In this deep dive for, Charles Russo tracks the beginnings of the modern video game industry, which has its roots in a “scrappy Silicon Valley startup” now known as Atari. Its founders, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, had previously created Computer Space, a futuristic yellow machine that was the world’s first coin-operated video game. Under Atari they went on to develop Pong, the classic arcade game, which was introduced to the American public in March 1973 — exactly 50 years ago — and became an instant success.

All told, Atari was in many ways the early embodiment of the modern Silicon Valley narrative: groundbreaking innovation, unconventional business strategy and — most notably — the profound impact of integrating technology into our lives (namely in the form of the culturally ubiquitous Atari 2600 home gaming system).

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.