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The most famous brand in the world...

The name Atari actually comes from Japan.  And yet the company was most definitely American.  Ever wondered why?  Its an interesting story, one worth explaining...

In 1972, three friends decided to invent and market the worlds first commercially feasible video game.  They were Nolan Bushnell, Ted Dabney and Larry Bryan.  To become a partner each man had to submit a $100 to start the project - a remarkably small sum when you consider the company's success.  The next step was to find a name!

Drinking beer and thumbing through the dictionary one day, the three friends came across an interesting entry under "S".  The word was Syzygy, or "the straight-line configuration between three celestial bodies".  What a perfect name, they thought, for three astronomically talented people!

Now they could get on with the business of inventing games, their first, Computer Space, was produced and all was going well.  But things began to become a little shaky, and Larry Bryan decided not to ante up his $100 and pulled out, leaving Bushnell and Dabney to go it alone.

They set up a shop in Santa Clara, California, and incorporated the business.  A little later, with the help of Al Alcorn, they invented Pong®

Bushnell and Dabney applied for the name Syzygy to the office of the California Secretary of State, which regulates California Corporations, but were told they were too late.  The name was already taken.  Following unsuccessful attempts to buy the rights of the name from the first Syzygy corporation, which appeared to be inactive, the friends' solicitor pressed them to think up an alternative.

This proved difficult.  The names BD Inc. and DB Inc. were tested then rejected in turn; the first bore too close a resemblance to Black and Decker, and the second to Dunn and Bradstreet.  Inspiration occurred at last, once again in an informal atmosphere.  Bushnell and Dabney were both keen players of Go, a Japanese strategy game, and their best brainstorming always occurred over a good game and a bottle of beer.

This time they decided to make a list of several Go words to see if one of them would fly as the new corporate name.  First choice was "Sente", which means "the upper hand" - something that greatly appealed.  Second and third choices were "Atari" which has a similar meaning to the English "Check", and "Hanne", an acknowledgement of an overtaking move.  Bushnell and Dabney submitted the list once again to the Office of the Secretary of State, which approved "Atari", and the rest is history.

When the company name changed, Bushnell and Dabney decided to update the logo too.  They incorporated the "S" from Syzygy and the "A" from Atari into the new design, and if you look at the logo above, you can see both letters.  George Opperman (who worked for Atari) designed the original "Fuji" logo in 1972, but it was not until later, as the company became increasingly successful, that an advertising agency redesigned it into a slicker, and now famous Atari logo - the "Fuji" or Stylised "A" design. 


 1972 - the birth of Atari
 The world goes Pong crazy
 Launch of the VCS
 Atari grows up
 Just before the crash...
 1984 - The crash
 The new Atari Corporation
 Computer wars
 Playing the game
 Survival of the fittest
 Let's play games again
 1996 - Game over

 What does "Atari" mean?