Nolan Bushnell Has Returned To Atari... Again...
Nolan Bushnell has been called a lot of things, not all of them flattering. Some call him the father of video games thanks to his having founded Atari. Others call him a thief and opportunist, responsible less often for innovation and more for imitation. After leaving Atari in 1978, he went on to start a number of businesses with varying degrees of success. Chuck E. Cheese you've heard of, Axlon probably not.
His most recent enterprise was the wincingly named uWink Bistro (two remain open) - a restaurant with touchscreens at every table for ordering food and playing the sorts of games you can find anywhere on the web for free. The current Atari looked at all of this, invited Bushnell to join their board of directors, and the classic video game world is abuzz with the news. You can join an especially spirited discussion at AtariAge if you'd like to be part of the venom and the veneration.
Funny thing is that this isn't the first time this has happened. In the late 80's, Atari created a smaller & cheaper 2600 ("the fun is back for under 50 bucks!") to compete with Nintendo's NES. The release of the Atari Jr. was flanked by a few new releases from Atari themselves. These games were subcontracted to Bushnell's Axlon company (after he bluffed Atari that his staff had the chops to program for the notoriously difficult 2600). Luckily one of his programmers, Steve DeFrisco, was clever enough to work his magic to create the last few official games for the 2600.
1989's "Secret Quest" was a Zelda-like adventure - an impressive acheivement on the Atari, even including a passcode system so you can interrupt playing. DeFrisco didn't get the credit as it was Bushnell's face on the front of the box (though to be fair, Bushnell did act as the game's designer/producer). Whatever his status in the video game world, I never thought that he was much of a household name, so it's quizzical that Atari chose back then to borrow his dubious rock star status to sell games. Atari today has nothing at all to do with Atari back then, but they're still poised to make the same quizzical choice. Good luck to both.