You probably know that Ron Wayne was a founding member of Apple Computer. In
fact if you look him up on the Internet he is called "The Fifth Beatle of
Apple". He and Steve Jobs worked together in the Atari engineering lab. If
you want to know his story you should get his book "Adventures of an Apple
One day Al Alcorn came into the lab and showed us a resume he had received.
It was from a man who designed pin ball and slot machines. We all kind of
snickered but Al said "I'm going to hire him because he will have a different
outlook about games".
A couple of weeks later Ron Wayne showed up in his signature sport coat, short
sleeved white shirt, tie and slightly gray crew hair cut. He was probably
about 40 at the time. Being the "older guys" he and I struck up a friendship.
He asked me what I did and when I told him I make the prototype games he
suggested that we work as a team where he would make the drawings and I would
make the parts. I agreed.
For a new game we would start with about 10 possible shapes for the side panels
of the arcade cabinet drawn by our art department. Then we would have a
meeting, which Nolan Bushnell attended, and try to pick one. This is where I
learned that deciding things by committee didn't work. We could get it down
to 2 or 3 and Nolan would pick one and that was it, meeting over. Ron would
go to work on his drafting board and after a few days start feeding me drawings
for parts to make in the model shop. Ron eventually took on the task of
selecting the shape of the cabinet sides.
One time when I was trying to assemble a game cabinet there was an interference
problem. I showed it to Ron and he said "it just proves the physics principal
that no 2 solid objects can occupy the same space at the same time". His
comment rekindled my interested in physics which is still alive today. After
that I often bugged him for more "pearls of wisdom" about physics.
A game that Ron and I worked on together was Gran Trak 10, the first driving
game. But due to some electronic design problems and miscalculation of the
cost of manufacturing it was not one of Atari's instant financial winners
although it eventually became a huge success. Later I think I made the cabinet
for Gran Trak 20 which was a 2 player version.
When the prototype of "Gran Trak 10" was done we spent a few days checking it
out and then I put it in my station wagon on a Friday afternoon and took it
to Rooster T. Feathers. It's a sports bar on El Camino Real in San Jose. I
think it's still there. Atari had a deal with them where we could put a
game in there for a few days and split the take. Al Alcorn had done a similar
thing at Tapp's Tavern with one of the early Pong games and got a call late at
night complaining that it was broken. When he got there he saw that the coin
box was overflowing and the quarters had jammed the coin acceptor. He knew
they had a winner.
I came back later that evening and there was a line of people waiting to play
Gran Trak 10. I got in line and when I started to play a lot of people
gathered around to watch me use the gas pedal, shift lever, brake and steering
to skid around the corners. After all I had been playing it for weeks. I
emptied the coin box before I left, came back twice on Saturday to empty it
again and picked it up on Sunday. The management wasn't too happy to see it
The game shown in the advertising flyer for Gran Trak 10 on Wikipedia is the
original prototype designed by Ron Wayne, built by me in the model shop, taken
to Rooster T. Feathers and ended up in Bushnell's office.
Ron eventually became a very important part of the Atari team. Besides being
a design engineer he invented and implemented a complete part numbering and
stocking system, moved into marketing and traveled all over the world
qualifying video game distributors and was tasked with preparing an analysis
of what it would take to produce a new generation of pin ball machines.
Ron and I have recently reconnected after 40+ years and are working on a
project together. It has nothing to do with video games, slot machines or
pin ball machines.
Ron Wayne, Apple Founder, comes to Atari
Posted 26 November 2017 - 12:12 AM
- Justin, The Professor, RickR and 3 others like this
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