A side project given to Lloyd Warman was building some arcades to be installed
in shopping centers around northern Cal. These were probably part of the
Atari "Leisure-Time Game Center".
Lloyd asked me if I wanted to help with this project. I accepted and recruited
a couple of the best workers from the model shop. We rented a large empty
warehouse on Scott Blvd and got together all the tools we needed.
The sequence was we would get the address of the rented space, go there and
take very accurate measurements of it's dimensions. Back at the warehouse we
would use tape to lay out the exact floor dimensions and build the arcade.
It would consist of many Atari games but in custom made cabinets. We had the
services of Atari's art department and also full access to Atari's parts
We built all the custom cabinets right in the warehouse and had custom fiber
glass bezels made at a local shop. These cabinets didn't look anything like
the games that were shipped from Atari but the electronics inside were the
same. We had to make our own front panels, wire harnesses and then assemble
everything but we were all old hands at this. We even added some pin ball
machines to the mix.
We made all the decorations for the arcades and in one we put 4x8 sheets of
mirrored plexiglass on the ceiling.
For another we built a kiosk for a four player driving game. Somehow LLoyd
was able to get the electronics which had been developed at Kee games.
We built a small arcade in a few weeks but the larger ones took months. When
we finished one we would rent trucks, disassemble everything, load it all into
the trucks, drive to the space, re-assemble and install everything. When we
got it all done and working we just locked up the arcade and left. Over a
several month period we build and installed several arcades.
About half way through building the last one Lloyd asked if he could come to
my house that night to talk about future ventures. He arrived around 7PM and
we sat and talked at my dining room table for enough hours to consume an
entire bottle of Tia Maria and a small bottle of gin. I'm pretty sure he
stayed the night in my spare bedroom.
He asked me all kinds of questions about my education, past jobs and we even
talked politics. He must have heard what he wanted because he eventually told
me he was moving back to Vancouver Canada, where his mother still lived, to
start a new company possibly making video games and he wanted me to come with
him. I couldn't answer just then because I had to talk to my wife who had
long since retired for the night.
When I got up in the morning Lloyd was already gone. I told my wife about his
proposal and she was all for it so we talked to a realtor about selling our
house and started the processes of getting passports and applying for
Several weeks later Lloyd and I flew up to Vancouver and stayed at his mother's
house. We spent a few days driving around the area with no real goal in mind.
By the time we flew back to California I realized that he didn't have any
concrete plans for starting up a company so I backed out.
When we finished the last arcade we closed down the warehouse and me and the
guys I had recruited from the model shop went back to Atari. Lloyd moved to
I had been gone from Atari for most of a year and lots of changes had taken
place. Since all of Key Games had been integrated into Atari production was
moved to the building on Martin Ave in Santa Clara. I went over there to see
what was going on and as I was walking around I saw Nolan in the hall and he
asked me "how do you like your new diggs?". I wouldn't be there for long.
The next day I went back to the Los Gatos building to see if they needed me
there. Steve Bristow, who I knew quite well, was now the VP of engineering
and there was most of a new crew in the lab. Many of the people I had known
had gotten caught in the cross fire between Atari and Kee Games and the place
just didn't feel the same. Steve offered me a position where I would do a
final inspection of the prototype games made in the engineering lab and maybe
I could do something in the model shop. I got the feeling that he didn't want
me actually working in the lab. I told him I would look around for something
else to do.
On the way out I saw an org chart on a board in someone's office and of course
Nolan's name was in the box at the very top and there was a line going off to
the right to another box with my name in it above everyone else. Nolan had
transferred me to his "department" a couple years earlier. I immediately knew
this was going to be a BIG problem.
I went back to the building on Martin Ave and just wandered around and helped
out for a couple of weeks when Steve Bristow came by and said they really
couldn't find a place for me. I knew that meant that I was now in the cross
fire and that was my last day at Atari.
It had been an exciting time working in a virgin industry with people like
Nolan Bushnell, Steve Jobs and Ron Wayne and my time there is still one of my
favorite memories but it was time to move on.
Of course in the long run, as is often the case, it was the best thing that
could have happened. Atari had moved on from me and I was anxious to get back
into the electronics end of things. After all this was Silicon Valley.
As I mentioned in another post that just before I retired I called Nolan and
we had a nice talk about the "old days". I also called Lloyd Warman and am
currently working on an unrelated project with Ron Wayne.
It was a pleasure to share my stories on a site that's dedicated to the history
of Atari. I hope they provided some insight to the early days of this unique
Building Arcades and moving on from Atari
Posted 04 December 2017 - 08:49 PM
- Justin, RickR, chas10e and 2 others like this
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