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Biography

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Overview (1)

Date of Birth 5 February 1943Clearfield, Utah, USA

Mini Bio (1)

Bushnell received a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Utah and later went to Stanford U as a graduate student. While at Utah, Bushnell was introduced to the world of computers. Back then, computers were big, bulky mainframes, and the only people who had access to them were computer students. One of his favorite games was a game called "Space War", a game where two simplistic spaceships fly around the screen while they have to conquer the gravity of the sun and the inertia of their ships.

In 1970, Bushness decided to make such "video games" accessible to the general public, so he formed a game company and worked on his first game. The company was originally called Syzygy, but when Bushnell went to register the name, he found out it was already taken, so he had to find another name. Bushnell was an avid player of the ancient Japanese game "Go", and decided to name the company "Atari", which is also a term in "Go" which is the equivalent of the term "Check" in chess. Bushnell's first game was "Computer Space", which was a part of the Space War game he played in college. Players found the 1971 game too confusing and too frustrating, and the game never became a hit. Bushnell suddenly realized that popular games had to be "easy to learn, but difficult to master". So Bushnell and a partner went to work on a new game: Pong.

After Pong was completed in 1972, Bushnell put a Pong machine in a bar called Andy Capp's for a trial run. Later that night, the owner of the bar called Bushnell told him to come get the machine because it was broke. When Bushnell got there, he opened the coin box and found out that there were so many quarters put in the machine that they shorted out the machine. Bushnell knew he had a hit. However, Magnavox, who released a Pong-type game in 1970 as the Odyssey 1 video game system, sued Atari because Pong was too similar to their ping-pong game on the Odyssey. Atari and Magnavox reached a settlement, with Magnavox receiving part of Atari's profits until 1976.

Bushnell got Sears to sell a home version of Pong in their stores, and it was the hottest item in the 1975 Christmas season. However, Pong soon grew tiresome, and Bushnell realized that he needed to make a machine that could play any type of game.

The Atari 2600 VCS was originally scheduled for a 1976 release, but Atari waited until 1977 because if the 2600 had been released in 1976, Magnavox would earn part of the profits from sales of the system. Also in 1976, Bushnell sold Atari to Warner Communications and remained president of Atari. The 2600 was released in 1977 along with about 10 game cartridges. Back then they thought the 2600 would have a lifespan of about 3 years, but the 2600 actually lived almost 15 years when Atari Corp. (owned by Jack Tramiel, former owner of Commodore Business Machines) discontinued the 2600 (along with its big-brother, the 7800) in 1992.

In 1978, Warner bigwigs made several changes to Atari, including mandatory dress codes and punch clocks. Gone was the old laid-back Atari...in was the corporate-run Atari. Bushnell didn't like the changes, and he didn't like the fact that Warner wanted Atari to enter the home computer market...Bushnell thought the computer research should be applied to the successor to the 2600. Finally in 1979, Bushnell left Atari...it's been rumored that he got himself fired.

After Bushnell left Atari, he started Chuck E. Cheese's Showtime Pizza, a pizza place for the whole family with robots and fun games. It started off good, but it almost quickly went downhill and Bushnell had to fold the company.

Bushnell has done many things since then. He created a new game company called Axlon, which produced software for the aging 2600 system in the late 1980s...one of the best games Axlon made for the 2600 is "Space Quest".

The 1990s, however, were not very kind to Bushnell. He had to declare bankruptcy and his possessions were seized by the bank. However, in 1999, Bushnell got back on his feet and started a daring gaming venture called uwink.com, which combines arcade games and the internet.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Trivia (1)

currently owns uwink.com [May 2002]

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