29/01/2016

☆ The A To Z Of Atari - N is For ☆ #Retrogaming #GamersUnite

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N is for.............

NOLAN (BUSHNELL)

When I was a lad at the tender age of 8 years old playing my Atari 800 XEGS I didn't have a clue who Nolan Bushnell was and how much of a part he played in creating the Atari machine that sat before me with a copy of Spy Vs Spy 2 inserted into its separate tape deck (which was actually being played on a black & white TV, now that's what you call a hardcore gamer!)

It's actually only over the last 4 or 5 years that I have come to realise just how significant Nolan and his team of enthusiastic programmers / engineers were in the creation of the video games industry that we know today. 

It's been through the various documentaries that I have watched that has enabled me to grasp the admiration that people have for this man. His creativity coupled with the knack of employing the right people around him created an atmosphere at Atari in the early 80's which led to the solid foundations of the video games industry being built up.

Yes the video games industry crashed in the early 80's but it needed to go through that process to make it stronger and also to enable the industry as a whole to learn from its mistakes. That process needs to be completed ad infinitum for any creative industry to succeed.

Nolan got there first and he was the trail blazer that enabled many more video games companies and tech start-ups to flourish over the years.

Nolan is first and foremost an entrepreneur. Maybe you could describe him as a serial entrepreneur. His voice exudes calm but you can see that under the hood his brain is working at 100's of times faster than the average person as he calculates his next move and his next foray into the business world. 

Nolan was originally a TV engineer who then took a job in an Amusement Arcade to fund an engineering degree. This perfect mix of ingredients was the catalyst for Nolan's creation of Atari.

A Legend Is Born
Nolan was a visionary in the world of video games and could see the appeal to a mass audience for the arcade machines to come into the home and hook themselves up to the TV which was in almost every household by the late 70's / early 80's. 

Nolan was assisted in this vision by a strong team of young minds which included the less spoken of Ted Dabney. Ted co founded the first video games company that Nolan was involved with called Syzygy. While at Syzygy they worked on a SpaceWar clone called Computer Space. 

Computer Space was supposedly seen as a commercial failure even though its sales exceeded $3 million! It was felt the game had not been marketed well by manufacturers Nutting and Bushnell decided at that point his next game would need to be licensed to a bigger manufacturer in order to resolve the marketing issues.

Atari was born in 1972 after Bushnell and Dabney went out on their own. They hired their first employee in the guise of Al Alcorn who was an engineer. Al Alcorn went on to design Pong for Bushnell and that really set Atari on its way. 

In 1976 Atari was ready to launch the Atari 2600 but needed investment to fund it. This was the beginning of the end for Nolan at Atari as he allowed Warner Communications to purchase Atari for $28 million. But it did mean that the Atari 2600 was launched in 1977.

In 1978 Bushnell was forced out of Atari when he disagreed with Warner on the direction that Atari was taking.

Did You Know?
"Atari is a reference to a check-like position in the game Go which Nolan has called his favourite game of all time"

In his time at Atari, Nolan had set the wheels in motion for the video games industry to take its natural course. Since this time people inside and outside of the video games industry have realised the value of Nolan's contribution to video games and back in 2009 Nolan was honored at the British Academy Video Games Awards with an Academy Fellowship (BAFTA) in recognition of his outstanding achievement as a founding father of the video games industry. 

Nolan has also been inducted into the Video Game Hall Of Fame alongside greats such as Shigeru Myamoto, Sid Meier and John Carmack.

It's hard to measure exactly how much Nolan Bushnell has shaped the way we view video games today but one thing still remains........

Something that is referred to as Bushnell's Law:

"easy to learn and difficult to master"

Something that all people in video games should pay attention to and use as a mantra,

Nolan, Games Freezer Salutes YOU