Ted Dabney, video game pioneer and cofounder of Atari, has passed away.
Dabney was one of the people who was there at the beginning of video games, which have now become a $137.9 billion business worldwide, according to market researcher Newzoo.
Marty Goldberg, administrator for the Atari Museum on Facebook, wrote, “At a loss. I just got word that my friend, one of the nicest, sweetest down to earth guys I knew, Atari cofounder Ted Dabney has passed from his cancer. Thought he still had a bit more time. You always wish someone like him did.”
Dabney was 81. He was kind of a forgotten father of video games, as his cofounder Nolan Bushnell became far more famous for the creation of Atari and the commercial video game business in the 1970s.
He was born in San Francisco, California, in 1937 and studied electronics in the U.S. Marine Corps. He became an engineer and was hired at Hewlett-Packard. Dabney left to join Ampex in 1961, working on military products. At Ampex, he met Bushnell, and they left to start a company called Syzygy in 1971. Their first product was Computer Space, a space combat arcade machine based on Spacewar!.
The coin-operated machine sold more than 1,000 cabinets, and Bushnell and Dabney went on to incorporate Syzygy as Atari, which made history with the launch of Pong in 1972. Pong became a runaway hit and established Atari as a pioneering company in video games.
In a statement today, Bushnell said, “Ted was my partner, cofounder, fellow dreamer and friend. I’ll always cherish the time we spent together. RIP.”
Dabney went on to work with Bushnell on Pizza Time Theater (the predecessor of Chuck E. Cheese’s), Catalyst Technologies, Syzygy Game Company, and Teledyne. He eventually left the industry and managed a grocery store and then a deli.
Dabney had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late 2017 and was given a few months to live. He opted not to seek medical treatment and passed away on May 26.
Curt Vendel, founder of the Atari Museum, wrote in an email that Dabney moved his daughter out of a bedroom and built the workshop where he designed the spot motion circuitry which would evolve into Computer Space.