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Ron Wayne, Apple Founder, comes to Atari

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#1 jerryd


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Posted 26 November 2017 - 12:12 AM

Atari forum,

 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.


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#2 atarilbc


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Posted 28 November 2017 - 01:55 AM

Thanks again for sharing these memories!
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