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Thank You, Mr. Bushnell - The Atari Times

Thank You, Mr. Bushnell

What would you do if you could meet him?
by Gregory D. George

December 1, 1996
As you undoubtedly know, Atari was started in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell. After months of work in his daughters' room, he introduced Andy Capps' bar to Pong, the first successful arcade game. It was so popular, the machine broke down by the end of the day because there were too many quarters stuffed into it. Many games followed Pong, and Atari would release the 2600 in 1977. But, by 1976, Nolan had sold Atari to Warner Communications for a cool $28 million. He stayed on to help direct the company, but left in 1978.

In 1975, Atari was making millions of dollars on Pong games alone. Mr. Bushnell was still very much in charge, and this would be an important year in Atari's history. If you could go back and talk to Mr. Bushnell during this time, what would you say? Would you be able to tell him of Atari's ups and downs without his leadership? Could you convince him Atari would eventually become a failure even after all it's success with Pong?

Would you tell him of the legions of Atarians who were still devoted to a company that wasn't devoted to them?

The first thing I would tell him, was to not to sell Atari. Most Atarians (including Mr. Bushnell himself) think he sold the company too soon. If he had kept Atari at least long enough to launch the 800 computer, Atari's could very well been the mainstream computer of today.

The next thing I would tell him, is to not rest on your laurels. Do you know how many Pong games were developed? There was the original Pong, Pong Doubles, QuadraPong, and of course, Home Pong. (I no doubt missed a few too.) Next, Atari would refuse to retire the 2600 in 1983, which led to the Great Video Game crash of 1984. (We all remember THOSE terrible days, don't we?) Atari had sold all the 2600's it was going to, but they kept right on as if the world didn't already have one. While I love the 2600 as much as anybody, we all know its graphics couldn't compete with the ColecoVision and Intellivision. Perhaps if Atari had released the 5200 with NEW exciting games rather than updates of old ones, the 5200 would have been a success.

Finally, I would make him realize the importance of the computer market. The worst thing Atari did with the ST was sit on it for 5 years without improving it. Did you know the original STe was to be as powerful as the Falcon is? What do you think would have happened had the Falcon been released in 1989? Who knows what could have been had Atari done things differently?

One thing is for sure, the world would be much a much better place! Of course, if Atari had been more successful, chances are they would have pursued either games or computers, but not both. Would you be willing to give up the Jaguar to have the ST? Or give up the Falcon for the Lynx? Personally, I want it all.

So what would you say to Mr. Bushnell if you met him on the street? You could thank him for getting the ball rolling. Thank him for the success Atari had. Thank him for Missile Command, Tempest, Asteroids, Centipede, BattleZone, Breakout, and the other dozens of games Atari created over it's lifetime. Don't dwell on Atari's failures, but rather, celebrate Atari's success. And never let anyone forget the once mighty Fuji.

Reader Comments for Thank You, Mr. Bushnell

by Atari rest in peace on 2015-07-16 01:56:12
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What is the greatest video game company of all time? (Hint: Atari.)