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The Atari Arcade

 

Atari was started in 1972 by founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Their first popular game was (of course) Pong which was created by Al Alcorn. The game became a hit and Atari was instantly successful and began to churn out more arcade games.

One day, an Atari employee by the name of Steve Jobs was offered a deal. If he could create a game that used less chips (thus less cost) he would receive a huge bonus. So, Jobs enlisted the help of his friend Steve Wozniak to create the game (and didn't tell him the true amount of the bonus.) Woz made the game under the time limit, Jobs delivered the game and received the bonus, and Woz got his promised (yet very tiny) share. Of course, the game itself would go on to become one of Atari's most popular. It was called, Breakout. (Of course they would go on to create Apple Computers after Atari turned down their idea for a home computer!)

Atari was churning out arcade games left and right. Asteroids was a huge hit for them, only being out dueled by Taito's Space Invaders. Missile Command simulated the end of the world by nuclear holocaust. Tempest threw the player into the world of the abstract. Battlezone got the attention of the U.S. Government who commissioned Atari to make a Bradley Tank Trainer. And Centipede became a popular game for all, including women. But the heyday of Atari wouldn't last.

In 1983-4, home video games were in decline, and the Atari arcade division suffered too. Atari was broken up into two parts: The Atari computer and video games (2600, 5200, 7800, etc) were sold off to Commodore founder Jack Tramiel and renamed Atari Corp., while the arcade division of Atari renamed itself to Atari Games and continued making arcade games.

When Nintendo revived the home video game market, Atari Games created a new division within itself called Tengen in order to sell home video games and not compete with Atari Corp. Tengen bought the rights to the Russian puzzle game called Tetris and made a Nintendo version. It was later discovered that Tengen only thought they had the rights and Nintendo swooped in and bought the game themselves. (So now you know the story.)

The original Atari's legacy of games is staggering, but Atari Games would make some notable games of their own. Games such as Gauntlet, Paperboy, Roadblasters, A.P.B., Primal Rage, Pit Fighter, Cyberball, Hard Drivin', S.T.U.N. Runner, KLAX, Rampart, Toobin', Vindicators, San Francisco Rush, and Area 51.

Sadly, after the company was sold to Midway, Atari Games would close it's doors in 2003.


Atari Centipede Cabinet


Centipede screenshot

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