09 March 2010
Document Library -
Sunday, June 27, 1982 marked the tenth anniversary of the founding of Atari. On that day, ten years ago, Atari was officially incorporated by the State of California.
The origins of the company and the name "Atari" are interesting though somewhat complicated. In the beginning three friends — Larry Bryan, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney — decided to invent and market the first commercial video game. All three had played a video computer game called "Spacewar" on campus computers during college. Their first creation, in the spirit of Spacewar, was a game called "Computer Space." The game only sold 2,000 units, but that was enough to convince the three friends to persevere.
They needed a name for their new venture. They settled upon "Syzygy" which means "the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies" — a perfect name for a company begun by three such stellar talents.
Each partner anted up $100 to start their company. But then Bryan dropped out, leaving Bushnell and Dabney to set up shop in Santa Clara. When they applied for the name Syzygy on their corporate application, they were told by the Office of the California Secretary of State that the name had already been taken by another California corporation. The two then played around with various names like "BD, Inc." and "DB, Inc." but nothing seemed to fit.
Both Busnell and Dabney were avid players of GO, a Japanese strategy game. Their best brainstorming always seemed to occur over beer and a game of GO. They decided to make a list of GO game terminology to see if one would make a good corporate name.
First on the list was "sente" which means "the upper hand." Their second choice was "atari" which is similar to the chess word "check." Third was "hanne" which is an acknowledgement of an overtaking move. They submitted the full list to the Secretary of State. Weeks later, their incorporation papers returned. The name "Atari" had been selected.