As co-founder of Atari, Ted Dabney was one of gaming’s founding fathers. Starting out as a humble electrical engineer, he then began working on the hardware which soon became the worlds first commercially viable videogame – Pong selling over 150,000 units. It was the foundation of the video game industry that snowballed into the multi billion-dollar juggernaut it is today. Dabney passed away May, 2018 but his legacy will live on.
Before Pong there was Computer Space. It was one of the first games that Dabney engineered and the first arcade game ever made but the game flopped due to it’s inaccessibility and complex nature at the time. Dabney used discrete circuitry work for Computer Space without the use of any kind of processor he also used TV parts rather than expensive computer parts for the game’s physical fuction. This did however gain attention from engineers and techies which led the fledging company of Syzygy Engineering to be renamed to Atari one of the most recognisable and influential companies of all of gaming.
While everyone was gawping at 3 dots moving on the screen on the Magnavox Odyssey. The 2 CEO’s of Atari, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney remained unsatisfied they wanted something more refined. The Odyssey didn’t have sound, the game didn’t keep score and the ball didn’t move realistically when it was hit. Bushnell and Dabney wanted to create a much more fun and satisfying experience. They abandoned an idea for a driving game because it was considered too ambitious at the time, so they decided to create a game that would rival the Magnavox Odyssey in Pong which was initially thought up before the consoles release.
Pong cabinets were distributed in Andy Capp’s Tavern, California in 1972 . Bushnell and Dabney knew the owner and managed to persuade them that this machine would guzzle quarters. People flocked to this strange looking machine they played it so much that the Pong machine broke becasuse it was overflowing with quarters. People at the time found the game extremely difficult to play but hard to master. In 1974 the technology was condensed for home use for consoles. Pongs overwhelming success led to Atari being sued by Ralph Bauer creator of the Magnavox Odyssey the CEO’s agreed to the one-million-dollar law suit which turned out costing them less than defending Pong.
Controversy soon deepened however due to Bushnell’s extroverted nature taking over the company making Dabney feel overlooked and underappreciated. In Bushnell’s eyes he was the only CEO leaving Dabney out of patents and important meetings which led to Dabney feeling jaded and quitting the company although according to Bushnell he was fired.
Upon hearing his former partner’s death Bushnell reacted by tweeting “Ted was my partner, co-founder, fellow dreamer and friend. I’ll always cherish the time we spent together. RIP” Dabney assisted in creating this revolutionary piece of technology. Before he died he became a grocery store owner and deli operator with his wife. It’s amazing how this unassuming old man working at this grocery store assisted in creating the video game industry.