Ted Dabney, the Atari co-founder who helped create Pong, has passed away.
Ted Dabney had been a private figure since he left Atari, but his influence on gaming history was immense. Dabney is remembered as a co-founder of Atari, a co-creator of Pong, and a pioneer of the entire arcade games industry.
Historian Leonard Herman, who chronicled Dabney’s role at Atari with Edge magazine, announced his passing over the weekend. “I just learned that my good friend, Ted Dabney, the co-founder of Atari, passed away at the age of 81.” Herman wrote on Facebook. “RIP dear friend. Your legacy will live on a long time!”
Ted Dabney, co-founder of Atari, has passed away from cancer. The Atari Loons flag will fly the full 90 today. Godspeed, Ted. pic.twitter.com/PmXQRcgJXl
— Andy Reierson (@AndyReierson) May 26, 2018
Dabney was born in San Francisco in 1937, and gained an interest in electronics during his high school studies. After serving for three years in the United States Marine Corps, he attempted to pursue a career in the field. During this time he met Nolan Bushnell, and the pair formed the partnership that eventually became Atari, Inc.
Dabney and Bushnell’s first game was Computer Space, an action title inspired by Spacewar!. While Computer Space wasn’t especially successful, it did lay the framework for Atari to develop Pong – of which the coin slot was designed by Dabney himself. Pong went on to become a smash hit that gave video games mainstream recognition.
Dabney and Bushnell eventually had a falling out that prompted Dabney to leave Atari, and the entire industry shortly thereafter. He managed a grocery store alongside his wife Carolyn, before moving to Washington in 2006. Dabney was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2017, and opted against treatment upon learning he had roughly eight months to live. He died at age 80.
Friends, colleagues, and admirers poured onto social medial to pay their respects, included these examples catalogued by Eurogamer. And it’s no surprise, considering that video game history as we remember it may not have existed without his efforts.
Godspeed, Dabney. Godspeed.