Now you know! Some FunFacts about the Nolan Bushnell, inventor, gamer, and cheese-lover.
This week marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of Atari. (Yep: "Pong" is officially approaching middle age.) Should you choose to celebrate the occasion by reading up on the company and its joysticktastic products, I highly recommend a trip to the Internet's Atari Museum. Which is just as nerdy -- and as awesome -- as it sounds.
I'd also recommend, however, a trip to another Internet archive: the Wikipedia page of Atari's founder, Nolan Bushnell.
I am 20 percent kidding here, but 80 percent entirely serious: The page is a treasure trove of tech-geek inspiration, as told through the biography of a pipe-smoking, game-playing entrepreneur. Bushnell's life and his many creations are a reminder of the passion -- and the playfulness -- that often accompany the biggest technological innovations.
Some FunFacts about Bushnell:
- Bushnell and his Atari co-founder, Ted Dabney, wanted to name the company "Syzygy"; they couldn't do so, however, because that name was in use by a candle company(!), a roofing company(!!), and a Mendocino hippie commune(!!!).
- Atari is named for a check-like position in the board game "Go."
- A distribution agreement with Sears first help the home version of Atari's "Pong" gain popularity in the '70s.
- Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak -- both of whom had previously been involved in the development of the Atari arcade game Breakout -- created the first Macintosh using parts borrowed from Atari.
- Wozniak and Jobs offered the Macintosh design to Bushnell, but Bushnell declined it, deciding to focus on arcade and console games.
- Atari was one of the first companies to institute the jeans-wearing, beer-drinking culture that is the norm in Silicon Valley today. Bushnell inspired Jobs and Wozniak to instill a similar culture at Apple.
- Bushnell once purchased a mansion formerly owned by coffee magnate James Folger.
- Bushnell and his wife Nancy have eight children.
- Leonardo diCaprio is set to play Bushnell in a movie.
A less fun FunFact about Bushnell:
- He spent 15 years in a legal battle with Merrill Lynch that ended up, for that long stretch, crippling his career. The battle resulted in the loss of the Bushnells' homes, many of their friends, and their private assets.
The best Bushnell FunFact, though, for my money? Nolan Bushnell, inventor and engineer and entrepreneur ... is also the founder of Chuck E. Cheese. The full name of which is Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza-Time Theaters. Bushnell, at his core, loves games; he'd long been an admirer of what Walt Disney had done with its theme parks and other properties. Bushnell, basically, wanted to combine games with pizza. He wanted to take the infrastructure of the arcade -- games, everywhere! -- and apply it to the family experience. (See, above: eight children.) So Bushnell invented a restaurant that would do just that. And: boom! Genius. Money-making, cheesy, animatronic genius.
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