The video game industry just lost one of the most influential figures during gaming’s early days. Atari’s co-founder, Ted Dabney has died after he refused to undergo treatment for esophageal cancer. The news of Dabney’s death was revealed in a Facebook post by historian Leonard Herman, who wrote the Phoenix series of video game history books.
Dabney was notable for working with Nolan Bushnell and together, they founded and created the company Syzygy in 1971 and developed Computer Space, which became the first commercially launched arcade game. The experience of developing Computer Space became the first step to the founding of Atari, which released one of the most iconic games of all time, Pong in 1972. After the success of Pong, Atari was well-renowned for being a pioneer in the video game industry.
In 1973, management conflicts rose up with Bushnell, Dabney broke-up the duo and left Atari in 1973. In an oral history interview with the Computer History Museum back in 2012, Dabney revealed his side of the story on his departure from Atari. He explained that Bushnell practically pushed him out of the company:
“There’s stories that came around after that. But that was the end of me with it, with Atari. ‘Cause it was just—well, actually Nolan had told me that if I didn’t sell out, he would transfer all the assets to another corporation and leave me with nothing anyway. So, you know, might as well sell out.”
After his brief time at Atari, Dabney did a few computer engineering jobs at several companies including Raytheon and Teledyne before purchasing and running a grocery store together with his wife for years up until his death. Ted Dabney’s contributions to the early era of the gaming industry paved the way to the success of Atari, which helped mold gaming as we know today.