R.I.P. Ted Dabney (Atari)

Discussion in 'Gaming Pioneers: Tributes' started by retro, Jun 3, 2018.

  1. retro

    retro Resigned from mod duty 15 March 2018

    Mar 13, 2004
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    The electrical engineer and co-founder of Atari, Samuel "Ted" Dabney Jr., has died aged 81 following complications of oesophageal cancer.

    After being unable to fund his accepted place as SFSU, Dabney worked for Bank of America, keeping their ERMA systems operational. He left after a year, taking a job at Ampex in their military products division, working primarily on early video systems. Almost a decade later, Nolan Bushnell joined Ampex. Bushnell had a vision of a pizza joint with game, and the pair of them came up with the idea of replacing a computer in a gaming machine with simpler circuitry and a coin mechanism. They left Ampex to form Syzygy Engineering, where Ted developed a video circuit based on a television set, which was much cheaper than computers at the time. Their first product was Computer Space.

    Whilst Computer Space wasn't a huge success, they persevered, using it to persuade Al Alcorn to leave Ampex and join their company, which had been renamed Atari, Inc. when they discovered there was already a company called Syzygy. Alcorn used Dabney's circuit to produce Pong. When the game became a huge success, Nolan patented the video circuit without discussing it with Ted. When he found out, he left the company, selling his share to Nolan for $250,000.

    However, Dabney set up Syzygy Game Company helped Bushnell and Alcorn develop Nolan's pizzeria idea into Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre, producing several games for them. He also assisted with the setup of Catalyst Technologies Venture Capital Group, one of the first tech incubators, under which the first successful car navigation system, Etak Navigator, was developed. Unfortunately, when Pizza Time Theatre collapsed after the video game crash of 1983, Bushnell didn't pay Dabney what he was owed, Syzygy folded and they fell out once again. He worked at Teledyne for a decade before leaving the electronics industry.


    RIP Ted. Without you, this site may never have existed, we wouldn't have had any of the marvellous Atari games and I probably wouldn't have my job. We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

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