Ted Dabney - Pong - Nolan Bushnell - Al Alcorn

Rest In Peace: Ted Dabney (1937 – 2018)

Devastated. That is probably the first word that comes to mind on the passing of Ted Dabney. The co-creator of Pong as well as Atari passed away yesterday. On the fan picked Atari Day at that is certainly an even greater blow. With Ted Dabney’s passing we have truly lost a giant in the history of video games.

First of all I want to give thanks to Video Game historian Cat DeSpira for the heads up on this sad news. Yesterday she published the passing on both Facebook as well as on Twitter:

“Ted Dabney, co founder of Syzygy & Atari has died. His vision gave my generation more than people can comprehend unless they lived in the days when Atari was born & remember when the world was changed forever by the electronic dreams that company gave us. #Atari #TedDabney

Samuel F. “Ted” Dabney was born in San Francisco, California. After spending three years in Marine Corps, the young man found his calling in electronics. While his original aim was to attend San Francisco State, he did not have the finances. So instead he ended up working at Bank of America, making sure a prototype traveler’s check scanner remained in operation. A year after that he found himself at Hewlett-Packard. That lasted a mere three weeks before he was hired away by Ampex where he would work on the Ampex Video File.

[Via] IEEE Silicon Valley History Videos

While at Ampex he would also gained a new co-worker, Nolan Bushnell. In the extremely interesting Oral History with Dabney by the Computer History Museum from 2012. The engineer had this to say:

” He always had stuff on his desk. That’s all I know. I don’t know what he did. I never even asked him…I wasn’t worried about anybody else’s work, but I had no idea what he did. I think he studied stuff…But we were close. We wound up being close friends. He was a game player, chess player. He liked chess and so he got me to play chess with him, but he had also started going over to this game “Go” but he needed somebody to play with so he decided I ought to learn the game of “Go” so we could play together, which we did and we played pretty good, that complicated game.”

Around this time Bushnell started sharing his idea for a pizza parlor, a “carnival-type pizza parlor”. That changed though briefly when the duo saw a computer game in action at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. One that would lead to the creation of both Syzgy and Computer Space!

Ted Dabney - Computer Space - Arkadia Retrocade

This is the Computer Space arcade cabinet at the Arkadia Retrocade.

In 1971, Computer Space marked the first video arcade game. It also was built for Nutting Associates. Dabney and Bushnell cut ties with the company, making contact with Bally to produce both a video game and pinball table. Of course they also dropped the Syzgy title and became a little company called Atari. In that oral history, Ted mentions that Nolan was thinking of a game where you were driving. That is how Al Alcorn was hired. Al didn’t create that driving game however…he helped create an video game empire and legacy with Pong.

[Via] Rich Bartlebaugh

Shortly after that hit, Ted Dabney found himself being pushed out of the company he helped co-found. He ended up selling his portion of the shares of Atari to Bushnell for $250,000. Although it appears that the two men were able to remain on a friendly basis. With Dabney helping out with elements of Bushell’s Pizza Time Theater. Before gaining employment at Raytheon, Fujitsu, and Teledyne. Then opening up a successful grocery store with his Wife in the Sierras.

Friends, while I was never fortunate to meet Ted Dabney. He most certainly helped to create something I dearly cherish.


Thanks to his efforts along with Bushnell as well as Alcorn. I am lucky enough to work in an operating arcade today. His place in history and what he helped start… it affected not only my life but his work continues to impress and inspire kids today. I think however this quote from that oral history sums up Dabney the best:

I said, “No, no, no, no; I’d rather be your friend than your partner.”

[Via] Video Game Journalism

Last Starfighter Sequel - Matt Allsop - Gary Whitta

Are We Getting A Last Starfighter Sequel?

Did you hear that incredibly high pitched noise earlier today? That was probably me as I read the news we might be getting a Last Starfighter sequel. The news came from Gary Whitta’s official Twitter feed on the 4th. I heard the news however thanks to Den of Geek! yesterday morning. In fact I was working at the arcade and literally ran down the row of arcade cabinets, that were popular when the original film was released, all but shouted out that a Last Starfighter sequel was in the works!
Last Starfighter Sequel - 1984 poster

However, there was some confusion for a bit after Whitta shared some beautiful artwork by Matt Allsopp. Was this upcoming film going to be a sequel or a reboot? Thanks to an interview with io9, we know it is actually both:
“…but right now we have a fully developed story that is a combination of reboot and sequel that we both think honors the legacy of the original film while passing the torch to a new generation.”

Last Starfighter Sequel - Matt Allsopp - Gary Whitta

All concept art courtesy of Gary Whitta.

Of course if you are a fan of the 1984 film, you owe it to yourself to hop on over and read that interview on io9. Gary Whitta is co-writing the script for the Last Starfighter sequel with Jonathan Betuel. If that name happened to ring a bell it’s probably because Jonathan so happens to have been the screenwriter for the 1984 movie. As well as penning the script and directing My Science Project, then acting as producer and writer for Freddy’s Nightmares!

[Via] Night of the Trailers

That isn’t to say that Gary Whitta isn’t a recognizable name however. To name a few projects the screenwriter and author has had a hand in, The Book of Eli, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and 4 episodes of Star Wars: Rebels.

