In the the game of go, Atari means a unit has only one liberty. It is considered respectful to announce to your opponent when you place one of their units in atari.

In Japanese, atari can also mean 'hit', with a meaning much like 'bingo!'. It's the more common usage of the word.

Atari was founded on June 27, 1972. Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, also started the "Chuck E. Cheese" line of "pizza theaters". Mr. Bushnell's original name for his new company was "Syzygy", but he renamed it Atari because there was another company already named Syzygy.

For a time Atari also put out games under the name "Kee Games" (such as their 1974 arcade game Tank). Kee was named after Joe Keenan, Bushnell's longtime partner. Their strategy at the time was to put out identical games in order to create more business for Atari. For instance, in 1974 Kee Games released Spike and Atari released Rebound — both volleyball games and both released only a month apart.


  • According to, syzygy is: "The nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system."
  • Tank was the first videogame to use ROM chips to store graphic data; this allowed the on-screen characters to be more detailed.
  • Other Kee games include: Elimination (1973), Formula K (1974), Tank II (1974), Twin Racer (1974), Crossfire (1975), , the up-to-eight-player Indy 800 (1975), Tank III (1975), Quiz Show (1976), the two-player Sprint 2 (1976), Tank 8 (1976), Super Bug (1977), Sprint 1 (1978), Ultra Tank (1978), and Drag Race (1979).
  • In 2000, when the U.S. Postal Service came out with their 1980 line of "Celebrate the Century" stamps Ð fifteen stamps depicting what the public thought most represented the '80s Ð "video games" was chosen as one of the two "Lifestyle" issues (the other being Cabbage Patch Kids). The video game stamp portrays a boy and a girl lying in front of a television playing Atari's Defender on the Atari 2600.
    (you can see a picture of the video game stamp at

Atari began its life on June 27, 1972. Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney named the company Atari because their first choice "Syzygy" was aldeady taken. They dabbled with some early arcade games, (the kind without processors). But they hit gold in 1975 with Home Pong. Sears funded Home Pong in exchange for exclusive rights. It was wildly successful selling over 150,000 units. (As a side note... I stupidly sold my Home Pong for 8 dollars in 1985, bad move on my part).

In 1976 Nolan Bushnell hires future Macintosh man Steve Jobs to create Breakout. Jobs of course has his pal Steve Wozniak help him out, (but he screwed him over pretty good). Steve Jobs got $5000 for creating Breakout, (he payed Wozniak a pitiful $350 bucks), on top of that he took full credit for the game. It is worth mentioning that it only took "The Twin Quasars of Apple" 5 days from start to finish to make the first Breakout machine.

In 1976 Nolan Bushnell sells Atari to Warner Communications for $28 million. This was so he would have the funding needed to continue work on Stella, (which would eventually become the Atari 2600). They release Stella's first incarnation, (as the Atari VCS), in October of 1977, with an initial price of $200. Nine games were available at system launch.

By 1978 Nolan Bushnell had grown tired of Atari and arranged to get himself fired. Ray Kassar takes over as CEO and has Atari begin work on the Atari 400/800 computer systems. By 1980 Atari had hit it's peak with an income of $415 million, Unfortunately it was all downhill from there.

Atari launches the Atari 5200, Atari 600XL, and Atari 800XL all of which are dismal failures. They delay the launch of the Atari 7800, even though it is already fully developed at this point. Atari is losing money fast now. They post losses of $536 million in 1983.

In 1984 Jack Tramiel bought out 51 percent of Atari's stock and took control of the company, (and proceded to run it into the ground). He refused Nintendo's offer to sell the NES under the Atari nameplate. He made that huge mistake because he seriously thought he could remake Atari as a computer company. (Atari's computer sales were seriously in the toilet at this point, and they never did recover).

Over the next 10 years Atari releases the Atari 7800, Atari Lynx, and the Atari Jaguar. All 3 of which are powerful units. But all 3 are a little late on the scene for their generation, (they even make an attempt to relaunch the Atari 2600). But Atari ends up losing out to Nintendo everytime, (causing Atari to sue Nintendo several times). On a happier note, Atari Games the arcade divison was somewhat successful in this time period, making games such as S.T.U.N. Runner and Hard Drivin'.

Now the Atari name is passed around from company to company. Currently Hasbro and Infogrames both have some rights to the name.

More Atari Information

Atari ST
Atari 400/800
Atari Falcon
Atari XE
Atari 2600
Atari 5200
Atari 7800
Atari Lynx
Atari Jaguar
Atari Games
Atari Rarity Guide
Atari 2600 Game Programmers
Atari 5200 Game Programmers
Atari 7800 Game Programmers
An example of Atari 2600 source code
For a short while, Atari tried to follow in Apple Computer's lead and make PCs.

Their first attempt in 1985, a year after the Macintosh, was a 16-bit Motorola 68000-based 520ST, internally dubbed the "Jackintosh." I don't think it sold too well, regardless of how well it performed. Public image was pretty bad. No business wanted to buy some "toy" PC from a "Game" company. Sales just never got up. They were pretty good for graphics I hear.

