Film Review: Easy To Learn, Hard to Master – The Fate Of Atari

The story of Atari has been told many times, from books like Atari Inc: Business Is Fun to umpteen documentaries, but none tell the full and complete story as well as Easy to Learn, Hard To Master: The Fate Of Atari.

Narrated by revered Commodore Engineer, Bil Heard, this documentary delves deep into the Atari history like no other film before it. From Atari’s humble beginnings as Syzygy and the breakthrough of Pong, to the Atari VCS/2600 home console, its subsequent sale to Time Warner and downward spiral to oblivion in the early 80s.

The story is weaved perfectly with many points of view, including former Atari Inc. President, Ray Kassar, who had never told his side of the story prior to this documentary. This is quite important, as stories about Atari had always been told from their former engineers (like Al Alcorn) and co-founder, Nolan Bushnell, so it was refreshing to get management perspective from Ray and Manny Gerard. This is even more poignant as Ray Kassar passed away in December 2017 – making his story even more important when it comes to Atari’s history. Another poignant interview was with old foe, Ralph Baer (Died on December 6 2014), himself a great inventor and the grandfather of video games and the concept of home gaming consoles.

Other notable interviewees include Joe Decuir, Howard Warshaw, Ed Rotberg, Dannis Kable, Dave Rolfe, Eugene Jarvis, Steve Russell, former Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa and former Atarian and Activision co-founder, David Crane, to name just a few. If you don’t know the story of Atari or you would like the definitive history on Atari, then we highly recommend Easy To Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari.

Title: Easy To Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari
Director: Tomaso Walliser & Davide E. Agosta
Production: Junk Food Films

Ted Dabney: The Passing of Atari’s Silent Co-Founder

Last week news broke that Atari’s Co-Founder, Ted Dabney had passed at age 81. We wouldn’t usually post this type of news on here as it has already been covered enough by the bigger online media outlets. However, we didn’t want Ted’s passing to go unnoticed by our readers, as Ted’s importance to the video gaming industry is equal to his contemporaries, like Nolan Bushnell.

Ted Dabney co-founded the tiny electronics company called Syzygy Engineering in 1971 (renamed Atari in 1972) with his more famous business partner Nolan Bushnell. Ted and Nolan had previously partnered to program Computer Space, the first coin-operated video game ever brought to market. Computer Space was produced at the Northern California trivia game maker Nutting Associates, named after its owner Bill Nutting.

image source: RePlay Magazine

At Atari, Ted played his part, along with designer Al Alcorn (and Bushnell, of course) in the design and production of Pong, the first “hit” TV game which ushered in the age of video gaming. If you have read Curt Vendel and Marty Goldberg’s Atari Inc: Business is Fun, you’d know the background to Ted leaving Atari (Ed: It wasn’t pretty nor fair to Ted). But Ted being Ted, he never harboured any ill will towards Atari and went on to work at electronics firms outside the coin-op business. Ted preferred a simple life to the limelight that Atari should have afforded him.

According to the Huffington Post, Ted died of the esophageal cancer he’d been fighting. He and wife Carolyn had spent part of his remaining years operating a grocery store up in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

May his legacy live on! Rest In Peace Ted Dabney.