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Atari co-founder Ted Dabney dead – video games pioneer and Pong co-creator passes away aged 81

ATARI co-founder Ted Dabney, who made the first commercially available video game, has passed away at the age of 81 after foregoing treatment for esophageal cancer.

Tributes are pouring in for the arcade gaming pioneer following the announcement of his death by video games historian Leonard Herman on Facebook.

 Ted Dabney, far left, with the Pong arcade machine

COMPUTER HISTORY MUSEUM
Ted Dabney, far left, with the Pong arcade machine

Dabney built Atari’s predecessor Syzygy in 1971 and produced Computer Space – the first arcade video game and the title responsible for kick-starting the gaming industry – with collaborator Nolan Bushnell.

Despite racking up $3million in sales, Computer Space was deemed a failure, but it also laid the groundwork for the most influential video games from the dawn of the medium.

Dabney and Bushnell would use the money and experience from the title to form their second, more successful, venture Arari in 1972.

The company’s video circuit board was also used to create the massively successful arcade game Pong that same year.

We’re at a loss. We just got word that our friend, one of the nicest, sweetest down to earth guys we knew, Atari co-founder Ted Dabney has passed from his cancer. Thought he still had a bit more time. You always wish someone like him did.

In 1975, Atari released its first home console, the Atari 2600, kicking off the video game boom of the early ’80s.

Along with a cartridge version of Pong, the machine included a bevy of hit titles like Space Invaders, Pac Man and Pitfall.

Dabney later left the company after a falling out with Bushnell. In 2017, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer but chose not to treat it.

“We’re at a loss. We just got word that our friend, one of the nicest, sweetest down to earth guys we knew, Atari co-founder Ted Dabney has passed from his cancer,” said the authors of the 2012 book Atari Inc.: Business is Fun in a Facebook post.

They added: “Thought he still had a bit more time. You always wish someone like him did.”

“Crushed to learn of the passing of my friend and Atari co-founder Ted Dabney. Always so gracious and humble. Thank you for everything, Ted,” tweeted video game historian Patrick Scott Patterson.

 


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