In 1986, Atari re-evaluated their strategy and the popularity of video games, in the wake of Nintendo and the NES (outselling Atari 10 to 1) and decides to release the 7800 game console.

In 1987 Nintendo's hold on the market grew, crowding out Sega and Atari. Atari released games for the 2600, which were all but ignored by the press, and released ports for the 7800--Namco's Galaga and Dig Dug, Robotron: 2084 and Joust, Electronic Arts' 1983 basketball game One-on-One Basketball, and Atari's own Asteroids and Centipede--that everyone had seen before. Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda on a cartridge in the United States, and cleaned up.

Later in the year, Atari decided that the PC world would never really welcome them, and instead repackaged their computer as a game console, the XE Game system, (XEGS). It used cartridges compatible with their older 8-bit computer line and included two games (Barnyard Blaster and Flight Simulator II), and a light gun and detachable keyboard. Sales were dismal.

In 1988, Atari established Tengen, a subsidiary that produced games for home consoles. Tengen began as a licensed third-party developer of NES-compatible games. This role ends when Atari Games took Nintendo to court, claiming that Nintendo had an illegal monopoly on the video game industry, achieved through illegal practices, such as fixing prices and using computer-chip lockout technology to prohibit unlicensed development of NES software.

You couldn't sell a NES cartridge unless Nintendo gave you permission, by licensing development and building in a lockout chip which wouldn't run the cartridge without the software key on the cartridge. Shortly after the initial lawsuit, Tengen somehow reverse-engineered the "lockout" and announced that they would manufacture games without Nintendo's consent. There wouldn't be a Nintendo Seal of Approval, but it would work...

One more unlucky move, in 1989 Tengen acquired the home rights to Tetris and began selling the extremely popular game. However, Tengen bought the rights from Mirrorsoft, which did not own the rights in the first place. While Tengen wrangled over this, Nintendo quietly acquired the legitimate home rights to Tetris and released it under its own label. The Tengen version is removed from the marketplace. Darn! Foiled!

Atari purchases the rights to a color console called the Handy Game and releases it as the Lynx ($149US), to compete with the runaway bestseller Game Boy. After publishing a handful of great Epyx games, Atari begins to develop a number of ports from the older Atari arcade games. More expensive than the Game Boy, the Lynx suffered from a lack of third-party support and was plagued by constant rumors that Atari would stop supporting the system.

In 1993 Atari tries to leapfrog past the 32-bit consoles of the time and introduces the Atari Jaguar system. It was the first 64-bit system bus. They stressed that it was made in the US, unlike some other consoles. I don't think it sold well because there just wasn't a lot of third party support behind them anymore. Most developers went for the bigger platform, like Nintendo or Sega. I don't know what prices and fees Atari charged, but it failed to get a huge following.

Plus, in 1994 Sony introduced the Playstation, which knocked the rest of the consoles off their feet. Poor Atari wasn't healthy already, and just couldn't stand up the same way Nintendo did.

Most information taken from The History of Video Games at

A brief history of Atari computers.<\p>

Atari entered the home-computer wars in 1979 with the release of the Atari 400 and 800 computers. Powered by the same 6502 processor as the Apple II series and the yet-to-be-released Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64 computers, these 8-bit Atari machines distinguished themselves with unique video and audio hardware and an advanced serial peripheral bus.

This line of machines would later be continued with the XL and XE series of computers, including the 1200, 600, and 800 XL, and the 65 and 130 XE.

Atari later folded this technology into their game systems, first with the Atari 5200 in 1982, and then again in 1987 as the Atari XE game system as a response to Nintendo's NES.

In 1984, Warner Communications sold the consumer products division of Atari to former Commodore owner Jack Tramiel, retaining the arcade division. The arcade division would later sell console versions of its games under the Tengen label.

In 1985, Atari released it's first 16-bit Atari ST series computer, the 520 and 1040 ST. Based on the same Motorola 68000 processor as Apple's Macintosh and Commodore's soon-to-be-released Amiga, it was positioned as a low-cost competitor to the Macintosh with color graphics. Utilizing a version of Digital Research's GEM windowing system (which was originally written for DOS-based PCs) and sporting built-in MIDI ports, the ST quickly became the computer of choice for budding digital musicians.

Atari would go on to release many other computers in the ST line, the Mega ST series in 1987 (with a detached keyboard), the STacy laptop in 1989 and a limited STbook in Europe only in 1991.

In the late 80's, Atari was much more popular in Europe than in the United States, despite a higher price-tag. Still, Atari's un-expandable architecture and relatively un-upgraded architecture eventually were their undoing. Despite the release of the 32-bit 68030 based TT030 in 1990 and Falcon 030 in 1993, Atari computers all but disappeared by the early nineties. However, as of this writing (2003) clones of the machines are still being built and sold in Germany under the names C-Lab Falcon, Medusa, Hades, and Milan.

In 1996, flush with $50-million in cash following a successful patent-infringement lawsuit against SEGA, but still floundering with their Jaguar video-game system, Atari sells itself to hard-disc drive maker JTS and discontinues all products. The age of Atari personal computers has ended.<\p>

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