Three men make up the pillars of videogame history. One was Ralph Baer, who invented the home videogame console. The other two were Nolan Bushnell & Ted Dabney, the co-founders of Atari and creators of Computer Space, the world’s first arcade videogame. I maintained very close relationships with Ralph and Ted until their deaths, and had a friendly interchange with Nolan the few times I met him in person. But what was the relationship between Nolan & Ralph and Nolan & Ted?
When Ralph died, Nolan publicly commented, “The videogame world has lost a pioneer. Ralph’s contributions to the rise of videogames should not be forgotten.” And when Ted passed away, Nolan tweeted, “Ted was my partner, co-founder, fellow dreamer and friend. I’ll always cherish the time we spent together.”
But this was Nolan’s public persona. How did he really feel about them when he wasn’t in the public eye? The answer may be found in the final email exchanges that Nolan had with the two men.
The Ralph/Nolan emails took place in 2006 and were forwarded to me by Ralph in 2009. The Ted/Nolan exchanges took place in 2018 and I was included on the distribution (along with Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel). Note that the emails appear exactly as they were written, warts and all.
Copyright © 2022 Leonard Herman