I founded Atari in my garage in Santa Clara while at Stanford. When I was in school, I took a lot of business classes. I was really fascinated by economics. You end up having to be a marketeer, finance maven and a little bit of a technologist in order to get a business going.
Nolan Bushnell, the creator of the Atari video game system, once stated, ‘Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea, It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.
Atari always was a technology-driven company, and we were very keen on keeping the technological edge on everything. There's a whole bunch of things that we innovated. We made the first computer that did stamps or sprites, we did screen-mapping for the very first time, and a lot of stuff like that. We had some of the most sophisticated sound-creating systems, and were instrumental in MIDI.
In keeping with my family's affection for doomed product lines and hexed formats, we purchased a Betamax. The year before, we'd bought a TRS-80 instead of an Apple II, and in due course we'd unbox Mattel's Intellivision, instead of Atari's legendary gizmo. This was good training for a writer, for the sooner you accept the fact that you are a deluded idiot who is always out of step with reality the better off you will be.
Steve Jobes called anybody. He was fearless. When he was very young, he had no filter. He would call the president of Hewlett-Packard and the head of Atari and say, 'I'm Steve Jobs.' He just didn't take no for an answer.
When I was super young, I had an Atari and used to play Space Invaders. Then I fell in love with Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Yoshi on Super Nintendo. I was quite a bit of a gamer as a kid when I think about it.
Indisputably we live in a shaped reality, an artificialism. Most people who grasp this are thinking only at a consumer-level, of the "things" they like and need and feel impelled to acquire. But our societal and political arrangements are just as much manipulations of game-pieces and rules as is any Atari or Sega product. The subliminal psychology that drives people to become addicted to games, not to be able to see over the edges of their labyrinths, is transferable to any field whatsoever.
In 1980, Atari was bringing in around two billion dollars in revenue and Chuck E. Cheese's some five hundred million. I still didn't feel too bad that I had turned down a one-third ownership of Apple - although I was beginning to think it might turn out to be a mistake.