ATARI COMPUTER -
|| Atari was
established in Sunnyvale, California, in 1972 by Nolan
Bushnell, an engineer who produced his first video arcade
game while tinkering with microcomputers at home. The game,
Computer Space, developed in 1971, was a commercial flop,
but Bushnell's 2nd arcade game, Pong, became an overwhelming
success. Atari sold 10,000 Pong units in 1973 and 150,000
home versions in 1975.
Atari's success lured others into the industry, including
Magnavox, Bally, Coleco, and RCA. With the added competition,
prices dropped and the demand for new games increased. By 1976
the enthusiasm for home video games had waned, and Atari was in
need of an infusion of capital. That year Bushnell sold Atari to
Warner Communications for $28 million, of which Bushnell
received $15 million. Bushnell left Atari 2 years later and went
on to start Chuck E. Cheese pizza parlours, among other things.
In 1979 Atari's sales picked up because of the popularity of its
Video Computer System (introduced in 1977), a cartridge-loaded
colour graphics console that sold for $200, and the success of
its newer, more advanced video arcade games (Asteroids and
Missile Command). In 1980 Atari's revenue of $415 million
represented 1/3 of Warner's sales.
introduced its first line of personal computers in 1980. Initial
sales were disappointing, however, and the company lost $10
million on computers in its first year.
By 1982 interest in video games had diminished. In 1983 Atari's
competitors began dropping out of the market, and Atari lost
In 1984 Warner
sold Atari to Jack Tramiel, former CEO of Commodore, Atari's
prime competitor in home computers.
Tramiel had Atari in the black in 1986, with net income of $25
million on revenues of $258 million. Contributing to the
turnaround were Atari's successive introductions of low-cost
In 1988 Atari lost $84.8 million largely because of the
discontinuation of certain operations of its electronics retail
chain, Federated Group (acquired by Atari in 1987). Atari placed
Federated up for sale in 1989, and in 1990 the company sold 26
of its California stores to Silo and closed the rest.
In 1992 a US district court threw out Atari's $160 million
lawsuit charging Nintendo with illegally monopolizing the video
game market in the late 1980s.
Plummeting sales in the 1990s forced Atari to bite the bullet
and restructure its operations, drastically cutting staff and
downsizing its international operations. Atari invested heavily
in the development of a multimedia game system that would allow
Atari to get ahead of its rivals. In 1993 the company launched
the Jaguar as the only 64-bit interactive media entertainment
system available, and Atari sold around 200,000 units (at $250
each) in its first year on the market.
In 1994 Atari agreed to make its library of game patents
available to Sega in return for Sega's investment of $90 million
in the company. That year Atari teamed up with Virtuality Group
of the UK to create virtual reality games for the consumer
market. Earnings plummeted in 1995 as Atari cut prices on its
Jaguar multimedia interactive entertainment system in an effort
to boost sales.
In 1996, the company announced that it was starting a new
business called Atari Interactive to make and distribute games
for personal computers. The video-game pioneer intended to draw
heavily on its library of 1980s-vintage video games, such as
Asteroids and Pac Man; remaking them with 3-dimensional graphics
and stereo sound to capitalize on the latest generation of
high-powered PCs. The company merged with JTS Corporation that
Hasbro Interactive purchased Atari and Hasbro itself was later aquired by Infogrames (Which used to be GT Interactive). Infrogrames used the Atari brand before changing their company name to Atari in 2003.
As you can see there is a lot of history in this company that pioneered home computing and video games. Today Atari lives on and is publishing some pretty impressive software for a whole new generation of gaming enthusiasts...