Ted Dabney, Video Games Creator & Atari Co-Founder, Passes Away at 81


Ted Dabney, one of the brains behind Atari and the famed Atari 2600 home console — the first commercial video game that kicked off the 1980s video games boom, has passed away at the age of 81. Dabney declined treatment for esophageal cancer.

The announcement of his death led to many tributes for the pioneer of arcade gaming from video game greats, like video games historian Leonard Herman, who wrote on Facebook that Dabney’s legacy will continue to live on for a long time!

In 1971, Ted Dabney masterminded Syzygy, Atari’s precursor. Then, along with Nolan Bushnell, he created Computer Space — the first arcade video game and the one that kick-started the gaming industry. In spite of raking in $3 million in sales, the game Computer Space was considered a failure. However, it did lay the foundation for the most significant games to come from the beginning of the industry.

In 1972, Dabney and Bushnell used their experience and cash from Computer Space to develop their next, more fruitful undertaking, Atari. Additionally, in the same year, the video circuit board of the company was used to produce the enormously successful Pong arcade game.

In 1975, Atari went on to release the Atari 2600, the first family console, launching the early 1980’s video game boom. The machine included a Pong variant as well as a host of hit games such as Pac Man, Pitfall, and Space Invaders. Later, Dabney fell out with Bushnell and left the company. He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in 2017, but refused treatment.

When the authors of the 2012 Atari Inc. book “Business is Fun,” heard of Dabney’s passing they posted on Facebook that they were at a loss and that their friend, Atari co-founder, was one of the sweetest, nicest and most down-to-earth guys they knew. They added that they thought he had some more time, but with someone like Dabney, one always wishes they did.

Patrick Scott Patterson, a video games historian, tweeted that he was crushed to hear that his friend had passed on. He described him as always humble and gracious and thanked him for everything!