founder of Atari
founder of Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Gallery
founder of Sente (now defunct)
conceptual creator of Pong
i used to think this guy was my hero. i have discovered that most if not all high profile “heroes” simply ripped off someone else who got there first. the only reason why anyone becomes aware of a celebrity is because they knew how to market themselves, or were savvy at business. my golden rule is never to believe the hype. Bushnell didn’t invent anything. he marketed it, and did it well. – @Om* 6/6/00
Everyday Life, 1972
Atari (the name is equivalent to check in the Japanese game go) is founded by Utah-born computer games inventor Nolan Bushnell, 27, and a friend with an investment of $250 each to manufacture and market “Pong”- the first commercial video-arcade game. Beside it is a dark wood cabinet holding a black-and-white cathode-ray screen and the instruction, “Avoid missing ball for high score.” Drop in a quarter, the machine “serves” a ball automatically from one side of the screen, a white blip darts about the screen, and the player uses controls to hit the blip with his ball. Bolting a coin box to the outside, Bushnell installs the game in Andy Capp’s tavern, a Sunnyvale, Calif. pool bar, in the fall. He takes consulting jobs with electronics firms to raise money, persuades a local bank to give him a $50,000 line of credit, puts together a team of techies who work 12 to 16 hours a day assembling Pong machines (using Motorola TVs) while listening to Rolling Stone and Led Zeppelin records, and sells about 10 machines per day, mostly to distributors who handle pinball machines and jukeboxes. He will find a venture capitalist to back him and will sell 6,000 “Pong” games at more than $1,000 each.
the game itself was designed by Al Alcorn.
Bushnell also lost a court case agains the creator of the Odyssey home videogame system, which featured a Pong-like game.
Like most famous techies, he was an excellent marketing person, as opposed to an innovator.
Nolan Bushnell attended one of the early Odyssey demonstrations in Burlingame, CA on May 24, 1972. After founding Atari on June 27, 1972, Bushnell and Al Alcorn (his first employee) built the famous prototype coin-op Pong machine and installed it in Andy Capp’s, a local Sunnyvale bar. Soon after Magnavox sued for copyright infringement. Although Bushnell insisted that he did not copy PONG from the Odyssey, US District Court Judge John F. Grady was not convinced that Bushnell had conceived Pong prior to seeing the 1972 Odyssey demo and ruled that Atari must pay royalties to Magnavox in order to market its games. A $700,000 settlement was awarded in the first ever video game lawsuit.
1971 Nolan Bushnell builds his first videogame, _Computer Space_. This commercial version of _Space War_‘ proves to be far ahead of its time. The complex rules and abstract nature of the play mystify and intimidate players. It flops. 1971 Shortly after Bushnell unveils ‘Computer Space.’ another M.I.T. student named Bill Pitts produces his own ‘Spacewar’ variant. GALAXY GAME is even less successful; the prototype was the only version ever put together.