Digital Time

Nolan Bushnell

The son of a cement contractor, Bushnell grew up near the Great Salt Lake, and was obsessed with Science Fiction.

He studied engineering, economics, business and philosophy, first at Utah State college, and then at the University of Utah. He graduated with an engineering degree in 1968, moved to California and worked in the computer graphics division at Ampex.

He left Ampex to work for a pinball machine company, which manufactured 1,500 of his own Computer Space arcade game, which failed to sell.

He and a friend each put US$250 in to create a company called Atari and produced the first commercial video arcade game. It involved bouncing a dot back and forth between two paddles on a black and white TV screen mounted in a wooden cabinet. It was a huge success, taking US$300 each week.

In 1976, Warner make a US$28 million investment in Atari.

In 1978 he left Atari, under the condition he couldn't compete with it for seven years.

He went on to build up the Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater chain, and by 1981 there were 278 of them. However, the company went bankrupt in 1983.

In 1981 Bushnell founded Catalyst Technologies, to finance independent companies with innovative ideas.

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Phil Gyford