Nolan Bushnell was about 30 at the time and a fun, interesting, charismatic
guy. The kind of person who, when he walked into a room everyone would stop
and look in his direction.
He would often ride his bike to work and enter the plant back by the loading
doors. Then he would wheel his bike all the way through the assembly area to
My wife, kids and I were at a restaurant in San Jose one Saturday morning
when Nolan walked in. We invited him over and he ate breakfast with us. He
knew my kids because I often brought them with me when I went into work on
weekends. My kids were quite young, maybe 4 or 5, when they first started to
come with me. I would put a chair in front of the games for them to stand on
and show them how to trip the coin acceptor switch to start the game. They
had the run of the building and must have thought it was a magical place.
At one point we expanded Nolan's office and when I was finished with a game
prototype I would put it the expanded part so I spent a lot of time in his office.
After a while it looked like his own private arcade. He liked it because he
had managed an arcade while he was in college.
He wanted to teach me the Japanese game of Go but we never got
around to it.
When I was in there one day I told him I was trying to buy my first house.
He immediately said "I can't give you any money but I can give you a raise".
"You will have to transfer to my department and get your pay checks from
accounts payable". This was fine with me and actually nothing really changed
as far as me working in the lab and reporting to my boss Don. Being in the
same department as Nolan would eventually prove to be a big problem for me.
On Halloween Nolan would wear a pig costume and walk around in it all day. It
was pink suit, kind of like the one Ralphie got for Christmas in the movie
"A Christmas Story", Nolan's also had and plastic pig head.
One year for his birthday we wanted to get him a large stuffed animal that
looked like a pig but could only find one that looked a little bit like Mickey
mouse. It was almost 4 feet tall and stood up. Nolan liked it and named him
"Chuck". He put it in the hall right outside his office door.
Sometime later Nolan told me he was going to start a new venture, not video
games, and wanted me to be part of it. I said "I'm in" and that was the last
I heard about it. He would go off sailing for months at a time, he actually
won some races to Hawaii, and I eventually left Atari. I walked into a
restaurant a few years later and saw Nolan and Joe Keenan at a table. I sat
with them and Nolan said "you could have been part of this".
It was "Chuck e Cheese".
Over the years I would run into him at electronic shows and other events and
he was always the same bigger than life guy.
When I retired, many years later, I called him up and we had a nice long talk
about "the old days". I forgot to ask him if he still had "Chuck".
Sorry to post these like short stories but I'm trying to keep them in
chronological order and I'm also trying to remember them as accurately as