This Week’s Tell-Tale Sign of Aging: Atari Turns 40
The Apple iPhone isn’t the only iconic anniversary happening this week (and the Ars stroll through arcade memory lane isn’t our only bit of nostalgia).
On June 27, 1972, Nolan Bushnell and his partner Ted Dabney filed incorporation papers. The duo worked out of 1,700 square feet of office space in Santa Clara, California (in the heart of what was just becoming known as Silicon Valley). One year earlier, they turned pop culture milestone Spacewar! into the first mass produced arcade game (called Computer Space) without much success. But now the duo was readying to release their second title, the one that would put them on the map.
That game? Pong. That corporation? Atari, which turned 40 years old this week.
Sure, Atari didn’t create the first console gaming system (that honor belongs to the Magnavox Odyssey) and Pong wasn’t the first arcade game. But it’s impossible to imagine the gaming industry as it is today without the contributions of Bushnell and company. So Time caught up with him this week to celebrate the occasion.
As someone who only played on an Atari 2600 when his dad felt like getting retro, I didn’t truly appreciate just how widespread the company’s influence was. Some small examples: Atari had driving games, sports titles, first-person shooters—all genres that continue to dominate releases today. And the console, which hit the market in 1975, also almost came with the world’s first online gameplay.
“Warner made a whole series of blunders which were not good for Atari,” he told Time. “We were going to do this game network over telephone lines, but Warner couldn’t figure out why people would want to play games with people they couldn’t see. If we had gone ahead and done it, it could have essentially been the Internet, in private hands. It’s kind of fun to think about owning the Internet.”