The Life of Atari Founder Nolan Kay Bushnell

On this day, February 5 in the year 1943, one of the most prolific technopreneurs was born in Utah, USA. His name is Nolan Kay Bushnell, the founder of Atari, the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre chain and many other startups.

Nolan Kay Bushnell
Nolan Kay Bushnell (Credit: Facebook Page)

Nolan was the son of a cement contractor. As a teenager, he worked in an amusement park and was fascinated with arcade games. He attended the University of Utah and graduated in 1968 with a degree in engineering. After graduation, he started creating computer games and together with Ted Dabney, he founded Syzygy to produce a space war clone in 1969. At the same time, he invented “Computer Space” which is considered as the first video game. This game developed into the now-famous Pong, a very simple black and white form of computer tennis.

In 1972, the company was renamed Atari. Due to lack of capital however, Nolan decided to sell Atari to Time Warner for $28 million. By the early 1980s, the company was doing a $1.2 billion business.

In 1977, Nolan purchased Pizza Time Theatre, a chain of restaurants with video games and animatronic animals that played music. In 1981, he formed Catalyst Technologies Venture Capital Group, a pioneering incubator that spawned around 20 startups, among them Androbot (personal entertainer by a robot), Etak (digital map), Cumma (reprogrammable video game cartridges) and Brainrush (educational software). Since then, he was invited to become director or as member of advisory boards of several companies including MGT Capital of John McAfee.

Nolan married twice and has eight children. For all his entrepreneurial adventures, he has been named of the “50 Men Who Changed America” by Newsweek.


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