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!
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