1. Technology

Steve Jobs – Apple CEO and Atari Breakout Developer

By

Everyone knows Steve Jobs as late, great Co-Founder and CEO of Apple, Inc., and that alone makes him a major historic figure in classic computer games, but one little tidbit that has been nearly forgotten in the history of gamedome is that one of Jobs first gigs in the industry was as a designer on one of Atari’s most successful video games.
  • Name: Steve Jobs
  • Born: February 24, 1955
  • Passed Away: October 5, 2011
  • Mark In Gaming History: Co-Founder and CEO of Apple Inc., Co-Designer and Developer of Breakout. for the Atari 2600.

Jobs Gets a Job at Atari:

The life and history of the ground breaking icon of the computer age, Steve Jobs, is filled with his strives in home computing and entertainment technology, from one of the earliest lines of personal computers to the modern age of mobile and tablet devices, Jobs led the charge in trend setting and molding the industry and maintaining a quality standard like no other.

However before the days of iPhones, Macbooks, and even the Apple II Computer, Jobs was a poor college drop out who moved to California and was focusing all of his efforts on learning technology while taking a job at Atari to pay the bills.

While working there, Jobs was tapped by Pong designer Allan Alcorn to build out an affordable circuit board for a new game idea conceived by Atari founders Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow. The basic concept was a single-player variation of Pong, only instead of two paddles bouncing a ball back and fourth, the game would have a paddle hitting a ball against a series of blocks, breaking one apart every time it hit. The final title of the game was Breakout.

The problem was, the circuit board for Breakout required so many chips that it was too costly to manufacturer. Alcorn assigned Jobs to build a prototype and promised a bonus for every chip he was able to remove from the circuit board without sacrificing the quality of the game.

Jobs sought out the assistance of his friend and future Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to help him redesign the circuit board and they were able to remove 50 chips and still have a functioning game.

While this was a brilliant design, it was too complex to manufacture on a massive scale so Atari eventually had to come up with a separate design that required more chips. Regardless the final version of Breakout was identical to the one designed by Jobs and Wozniak, and went on to become a big hit in video arcades and on the Atari 2600.

Goodbye Atari, Hello Apple:

A year after Breakout released, Jobs left Atari and teamed up with Wozniak once again to found Apple Computer, Inc. with an eye on becoming one of the first to enter the emerging home computer market.

Apples first computer, the Apple I, was considered a hobbyist computer, meaning that computer enthusiasts received it as a kit and had to put it together themselves. What made it unique among hobbyist computers was that the circuit board came pre-assembled.

Their next dive into home computing was on a massive scale with the Apple II computer. A megahit when it released in the late ‘70s, the Apple II line wrung in the computer age of the 1980s. In addition to the 8-bit computer revolutionizing word processing and software development, the Apple II held extraordinarily advance computer graphics and memory capabilities, allowing for developers to release more elaborate games to the public, and making home computers major competition for the console video game market.

The Apple II was even used to create new types of video games such as the adventure game genre created by Ken and Roberta Williams, who developed their most historic titles on the Apple computers.

Some of the most notable games developed for the Apple II computer include Lode Runner, The Oregon Trail, Zork, Castle Wolfenstein, Mystery House, Ultima, Kings Quest, Ultima and Leusure Suit Larry.

Eventually when PC computers allowed open-source development, not requiring game publishers to obtain a license to release on the platform, the PC overtook Apple computers as the preferred computer system for video games.

The iPhone and iPad Gaming Revolution:

In 2007 Steve Jobs led the technology revolution yet again with the advent of the iPhone, and eventually the mobile device's big brother, the iPad. While mobile phone companies had spent years trying to create phone devices that would double as gaming outlets, Jobs and his team at Apple successfully launched one, turning their iOS devices into a major platform for gaming.

Today hundreds of classic video games have been ported to iPhone and iPads, with retro gaming publishers such as Namco dedicating entire development divisions to bring titles like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Frogger to Jobs' mobile gaming gadgets.

After years of battling cancer, Steve Jobs passed away at his home on October 5th, 2011 leaving behind him a mournful industry and a legacy that will live on as long as technology exists.

  1. About.com
  2. Technology
  3. Classic Video Games
  4. Classic Video Games 101
  5. Steve Jobs – Apple CEO and Atari Breakout Developer

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.