at entry-level pricing.
Before Diet Coke and Pepsi ruled the diet soda landscape, TaB was the drink of choice for weight-conscious consumers. The drink, first introduced in 1963 by Coca-Cola, was the first sugar-free offering for the soda pop giant, and was wildly popular until the early 1980s. Over the years,TaB has been reformulated several times — most notably in 1969, when it stopped using the artificial sweetener cyclamate. The drink spawned several other versions of the diet soft drink, such as TaB Lemon Lime, TaB Orange and TaB Clear. The drink's downfall began in 1982 after Diet Coke was unveiled. While the diet soda may be difficult to find now, it has not vanished altogether. A dedicated group of TaB drinkers around the country is keeping the brand alive. In 2008, Coca-Cola sold more than 3 million cases of TaB, according to Beverage Digest.
Made famous by its orange roofs, Howard Johnson's restaurants used to be a staple across the country. Founded in 1925 by Howard Dearing Johnson, the restaurant chain started out as a drugstore/ice cream parlor. Four years later, the first Howard Johnson's restaurant was opened, specializing in fried clams and broiled catfish. By 1935, the chain had expanded to more than 40 franchise locations. Just 10 years after the first locations opened, HoJo's — as it was affectionately known — expanded to more than 100 restaurants up and down the eastern seaboard, and by the 1960s, the chain was taking in more money than competitors like McDonald's and Burger King and had expanded to include hotels. After Johnson died in 1972, the restaurant chain was bought and sold a handful of times. In 1985, it was purchased by the Marriott Corporation, which immediately sold the franchise-owned restaurants and hotels. Over the next several years, Marriott would convert many of the Howard Johnson's restaurants to other brands, until the chain became virtually nonexistent. While still operating today, the chain appears to be on its last leg. Just two Howard Johnson's –one in Lake Placid, N.Y. and the other in Bangor, Maine — are still open today.
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