Steve Jobs and the Breakout incident

Posted by TJ Spyke in 01-27-2008, 11:09 AM

Originally Posted by Staccat0:
Here is something I was blown away by:
Apple god Steve Jobs used to work for Atari and was asked to design the chipset for the hit game Breakout. He enlisted the help of Steve Wozniak who made the game so efficient that Atari’s engineers couldn’t understand it well enough to use in the final build. However Bushnell (Atari’s founder) was so impressed he gave Jobs a $5000 bonus which jobs kept secret from Woz. Millions of dollars later this information helped to create a rift between the two.
One can safely assume some of this atari money went into the young Apple computers…

Also the founder of Atari also created Chuk E. Cheese. He is currently broke BTW.

Some corrections.

It’s Chuck E. Cheese. The guys name is Nolan Bushnell, and he is NOT broke. Just in 2006 he started an interactive entertainment restaurant called uWink Media Bistro. Customers can order food and drinks via screens from their tables. They can also enjoy games, movie trailers and short videos from their tables. The first opened in Woodland Hills, California.

Your info on the Breakout situation is off too. The incident is desbribed in Steven Kent’s book “The Ultimate History of Video Games”, but I will summarize:

Atari wanted to release Breakout, and wanted to keep costs as cheap as possible. The company saved about $100K for every chip removed before production of the game began. They wanted their engineers to reduce the number of chips but nobody wanted to volunteer. Steve Jobs agreed to do it (this was also around the time that he and Wozniak were developing the Apple II) and got Woz to do it for him (Jobs never actually designed anything at Atari). The average arcade game from Atari at the time had 75 chips, and Woz was able to get it down to about 20 or 30. The problem was that nobody else could reproduce that design and eventually Al Alcorn (head of Atari’s R&D) had to get another engineer to do the job. Bushnell and Alcorn disagree on the exact amount that they paid Jobs for it. Bushnell says he offered $100 per chip and gave Jobs a $5,000 bonus since Woz had removed 50 chips. Alcorn says that they offered $1,000 for every chip under 50 he got, and since Woz got it to 20 that meant Jobs got a $30,000 bonus. 

Here is where your info is wrong though, Jobs DID tell Woz about the bonus; he just lied about how much it was. Jobs said it was $500, and he would give Woz half. Woz would later find out the truth while on a airplane years later while reading a biography on Jobs (and got confirmation when he talked to Bushnell). You are right in that it caused a rift when Wozniak found out since he didn’t think Jobs would ever do something like that to his friend.

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