The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

Page 140 << PREVIOUS >> NEXT Jump to page:
Go to contents Go to thumbnails

Nolan Bushnell- Father of PONG (biography, Atari, Atarian philosophy)

graphic of page


Information Exchange

A little while ago, I was wondering how PILOT 73 was getting along. As I asked
my friends what's up, I noticed that...Lots of folk are using PILOT, but there's
nobody who knows much about who's doing what with which machine, et cetera.

A typical situation is: There's an experienced FORTRAN programmer who is eager
to develop a PILOT interpreter in ANSII FORTRAN IV. However, he doesn't know of
anyone who wants such a system. As I was looking through another friend's
correspondence, I discovered several requests for a PILOT written in FORTRAN.

As a dedicated PILOT - person, (having written several versions from time to
time) I came up with a neat idea...



Rather than waiting for somebody else to do this, I undertake this task (as fate
allows me to have the requisite time). Now to flesh out the idea:


At the moment, there are lists of names with cryptic notes piled upon my desk.
These are persons interested in PILOT in some way. However, there's very little
knowledge beyond the names. Spend a few minutes, answer the questions below, and
send to me. If you do this, you become a member of the Exchange.


1) Summary Sheet I will assemble a catalog of PILOT people and send it to you. A
short summary of each person or group's interests will be included under general
areas of interest (ie, all B5500 users). From time to time, updated catalogs
will be sent out. This is free until costs become excessive.

2) Connections Send me your need or request and I shall pass it on to those with
the resource you need. Both you and they will get a card indicating your area of
mutual interest.

3) Resource Center I shall maintain a library of PILOT resources, including
listings of PILOT programs, PILOT interpreters, translators, and other
implementations, manuals, technical tricks, and so forth. An index of the
library will be attached to the Summary Sheet. Help the library grow by
contributing a copy of your aspect of PILOT. If a particular item in the Library
is of interest to you, I will make copies for you at cost.

Remember, the more I know, the better the service is for you.

Gregory Yob
PO Box 310
Menlo Park, Calif. 94025





1) Do you have a working version of PILOT?

2) If yes, on which machine(s)?

2.1) Host language?

2.2) Core Memory required?

2.3) Configuration of Peripherals?

2.4) How well is it debugged?

2.5) Did you write it yourself?

2.6) Compiler/Interpreter/Translator?

2.7) Performance/response time?

2.8) Do you have a user's Manual? (Send a copy)

2.9) Do you have a listing and paper tape? (Send a copy)

3) If you are writing PILOT programs, are there some available for others? (send
copies please)

4) Are you looking for a version of PILOT? (If yes, 2.1 - 2.9 above)

5) Please state your needs and interests:

6) Names and addresses of other persons you feel may be interested in the


Nolan Bushnell - Father of PONG

by Trish Todd

You spot a large metal machine in the corner; it has two knobs, a coin slot, and
a television screen which shows a dot of light lazily bouncing off the sides of
the screen at irregular angles. Immediately, you are curious and begin to read
the instructions to Pong, one of the computerized games from Atari, Inc.

The company was started two years ago by Nolan Bushnell, who was managing an
amusement park to finance an electrical engineering major. He built the first
game prototype, Computer Space, in his garage, and then he met "Moose," who
built games from other designs of Bushnell's for a percentage. The first was
Pong; it was tested in a bar called Andy Capp's - and in 24 hours you couldn't
get near it. The "company" then expanded to include twelve other people who
worked together and produced ten Pongs a day. Each Pong brings in about $200 a

The "company" has now developed into Atari, Inc., worth over $20,000,000.
Located in Los Gatos, California,
Atari manufactures Pong, Gotcha, Rebound, Space Race, Super Pong, Pong Doubles,
Ouadrapong, and Grantrak 10. Bushnell now owns Atari, and Moose is
vice-president of research and development; both are confronted with lawyers,
patents, security, and labor problems which they never foresaw in Bushnell's

As Atari has grown, Nolan has tried to retain the "Atarian philosophy," which is
based on dignity, trust,
freedom, and loyalty. This philosophy is intended to produce a comfortable
working environment; for example,
labor and management share the same medical-insurance program (which also covers
unwed pregnancies). The company tries to promote an informal atmosphere, both on
the assembly line and between labor and management. Both men and women work on
the assembly line, where judging from the hair and attire, sex is hard to
distinguish. There are both men and women administrators too. Nolan's management
philosophy is occasionally revealed in the form of a surprise party for all the
employees - and he buys the liquor!

However, the "Atarian philosophy" has also had to cope with several problems.
Workers have been uneasy about the absence of a union; the assembly line is a
hazardous place, and an exploding television screen can permanently ruin a limb.
Workers have complained of low wages. Atari has also had to hire security guards
to protect itself from theft by employees who have used the philosophy to their

Atari's success is a result of its product's popularity. Their "computer" games
are found in bars, lounges, hotel lobbies, banks, and country clubs; in Hawaii,
Pongs may be found on the sidewalks chained to parking meters. Its popularity
lies in its sophistication; like tennis, it involves coordination and brain
power, and the more one practices, the less is left to chance. These games
addict their players because the final result is either frustration or reward.
The games also easily lend themselves to socialization through light-hearted
competition or, as in Pong Doubles, through teamwork. Atari has gone one step
beyond novelty and developed a true participatory sport.

As the blip lazily glides into your goal and your opponent scores again, it is
hard to realize that the game is based on the algorithms that are built into a
computer's circuitry system. So quarter after quarter is deposited in the slot,
Atari's profits zoom upward, and the computer becomes increasingly important in
America's leisure time.

Page 140 << PREVIOUS >> NEXT Jump to page:
Go to contents Go to thumbnails