Samuel F. Dabney (known by Ted), a co-founder of Atari and co-creator of Pong died on May 26 of esophageal cancer at his home in Clearlake, California, at 81 years old.
Dabney was a legend in the world of videogames, having founded Atari with Nolan Bushnell in 1972. Although Dabney is probably best known for Pong and what that did for the arcade industry, he also created the world’s first commercial video game, period, in Computer Space. It was based on Spacewar!, a computer game, but Dabney’s innovations made the whole computer setup unnecessary and thus made the game more accessible to everyday players. Dabney popped Computer Space into a small game cabinet, and an industry was born–even if it wouldn’t quite catch on until Pong in November 1972.
Dabney left Atari just a year later, though he helped Bushnell create Pizza Time Theater, precursor to Chuck E. Cheese, and created some arcade games for the it. Although he toyed with other videogame companies over the years, he eventually left the industry behind altogether and managed a grocery store and later a deli in California. For many years he had felt as if his contributions to the videogame industry were overshadowed by Bushnell and Al Alcorn and would express this discontent during interviews.
Dabney was survived by his wife, Carolyn, and his daughters Pamela and Terri.