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Atari Alumni Talk About the Tall Tales They Told to Launch an Industry


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I thought I’d heard them all. Atari stories, that is. I started covering the company in 1981, followed company founders Nolan Bushnell and Al Alcorn through their other adventures, became personal friends with more than a few Atari alumni, and even had a memorable lunch with Warner COO Manny Gerard after that company bought Atari (and, many say, then destroyed it).

But last Thursday evening, at a sold-out 100-person event hosted by the IEEE Silicon Valley History Committee, a few behind the scenes stories came out that were new to me—and even new to some of the people who were key players at Atari at the time. It’s hard to get startups off the ground, particularly those trying to do something as revolutionary as start a videogame—or personal computer—industry. So let’s just say the truth, at times, was stretched—or simply ignored—in order to make things happen.


Absolutely worth the read.  For example:

“When the big breakup took place,” says Bushnell, “[Jack] Tramiel [who purchased the consumer division of Atari from Warner in 1984] went around to fire people. He fired security first, so [the rest of the] people were walking out with televisions, and scopes, and games. We found a giant safe, and got it opened with a combination taped under someone’s desk. It was the master set for all the ROMs of all the Atari games. I called Tramiel and said ‘I have your master set.’ He thought it was a crank call.”

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