Looking Back at Atari's 50 Years as an Icon of the Future

Incredibly, it has been 50 years since Atari sparked the video game revolution with the Pong tennis simulator.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

July 13, 2022

2 Min Read
Atari Cartridges Alamy.jpg
Image courtesy of Alamy

It is a half-century since Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and his team of innovators launched the groundbreaking video game company in Sunnyvale, Cal. in June 1972.

Originally conceived as a company to build arcade cabinet games, Bushnell quickly identified the potential of home consoles, the category that dominates the video game industry today.

According to consumer data company Statistica, the video game industry today rakes in $95.45 billion in revenue in the U.S. The most popular consoles are Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, while Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony lead the way in game revenue.

Atari isn't the dominant player it once was, but the company has launched the Atari VSS entertainment system console to reestablish its presence in the market it created.

In addition to the seminal tennis game, Pong, Atari followed that with a string of hit game titles that include the Steve Wozniak-developed Breakout, Lunar Lander, Asteroids, Missile Command, Battlezone, Red Baron, Centipede, Tempest, Dig Dug, Star Wars, and Crystal Castles.

Atari's early home console efforts were systems that were dedicated to a single game, such as Pong or Combat. But the company got the idea of having replaceable game cartridges from the Fairchild Semiconductor Channel F console, designed by pioneering Black engineer Gerald A. Lawson.

Related:Researchers Study an Impenetrable Vintage Atari Game Algorithm

Atari 2600 Alamy.jpg

Consider the company's impressive chronology:

  • 1972 Pong was released

  • 1977 The Atari 2600 Video Computer System debuts

  • 1979 The Atari 400 and 800 personal computers are released

  • 1980 Missile Command game released to arcades

  • 1982 Atari 5200 Super System is launched

  • 1984 Atari 7800 Pro Gaming console is released

  • 1989 Atari Lynx handheld game system is released

  • 1993 Atari Jaguar home game console is released

  • 2003 Atari Flashback classic game console is released

  • 2008 Alone in the Dark game is released for PC gaming

  • 2011 Haunted House on PC is released

  • 2014 RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch is released for mobile devices

  • 2017 Atari announces development of the Atari VCS hardware entertainments system

Which Atari titles over the years were your favorites? This is a comprehensive roundup, though surely we would all put them in a different order ourselves.

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About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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