Nolan K. Bushnell

From Pong to pizza to personal robots, Nolan Bushnell has done it all, and he’s done it before reaching age 40.

From Pong to pizza to personal robots, Nolan Bushnell has done it all, and he’s done it before reaching age 40.

Bushnell’s entrepreneurial career began in 1971, when he invented the first successful coin-operated video game, Pong. The following year he and a partner contributed $500 each to start an electronic game company with the unlikely name of Atari – in the Japanese game of Go, the word is equivalent to “check” in chess. Bushnell ultimately developed and manufactured 35 video games before selling the company to Warner Communications in 1976 to serve as chairman of the board of Atari until 1979. In October Bushnell will launch another video game enterprise, one that will compete with Atari. He calls it Sente, the Go term for “checkmate.”

In 1976 Bushnell founded his second successful company, Pizza Time Theatre, a new concept in family entertainment. It combines a pizza restaurant with electronic games, amusements, and musical entertainment provided by the Pizza Time Players, computer-controlled robot characters.

Most recently Bushnell has been involved with Catalyst Technologies, a company he founded in 1982. Catalyst conceives, finances, staffs, and guides fledgling enterprises. As each company is born, it is headquartered in the Catalyst building in Sunnyvale, California, and benefits from the parent company’s expertise. Bushnell believes that the combined thinking of the Catalyst group will prevent the young companies from making typical start-up mistakes and bring them to profitability sooner.

One of Catalyst’s companies, Androbot, produces what may be the realization of one of man’s greatest dreams - a personal robot programmed to do its owner’s bidding. As Bushnell enthusiastically puts it: “Can anyone really envision the year 2000 without robots running around the home?”

Bushnell has been called a dynamo and a revolutionary. One publisher has written, “When you are with Nolan Bushnell, you see the future…and you know it will work.”