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Ted Dabney, video gaming pioneer, dies at 80

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Co-founded Atari and developed Computer Space

Ted Dabney in the early 1970s
via Catherine DiSpira/Twitter

Ted Dabney, who founded Atari with Nolan Bushnell in 1972 and developed the first commercially available arcade game, has died. He was 80.

News of Dabney’s death spread on Facebook and other social media following a post from the video games historian Leonard Herman.

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!

Posted by Leonard Herman on Saturday, May 26, 2018

Eurogamer reported that the cause was esophageal cancer, which Dabney had been diagnosed with recently and chose not to treat.

Dabney and Bushnell had partnered in 1971 at a firm called Syzygy Engineering, where they designed and launched Computer Space. Though Pong is often thought to be the first commercially available video game, Computer Space preceded its launch by a year. The game was a variant on Spacewar!, the landmark video game developed in 1962 on a PDP-1 computer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In Sunnyvale, California in 1972, Dabney and Bushnell incorporated Atari . The circuit board Dabney developed for Computer Space was then used in the creation of Pong (developed by Allan Alcorn and then launched in November 1972).

Samuel F. “Ted” Dabney was born May 15, 1937 in San Francisco. After graduating high school he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he took courses on electronics, giving his his training and interest in computer development. Dabney left Atari in the 1970s after a falling out with Bushnell. Much of Dabney’s story was recounted in a 2009 article in Edge magazine by Herman.

Those who wrote and published the 2012 book Atari Inc.: Business is Fun noted Dabney’s passing on Facebook with this post.

We’re at a loss. We just got word that our friend, one of the nicest, sweetest down to earth guys we knew, Atari...

Posted by Atari Inc. - Business Is Fun on Saturday, May 26, 2018