Beyond these amazing pieces of art by Matt Allsopp, we literally have nothing else to go on. Besides that interview of course, which is reassuring to read. It most certainly sounds like Whitta is truly a fan of the original movie. While the possibility of seeing the Last Starfighter sequel is probably years away. This type of news definitely puts a spring in your step, right?

While we are waiting for a Last Starfighter sequel, why not listen to the original soundtrack?


Craig Safan’s score for the original film is easily in my top ten soundtracks of all time.

[Via] Chris Knittle & Norsk Torsk

Diary-of-an-Arcade-Employee-Ep-028-Space Invaders

Diary Of An Arcade Employee Podcast 028 (Space Invaders)

Two Diary podcasts in one month, have I gone insane? Some of you listeners might think that is indeed the case but today sees the release of Ready Player One. Judging by the trailers it appears that the classic 1978 Space Invaders makes an appearance. Which is of course why I decided to release this latest Diary podcast today. Because what better way to spend your time in line for the new Spielberg film than listening to the history of Space Invaders?
Space Invaders - Ready Player One

In this show, I naturally give you info on the origins of Space Invaders. As well as what I hope is a fascinating look at the intent of it’s creator, Tomohiro Nishikado. In addition, this episode is a bit longer than the usual Diary podcast. The reason being of course that such a monumental and groundbreaking arcade title has a lot to discuss.

I do share my first encounter with the legendary game in my youth. Furthermore I share the shocking night we received the game at the arcade. I have also managed to find a few audible treats for your listening pleasure as well.
Space Invaders - Arkadia Retrocade

In all honesty, my friends. I probably could have gone an entire hour with this episode. Interviews with Nishikado in USA Today, merchandising, home ports, and the legacy of Space Invaders. The game simply helped to change the landscape for video games as much as the likes of Pong or Pac-Man. This episode, unlike any other I found myself having too much information on the game!
Space Invaders - Arcade Game

If you have any suggestions for future games to cover or comments on the show itself you may email them to me at VicSage@Retroist.com. You can also contact me on Twitter and of course on Facebook. You can also keep up to date on what is going down at the Arkadia Retrocade by making sure to “Like” their Facebook Page. If you need a daily fix you can check out the Official Diary of an Arcade Employee Facebook page too.

Subscribe to the Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes. (MP3)

Directly Download the Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast:
Episode Mirror #1 (MP3)
Episode Mirror #2 (OGG)

Now since Ready Player One motivated me to record this podcast covering Space Invaders. Why not watch the latest trailer?

[Via] Warner Bros. Pictures

Flicky - Christopher Tupa

Retro Arcade Art By CTupa: Flicky (1984)

For this week’s Retro Arcade Art project, Christopher Tupa, has chosen another favorite of mine. Sega’s Flicky, which was originally released to the arcades in 1984. However if I am being honest, I in fact didn’t know anything about the game until we managed to get the cabinet for the arcade. This was a couple of years back now and one thing is for sure. Flicky has one of the cutest cast of characters you have ever seen.

While Flicky was developed by Sega it was released in the states by Bally/Midway. The game is a side-scroller in addition to being a platformer. Think Super Mario Bros. or even 1980’s Space Panic. The goal of Flicky is heartwarming as it is simple. Players guide the titular hero around the stage to pick up her lost chicks, which are called PioPios or chirps.

Furthermore, the PioPios that the Player comes in contact with will trail behind their Mother in a row. The end goal being to get all those little chirps to the exit on the level.
Flicky - PioPio Chain

This is easier said than done of course, as you must also be wary of the cats on the prowl. If they manage to snag a PioPio as you are racing around the level, the chirp will be left behind. Not eaten I thankfully need to add, but you will have to attempt to pick the chick back up. Which can easily result in a loss of your life as the cats are trying to leap up and take Flicky out.

Our protagonist does indeed have a way to defend herself. That is thanks to the many items scattered about the stages. Telephones, coffee cups, flower pots as well as bottles. You pick up these items like you do with the PioPios. Just come in contact with them, however when you jump you will toss them in front of you. When an object hits a prowling cat they will be knocked end over end, hopefully buying Flicky enough time to reach the exit before the cat returns!
Flicky - Cat Knocked Over

Besides the constant menace of the cats. The Player will have to be careful of the green iguanas to boot. This threat can also be dispatched with a thrown object. It can become a bit much to say the least. Attempting to keep those chirps together so you get a better score while avoiding the enemies.
Flicky - Iguana

There are bonus rounds in the game, I think that are designed to show you how rotten the cats are. Flicky is given a net and must attempt to catch the chirps that have been catapulted into the air!
Flicky - Bonus Round

Enough of the basics of Flicky, ready to see the game in action?

[Via] Dangorou Nishida

As always with CTupa’s Retro Arcade Art project, you can purchase the artwork featured in this post. The originals are ink and watercolor and are 5″x7″ on 8.5″x11″ size paper. You can hop on over to Christopher’s Official Site to contact him as well as check out more artwork from his project!

I hope you won’t forget to check out CTupa’s previous entries in his Retro Arcade Art project as well!