Ted Dabney, a video game pioneer and one of the co-founders of Atari, has died after having just recently celebrated his 81st birthday. News of this death sent a ripple through social media after Dabney’s friend and video games historian Leonard Herman posted the unfortunate news update on Facebook. Apparently Dabney had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late 2017 and was given less than a year to live, according to Eurogamer.
Born in San Francisco, California in 1937, Dabney enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. out of high school where he studied electronics. He was later hired by Hewlett-Packard, then joined Ampex in 1961. It was at Ampex that Dabney met Nolan Bushnell and the two would leave the company to jointly start a company called Syzygy in 1971, named after an astronomy term. That name had already been incorporated, however, so they renamed it Atari.
At Atari, Dabney and Bushnell’s first product was Computer Space, a space combat arcade cabinet. Later on they would bring Allan Alcorn on board, who also worked at Ampex. Using the circuit board Dabney developed for Computer Space, Alcorn created Pong, one of the most popular video games of all time and the title that really set Atari on a pioneering path in video games. It was also the beginning of the end of Dabney’s time at Atari, as he would later leave the company and, as an employee, would help Bushnless start Pizza Time Theater, the predecessor to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Catalyst Technologies.
Having left Atari early on, for many years Dabney perhaps did not receive the same level of notoriety as Bushnell. However, his contributions to Atari and gaming in general are unmistakable. They were also featured in an interview in 2009 with Leonard Herman, who wrote Dabney in Edge magazine. In may ways, Atari set the foundation for video games that are so incredibly popular today, and Dabney was there from the beginning.
Top Image Credit: Computer History Museum