Atari Co-Founder Ted Dabney Passes Away


With everything happening in the game industry today, it’s easy to forget where it originally got its start -- with Atari at the helm. This weekend, one of the founding fathers of the company passed away.

Video game historian Leonard Herman confirmed yesterday that Ted Dabney, who worked with Nolan Bushnell to bring the company to life several years ago, passed away at the age of 81.

“I just learned that my good friend, Ted Dabney, the co-founder of Atari, passed away at the age of 81. RIP dear friend. Your legacy will live on a long time!” Herman noted.

Dabney helped shape the video gaming landscape in the 70’s, bringing his engineering work to the table with the creation of the video game Computer Space, an advanced version of the Spacewar prototype that had come out before. The game was a huge hit for players, allowing Atari to thrive for years to come on later releases including Pong and Asteroids, among others.

Bushnell noted that Dabney was the driving success behind Computer Space. In an excerpt from Replay: The History of Video Games by Tristan Donovan, he said, “We were good friends and Ted had a lot of analogue computer skills I didn’t have. I was a digital guy. I knew how to deal with bits and bytes and logic and things like that and Ted really understood a lot more about how to interface with a consumer television set and power supplies and things like that.”

Atari Incorporated was born after the creation of Computer Space, but Dabney left a year after its start, noting that it was “because he disliked running a large business.”

Atari Computer History Museum
(Photo: Computer History Museum)

There actually started to be bitterness between the two. While speaking with Computer History Museum back in 2012, Dabney noted, “There’s stories that came around after that. But that was the end of me with it, with Atari. ‘Cause it was just -- well, actually Nolan had told me that if I didn’t sell out he would transfer all the assets to another corporation and leave me with nothing anyway. So, you know, might as well sell out.”

But the two continued working together anyway, with Dabney helping Bushnell with his Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater empire years later.


Dabney and Bushnell had promised to compromise and meet up sometime this summer before this happened. We are saddened by his loss and our thoughts are with his family and friends. He was 81.

(Hat tip to Kotaku for the details!)